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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

 

If you’ve ever weeded an early spring garden, you know how tricky it can be to sort seedlings from weedlings.

In the garden of the mind mentioned in the above poem, the weeds of lies can be particularly difficult to recognize—such lies as these:

 

1. God can’t possibly love me because I mess up all the time.

The problem is we think God sees us the same way critical people do—like the spinster great-aunt who looked down her nose at energetic children, like the teacher who frequently criticized, or the boss who was never satisfied.

That’s not God.

He knows we’re incapable of perfection and looks upon us with the compassion of a loving father.  No matter the sin, God is always ready to forgive (1)–and forget–as we repent:

 

 

 

Take this to heart: “Our God has a big eraser!”–Bill Zeoli (2).

And we can use that big eraser of love, compassion, and forgiveness to erase Lie #1.

 

2. I am insignificant.

God would have us know:  “There is no such thing as an insignificant person or an insignificant place or an insignificant position” (3).

Take a refresher course on your status:

  • The Prince of Peace died for you.
  • The King of glory is always thinking about you.
  • You have been adopted into his royal family.
  • You can enter his throne room whenever you like.
  • Your work has been specifically commissioned by the Sovereign Lord of the universe (4).

 

 

We run into trouble when we start comparing ourselves to others. Here’s what we need to affirm: “My significance is not based on what I do; it is based on Whose I am.”

 

3. It’s obvious my prayers don’t matter…

A.  …because there’s been no answer. 

Here’s a thought:

 

 

But there are a number of possibilities why prayers seem to go unanswered, including:

  • Unbeknownst to us, the answer has already come. A young man praying for a wife may already have met his future bride; he just doesn’t know it.
  • Sometimes God gives us what we need, not simply what we ask for. A young teen might pray that her family not have to move across state, but five years later, ends up earning a much-needed college scholarship from their new church.
  • We benefit from the spiritual discipline of asking, growing in faith, and persevering as we wait.

If our God is 100% good—and he is—then it follows:

 

 

B. …Almighty God doesn’t need me to accomplish his plans.

 You’re right; God can do anything he pleases—without us.

But he instituted prayer as a way for us to come alongside him and participate in the good purposes he’s ordained. He allows us to share in the release of his power as we intercede for one another.

Lord Tennyson spoke of the power of prayer in his poem, Idylls of the King:

 

 

One day we’ll know the magnitude of the exact number. And won’t it be satisfying to have participated in God’s monumental work?

 

_______________________________________

 

Now that we’ve removed these three weed-lies from the gardens of our minds, we can enjoy to the fullest these flowers of God’s truth:

He remembers our sins no more.

We are precious in his eyes.

He always responds to our prayers (5).

 

Notes:

  1. Psalm 103:13-14, 3, 10.
  2. Quoted in Quote/Unquote, compiled by Lloyd Cory, Victor Press, 1977, 121.
  3. Anne Graham Lotz, The Vision, of His Glory, Word Publishing, 1996, 77.
  4. Isaiah 9:6; 1 John 4:9-10; Psalm 139:17; Ephesians 1:5; 1 Peter 3:12; Ephesians 2:10.
  5. Isaiah 43:25; 43:4; Psalm 102:17.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.wikimedia.com.

 

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Oh, no. Where’s the cream? A thorough search of the fridge had just revealed an inconvenient truth. I’d forgotten to purchase the whipping cream.

With dinner guests arriving in a few hours, and three little ones underfoot, I dreaded the thought of packing everybody into the car to purchase one item at the grocery store. Besides, the to-do list still included many tasks. What’s a woman to do?

Call her husband.

“I’m so sorry to bother you, but could you stop at the store on your way home from the office and pick up some whipping cream? I need it for tonight’s dessert, and somehow came home without it yesterday.”

“Sure, I can do that,” he replied. “No problem.”

Two hours later Steve walked in the door, cream in hand.

I knew I could count on him; he’d proven himself trustworthy countless times before. (Even if he’d forgotten, Steve would have gone back to the store and made good on his promise.)

So why is it, when God says, “What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do” (Isaiah 46:11b), my response is sometimes doubt?

 

 

Of course, the promises I ask God to fulfill usually require more than two hours of wait time. It’s in the long siege on pause I begin to wonder: Maybe this promise that seemed so perfect for my situation isn’t really for me after all (1).

Have such thoughts occurred to you also?

Here’s what I’m trying to remember: If I trust Steve, based on promises he’s kept in the past, how much more should I take God at his word?

 

 

In addition, he is perfect in all his ways, loving and compassionate, abundantly good and righteous (2).  Our faith in God’s promises can remain firm because:

 

 

So as I wait for fulfillment, I can remember: out of the several thousand promises in scripture, he has already kept many of them in specific, personal ways.

He’s done the same for you too.

It would be impractical to make a list here of all those Bible promises, checking them off one by one as we remember occasions when each was fulfilled. But what if we identify categories, and check off those? Categories such as:

  • Salvation and the gift of eternal life (John 6:40)
  • A relationship with God Almighty and his continual presence (Revelation 3:20; Psalm 145:18)
  • Forgiveness (1 John 1:9)
  • Emotional stability (Psalm 27:1), peace ((Isaiah 26:3), and joy (John 15:11)

 

 

  • Protection (Psalm 32:7)
  • Provision (Philippians 4:19)
  • Guidance (Isaiah 58:11)
  • Satisfaction in life (John 10:10)

 

 

  • Help (Psalm 46:1)
  • Answered prayer (1 John 5:14-15)
  • Blessings (Psalm 84:11-12)

 

No doubt all of us can name events when such promises have been fulfilled—the day we said yes to Jesus, the times we experienced an unearthly reassurance of God’s presence, or received miraculous provision, enjoyed divine contentment, felt his inexplicable peace, and more.

In remembering we foster the courage to persevere and the faith to hope with confident expectation.

So what event, what answer to prayer are you hoping for today? Can you identify an appropriate promise? The scriptures above offer a place to start. And then let’s pray our promises.

 

 

For example:

I praise You, O God, for your promise of protection from trouble. Not that I expect to never experience difficulty, but I can count on You to guard me as we pass through it.

 As long as the trouble may last, you will be with me, to shelter me in your comfort and be my helper through the challenge. Never will you abandon me; I am secure in you.

I look forward, Father, to every statement here coming to fruition, because you have said it. My heart is steadfast, trusting in you.

 

(Psalm 32:7; James 1:2-4; Psalm 23:4; 9:9; 34:19;

Hebrews 13:6; Proverbs 14:26, Psalm 112:7)

 

 

What is a favorite scripture promise you turn to again and again?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. Sometimes there are good reasons why promises are not fulfilled.  See “Unfulfilled Promises” for several possibilities.
  2. Psalm 18:30; Psalm 103:4; Psalm 145:7, 17

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.canva.com (3); http://www.needpix.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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With Advent near the surface of my thinking these days, I was primed to notice a new-to-me phenomenon in the word adventure.

It begins with Advent!

I don’t know how I’ve missed that similarity before. But once the word-within-a-word jumped out at me, I began to wonder: Are the two words related or is it just coincidence? Might there be significance to the similarity?

Research uncovered several interesting insights.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Advent as “the arrival of a notable person or thing.” It comes to us from Latin; ad- means “to” and venire means “come” (1).

 

 

Adventure refers to an undertaking that may involve danger and unknown risks, and/or an exciting or remarkable experience (2).

Etymologically the words are more like distant cousins than siblings. But they do come together at Christ’s advent into the world—and in our individual lives—because he does offer grand adventure—the adventure of faith.

Mary certainly chose such an adventure as Gabriel announced she would conceive the Son of God. “I am the Lord’s servant,” she affirmed. “May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

Joseph also stepped into the adventure of the Messiah’s birth, risking the derision of his community (Matthew 1:18-25).  If his neighbors didn’t know it yet, they’d learn soon enough that his betrothed was pregnant.

 

 

Neither Joseph nor Mary knew the dangers they’d face (including King Herod’s paranoia) and the uncertainties of parenting the perfect Son of God who would be misunderstood, scorned, and even murdered.

For their adventure, the shepherds ignored the first rule of sheep-tending: never leave the flock to fend for themselves. Instead, these men  threw caution to the wind and participated in a remarkable experience. They were among the first to see the long-anticipated Christ Child (Luke 2:8-18).

The wise men most likely adventured for two years, traveling to Judea from Babylon or Persia in order to worship the newborn King (Matthew 2:1-12). Imagine the stories of danger, risk, and astonishment they had to tell.

 

 

And now it’s our turn to choose. Will we step into the adventure of faith as they did—not knowing exactly what will happen and not being in control?

Yes, we might encounter danger or risk, but we are also guaranteed remarkable experiences, including:

  • Being used by God for eternal good, as we offer ourselves as his servants, just like Mary did.
  • Becoming the best version of ourselves as God works within us, developing our character and maturity (Galatians 5:22-23).
  • Looking for the miracle-drenched moments—taking holy delight in the ordinary (Psalm 40:5).
  • Getting acquainted with the Bible, finding sincere pleasure in knowing God’s Word. The more we know him, the more we love him, and the more wonder we experience (Psalm 112:1).
  • Participating in God’s work through prayer (James 5:16b).

 

 

Two years ago our son and daughter-in-law gave us three wooden Christmas ornaments, created by a girl overseas. We’ll call her Kiana. Kiana works in a factory run by a missionary couple sent out from our church.

On the tag attached to the ornaments was Kiana’s name and picture. Her sparkling eyes and joyous smile grabbed my heart and seemed to indicate Kiana just might know Jesus.

I began to pray for this young woman on a regular basis, thanking God for his promised provision and protection over her. I asked God to honor Kiana, bringing her to Jesus if she did not know him yet, and using her to impact others if she was already a believer.

Not long ago, those missionaries came home on furlough. I had the chance to ask about Kiana and learned she is a sweet Christian and even leads a Bible study.

My eyes filled with tears as I realized the privilege God had given me, to participate with him in the work he’s doing half-way around the world—through the adventure of prayer.

 

(One of the ornaments created by Kiana)

 

‘You see how gracious God is? Advent is only the beginning. The joy of this season can become an extended adventure that unfolds day after day, year after year, as we make ourselves available to him.

And that’s not all. The remarkable experience of heaven is yet to come.

The question is: will we embrace the adventure that begins with Advent, or will we withdraw?

 

Notes:

  1. https://www.europelanguagejobs.com/blog/turning_advent_into_adventure.php
  2. Mirriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, 2001.

 

Photo and art credits:  http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.com (painting by James Tissot); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com; Nancy Ruegg

 

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(from https://quotefancy.com)

 

Heaven to our souls.

Sounds glorious, doesn’t it? No stress, no pain, no enigmas.

But on any given day, doubt and worry crowd heaven out:

  • When will God answer our prayer? And what if it’s not the answer we’re hoping for?
  • Where is God? Why doesn’t he come to our rescue?
  • Did I miss his guidance?

Such questions have plagued us all at sometime or other. But watch the saints of great faith. You’ll see men and women who demonstrate considerable confidence and assurance with negligible doubt and worry.

 

 

Their great faith isn’t just happenstance. Observe closely and you’ll note various habits of those saints—habits we’d do well to adopt:

To begin, Ask God for more faith. Such an obvious step; so easy to overlook. Yet it’s a request God surely delights to fulfill (1).

Affirm the truths and promises of the Bible. Soak up its wisdom, examples, and encouragement (2)—daily.

Pray about everything to ward off the worry. Write down requests, leaving room to record answers. As visible evidence of God’s faithfulness increases, so will our faith in him.

Twenty years ago I switched from using a prayer list to writing requests on 3 x 5s. They offer more room to note progress and resolutions when they come. I’ve kept the cards as concrete proof of God’s faithfulness.

Here’s the 3″ stack of answered prayers so far.  (Some cards contain multiple concerns and answers.):

 

 

Granted, God has not fulfilled every request to my preference. Instead, he did what was right, according to his infallible wisdom and far-reaching purpose (3)—and for that I’m most grateful.

Thank God—in advance—for his responses to prayer. “There is nothing that so fully solidifies faith as being so sure of the answer that you can thank God for it” (Rev. Charles Henry Parkhurst, 1842-1933).

In addition, praise God for his power at work, even though there’s no evidence yet (4).

 

 

Envision the outcome, perhaps something like this:

 It breaks our hearts, Father, to see _______________ suffer because of health issues, a dysfunctional family, and financial pressures. We put our hope in you, our Great Physician, the Prince of Peace, and the Lord who Provides. We look forward to the day when physical limitations are removed, family members respond to your Spirit, and miraculous provision eases her financial burden. We praise you in advance, knowing you are already at work to bless ________________.  Amen! 

Surround yourself with other believers in pursuit of great faith. “Iron sharpens iron” (5); faith-seekers sharpen faith-seekers–with their support, challenge, and encouragement.

 

 

Adopt faith-building practices. For example, post encouraging scriptures around the house. One useful spot is the bathroom mirror. While face-washing and teeth-brushing, recite faith-enhancing words from the Bible.

 

 

Expect your faith to be tested. Just as our physical bodies require strenuous exercise for optimum health, so does our faith. It’s the difficulties of life that provide it.

“Faith untried is simply a promise and a possibility,” said Oswald Chambers. “Tried faith is pure gold.”

~  ~  ~ ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

These seven habits will produce great faith, which in turn bring heaven of the soul.

 And what might heaven of the soul include? Three elements make my short-list:

  • Peace

As we pour out our concerns in prayer, God pours in his peace—peace so profound it transcends all understanding (6).

 

 

  • Joy

Author and life coach Paul Sailhamer offers this definition of joy born out of great faith: “Joy is that deep settled confidence that God is in control of every area of my life.” Such joy provides rock-solid strength, not shaken by circumstances.

  • Optimism

People of great faith focus on the positive, affirm God will bring good out of every situation, and look forward with eager anticipation to see what God will do (7).

Imagine the interior of your soul filled with the ambiance of peace, the beauty of joy, and the golden light of optimism. Sound heavenly?

 

 

Great faith makes it happen.

 

What habits of faith-filled people have you noticed?  Or, what habits do you personally practice that build confidence in God?  Please share your observation/experience in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. Matthew 21:22
  2. Romans 10:17
  3. Romans 11:33-36
  4. Hebrews 11:1
  5. Proverbs 27:17
  6. Philippians 4:6-7
  7. Philippians 4:8; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 3:20

 

Photo credits:  http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.jble.af.mil; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pxhere.com.

 

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Emily* and I met at a meeting, and afterward the subject of the Bible came into the conversation—a conversation that went something like this:

“The Bible is just fairy tales,” she declared.

“That is a popular viewpoint,” I replied. “How did you come to that conclusion?”

“Well, it’s full of crazy, unbelievable stories,” Emily asserted passionately. “Noah and the ark, David and Goliath, not to mention Jesus and his supposed miracles. Who in their right mind would believe such stuff?”

 

 

I began to pray silently as our conversation continued. Lord, help me speak your words.  May Emily reconsider her position and seek truth.

“I agree such events seem incredible,” I offered. “But I’ve come to believe the Biblical record is truth, backed up by decades of archaeological research, hundreds of ancient manuscripts—including the Dead Sea Scrolls, and dozens of scientific and medical corroborations. Also, numerous prophecies have been fulfilled with amazing accuracy. I can recommend some books written by experts if you’d like to know more.”

But Emily became defensive, insisting such proofs were either coincidental or made up by misled people determined to keep the fairy tales alive.

 

(The Ark Encounter at the Creation Museum, Petersburg, KY)

 

The conversation did not end well. Emily only became more vehement so I let her have the last word and bowed out as gracefully as I could. It felt like failure. Somehow in spite of my prayer, I must not have spoken God’s words for her.

Since that encounter, however, I’ve come to realize:

We can trust God with our words if we’re seeking his wisdom (James 1:5) and speaking in love (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Remember what God told Moses, upon commissioning the wilderness shepherd to be his voice to Pharaoh?

 

 

It would stand to reason that with God teaching him exactly what to say, Moses would eloquently convince Pharaoh to release the Israelites on the first encounter.

Instead, Moses had to confront Pharaoh numerous times. Even a constant barrage of plagues didn’t deter Pharaoh from refusing Moses’ request—until every firstborn son died in every Egyptian household, including Pharaoh’s. The hard-hearted ruler was brought low by grief, and finally let the Israelites go.

Does such a record indicate that God’s words through Moses failed repeatedly? NO. God had his reason for the delay:

 

Then the Lord said to Moses,

“Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart…

so that I may perform these signs of mine among them

that you may tell your children and grandchildren

how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians

and how I performed my signs among them,

and that you may know that I am the Lord.”

–Exodus 10:1-2 NIV

 

 

These verses offer me great comfort for my conversation with Emily and others. I can trust God with the words I prayerfully spoke to her that day. They may have caused one more chink in her wall of defense against Christianity, so that she will one day know “that [he] is the Lord” and accept Jesus as Savior.

Such prayers are the kind God especially loves to answer.

 

 

 

What could be closer to God’s heart than the eternal destiny of one of his children?

Perhaps Emily will contact me one day and say, “I remembered what you said about the Bible and it got me to thinking…”

So I continue to pray.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

As I submit myself to you, O God, may my words be characterized by your wisdom that gently persuades and winsome grace that draws people to you–all from a heart motivated by love.  Then may your words echo in the minds of those who hear until doubt is transformed into faith.     

 

*Name changed.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.dailyverses.net(2).

 

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“There is no wonder

more supernatural and divine

in the life of a believer

than the mystery and ministry of prayer…

the hand of the child

touching the arm of the Father

and moving the wheel of the universe.”

—A. B. Simpson

 

For those of you who may not know yet, Steve is in the hospital again.  Another health crisis began Sunday evening with numbness in his right hand followed within minutes by the inability to speak.  The diagnosis:  a  subdural hematoma.  Thus far he’s endured six seizures, the last three causing great difficulty breathing. You can access the details at www.caringbridge.org, under the name, Steve Ruegg.

When he had his liver transplant in December, prayer supernaturally supported us, and with God “moved the wheel of the universe” for him, just as A. B. Simpson described years ago. Everyone was astonished at Steve’s rapid recovery.

Now we’re praising God again for all those participating in the mystery and ministry of prayer on Steve’s behalf.   We’re also looking forward to more astonishment, as believers and our Father God move the wheel of the universe once more for Steve, because we know:

 

“With God,

all things are possible.”

–Matthew 19:26

 

 

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No doubt about it.  Our senses are bombarded with stimuli during the Christmas season.

Decorated trees, wreaths, and garlands; figures, swags, and fairy lights festoon building after building, home after home.

 

 

Carols and holiday songs accompany every errand run and shopping excursion.

The scent of cinnamon, pine, and gingerbread; peppermint, vanilla, and clove urge us to breathe deep—frequently.

 

 

Velvet dresses, satin bows, and cloud-soft batting; feathery bird-ornaments, and fuzzy teddy bears beg to be touched.

Grandma’s stuffing, Butterball turkey, and squash casserole; Wassail, snowball cookies, and cranberry coffee cake all tantalize the tongue.

 

 

Some days, however, we practically drown from total immersion in everything Christmas. What is a worn out sensory system supposed to do?

If you Google “strategies for stress relief” you’ll be presented numerous options from the experts.  Some suggestions require more time than many of us can sacrifice during December. Examples include working on hobbies, getting a massage, or taking a vacation.

 

 

I can hear you through my computer screen: “NOT gonna happen this month!”

But there are other strategies we can weave into our days no matter what the to-do list requires. And SURPRISE! The experts often echo what scripture has taught all along.

We can calm ourselves through:

 

 

Meditation

Not mind-numbing exercises that supposedly elevate us to euphoria, but meditation on scripture, God’s works and mighty deeds (Psalm 119:97; 77:12). For me, that includes starting each morning with him and his Word, to set the tone for the day.

And as we fix our thoughts upon him, God has promised to keep us in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). He is our source of equilibrium and tranquility, prosperity and contentment of soul. Daily he supplies what we need to accomplish what is necessary (2 Corinthians 9:8).

The rest we can let go.

 

 

Music

“How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him” (Psalm 147:1, emphasis added).

Sometimes that means a loud and majestic “Hallelujah Chorus.”

But when nerves are frazzled, the experts recommend slow, quiet music. And many of our favorite carols offer just such repose.

So, when tension rises, be ready to select “Silent Night” or “What Child Is This.”  Save “Ring Christmas Bells” and “Sleigh Ride!” until the stress subsides!

 

Prayer

We can allow all the sensory input to turn our minds toward Jesus “by praying continually–simple, short prayers flowing out of the present moment” (Romans 12:12 and Sarah Young, Jesus Calling).

Sentence prayers such as these:

 

 

Thank you, Jesus, for the laughter of children that opens my heart to your joy.

Thank you for the power of delectable aromas—like clove-studded ham, vanilla sugar cookies, and cinnamon rolls–that conjure up sweet memories of Christmases long ago.

Thank you for the family and friends represented in this stack of Christmas cards, who’ve left their love stamped upon our hearts.

 

 

Thank you for the familiar carols, reminding me of that wonder-filled first Christmas.

And thank you, Jesus, for lights that glimmer and candles that glow, celebrating you, the Light of the world, our Emmanuel.

 

 

They say it takes just three weeks to learn a new habit. With all the sensory reminders around us, this may be the most opportune time to become continual pray-ers.

And as we seek to turn everything Christmas into gratitude and praise, the joy of the Lord will surely follow.

 

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.goodfreephotos.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.doncio.navy.mil (photographer:  Diana Quinlan); Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.heartlight.org.

 

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Last Saturday eleven more American citizens lost their lives to domestic terrorism. Six more were wounded. The chief federal prosecutor called the tragedy a “terrible and unspeakable act of hate.”

And we hate the evil forces that entice men (and sometimes women) to such unconscionable violence.  Our hearts ache every time we hear of a new murderous attack, with more lives changed forever by horror, more pain and suffering, more lives lost.

 

 

How do we pray in the face of terrorism? Perhaps one of the most meaningful ways is to pray back to God the absolute truths of his Word.  For example:

 

Dear Lord God,

We pray for your compassion, peace, presence, and power to pervade those suffering in the aftermath of such attacks as the one on Saturday. We pray for your protection over our towns and cities, schools and churches, community servants and law enforcement officers, friends and family. “Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure” (Psalm 7:9).

The question plagues us: Why, God? Why do men think they have the right to injure and destroy innocent lives? We are outraged by their cunning as they conspire to wreak destruction against those you cherish (Psalm 83:3). How dare they plot against their fellow human beings (Psalm 37:12)?

 

 

The evil imaginations of their minds know no limits (Psalm 73:7). And we cannot fathom such callousness that breeds unthinkable tragedy.

With David we want to pray:

“Repay them for their deeds and for their evil work; repay them for what their hands have done and bring back upon them what they deserve” (Psalm 28:4). 

“Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness” (Psalm 10:15). 

But your Son taught a different way—a way that disarms hatred from growing in our own spirits:

 

 

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).

Thank you for reminding us that enemies often carry pain of their own.

 

 

And so, as best we know how, Heavenly Father, we pray your Word over those misguided individuals who inflict terror. Remove their hearts of stone set on evil ways, and give them tender, responsive hearts, anxious to follow your ways (Ezekiel 11:19-20).

We pray they would constantly be exposed to truth through what they see and hear—even in their dreams (Job 33:14-18).

 

 

We pray for enlightenment, that the lies of the deceiver would be exposed (John 8:44).

And we pray unmistakable God-incidents would draw them to you, and they would recognize the One behind the miracles–like Naaman of Old Testament times.   When he was instantaneously healed of terminal leprosy, he said: “I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no God anywhere on earth other than the God of Israel” (2 Kings 5:15 MSG). May those who have perpetrated terror or are even now planning an attack, come to the same conclusion by the influence of your Spirit.

 

 

“Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord—that you alone are the Most High over all the earth” (Psalm 83:11), that your soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence (Psalm 11:5 ESV).

Last, we pray you thwart the efforts of those who plan vile destruction. Again, “Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure” (Psalm 7:9).

We do praise you, O God, that in spite of the apparent madness, you are in control (I Chronicles 29:11-12). Such comforting truth! In addition, no purpose of yours can be thwarted (Job 42:2). Such reassuring affirmation! And you will use for good what misguided men intend for evil (Genesis 50:20-21). Such splendorous hope!

 

 

In the powerful name of Jesus, we pray all of these things for your honor and glory, Amen!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.heartlight.org.)

 

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“Stand with me and sing!” invites the enthusiastic worship leader on the church platform, while guitars begin an upbeat tune and drums rap out a foot-tapping rhythm.

Around me people sway a bit to the music, some raise their hands, others worship with eyes closed.

And though I, too, sway and raise my hands, I have to admit my heart’s not in it. For some reason, lyrics that have brought me to joyful tears on other occasions are not penetrating today.

My spirit seems paralyzed—no feeling whatsoever. Efforts to engage—focusing on the words and imagining my Heavenly Father on his throne, listening with parental pleasure—don’t seem to help.

What’s wrong with me? I wonder.

Perhaps you’ve experienced the same numbness in corporate worship, maybe during personal quiet time or at prayer. And like me, you’ve felt certain that something must be wrong.

 

 

Granted, we worship God to honor him. Our end goal is not to rustle up feel-good endorphins for us.

But, according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, we were created to glorify God and enjoy him forever. How is that even possible when we come down with a case of the spiritual blahs?

Actually, days and even seasons of spiritual dryness are a normal part of our faith-walk, experienced by almost every Christian at one time or another. And there is comfort in that, knowing we’re not alone.

Theologian Sam Storms offers us further encouragement:

 

“God is glorified by your longing for the joy to be found in him,

even if you are not yet experiencing it” (1).

 

But are there strategies we can implement to jump-start our hearts into exuberant responsiveness?

As a matter of fact, yes.

 

 

We can: 

1. Be honest with God.

King David certainly was. “I spread out my hands to you;” he cried. “My soul thirsts for you like a parched land” (143:6).

Yet in spite of his emotional tailspin, David writes, “I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul (v. 8).

 

 

David provides a worthy example to follow: acknowledge the truth; affirm our trust, and seek God’s guidance.

 

2. Rehearse what we know about God’s character, his promises. 

Our minds are renewable resources (Romans 12:2). We can turn our thoughts away from the numbness we’re experiencing at the moment, and focus on what is lovely and true, excellent and praiseworthy about our God.

Sometimes such thought processes are all that’s necessary to bring us out of the doldrums (Psalm 92:4).

 

 

3. Persevere in spite of our emotions.

Keep showing up in God’s presence whether we feel like it or not.

Our emotions must not be allowed to control actions. In fact, God especially appreciates a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15), which surely includes offering him our worship when the fervency just isn’t there.

 

 

4. Anticipate.

Worship with an outlook on the future (Psalm 42:1-2). We can look forward to the day when our hearts will overflow again with ecstatic praise—even to the point of joyful tears.

 

5. Pray. 

Perhaps something like this: 

“Father in heaven, flood the dry places of my soul with your presence; lift the gray clouds that conceal you. Within my spirit I want to feel the warmth of your radiant Light, be wrapped in your unfailing love, and fly with you on the wings of the dawn!

In trusting expectancy I wait for you, O Lord. I know you will answer.”

 

 

(Isaiah 44:3; Psalm 4:6, 32:10, 139:9, 38:15)

 

What helps you beat the spiritual blahs?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Note:

(1) https://www.crosswalk.com/church/worship/how-can-i-worship-when-i-feel-nothing.html

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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(A personal psalm)

 

When thoughts are allowed free rein…

 

 

…I worry about the future, forgetting who’s in charge–You!–The all-powerful, all-wise God of the universe, Master Controller of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). The truth is, if I’m worrying, I’m not trusting.

 

…I become overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, overlooking your reliability in all situations (Philippians 4:13). Key word: in. You provide strength in the midst of the journey, not before it has begun.

 

 

…I question the reason for difficult circumstances, failing to remember all the benefits you bring out of trials, including maturity, strong faith, and deficiency in nothing (James 1:2-4).

 

…I feel inadequate to handle new responsibilities, forgetting you will not leave me to muddle through on my own. I can confidently depend on your help and put my hope in your promises (Psalm 46:1; Numbers 23:19).

 

 

…I allow disbelief to fester in my mind, neglecting to “dismantle doubts with declarations” (1)—declarations of stabilizing truth from your Word (Psalm 119:93, 160).

 

…I become discouraged in prayer, not considering that You grant what we would have asked for, if we knew everything you know (2) (Isaiah 55:9).

 

 

…I feel like a failure, losing sight of how you can turn weakness into strength and redeem any situation (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). How miraculous that even “worthless dross [you] transform into pure gold”(3).

 

…I make poor choices, ignoring the wisdom of your ways and what it cost you to pay for my sin (Psalm 119:137-138; Galatians 2:20).

 

 

…I experience despair, giving no thought to your over-all objective:  to accomplish what is good and right–always. That good purpose may not be fulfilled today or to my preference, but it is certain nonetheless (Psalm 42:5 and 145:17; Jeremiah 29:11).

 

…I am discontented,  forgetting to clarify my perspective with praise–for who you are and what you’ve already done (Psalm 31:19; Psalm 145).

 

 

…I become jealous of others, neglecting to celebrate your uniquely designed plans and specially chosen blessings for me (Ephesians 2:10).

 

…I feel weak, overlooking “the inner dynamic of grateful joy that empowers the greatest efforts” (4) (Colossians 3:15-17; Nehemiah 8:10).

 

For every troublesome emotion, every problem, every insufficiency that plays in my mind:  you, O God, are El Shaddai–the All-Sufficient One.

 

 

You are the answer for everything I face.

 

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart;

I will tell of all your wonders. 

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. 

–Psalm 9:1-2  NIV

 

Notes:

(1)  Jody Collins, author of Living the Season Well and blogger at https://jodyleecollins.com/blog/

(2)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 52.

(3)  Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, December 8.

(4)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 31.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com, by Giogio Montersino; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org (2); http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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