Warm-ups for Prayer

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” – Colossians 4:2

I tend to greet God in pretty much the same way every morning and it’s a pattern I picked up from a revered Bible teacher. It involves saying “good morning” to each person of the Trinity, pausing to worship the Triune God, then asking for his mercy. The opening words are often the same, but the worship or follow up prayer time changes from day to day.

Why do I do this? Because when I begin my quiet time, I may not feel very spiritual or even ready to pray. My routine opening prayer becomes a catalyst for more conversational prayers to follow.

Here’s another example: We’ve taken what is commonly known as The Lord’s Prayer and often use that in a way that can be mechanical or rote, but if we slow down and think about what we are praying, phrase by phrase, it’s powerful. And the very familiarity of the prayer often opens our hearts to deeper, more personal prayers.

Another way to stimulate heart-felt prayers is to use a psalm or other portion of Scripture and pray about each phrase or sentence as you read. In Scripture we read about God and his purposes. Praying those understandings back to him sometimes opens a fountain of thought about people or situations in our lives we need to pray about.

I think we all sometimes need to calm, direct, and warm our hearts and minds for prayer. A routine reading, prayer, or pattern can do that for us. God enters our lives when we find a way to open the door to him.

“Prayer is not only asking, but an attitude of mind which produces the atmosphere in which asking is perfectly natural.” — Oswald Chambers

#prayer

Hearing God

“I will praise the Lord who counsels me. . . . “ – Psalm 16:7a

God spoke to his people in ancient days in visions, by voice, and through prophets. He spoke to the people in 1st century Israel even more clearly in the person of Jesus. Sometimes, now, we hear God’s voice through the Holy Spirit as he guides and enlightens us – often through something in the Bible or through another Christian.

The story of the first time Samuel heard God’s voice is encouraging to me. God was talking and young Samuel, never hearing God speak before, didn’t know it was him!

I’ve felt that way, too, and perhaps you have. Was that really God talking through thoughts that came to me? Samuel’s experience is helpful in figuring out where the voice in our heads is coming from. If it’s from God, it will likely have these characteristics just as it did for Samuel:

It will be personal. He called Samuel by name. If the Holy Spirit is giving us a message, it will be something he specifically wants us to hear, understand, or feel.

It will be persistent. It took God four times to get Samuel’s attention! If our hearts are right, he will continue to call until we hear and know for sure it’s him.

It will be powerful. We don’t forget a message that comes directly from God. I remember specific things he told me nearly 40 years ago! And I’ve found that hearing includes empowering us to act or tell – whatever he requires.

So, let’s keep listening, knowing how much God loves to talk to those who are willing to hear and respond!

“I need to be able to recognize God’s whispers – those moments when he draws near and breathes words of life into my soul.” – Margaret Feinberg

God speaks.

 

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” – Joshua 1:8

Do you ever wish God would talk to you? Maybe you should just ask him to. Then listen. When I do that, his answer is often something like this:

“What I have to say to you today I’ve written in my Word. Read it expectantly, believing you will find my message in what you read. Search for it as if you are looking for treasure.”

So what might we find as we read God’s word with anticipation of finding a message just for us, for now?

Wisdom – “. . . from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” – Proverbs 2:6

Confidence “Those who look to him are radiant . .  .” – Psalm 34:5a

Direction – “He guides me in paths of righteousness. . .” – Psalm 23:3

Revelation – “The Lord confides in those who fear him.” – Psalm 25:14

God does talk to us, many times in what he highlights as we read the Bible. I find when I approach his book expectantly, I often receive insight, encouragement, and direction meant especially for me at that moment. It can happen for you, too, but requires reading each passage, then prayerfully mulling it over until he reveals what it is he wants us to know. His message is already written. Our job is to search it out!

“Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son.” – Eugene Peterson

 

 

 

Did I make the right decision?

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” – Psalm 32:8

Even when I pray over a decision and think I’m hearing God’s direction, I second guess myself. Do you do that, too? I want to do what he wants, but sometimes it’s hard to sort out his will from my own.

So, today, I went back to God questioning a decision I had made. “I was really trying to do what you want, Lord, but now I’m not sure I did the right thing. Did I mess it up by going down a path that might have been more mine than yours?”

What came back was a reassuring message. It was something like this:

“You did what you did because you thought it was what I wanted you to do. That’s what really counts – your attitude of wanting to please me. Not all of your decisions will be right, but I look at your heart. And, remember, I can work with every choice you make. My will will be done in your life, not because your decisions are right, but because your heart is right.”

He works with my decisions! If my attitude is right, he will intervene and overrule my bad choices and turn it all around for his glory and my good. I like that! Then I remembered David. God saw him as a man after his own heart even though David made some bad decisions. God is loving and forgiving toward all of us who truly want to do what he wants. That sure makes me breathe easier! You, too?

“We count on God’s mercy for our past mistakes, on God’s love for our present needs, on God’s sovereignty for our future.” – Augustine 

 

#decisions

Is that you, God?

“. . . your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'” – Isaiah 30:21b

We’re beginning to understand that God really does communicate, often through thoughts he plants in our heads. Have you ever sensed that maybe God was speaking to you? Then you pause, wondering if it’s really him. Next time that happens, ask these questions:

Is it truth?

If the voice in my head says I’m stupid or unlovable or hopeless, I know it’s not from God. But if the voice says he wants more for me or from me and will help me grow, that’s likely from him. He never nags. He doesn’t whine. He always tells the truth.

Is it consistent with the Bible?

God will never ask us to do something that contradicts his written word. He won’t tell you to have a romantic relationship with someone who’s married or to go into debt for something you can’t afford. But, if what it seems he’s asking you to do is pure, loving, grace-filled, or healing, most likely you’re hearing from him.

Is it something I am willing to do?

Often God tests our obedience with small assignments. It will be something simple like talking to the person behind you in line at the store or helping a neighbor with yard work. If you think God is asking you to do something, just do it. Do it believing it would please him. Once we get into that habit, his voice becomes clearer and sometimes will stretch us a bit more. He doesn’t ask us to walk on water until he knows we’re willing to get into the boat!

“You must learn how God speaks; not doing so will constantly undermine your confidence in your personal relationship to him.” – Dallas Willard

 

#listeningprayer

A Place for God

“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” – Lamentations 3:25-26

Wouldn’t it be sad if God has something to say to us and we’re not hearing Him over the noise of our world? If God is talking to me, I want to hear Him. I think you do, too.

Ezekiel was a prophet in ancient Israel at a critical time in their history. It was important that he hear God’s messages clearly. One day, God just picked him up, whisked him away, and set him down in a new place (Ez. 3:14-15). Sometimes God simply wants us to get away from where we are so we can hear His voice!

How might we use our present circumstances to allow God to take us away from the ordinary and into the extraordinary? We might find ourselves set aside because of illness, a broken relationship, job loss, or an empty nest. When these things happen, they can provide space to escape from busyness, experience God’s presence, and listen for His voice.

At other times, when life just goes on in whirlwind fashion, we can engineer a place for Him in our daily devotional times and occasional spiritual retreats. He longs to share His heart, direct our steps, and bring comfort and healing. But we have to be quieted, patiently waiting to hear Him speak. He doesn’t shout, He whispers. It’s easy to miss if we’re not paying attention. And paying attention requires time apart – focused, intentional, God-centered time.

The truth? Listening for His voice may well be the most important thing we have to do today.

“God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” – Mother Teresa

 

 

 

#God

#prayer

The “Un’s”

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you; who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.” – Psalm 84:5

What are the “un’s? in your life? Have you ever thought about it? I took it as a personal challenge to spend time with God thinking about three categories of “un’s”: Unfinished Business, Unanswered Prayers, and Unfulfilled Promises.

In God’s presence I asked if there was any Unfinished Business in my life. A relationship to mend? An apology to make? A project to finish? A goal to set? I thought of my commitment to simplify my life, to abide in Him, to be grateful always, to accept imperfection. Recognize any of these? For me they are, as yet, unfinished. In process, but unfinished.

Then, I thought about what I saw as Unanswered Prayers – those for which I was still waiting for answers. Most of them relate to people I love and pray for – health, finances, relationships, marriages, spiritual condition – you know the list. Still praying.

Then there are Unfulfilled Promises. God has promised to heal wounds. He’s working on it, but not finished yet. He promises to train, discipline, and grow us up to be like Jesus. Working on it, not finished yet.

Might you want ask these same questions of God?

  • What is the unfinished business in my life right now?
  • What are the unanswered prayers I need to keep praying and trusting God for?
  • What promises has He made that are not fulfilled – yet?

You will be both encouraged and challenged as you wait for God’s response. And I’m pretty sure you’ll gain insights that surprise you!

“Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.” – Henri Nouwen