Does prayer work?

“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.” – Psalm 10:17

The most soft-spoken person in the class asked, almost sadly, “Does prayer really work?” A silence followed. Who would dare to ask that question? Of course it works! But, deep inside, most of us have doubts, don’t we? She was brave enough to ask the question for us all. I had to think about it for awhile and, over time, have come up with the only answer I know.

Does prayer work?

If you mean, do I get what I ask for? Not often. Sometimes it seems I do. The anxiety lessens, the child gets better, the presentation goes well. At other times, the answer is not at all what I was looking for at all.

Sometimes prayer simply becomes a battleground for my spiritual life. My way or His? Will I accept what God wants even if I don’t want it? Jesus exampled it perfectly in the Garden of Gethsemane.

And sometimes, I get to be part of what God is doing in this world. In some small way, I may influence His work as others have done through the ages.

Always, though: Prayer connects me to God. Talking to Him grows my trust. When I listen for His response, I learn to know Him, and knowing Him changes me.

Yes, prayer works! For God’s glory, of course, but also for my good. There’s a lot about this I don’t know, but I do know this: I’m not going to stop praying just because I don’t understand. Most days, just being with Him is enough.

“If I seek some other reward besides God Himself, I may get my reward but I cannot be happy.” – Thomas Merton

Just Say “Yes”

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. . .who is he who will devote himself to be close to me? . . .” – Jeremiah 31:3a and 30:21b

Jesus is like a lovesick suitor. Always calling. Always asking the question, “Will you marry Me?”. Always wanting me to say “yes”.

As He continues to show up in my life, I begin to believe He really cares. I realize He dreamed me, designed me, and made me. I already belong to Him. I just have to say “yes” to letting Him love me.  There is some resistance, some fear, but over time, I begin to trust Him when He says He will never leave me or hurt me. He will never change His mind about me. All I have to do is say “yes”.

In the stillness
He comes.
I never know when He will come.
I just suddenly realize He is there, and
He looks at me with tender eyes,
a gentle smile on His face.
Without words, I hear
“Just say ‘yes’ to Me.”
And I do.
“Yes” to relationship.
“Yes” to love.
“Yes” to doing whatever He asks.
“Yes” to being one with Him.

Jesus wants us to move into a more intimate relationship with Him. He is overwhelmingly in love with each of us. He’s just waiting for our “yes”.

“The Lord is so anxious that we should desire Him and strive after His companionship that He calls us ceaselessly, time after time, to approach Him. . .” –  Teresa of Avila

Being Stretched?

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“Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” – 2 Corinthians 4:17

Sometimes life is hard. We find ourselves caught up in situations we can’t control. At that point, we have a choice either to trust God or break into a thousand pieces. I have learned that when God puts us in that kind of a bind, He has a purpose. He is stretching us to make us usable beyond our wildest dreams. When I protested recently, He said something like this,

I know it’s hard to trust Me with everything, especially with those you love. If you can’t trust Me, trust My purpose. Everything that comes into your life is meant to help you, not to hurt you.

Look at how I stretched the disciples beyond their comfort zones:

  • Sending them out two by two, asking them to heal, cast out demons, announce the kingdom. They were fishermen and common men. These were villages and people they knew. It was a stretch!
  • Storms on the Sea of Galilee – pretty scary.
  • Confrontations with the Pharisees. My disciples honored these rulers and cringed when I countered them.
  • John the Baptist’s death. That just didn’t fit into their thinking.
  • Speaking in parables. They wanted everyone to understand what they had found. Couldn’t figure out why I didn’t speak in plain language.
  • My treatment of my earthly family. So counter-cultural. They cringed then, too.

I stretched them beyond recognition, but look who they became. Trust My purpose. It has a goal and it is good.

It is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.” – C. S. Lewis

As a Little Child

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“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant and their faces shall never be ashamed.” – Psalm 34:4

God invites us to come as little children, to be close, to let Him hold us. When we turn toward Him, He calms our fears by saying something like this:

Come close to Me. It’s OK. You’ll like it here.
You’re little, but I’m big.
You’re weak, but I’m strong.
You know some things, but I know everything.
You’re needy, I am generous.
You’re afraid, I am your protector.
You’re lonely, I am Love.
Just come to Me and receive everything you need.

God’s great desire is for His children to be close. He loves us infinitely and wants us to soften our hearts so we can receive His love. We do that by thinking about Him, reading His Word, praying about everything, and listening for His voice. It is always a voice of love, never criticism or condemnation for those who know and follow Him.

Let’s respond to Him with the anticipatory trust of a little child. We will never be sorry we did.

“When we hear him whisper into our souls, ‘You are my beloved child’, we can finally begin to shake off the striving and obsession that drives us. . .” – David Timms

Freedom

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“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

Feeling like there is too much to do? Too many loose ends? Lots to worry about? There is a spiritual exercise helpful to me when I am feeling that way and I thought it might help you, too.

I begin to tell God my concerns, and He invites me to lay them down one-by-one. They became an imaginary pile beside me. Then I see myself walking toward Him, leaving the pile behind. I see it getting smaller and smaller as I move closer to Him.

I sense God’s pleasure as He has my complete attention. Just the two of us – lots of smiles, joy. I know I am free, lighter, less serious, more transparent, and I can sense His response, “I have redeemed you so you could be free from bondage to your own desires, from pleasing others, from feeling burdened or stressed. Live lightly.”

Then I go on in my prayer time, honestly sharing my heart and my needs, interceding for others as He calls me to do. Turning to go back, I see in the distance the things I laid down. As I get closer to the pile, I realize that I must be very careful what I choose to pick up again. Much of it I will simply leave in His hands. God has made us free. Free to be His.

“In almost everything that touches our everyday life on earth, God is pleased when we’re pleased. He wills that we be as free as birds to soar and sing our maker’s praise without anxiety.” – A. W. Tozer

 

Self-Improvement Plan?

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Galatians 2:20a

God lives inside us. It is His goal that we simply believe and act on that fact. It is not a “someday”, it is now: He indwells those who have accepted His invitation to follow Him. He is bigger, stronger, and smarter than we are, desiring to overrule our bad decisions and live the God-life through us. If we really believed that, how might things be different?

  • We would recognize Satan’s lies (e.g. worry means love).
  • We wouldn’t be anxious about things that are far in the future.
  • We would be more discerning about people, able to see through to their hearts.
  • We would love more.
  • We would rejoice every time truth triumphs over lies.
  • We would have an eternal perspective.
  • We would serve others with wisdom and grace.
  • Our concerns about appearances would fall away.
  • We would trust Christ’s lordship of this world, doing our part, but  leaving the rest in His hands.
  • We would entrust our children to God, knowing He has a plan for each of them that includes us, but does not center on us.
  • We would learn to listen to our bodies, giving them what they need (e.g. food, exercise, and rest).
  • We would give generously.

We don’t have to adopt another self-improvement plan. We just need to yield to the Christ living within us, intentionally giving up our wills for His and letting His love, power, truth, and peace flow through us. When He lives in us, we become better people and the world becomes a better place!

“God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life fully yielded to Him.” – Andrew Murray

 

 

 

Is He Still There?

"The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me . . . Do not forsake the work of Your hands." - Psalm 138:8

“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me . . . Do not forsake the work of Your hands.” – Psalm 138:8

I know a potter who sits at his wheel forming earthy pots, bowls, mugs, and vases.

But, before his creations can be useful, they must be “fired”. The potter sets hundreds of pots in his brick kiln, then turns up the heat until it reaches more than 2,000 degrees. He knows his pots, so lovingly formed, must be crying out for him to rescue them and take them out of their dark place. But he doesn’t respond. Then the pots begin to wonder if he’s there at all. Why has he left them in this horrible situation?

The potter has not left them. He is always there, just outside the kiln, removing a brick now and then to peek in, checking temperature to make sure it is just right, waiting for the exact time to turn down the heat and remove the precious works of his hands.

Have you ever wondered where God is during the dark times in your life? The times when the heat is turned up and you are closed in and afraid? You cry out and He does not respond. Is He even there?

In reality, God is there –  checking on you, waiting for just the right time to turn down the heat and pull you out of your dark place. And when He does, you will be amazed at the result. You will be changed: tougher, more beautiful, and prepared for the job He had in mind when He designed you in the first place. Hang on! Trust Him even in the fire.

” . . . out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God.” – Elisabeth Elliot

If you want to see a more complete story of The Potter, (Dave Blakeslee of Salida, Colorado) go to http://dod.org/programs/the-potter-reflections-of-a-master-artisan/