Monday, October 26, 2009

Another Piece of the Prayer Puzzle

Upon the recommendation of a good friend, I started working my way through a bible study book by Jennifer Kennedy Dean called “Live A Praying Life”. I’ve only completed the first week of this book and I already see that this will change the way I view prayer. As I have mentioned before in a previous blog, I think prayer is a topic of great mystery and depth that we will probably never completely tap. It’s a puzzle, and each new aspect we understand is a piece of the puzzle. When I read in the Bible that Moses walked with the Lord, or that other men and women of God were close to him by prayer, the desire in my heart burns to have that same intimacy in conversation.

One of the characteristics that I’ve struggled with over the years, particularly the last few, is how free will works in regards to prayer. How can God promise that whatever we ask for in his name is ours, and yet also give men the choice to serve him or not? That seems contradictory in a way. I labored in prayer over my marriage, believing that God would change my husband’s heart. Somewhere along the way though I began to realize that my husband got to choose whether to stay in a relationship with both God and me, no matter what or how hard I prayed for his heart to change. There are many life situations that fit into this though – whether someone will choose to follow Christ or not, whether they will give up destructive behaviors, etc. I could go on, and you probably currently have or had in the past a situation in your life where free will and prayer have seemed in conflict.

In “Live A Praying Life”, the author says, “What is God’s intent for prayer? The purpose of prayer is to release the power of God to accomplish the purposes of God. The purpose of prayer is to discover God’s will, not obligate Him to do mine; to reflect God’s mind, not change it. “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11) Could I learn, like Moses, to make my heart available for God’s purposes? Could I learn to trust His purposes more than my own perceptions?”

God gives free choice – period. But he also works the best in a situation where he gives that choice. My goal in prayer can’t be to try to convince God to do something – change a heart, move in a situation, etc., my motive in prayer should be to align my heart and will with God’s will. How sovereign would God be, if my prayers could change his mind? Obviously his view and understanding of any given situations far exceeds my limited perception.

This new understanding of God’s sovereignty helps me to trust him more. I’ll still ask him for things in prayer that involve other people’s choices, because that is part of the process of sharing my heart with him. David did that in the Psalms. If you read the Psalms though you’ll find that David worked through his feelings and by the end of what we see, his heart was in line with God’s heart. The main thrust of my prayers should be to take on God’s heart and will and desires instead of giving him a list of what I desire. This new outlook gives Psalm 37:4 a whole new meaning to me. “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” The key of this verse isn’t for me to gain my heart’s desire, but for my heart to delight in God’s will so that my desires are the same as his and will reflect God’s mind.

Here I sit with another piece of the puzzle in my hand. I can make out a little more of the complete picture I’m working on. There are still parts of the picture that I’m unsure of, but I feel confident that over the years, I’ll find those pieces as well.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I do a lot of waiting in my life. I wait in lines, in traffic, for payday…you get the idea. The most prevalent type of waiting in my life though seems to be waiting on the Lord. It’s no secret that we will be called to wait on him. The scriptures are full of verses that talk about waiting, and if you read about many of the men and women that God used powerfully, there was always at least one very long period of waiting involved in their spiritual journey. God promised Abraham that he would have a son and yet it took many, many years for that promise to come true. Abraham waited and was changed in the process. David was anointed King over Israel at the age of 15 and yet after his anointing he went back out into the fields to continue being a shepherd for 5 more years before he fought against Goliath. It was many years after that victory before he actually became King. David waited and gained a depth of intimacy with the Lord.

Isaiah 30:18 says, “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”

I believe it’s during those times of waiting that God actually works out details and gives us time to become, time to grow. He could have given Abraham a son instantly, just as he could have placed David on the throne as a 15 year old boy. But it was during the period of waiting that God worked on Abraham’s heart. God refined David’s character all those years he was shepherding sheep in the fields alone. The waiting isn’t for God, the waiting is for us. We need it. During that time, we look to God more intensely perhaps, or with more intent or purpose. There is expectation, wondering what he will do or how he will work out all of the plans that he has in store for us. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God already knows what the plans are, we are the ones who are struggling for the answers…struggling with waiting.

When I was in the midst of my divorce, I remember saying to a couple of my friends that I had reached a point where I didn’t know if I could keep living in limbo…..the unknown of my future was so difficult. The things that I did know seemed much more prevalent and real – I was unloved, lonely and my life felt completely out of control. That is what I knew. I laid in bed at night for months worrying about finding a job, a place to live, what my friends and family would think of me, and how I would handle life on my own. What I did not know was that in the midst of my time of waiting, God was working out details to every area of concern that I had and working on my heart and relationship with Him. I found a job – and not just any job, but one where I would be affirmed, and appreciated and gain self confidence. Some friends offered me a home to rent on the back corner of their 10 acres of property and it’s like living on a slice of heaven for me – a little bit of country in the suburbs. I’ve become more confident and comfortable living on my own than I thought possible. And my friends have been more supportive and wonderful to me than I could ever have imagined. All the nights I laid awake, tears I cried, longing for an end to waiting and God used all that time to work out each and every detail that I agonized over. That was the worst and best time of my life. I learned to trust God in that time of waiting. I learned that waiting is not passive, it’s a time to dig deep. I prayed more intensely and intimately and just more than I ever thought I would. As painful as waiting was for me, it was a necessary part of my journey. It changed me.

If you are in the middle of a time of waiting and you feel as though the end is nowhere in sight, just hang on. Dig deep. God is using this time to work out details that are part of the plan for you. You know, I still don’t know a lot about my life, there is uncertainty every single day. I trust in ways I didn’t before and I’m sure that was part of the plan all along, my part of waiting on the Lord.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Seasons In Life

I’m taking a few minutes to sit here on my porch, be still, and enjoy a beautiful evening. The day started out rainy and depressing and turned into the most gorgeous autumn day… There is this one big, old tree in my front yard that I love. Its leaves are just starting to turn yellow...and the little breeze that is blowing is slowly moving the old fashioned swing tied to the branch. It’s picture-perfect.

I’ve lived in this house for almost two years now and have seen the cycle of the seasons play out with this tree. Soon it will be bare, looking stark for the winter months. But once spring hits, new leaves will pop out and it will grace my view from this porch for another summer. The tree is strong and beautiful…I don’t worry about whether it will survive the harsh winter months. I know it’s just going to be dormant for a while and then burst into new life, growing in the process.

The seasons in nature are not unlike life in general. We endure seasons of death – whether it is the literal death of a loved one, the dying of an important relationship or loss in the form of a job or something equally as heartbreaking. There are many ways that we experience intense loss and change and it is painful. We enter into a time of autumn – a time of changing and transforming. Eventually the bleak, barren winter arrives. I remember when I lived up north and the winters felt unending. I wondered if it would ever be sunny or warm again or if winter would just go on forever.

One of my dear friends is going through a difficult time right now – experiencing painful changes in her marriage. It’s hard and emotionally draining and like a death of sorts. She is entering into a time of winter. I’ve experienced that pain myself, and wondered if it would ever end. I literally feel her pain and I know how truly difficult this is.

I read James 1:3-4 to her one night because it’s one of many verses that fit her situation perfectly. It says, “Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its worth so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” My friend must persevere – period. She really doesn’t have any other choice. But the amazing thing is that God promises that her perseverance will result in maturity if she allows it to mold her character and she holds on to him. I’ve seen this play out in so many lives and in my own as well. When I persevered through a couple of very difficult times emotionally, I emerged on the other side much stronger and more mature.

I know with complete confidence that God is working on her heart during this time of dormancy and barrenness. I’m already seeing it. I have every confidence in her to stand tall and strong after this season and there will be new growth and life that wasn’t there before. I hate that she’s experiencing this rainy dreary day, but look forward to seeing the beautiful future.