Praying for You

The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

I’ve been thinking about the “pray without ceasing” command in particular this week. This week I’ve seen friends dealing with death, hospitalization, waiting on test results, traveling, kids heading to college, and the list goes on. I find myself saying over and over, “I’ll be praying for you.” Perhaps you’ve seen the same thing on Facebook or said the same thing. But what does that mean? What do my prayers for others look like?

I suppose if we are to “pray without ceasing,” it indicates hearts that are prayerful, bent towards prayer, praying as we come and go through our days and the situations in them, so we can pray right then for those we commit to pray for. But do I also take the time to really invest in prayer and to pray in faith (James 1:6), asking God to increase my faith where I sense I doubt (Mark 9:24)?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us how to pray (Matt. 6:5-13). Do I take time to get on my knees in a posture of humility and prayer, and find a private place to pray (6:5-6)? Again, do I come in faith, or do I simply come with words (6:7-8)?

From the Lord’s Prayer, we learn to pray by hallowing Jesus’ name and according to his will. We pray for our daily needs and seek God’s forgiveness as we forgive others. We pray deliverance from evil and protection from temptation. We acknowledge God’s glory, power, and kingdom. Each of these includes the aspects of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (ACTS as an acronym to help guide us in prayer).

Those verses enlarge my prayers as I consider things bigger and higher than only what I can see. Next time I say “I’ll pray for you,” rather than simply uttering a few words as I go to be sure I have done what I say, why don’t I also note it on my phone or a notepad in my purse? Then when I sit down to pray, add their names to my journal and pray through the list. Don’t simply depend on my memory, though I can pray for them as often as they come to mind, too. Pray Scripture and pray in faith, believing God to do more than I ask, think, or imagine by his power at work (Eph. 3:20). And record the answers. Nothing is too hard for God (Jer. 32:17). And like the disciples, perhaps we can simply ask, “Teach us to pray.”

Matthew 6:9-13: “Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.”

Beholding His Face

Our church has a wonderful ministry to moms and their young children called Mom2Mom. I am one of the “mentor moms” since I and my children are older. At each monthly gathering, a mentor mom will share a short devotional. I did this last year, and you can read it here, and this week I was honored to share again. This is what I shared.

My Weakness

It is rather ironic to me that I should, first, be involved in this moms ministry and, second, be asked to share. This is because growing up, I was the younger of two girls, and my mom and my sister did everything for me. They did all the cooking and cleaning, and I did as little housework as possible. I was not that domestically minded, and I rarely babysat. So when my own children came along, I loved them wildly, but I didn’t know the first thing about how to take care of them! I was learning through each stage of their development, and as soon as I would figure out that stage and feel on top of things, they had moved right on to the next stage! And just when I thought I had things mastered with my first child and would be an expert with my second (yes, I really expected this!), she came along three months early and threw a wrench into that plan!

Also, my children aren’t yet grown. When I think about giving wise advice to young moms, I’m not even proven! So while it would be great to bring in adult children and point to them, and therefore to me, as models of all that wise parenting can bring, the reality is my kids aren’t that old. Though they have faith that is growing, we’re all still learning and growing, and our story is ongoing—though in reality, I know that’s the case for everyone.

So rather than point to my kids or point to me—which even if I could, I wouldn’t want to—I wanted to point all of us to look up and into the face of Jesus Christ.

Easter and God’s Grace

We just finished the Easter season where I was struck again at the thought of what Jesus has done for us. We who are sinners, separated from a holy God by our sin, are able to know God and have fellowship with Him through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He took the place we deserved, bore the penalty and weight of our sin on the cross, and rose again in victory. Now by faith in Jesus, we are restored to relationship with God. What grace! We didn’t do this; God did! That’s how much He loves us. And there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

This gives me great hope, not just for an eternal future with God, but for even today—abundant life in the here and now. When I make a mistake as a parent, be it from ignorance, by accident, through my sin, or whatever it is, I have a God who loves me, who offers forgiveness, who helps me, and who can give me wisdom for parenting.

This doesn’t mean I hang my hands and do nothing as a mom, just trusting God to take care of everything. While I am indeed dependent on Him and trust it will be His Spirit’s work in my children’s life that transforms them, I nonetheless know that I need to teach my children, and I want to do all I can to show my children the grace and love of God that He has shown to me. Rather than simply trying to change their behavior, I want to see into their hearts and help shepherd them to Jesus. I so often fail, but I’m so thankful that God helps me in this wonderful adventure of being a mom.

Beauty Found in His Face

I have just come through a couple of surgeries for skin cancer on my face. During this time, as I wrestled with the idea of having a scar, I was reminded again of the massive love of Jesus for us, that He would suffer and die and bear scars in His body for us (John 20:24-29). Imagine that!

One of the big things I came to realize, though, was that beauty is not found in the absence of scars, but in the presence of Christ. Through my time reading God’s Word, the Bible, each day, He brought me to verse after verse to show me this truth.

Exodus 34 is about Moses who, after having spent time with God, came down from the mountain. His skin shone, and his face was so radiant that the people were afraid, and he had to wear a veil.

Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” The radiant face comes from looking at Him. 

2 Corinthians 4:6 tells us that the light of the knowledge of the glory of God is found in the face of Jesus Christ.

In Psalm 80, the psalmist asks that God would restore them, that He would make His face shine that they might be saved.

Psalm 67:1-2 similarly says, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.”

Brokenness and Beauty/Suffering and Glory

During this time, I also began to see that God takes broken things and makes them beautiful so they we might shine for Him. This is also similar to the way He takes our light and momentary afflictions (brokenness) and through them produces an eternal weight of glory (beauty, shining) far beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17, Rom. 8:18).

These experiences are working out something in us that will actually make us more beautiful and able to reflect and shine for Him if we go through them beholding His face and His beauty. Our beauty comes from Him. And we can actually ascribe beauty to His name through our praise (Ps. 29:1-2), which I pray will ever be on my lips and in my mouth (Ps. 34:1), even as a scar sits there to remind me of this necessity.

How Do We Behold His Face?

The question then becomes “How do we behold His face?” We can do this through the study of God’s Word and through prayer, in both ways taking pleasure in the presence of Christ.

Study the Bible

It’s important to study God’s Word, the Bible, not just good books, helpful though they might be at giving us practical parenting tips. Set aside time to read the Bible each day. It can be a psalm or using a Bible reading plan or doing a Bible study. It was through Women’s Bible Study at our church that I began to grow and learn and be transformed by God’s Spirit through spending time daily in His Word. This is a vital spiritual discipline. God’s Word will not return void.

Pray God’s Word

Similarly, we want to pray. Pray before we read the Bible asking God to open our eyes and heart to understand. We can also take what we read in Scripture and pray it back to God, pray it for our children. Here’s one way I’ve done that this year.

May His Face Shine Upon You

The content of this talk has been new to me recently, a new theme, and I haven’t had time to wrap it up into a neat outline. These are therefore somewhat disconnected thoughts that I would like to shape more, but I hope you will remember God’s grace and His face when you think of this talk! And I conclude with Numbers 6:24-26:

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.

Radical Prayer by Manny Mill

If you are part of a family, you know that there can be times that are hard! It can be for a variety of different reasons – perhaps someone is in a bad mood or doesn’t want to listen to good advice. Perhaps someone feels unfairly treated or is being selfish. No need to even provide many examples because you can likely identify.

My family had one such Thursday in July. I can’t even remember now how things unraveled, but at day’s end, there was much discouragement.

As I went walking the next morning, wanting to pray about it, I grabbed some memory verse cards I’d made earlier in the year, but had not since reviewed. I came across an entry from April, and it said,

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling” (Psalm 46:1-3).

This sounded very familiar to me! I remembered a text message I had received from Manny Mill the day before, seemingly out of the blue as I had not heard from him in months. I wondered if this was the psalm he had referenced in his text. I got home from walking and picked up my phone to see.

Yes, Manny’s text that Thursday morning had said he was radically praying for my family and had prepared his ministry message for that night with me in mind, that it was on Psalm 46, and that Barb (his wife) would be singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

Well, it was that very night that our family had this discouraging time. And after my walk the next day and reading Psalm 46 in my memory verses, I was reminded of Manny’s text that told me he was praying radically for my family before this had even happened.

God in His kindness was reassuring me through this. “Therefore we will not fear.” And when we next went to church as a family, the hymn that was sung that Sunday morning was “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

Manny Mill is a commissioned evangelist from our church. I have the blessing of working in the church and getting to know amazing people like Manny and Barbara whose lives are authentic and demonstrate that the relationship they have with God directs everything they do. They truly walk with God and live out what they believe.

Manny recently brought me a copy of his new book Radical PrayerI read it in a matter of days, anxious to learn from this prayer warrior what I have seen lived out in his life.

What do you believe about prayer? 

In 2010, Manny’s wife Barbara was in an automobile accident. This event caused him to ask, “How can I treat God like a paramedic, calling out to Him only when there’s an emergency?” God used this as the impetus to begin to transform Manny’s prayer life.

Through the years I’ve read various things on prayer, and this is one of my favorites. Perhaps it’s because I know Manny and see this lived out in his life, but it definitely challenged me in new ways.

I loved being reminded that prayer is about God’s glory before it’s about my needs, and how he developed praying for the hallowing of God’s name. He encouraged radical prayer and radical love and gave practical examples of what this looks like. There were points in the book where he just says to set the book down, take a radical timeout, open the Bible and pray. I found those to be powerful moments.

As I read Manny’s book, I loved seeing all God has done in his life to reveal Himself to Manny so that Manny can now reveal Him to others and make Him known. And I wonder, how can I do the same?

Whatever it is you think about prayer, this book will encourage you to know more and to pray persistently, radically, and in biblical ways. The 10 chapters would make a great 10-day devotional or be useful in a small group discussion over 10 weeks.

Note: All proceeds from the book will be donated to Koinonia House National Ministries. Their annual banquet is coming up October 29 at 6:00 p.m. in Lombard, IL. If you live in the Chicagoland area and are interested, click here for more information or to register.

The War Room

The new film The War Room is out. Have you seen it?

I just finished a Priscilla Shirer Bible study this summer, so I was excited to see her in this movie.

Though the movie at times seems to preach a little in the dialogue, and though there are things I have since read that people are critical of in the movie, I left with a full heart desiring more prayer in my life.

I was encouraged not only to pray, which was the major theme, but to tell the next generation what we believe, just as this older woman was passing along to the younger woman what God had shown her during her life.

I realize things don’t always wrap up as quickly and neatly in life as they did in the movie, and sometimes it takes years to see a major breakthrough on something we’ve prayed for. But when we are in prayer — intentional, focused, deliberate prayer, praying Scripture and believing God for His promises to us that we see in the Bible — even if the answer isn’t what we hope or is long in coming, we see Him involved along the path as we wait with hope for Him to act. Our hope isn’t in the outcomes, but in the God who knows all things and is sovereign over all and powerful to deliver.

We don’t always start praying and see instant results. It’s not something magical if we utter right words. But my heart still resonated with the overall message of the movie. We don’t want to be quick to dismiss the film as some might because it didn’t develop everything as fully as they would like (who can build a full theology of prayer in two hours?) or perfectly explain every aspect (some asked how he made that much money, or complained that many people don’t have an extra closet to make a war room, etc.). Catch the overall themes and go find your war room, be it a bedroom or small corner of the house.

Then pray. Pray Scripture. Record God’s answered prayers and the ones where you can’t yet see the answer, but where you see Him working. That’s part of why I have this blog – to remember, to proclaim, to record what God has done. Yes, tell of God’s mighty works. Encourage one another. Pray for one another.

We can go to the Bible and study everything we find about prayer — how to pray, when to pray, where to pray, why to pray. We can develop what the movie didn’t have time to. We can pray for more faith as we pray (“increase our faith, Lord”). Ask God to teach us to pray, to show us how.

Let’s pray in full faith believing that God is who He says He is and God can do what He says He can do.* We can trust Him. He is powerful and strong. He is our Deliverer. Let’s become prayer warriors.

*Thank you to Beth Moore for showing me that in her Believing God study. Her brief appearance in The War Room was also fun to see!

Prayers for a New School Year

This week marked the start of a new school year for my children. I wondered about what prayers and verses I should pray for them. Last year I had a verse for the year for them from Psalm 86:

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

The first day of this year, I was drawn to Psalm 121 and the Lord keeping them, protecting them, with them looking to Him.

As the week went on, I continued to consider prayers for my children. Then yesterday while I was in Walmart looking for school supplies, I ran across this box for index cards and decided to start a prayer box for the year for the kids.

prayer cards
Not exactly Pinterest-worthy, but it’s practical & works!

Each day on the front of the card, I can put the date and a verse. On the back, I can tell what is happening that day (i.e., first day of school or first football game, etc.). Also on the back I can include a short prayer based on the verse(s) for the day. In this way I can hope to have focused, intentional, deliberate, biblical prayer for my children. I also made a list of my children’s friends so I can remember to pray for them, too.

Last night I went to see the movie The War Room with my mom and another couple. It was excellent and surely a motivation to pray.

What are you praying for your family?

Verses for the Day: Phil. 4:4-7, 1 Thess. 5:16-18

I love it that “the Lord is near” and we have nothing to fear. Instead, we can rejoice, give thanks, and pray.

Philippians 4:4-7: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”