Thank You, Lord

Wednesday, I got that dreaded call from my kids on their way to school: “We’ve been in a wreck, but we’re okay.”

As I was about to get ready for work, I changed gears, threw on clothes, grabbed my glasses, and was out the door. I spent the morning interacting with the police, tow truck driver, auto body shop, insurance company and adjustor, discovering the car is in fact totaled.

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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.

A Place to Pray

I am taking a break from the verse for the day to think about today, Good Friday. We are in the week that is the centerpiece of the Christian faith. We hopefully live every day with an awareness of what Jesus has done for us and live in light of that, but this weekend is a special time to reflect.

Take time this weekend to read from the Gospel accounts (in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) to remember what Jesus did not just for the whole world, but for you.

One thing I was thinking about the last day or two is the value of having a place to pray. We see throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry that he made it a priority to go away to a quiet place to pray.

Mark 1:35, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.”

In Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, and Luke 22:39-46 (parallel passages), after they have celebrated Passover and the Lord’s Supper, we read that Jesus came to a place called Gethsemane and told his disciples to stay in one place while he went over to pray. Jesus fell on his face and prayed about the things that were about to take place, his betrayal and crucifixion. Three times Jesus returned to his disciples to find them sleeping.

Jesus tells them, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41).

They have arrived at the most significant time in human history, and they slept, unaware yet fully of what was to happen.

I wonder if Peter had taken time to watch and pray if he would have later denied Jesus. Certainly Peter’s flesh was earnest and desirous of defending and acknowledging Jesus (Matt. 26:31-35), yet even after having been told by Jesus that he would deny Him, and saying he wouldn’t, Peter went on to deny Jesus three times (Matt. 26:69-75).

Watch and pray that you might not enter into temptation. That’s a good reason to pray.

We see Jesus’ life of prayer as an example – rising early, going to a quiet place, praying. If the Son of God needed to pray, don’t we? He faced temptation (Matt. 4), and he could have stepped away from the mission he was here to do. But He prayed, He did His Father’s will, He sacrificed so that you and I could be saved.

Can we likewise pray, do our Father’s will, and live our lives for Him?

I encourage you to find a place to pray. Of course, the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17), being prayerful and alert at all times (Eph. 6:18), but we also need focused time to pull away and pray. The best time often seems to be the morning, before the day begins, but it can be any time. In Matt. 6:6, Jesus tells us, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

So we go to a quiet and private place, we spend time in prayer, and the Father rewards us! That’s another good reason to pray – for the reward! Maybe that sounds self-serving, but it’s just taking God at His word. He says He will reward us. That reward could be peace; it could be having our hearts and will aligned with God’s; it could be seeing God work in powerful ways as He answers those prayers in supernatural ways, oftentimes ways we wouldn’t have expected, but better than our ways. While I don’t know what the specific reward is, there is a reward.

I want that reward; don’t you? I want freedom from temptation, don’t you? I want my weak flesh to be made strong by the Spirit of God; don’t you?

As always when I finish these posts, it feels incomplete. I know there is much more that could be said, much more in God’s Word about prayer, many more reasons to pray (it gives peace, shows our dependence and confidence in God, etc.). There is much, much more that could be said about Good Friday that we will hear tonight at church when we go to worship. God Word is rich and full and always supplies us with more than we could ever take in. These are just little nuggets of truth, but let’s study and know God’s Word, let’s believe it, let’s follow Jesus and live it, and yes, let’s pray.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, we praise you for the gift of prayer, for access to the throne of grace through Christ. We thank you for this Good Friday, this day in which Jesus carried our sin in his body on the cross and took our punishment, paid our price, so that we can know You, Lord, so that we can be free from sin and death and live abundantly now and eternally with You. May we take advantage of this privilege you give us to pray and be people of prayer. I pray now as you taught your disciples to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us as debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matt. 6:9-13)

The Deceitful Heart, Day One

I watched Beth Moore’s video devotional (below) yesterday. She challenged us to pray for 10 days and ask God how our heart is deceiving us (Jer. 17:9). She also encouraged us to listen for the answer. So I’m doing this because yesterday was a hard day where I felt like I was listening to lies and being deceived.

So I prayed about it, and this morning, while I rode the exercise bike (part of my exercise plan for my knee), I got out the Bible and decided to work on a chunk of Bible memory, returning to James from this summer.

I was biking and reading it out loud. As I read, I came to this verse in James 1:26:

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.

Did you catch that? “… but deceives his own heart,….”  Well, that seemed pretty pointed. I’m deceiving my own heart when I don’t bridle my tongue. And that tells something about my faith.

I was expecting the answer to my prayer to be some sort of answer to my pathetic self absorption and “woe is me” attitude from the day before, but this went a completely different direction. I thought of all the ways I use my words and what they reveal and the trouble they cause when I don’t bridle my tongue. I wouldn’t have thought this a big problem for me, but as I thought about it, I could see areas where I need a greater obedience on this.

I don’t want to linger long here. It’s late and I’m tired, and my husband is calling for his computer, but I wanted to capture this first day and continue to ask God to reveal where I am being deceived.

Reflections on 9/11

First, to follow up my last blog post, I must note that it’s amazing what a shot of cortisone can do! I have been walking this week, and my knee is improving daily. I’ll go on Friday to see if surgery is necessary or if his “heroic attempt” to avoid it has worked! The waiting has been challenging, but good.

I was thinking back to what I was doing 11 years ago today. I suspect we all do that, try to remember that moment of where we were when our world seemed to change forever.

For me, I had a 1 year old preemie and an almost 3 year old. The picture was a normal day: me trying to get the baby to eat (“please just take a sip of this bottle!”), while I planted my son in front of Barney or Dora or some show like that until I could get her fed. This was our biggest preemie challenge. I remember somehow getting them safely situated and grabbing a quick shower. Then my mom phoned for me to turn on the TV. I remember her words, “Our country is under attack!” And just like that, it seemed life changed.

We had a friend from church, high school, and college whose brother died in the towers. He made it out safely, but kept going back in to help people. I’m sure we are all connected to someone who lost his or her life that day.

Today, as I remembered what I was doing, I couldn’t help but think how this was so sudden, so unexpected, so life changing, so shocking, so horrible, so unbelievable — there really aren’t enough words — or the right words.

And that question: “What was I doing when it happened?”

Maybe because I spent time in the book of Matthew this morning reading about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, my thoughts turned another direction. Jesus was preparing to die, and He asked his disciples to watch and pray. Each time Jesus returned, He found them sleeping. The time was at hand, and they seemed unaware. Jesus was distressed. They seemed oblivious.

It made me think about Jesus’ return. Should He return in my lifetime, it will be sudden and at an unexpected hour. Like a thief in the night (1 Thess.5:2). It will change everything. (And I realize that moment doesn’t parallel with the moment of 9/11, so covered in evil. It will be vastly different, our righteous and sovereign Lord returning!)

How will He find me? What will I be doing? Sleeping? Lazy? Distracted? Sinning? Satisfying my selfish desires? Or ready? Waiting? Doing His work in this world?

Another question then: “What am I doing right now, and what will I be doing?”

Watch and pray. Is this the key? “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt. 26:41).

I prayed this morning. I wanted to see if I could pray for an hour as Jesus had asked His disciples to do (Mt. 26:36-46). I somehow am always able to think about anything and let my mind wander, but could I focus on prayer? It was an enriching time, a large part of it necessarily spent in confession (yesterday was not good, but that’s another story!). But also praise and petition and thanksgiving. We draw near to God, and He draws near to us (James 4:8).

Oh, Lord, let me live a watchful and prayerful life, ready for you, found waiting with expectation!

And praise You, Lord, that one day You will return and wipe every tear from our eyes. You will put an end to all evil and make all things right. Praise You, Lord. You are worthy of all our worship. Thank You, Jesus. Be glorified.

“And behold, I am coming soon.” Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:7, 20)

Prayer

With my theme for the year being prayer, it’s on my mind a lot, and I have a feeling my blog posts may center around this often this year. Here is something that happened this past week.

My friend called me one afternoon asking me to pray for her 6-month old niece who was being diagnosed with a serious form of cancer on her hand called a sarcoma. Her parents were being told that an amputation might be necessary, but it could be worse. They were waiting to do the biopsy which would help them know how best to treat it. There was hope that possibly chemotherapy would be effective.

We joined them in praying. As I was running errands that same evening, I was praying aloud, hoping to be focused in prayer for them. As I prayed for many things surrounding these circumstances, there was a passage of Scripture that came to my mind clearly. Psalm 18. This was the only one that came to mind during the prayer, but was very clear. I was thinking of the early verses knowing God is our Rock.

When I pulled into the Chick-fil-a drive through (a far too common experience for me, I might add!), I looked at the car in front of me, and they had on their license plate “Psalm 18:6.” I felt for sure the Lord was speaking through this.

That portion of Scripture is about death encompassing David, but he cries out to the Lord and is heard and delivered. Now I didn’t know what to make exactly of it, but loved the reminder that in crying out to God, He hears.

Later that week, I got a call from my friend. She said they had just learned that the biopsy had shown it was not cancer! Rather, it was something very rare that the doctor had only seen one other time in 35 years — it was an aneurysm in her hand which would completely heal!

Who knows God’s ways, whether He healed her or gave another diagnosis because of the many prayers for her — or whether it was this way all along and He wanted those involved to walk through it for good and glorious purposes (or both or more?!). But what I do know is that He heard the cries of His children. I do know that through prayer, I got a window into His heart and saw the story differently than had I simply received a call to pray, said a brief prayer, carried on, and then heard she was fine. Praying opened my eyes to see God at work and to trust Him more.

I am encouraged to keep bringing my requests before Him. I know He doesn’t always answer each situation the same way, but He does seem to speak and lead in the midst of them. And that is a mercy, a grace, a peace, a comfort. God — living, breathing, caring, loving, involved!

Part of prayer includes praise, and that is what I want to do tonight — praise Him!