Why Pray if I Can’t Have My Way?

When I was raising my three children, I’d ask them what they wanted for Christmas. If it was within my power…and budget…their heart’s desire would show up beneath the Christmas tree.

Birthdays were no exception. Ask and it shall be given to you.

“Make a Wish” became the norm in our household even though giving/receiving gifts isn’t my love language. I prefer acts of service. However, what parent doesn’t enjoy playing fairy godmother where their children are concerned?

My grown children plead the fifth. They’ve often said, “Just because I say I like something, DOESN’T mean I want it.” Then again, they didn’t have to ask for anything because I was the one askingWhat do you want?

It was no different when I was a child. Our family didn’t have excess income, but I was pretty much guaranteed (within reason) to get what I wanted twice a year. Christmas and my birthday.

My parents delighted in giving gifts. My dad loved photography, but he gave me the 35 millimeter camera. However, this display of sacrificial love and giving was passed onto my children and probably explains why….

I’m surprised or upset when I pray and ask God for something and He doesn’t give me what I want.

I justify being disgruntled and blaming God when he says, “NO or NOT NOW!”

“The purpose of prayer is to get ahold of God, not of the answer.” (Oswald Chambers)

My Christian mentor, Loretta C. told me. “Prayer prepares our hearts so we can meet with God and receive His Word.”

I know from experience her words are true. Prayer effects my attitude. Softens my heart. God’s Word becomes more clear, more applicable to my current circumstances. There are hallowed moments when the Lord speaks directly to my heart.

Prayer

Yes, prayer prepares our hearts, but can we be honest?

I’m still tempted to skip prayer (or rush through it) when I’m staring at a busy day. Besides, reading the Bible seems more tangible to me than praying.

For instance, I can tell you what I’ve learned after I’ve read John 17. Whereas prayer can feel like a one-way conversation where I’m either whining about life or dictating a laundry list that God “needs to do” to meet my needs.

When in fact, the only thing we really need has already been given. Have you received it?

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“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.”

John 3:16 shows up on football players’ foreheads and the bottom of fast food cups. When I worked with the homeless, they recited that verse because they felt it was the prerequisite to a hot meal.

Only to say, God knows our needs. He’s already given us the greatest Gift…His Son, Jesus…who offers us abundant life.

“Wait a second!” Some folks might say. “I received the gift of Jesus and I still have needs.

I need that job. I want a spouse. I need a baby. I want a bigger house. I need my adult child to be rid of depression.

I need…I want…

Isn’t that how we tend to pray? Like beggars desperate for crumbs.

And then wonder why we come away from prayer as though we’ve drank a flat soda. No fizzle, no joy, no aha moments.

That’s why, it’s imperative to get ahold of God in our prayers, and not the answers. To prepare our hearts. Get our focus off ourselves. And that begins with worship.

Sing. Praise God for Who He is. Thank Him. Meditate on His wonders.

When our prayer life is wanting more of God…instead of the means to get what we want…we will see a difference in ourselves and our day.

Because then, we’ll have what we truly need. The abiding presence of the Triune God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Words Matter

Love my morning coffee.

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Yesterday, however, I grimaced after the first sip. Too much Half n Half.

The flavor overpowered the coffee. So I brewed more coffee. Poured it into my mug to dilute the Half n Half. Didn’t help.

At the end of the day, a mug of cold coffee sat on the patio table where I’d left it.

That evening, I noticed there were two similar cartons in my refrigerator. Turns out I’d poured Whipping Cream instead of Half n Half into my coffee.

Words matter.

This isn’t the first time I’ve used or bought something without reading the words on the label. Ever tried Unsalted Pretzels? I still have them if you’re interested.

Lately, people need Google Translation to figure out what I’m saying:

Me: “Hey, I’m going to Home Depot for groceries.”
Friend: “You mean Holiday Market?”
Me: “Didn’t I say that?”

I don’t mind poking fun at myself, but,

Words Matter. They’re more than letters and phonetic sounds.

Just look up “word” in a Bible concordance.

  • “A harsh word stirs up anger.”
  • “How delightful is a timely word.”
  • “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth.
  • “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you.”

Add mouth or tongue to the word search; you’ll have a field day.

I wonder how many words are in the English language?

file000278512533As a child, whenever someone bullied me, I’d respond, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

This rhyme worked about as well as rubbing my rabbit’s foot for good luck. But I’m no longer a child; my skin is thicker.

I’ve spoken, heard, written, and read more words than I can count. Good. Bad. Some words I can’t spell or define, but I know that….

Words have the power to ignite wars, civil strife, family feuds. And crush individuals.

Words also have the ability to challenge, inspire, and heal.

We get to choose our words.

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Years ago, my friend’s husband was brutally murdered by three male strangers. They broke into her home—intent on stealing—and were surprised by her husband’s presence. I won’t say more.

Justice was served. Those men were condemned and sent to prison. However, it didn’t alleviate my friend’s heartache.

So she prayed and sought the Lord for counsel.

Eventually, she wrote each of those condemned men a letter in which she shared the Gospel of Christ. 

She included the words: “I forgive you for murdering my husband.”

One of the men wrote back. He said he’d been praying for a sign to know he’d been forgiven.

Her words were like a balm to that man’s soul. His words made my friend weep for joy.

How is it possible for a grief-stricken widow to rise above her sorrow and share the Gospel with condemned men? How was she able to forgive?

By God’s grace, and a willingness to obey God’s Word.

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28.)

Christ’ Words, not mine.

And His Word matters. Even in this…especially in this …volatile world.

Martha or Messiah?

There are words written in pastel chalk on the cement leading to my front door. Drawn at the brink of our family celebration, the words became a welcome mat acknowledging my son’s high school graduation, my parent’s 60th anniversary.

“Congratulations!” “Welcome to California!”

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 Chalk words that gladdened hearts now fade in the summer sun. The family members we welcomed have gone.

I mop the kitchen floor, erasing dusty footprints and sticky crumbs where people gathered to eat and laugh. Now the only reminders of my guests are photographs nailed to the refrigerator with magnets. Moments captured. Smiling faces preserved on matted paper.

Has it only been a week since I felt my eldest son’s strong embrace, smelled the fresh scent of my daughter’s hair, listened to the voices of my parents who have loved me well?

While they were here, I cooked, served, and smiled. I rose before dawn like the woman in Proverbs and saw to the needs of my household. Adrenaline, and love for them, kept me going till the midnight hour.

The family called me Martha (woman mentioned in the Gospels). They urged me to sit still and rest. But I’m wired to be a Martha…catering to other people’s needs.

Did you sleep well? Are you hungry? Can I get you something to drink?

Are you hot or cold? Need a pillow for your head?

How can I encourage you, pray for you? Make you feel loved?

I don’t mind being a Martha, but in assuming to meet their every need, do I act like their Messiah?

·  Do I urge them to rely on Jesus, or depend on me when there’s a problem and decision to be made?

· Do I mislead when I share what I think is best, or encourage them to consult and obey God’s Word?

“But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Some days, I balk at being Martha when I think of what Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things…” (Luke 10:41)

Then I read His Word, “Jesus loved Martha….” (John 11:5) And I’m reminded He loves me too even when I’m worried and distracted by many things.

I know Jesus loves me because even in this….aftermath of celebration…He’s teaching me that a Martha can best serve her family’s needs by letting go, and leading them to Jesus.

Unlike the chalk words on my cement, HIS Word never fades away.

  

Not What but WHO

The house is robed in darkness when I slip away from the warmth of my bed and my slumbering husband. I’d rather brew a cup of tea and pray than toss and turn.

I weave my way through the dark and around the furniture until I find the kitchen light. While tea leaves steep, I notice my hungry cat waiting at the back door.

Open a can of food for her, open the Bible for me.

I’m not a morning person, but I love the silence where God is able to speak without interruptions.

If only I can keep my mind from distractions. My year that began slow has picked up speed. The winds are changing.

I tell myself “rejoice in the Lord” because my joy is not based on What is happening in my life, but WHO is ever present.  

El Roi, the God who sees me, even in the dark while I sip tea.

How odd…or is it…that I open my Bible to Psalm 143 where my words were once scrawled in the margin: February 2001: anxiety attack and winter depression.

What happened long ago that caused me to underline emotions that King David experienced: “persecuted, crushed, overwhelmed.”

I can’t remember why those emotions held me hostage, but the solution remains underlined.

“I meditate on all Thy doings; I muse on the work of Thy hands. I stretch out my hands to Thee; my soul longs for Thee as a parched land.” (verses 5,6)

On that winter morning, I lived in dark places. (vs.3)

But I knew then…as I know now…the ONE True God who could and would …

·        Revive me.

·        Teach me.

·        Deliver me.

And bring my soul out of trouble.

Even now, as I write these words, night has slipped away. Daylight is here. And on my window sill, a cross with the words from Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you…to give you hope and a future.”    

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If anxious thoughts woke me, they are gone.  Not because my circumstances changed, or God fixed my problems overnight.

My soul is at rest because the Lord is my hope and refuge.

And He never changes…not even in this.

God’s Word Isn’t a Buffet

IMG_4770My feral cat waits for her breakfast. Depending on the “brand and flavor” of cat food that I serve, she sometimes sniffs the bowl of food and walks away. This morning, the finicky eater snubbed her food. I had to laugh….

Saturday night, I attended a Mystery Dinner Theater that included a dinner buffet. Like my cat, I walked beside the buffet table sniffing the food, to pick and choose what I like to eat.

Salivating, I held my plate to the server, “Yes, please!”

Wrinkling my nose, I shook my head, “No thank you.”

Do I have the same attitude towards the Bible?

Do I pick the verses I want to read, choose the promises I want to hear?

Do I hunger for more of God’s Word when I like what I’m reading. And snub the morsels that tell me to repent, love my enemy, obey?

GOD’S WORD ISN’T A BUFFET.

I’m not suppose to pick and choose the verses I want to believe and obey.

In Psalm 119, there are 176 verses; lots to pick and choose from depending on my spiritual appetite.

Some passages I devour:

“My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word” (vs. 28).

“May your unfailing love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise” (vs. 41).

“Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name” (vs. 132).

“Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise” (vs.154).

Other passages I balk:

“Turn my heart toward your statues and not toward selfish gain” (vs.36).

“You are my portion, O Lord; I have promised to obey your words” (vs.57).

“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (vs.97).

“Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws” (vs.164).

It’s easier to digest what the Lord does for me than think about my responsibility to trust and obey.

But if the following verse is true….

“YOUR WORD IS A LAMP TO MY FEET AND A LIGHT FOR MY PATH” (vs.105).

I can’t afford to be finicky. I must read God’s Word, hold out both hands willing to receive everything He puts on my plates, “Yes, please!”

Knowing His Truth is good for me.

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103).

Satisfaction Guaranteed

IMG_4473After two days of summer rain, the morning sun reappeared, chasing away the grey.

Birds came out of hiding. I watch them soar and dip through the clean air, chasing one another like children playing tag before landing on the bird feeder to holler, “Safe!”

Raindrops, glistening in the sun, cling to the emerald blades’ of grass and evergreen bushes. And the colors in my yard—green, fuchsia, and coral—are more brilliant after the cleansing rain.

On this blessed morn, I saturate my senses. And praise God for the drenched earth that was parched a few days earlier.  For it is the Lord who “brings the rain on the just and the unjust.”

 With a full heart, I open my Bible and turn its dog-eared pages until I find this scripture:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth, And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and breads to the eater;

 So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:9-11)

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Like Moses, I  too have longed to see God’s glory.

But on this summer morning, His glory surrounds me, reflected in His creation.

How I long to linger in God’s presence, soak in His Word, but I have an appointment. At the risk of being late, I grab another morsel of scripture and trust God to accomplish what He desires.

“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance.” (Is 55:2)

I listen.

I eat.

I delight myself in abundance.

Until I have no choice, but to rush out the door with dishes in the sink, towels that need folding. Chores left unfinished goes against my grain, my task-oriented brain. But the dishes and towels can wait.

I chose what is better, and it will not be taken away from me.

I am satisfied.

And I am ready to face the day.

“For you will go out with joy, And be lead forth with peace” (Is. 55:12).

Try Adding Honey

Recently, I received a text from a friend: “My life is like squeezing lemons. I do not taste the lemonade yet.”

I knew she was referring to the proverbial phrase: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”

But my friend’s ongoing efforts to be optimistic, and make the best of her sour circumstances has worn her out.

She yearns for life to be sweet again. And I don’t blame her.

I thought of writing her back, “Try adding honey.”

“How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103)

But I’m no different than my friend. I remember crying, “uncle,” and longing for lemonade last month. Ill and bedridden for several weeks, I was not in the mood to read my Bible or pray. My only quiet time consisted of staring at the ceiling, hollowed eyed and lethargic.

The only honey I tasted was in my hot tea.

However, when my good health returned, so did my spiritual appetite. Hungry for the Lord, I didn’t realize how much I missed Him until I opened my Bible, and nourished my ravenous soul with the living Word.

“Eat honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste. Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.  (Proverbs 24:13,14)

 How appropriate that God’s Word is often compared to honey. According to benefits-of-honey.com,  Honey is a natural source of carbohydrates which provide strength and energy to our bodies. The glucose in honey is absorbed by the body quickly and gives an immediate energy boost, while the fructose is absorbed more slowly providing sustained energy. Honey is also used to heal physical ailments.

Strength and energy?  Healing? That’s  exactly what I need to walk out my days.

Feeling spiritually lethargic? Is life full of lemons?

Try adding “honey” and taste the sweet results:

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:7-10).