Prayer is kind of a funny thing isn’t it? I mean, think about it. You are basically uttering your inner most private thoughts to some mysteriously unseen Divine Being. But somehow there is power in this centuries old practice. There is something oddly comforting and consoling to the human soul in believing that there is a God in heaven–in the form of a loving, gentle, safe, secure Father-figure–who is listening to and caring about what we are saying.
Many of us pray in this way, believing there is a God who listens. But how many of us pray, believing that He answers? I am talking specific answers to specific prayers. You pray, He answers kind of deal.
When was the last time you experienced an answered prayer? Seriously, think about it. Was it yesterday? Last month? Last year? Last decade? Never?
When we don’t experience our prayers being answered, it’s not because God doesn’t answer them or that He doesn’t want to. Often times it is because we don’t expect Him to answer our prayers. But David teaches us that praying to God with expectancy is daily act of faith,“In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” (Psalm 5:3). Expectation. If we don’t have it, we can miss the answers to our prayers without even knowing it.
Other times we don’t experience answers to our prayers because we are asking with wrong motives (James 4:3). We might come to God in prayer but our hearts are far from Him. We ask for things out of our own selfish wants and needs, which unfortunately hold no value in God’s Kingdom. God does want to meet our needs and our desires, but from a heart that trusts Him and wants to glorify His name.
So how can we be sure we are praying with correct motives?
Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 15:7 give us some helpful hints on how we can pray in a way that will get our prayers answered. He says:
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:7)
God promises to answer our prayers. Awesome right? But we cannot overlook the two conditions He sets:
1. We must remain (abide) in Him. Remaining in God means staying connected to Him. We stay connected to God through prayer, but also through spending time with Him reading His word, worshiping, serving and having fellowship with other believers.
2. We must allow His Words to remain (abide) in us. Some of us read God’s Word only to forget it the next day and go on living our independent lives. God desires for us to read His Word and meditate on it until we understand it and let it sink into our hearts. When His Words remain in us they will transform us and the way we think, act, feel and live our lives.
Eventually, our prayers will shift:
- from “Make me successful Lord” to “Make Your light shine ever brighter through my life to bring You glory.”
- from “Bless me with more money” to “Make me rich in the fruits of Your Holy Spirit so I may bless others.”
- from “Give me my dream job” to “Grant me a servant heart so I may complete the work You are calling me to do.”
- from “Make my enemies fail” to “Bless my enemies with understanding of who You are so they may know You and experience Your goodness and grace.”
See the difference? When we remain in God and His Words remain in us, we begin to pray according to His will, not our own. Our heartfelt desires align with His and they become one in the same. How cool is that! The things He wants, we want and the things we want, He wants. It is at this critical and divine juncture that it becomes impossible for our prayers not to get answered.
*Share about how you have experienced specific prayers being answered by leaving a comment!
Family, food, fireworks, fun in the sun… I particularly enjoyed this year’s 4th of July celebration, as it was the first time in a few years that I was actually in the country to celebrate!
In the midst of my hotdog eating and succulent watermelon indulgences, I began to wonder about the lives of our country’s so-called ‘founding fathers.’ What were the conversations that went on around the table as they signed their names to the document on that fateful summer day that would forever change the world?
To quench the thirst of my curiosity, I did a bit of digging around on the internet and discovered some words written by John Adams in a letter to his wife Abigail, a day before the Declaration of Independence was approved by Congress in 1776:
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more…
Prophetic words indeed eh? Over two hundred years later and Independence Day looks (almost) identical to his prediction:
- Celebrated as a great anniversary festival? Check.
- Solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations? Check, check, check. (My family actually managed to squeeze in all of the above over this past weekend. Yes, even guns. And throw in a hoola-hoop contest!)
- Commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion? If you mean deliverance from work by solemn acts of devotion to hotdogs and cold beverages, then maybe.
All kidding aside, the third point–devotion to God Almighty–hardly characterizes the All-American holiday celebration in most homes. It was so clearly a core value of our founding fathers and the culmination of the signing of the Declaration. Check out the original documents of the universities where the majority of our forefathers studied…
Harvard for example, which churned out a number of our founding fathers–including John Quincy Adams, John Hancock, John Adams, Samuel Adams–had this statement of purpose for incoming students:
“To be plainly instructed and consider well that the main end of your life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ….” and that “Everyone shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that he shall be able to give an account of his proficiency therein.”
Yale, which produced founding fathers such as Noah Webster, William Samuel Johnson, and Abraham Baldwin, had these requirements for its students:
“Seeing that God is the giver of all wisdom, every student, besides his private and secret prayer, will be present morning and evening for public prayer.”
Princeton produced people like James Madison, Benjamin Rush and John Witherspoon and had this founding statement:
“Cursed is all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”
These faith-based statements played a pivotal role in shaping the hearts, minds and values of our founding fathers and the foundation on which our country was built, and yet our celebrations and commemorations of this country are null and void of any mention of God?
This is not a political rant, but a mere observation. Our country is clearly headed in a certain direction and I just wonder if it was the direction our forefathers had in mind. At the end of the day though, it is not up to our forefathers, as they were mere humans just like us. Rather, it is up to the sovereign will of our Father in Heaven, whether or not we agree with the moral, political, economic and/or spiritual state of this country. All we can do it trust that God knew exactly how America would take shape as a nation and He knows every moment of its future from here on out, for as the Scriptures say:
“From one man, he made all of the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” -Acts 17:26
He has marked out the appointed times in history for each and every nation. He has marked each and every boundary, each and every dividing line and it is all for one, very specific purpose:
“…so they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him…” -Acts 17:27
God created different nations so that we would draw closer to Him. How cool is that? No matter how far our country has come, or how far in whichever direction it has gone, may we always keep the big, eternal picture in view, choosing to seek Him and reach out for Him in the midst of a chaotic world that is impossible to fully understand. And may we also seek to honor our founding fathers by recognizing our nation as one grounded and founded by ‘solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.’
*Challenge Question: What is your favorite way to celebrate July 4th? How can we better carry on our forefathers’ legacy of devotion to God?
As we went around and shared our prayer requests in my weekly Bible Study group I realized something: each and every one of us was waiting on something. A husband’s job offer…a baby to be born…a financial break-through…a house to be sold…a relationship to start…healing to come…and the list goes on.
What are you waiting for?
Whether we like it or not, waiting is a major part of the Christian journey and it always has been. When we look to the Bible, it seems almost every major figure was forced to wait long periods of time before God brought to pass His promises in their lives:
- Abraham? Waiting time: 20+ years before his wife Sarah gave birth to their first child.
- Joseph? Waiting time: 13 years before assuming the leadership of Egypt.
- Moses? Waiting time: 40 years tending sheep before God called him to deliver His people.
- David? Waiting time: 14 years before the throne of Israel was given to him.
- Jesus? Waiting time: 30 years until his ministry began.
Sheesh! I don’t know about you, but this sure puts some perspective on waiting. And it reminds us that we can’t get so caught up in the thing we are waiting for that we allow it to rob us of our joy and miss out on what God is doing right in front of our noses.
I want to share an excerpt from an email my pastor in Singapore sent me as an encouragement for my waiting soul and I hope it can be for yours too:
“I remember a period of my life when I felt frustrated for a prolonged period of time. Though I was in love with Jesus and actively serving in church, I kept feeling like I was not living in God’s perfect will yet, that I was not hearing Him like I should, not experiencing Him more like I wished… Then one day God told me, ‘Enjoy the moment, treasure each encounter, savor the whole journey. You don’t have to get there to be happy, but happily get there!’ So capture every moment and ENJOY the journey that is working out for His glory and purpose!”
We don’t have to get there to be happy. We happily get there by realizing that our joy IS Jesus with us here and now and not the destination or a desired outcome in the future. So whatever you are waiting for my friend, trust God IS faithful and will bring it to pass in His perfect timing. In the meantime, choose to live happily in the moment and savor the journey with Him each day!
*Leave a comment and join the conversation: What are some ways you have learned to endure seasons of waiting? What does capturing every moment mean to you?
I’ve been reading your blog and you have such great advice. I have a few questions I was wondering if you could help me with.
What’s a girl to do when she lives in an area without many guys? Move? I’m not really into the online thing but would like to find a good guy and live in a rural area. What would you suggest for someone in my situation?
Thank you for your questions. I can totally relate to how you must be feeling. I don’t even live in a rural area and I too have wondered at times where all the ‘good guys’ are. Or if God has forgotten about me all together! So take heed my dear sister, you are not alone in feeling this way and the good news is He does not forget about any of us, ever. As Paul says,
“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
When it comes to trusting God with matters related to our hearts, societal pressures can easily get the best of us–especially when our surroundings (aka dating pool) look less than hopeful. So what’s a girl to do?
Well, God has been teaching me a thing or two about how to approach this whole relationship thing and bottom line, it boils down to trust. There have been numerous times, when I have been overtaken by fears and anxieties about never finding Mr. Right, and God will whisper to my heart, “Do you really trust me Ali? Do you really believe I am the Creator of the heavens and the earth and everything in it? Do you really believe I have the very best plans and purposes in store for you? Do you really believe I can provide for ALL your needs?”
Every time this happens, my heart softens like a big ball of silly putty in the Lord’s hands as I reply, “Yes Father, I do…but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
We all know trusting God and choosing to live by faith and not by sight is easier said than done. So today I want to address and de-bunk three myths that can creep into our psyche’s, robbing us from the peace, joy and contentment He intends us to have when we put our full trust in Him:
MYTH #1: I must be in the ‘right place at the right time.’
After living in the Philippines for two years after college, I was faced with a decision of staying in Asia for another two years (minimum) or going back to the US. At age 25, many of my friends back in the US seemed to be getting into serious relationships and finding their “Mr. Rights.” I couldn’t help but wonder how choosing to stay in Asia would affect my love life. This is an excerpt I wrote in my journal during that time:
Lord, if I stay in Asia, will I be single forever? I feel like you are telling me to stay here, but what if I am missing out in meeting new people? All my friends are dating and meeting people and I’ll be stuck here…alone. Should I move to a place where the chances of meeting and marrying someone are higher?
That’s when God swooped in and sent one of His ‘angels’ to encourage me. I met a woman who told me a story about her friend who was fighting the call to go live and work in India as a missionary because she feared she would never get married and have a family. She was in her mid-thirties and she knew she would have to start a family soon. Then she had a dream and this is how she described it:
I saw myself sitting in the center of the palm of God’s right hand. In His other hand I saw a man, also sitting in the center of His palm. Though I couldn’t make out the face of the man, I knew in the dream it was the man He had for me to marry. Then, I saw God’s hands moving together and when they touched, God took my hand and put it in the man’s hand. He then released us, hand in hand, into our united calling He had for us…
The woman knew the Lord was speaking to her through this dream. As long as she stayed in close fellowship with Him, she would remain in the center of His will and he would take care of the details of her heart’s desires. Needless to say, she met her husband in India months later, who was also called as a missionary there. God is faithful!
Sometimes we think it is our job to strategically place ourselves in the ‘right place and the right time’ as if we need to help Him out or something. No, He knows what He is doing. We may not know the full picture, but our job is simply to obey where He is leading us, whether it is to live in a small rural American town or a giant city half way across the world. God is so much bigger than geography; He cares about proximity…to Him.
MYTH #2: God can’t work through the virtual world.
In this age we live in, there are many new ways people are meeting and mingling. Fortunately or unfortunately, many of those ways are virtual. If you’re anything like me, you may have developed a ‘stigma’ against anything that resembles anything close to online dating. Ugh…right?
Well, I must say I am warming up to the idea. People in the Christian community have different opinions on this, but I think it can be a good option for people like the gal who asked the question today, who lives in a rural area. It can be a way to meet new people, make connections and get conversations going. With this said however, we must keep in mind that God is with us throughout the process, to help us move forward in His wisdom and discernment. I encourage people who are having difficulties meeting people, to prayerfully consider putting up a profile on at least one Christian dating site and be open to how the Lord might work through it. I love God’s words to Joshua,
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Trust that God will be with you as you venture into new ways of meeting people in this modern world.
MYTH #3: He doesn’t fit everything on my ‘list’ so he must not be ‘the one’.
Sometimes we are not meeting people because we have created unrealistic expectations of the type of person we want to be with. There is this line of thought out there that if we make up a “wish list” of all the traits we could ever hope for in a mate, then “poof!” God will drop Him in our laps. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we shouldn’t believe God for the impossible. But we must continue to stay connected to His Spirit and make our requests based on the standards of His Word. For Jesus Himself says,
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you wish and it will be given to you.”
Notice we must remain in Him and His Word. Where in His Word does it say you should desire a perfectly chiseled man with huge muscles and a huge wallet? Nowhere! But it does say we should desire all that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable (Phil 4:8). A slightly different standard right? We must know God’s Word and align our desires to it.
We should continually be checking in with God and asking Him to expose any faulty or false expectations that have crept into our consciousness and ask for His heart, His mind and His preferences when it comes to considering a mate. We can even pray David’s words in Psalms 139:23-24:
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Ever since I made my ‘list’ of character traits I would like in a husband several years ago, God has since streamlined it majorly! Why? Because I am continually checking my heart and allowing Him to mold and change me as He sees fit. As I continue to mature and grow in my faith, my desires are becoming more and more like His. Honestly, they look a lot different (and better!) than what the world tells us we should want in a person. What a reason to rejoice!
Do you have a list? If so, take it out and re-evaluate it against God’s standards. Make a new one if you have to. Or toss it out all together. Ask God to help you see the men around you from His perspective and to give you eyes to see what He sees in them. You might be surprised at who God may bring to your attention. It may be someone you never expected, whom you may have overlooked or written off before because he didn’t fit the stringent list of character traits you were looking for and thought you needed. God knows what we need in a mate, so we’re better off leaving the choosing to Him.
If there really are a limited number of men where you live, pray and ask God to give you extra portions of faith in His power and plan for your life. Be sensitive to how the Holy Spirit is leading you. He may tell you to keep doing what you are doing, serving and working where you are, trusting that He is orchestrating behind the scenes on your behalf (read story of Ruth and Boaz in the Bible). Or He may lead you to be courageous and venture into new ways of meeting people online or through other social groups. There is no formula, just make sure you can hear His voice. Without this ability, we can so easily be deceived.
We must continually and consciously trust and entrust the desires of our hearts to the Lord, for a truly surrendered heart is where His fountains of peace, joy and contentment flow during periods of singlehood. Rest in the fact that the Creator of the entire universe is totally and fully capable of matching you with another person on this planet!
I hope these so-called ‘myths’ will no longer keep you from seeing God at work in your situation, whatever it may look like. As you go about your day today, remember this: All the days ordained for YOU were written in His book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). Isn’t that an awesome and comforting thought?
Friend, God has you and your heart’s desires covered on every side and in every way. So be still, and know that He is God! (Psalm 46:10)
**Did you find today’s post helpful? Do you have anything to add? Join the conversation by leaving a comment…I would love to hear your thoughts!
I walked to the front of the room, my heart beating a little faster than normal. Okay, a lot faster–like it was going to beat out of my chest. I usually held back from asking for prayer at these kinds of events. Surely there were people who needed it more than me. But something that day propelled me to the front. I had just made a major decision that would steer my life in an entirely new and unknown direction. I was terrified, confused, and in desperate need of some prayer. Even if it was from a complete stranger.
Finally it was my turn and I stepped forward to receive prayer from a woman who looked kind and caring. Immediately my nerves melted away as I saw the love and compassion of Christ in her bright blue eyes staring directly into mine. I expected her to ask what I needed prayer for. But she didn’t. She just smiled, put her soft hands over mine and began to pray:
“I see you swinging on a trapeze.” She said. “You just let go of the bar…and you are flying through the air…waiting for the next bar to come.”
Admittedly, the imagery seemed a little far-fetched at first, a little ‘out there.’ But never before had a person so accurately described how I felt in that moment: swinging on a trapeze…flying through the air… waiting for the next bar. The words danced around in my head like an elegant ballerina gliding across the stage. I stood there in awe and wonder of how the Holy Spirit was moving through this woman I had never even met.
When she was finished, she opened her eyes and told me to go home and do some research on what trapeze artists do in the ‘hang time’ of going from one bar to the next. Fully aware of how silly and random this whole circus metaphor seemed, I somehow felt moved to follow through. Interestingly enough, what I discovered was that there were three key things that kept trapeze artists from falling flat on their faces:
3. Holding their position.
Wow. Immediately I knew there were some spiritual insights from which to draw here. God seemed to be speaking directly to me through the visual imagery of circus acrobatics. As strange as it may sound, something about it was powerful and it pierced somewhere deep in my heart and soul. It was as if God was saying, “I see you Ali, I know you feel as if you are flying and flailing through the air like an out-of-control acrobat…you are uncertain of what is next and wondering if that next bar will ever come…but I have you right where you are…just stay there and trust Me and know My timing is perfect…the bar will come.”
This may be a Word from the Lord for you too. Maybe you just left a job… made a career change… moved churches… left a ministry position… walked away from a relationship. Whatever it was, you did it because you felt it was what God was calling you to do. And when you finally took the step of faith, when you officially let go of that bar, you found yourself flailing through the air, unsure of exactly where God was leading you. You thought the other bar would be there, visible and ready for a smooth transition to the next thing. But the bar didn’t show up right away. Suddenly you wondered if there even was another bar or if you might have missed it all together. Maybe, you wonder, I should have never left the old bar. At least it was safe. Secure. Comfortable…
If this describes you–in transition–right now, take heed my friend. You are not alone. Embrace the ‘hang time’ and become the master trapeze artist that God is calling you to be. It’s all about trust… it’s all about timing…and it’s all about holding your position until God chooses to reveal that next bar for the taking. But be encouraged, it is this transition time that will lead to transformation.
A friend of mine shared with me a quote she heard from Andy Stanley at the Catalyst Conference a few weeks ago. He said,
“Sometimes we are tempted to stay somewhere because it would be easy. But if we are willing to step out in faith and leave, God can do something He’s been longing to do in our lives.”
God is longing to do something in your life. Something new, something great, something that will lead you to the next phase of your destiny in Him. But He needs you to let go of one bar before you can grab onto the next…
Are you willing?
Food for Thought:
1. Are you doing what you are doing out of comfort or calling?
2. When’s the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone and tried something new?
3. Prayerfully ask God what steps of faith you can take to bring about the fullness of His purposes in and through your life.