Purposeful Prayer, Part 2

So how did it go? Were your prayers fervent and filled with vision this last week? I’m sorry to report that I could’ve done much much better. Sometimes life is very busy — my middle son was fighting off pneumonia last week, my oldest son had swim practice everyday and a divisional meet on Saturday, and my mom and my in-laws both came for a visit. But is busyness really an excuse not to pray? Hardly, right? If anything, busyness is a reason to pray.

And I crave busyness — it is just how I operate. I like having a lot going on and I cannot sit and watch TV without sinking quickly into a mildly depressive state. I abhor the idea of being a mere spectator, and I try to live life to the fullest everyday. The tragedies in my family (click here to read my story) were and are a reminder to live in the present, to embrace the blessings God has for me today. But even though I love it, my schedule (and I’m sure many of you feel the same way) can be stressful at times. Getting three boys out the door to do anything takes effort and concentration, getting them out the door multiple times a day clothed and ready to do whatever is next can be pretty taxing. After spending a few days helping me out, my sweet niece, Caitlin, once quipped, “I don’t know how you do this without me!” Ahhh, but she’s not yet a mother. One day she’ll understand that God gives you this incredible maternal multitasking mental energy only when it is needed.
But we are all busy, so what does that have to do with purposeful prayer? Two things. First, we need to carve out time for more devotional, meditative prayer. I have heard people claim success with this at night, but for me this absolutely requires that I get up before the boys, and this is not easy for me. I love my bed and I love staying in it, but when I drag myself, however reluctantly, out of bed and read my Bible or devotional and spend time in prayer I am incredibly blessed by it. I am drawn to Psalm 119 which so beautifully depicts the blessing of devotion and the fulfillment found in meditating on God’s Word.

In addition to a time of quiet devotion, we need to hem our busyness in prayer. It is through this supernatural conversation that God gives us His peace. And we so need His peace, especially when our lives are more frenzied than contemplative. Philippians 4: 6-7 is such a perfect verse to memorize on this topic. It says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
This week may we know God’s peace in our hearts and in our minds, may it transcend all understanding because we have come to Him in purposeful prayer both in our busyness and in our quiet moments.

Purposeful Prayer, Part 1

My family has been fighting some kind of a nasty virus for the last few weeks, and the other night, a little while after Nate went to bed, he started having a terrible coughing fit. You know the kind when the coughing will not subside and it sounds like there is a real possibility that a lung might come flying out? I rushed into his room, and stood next to his bed. Since he sleeps in the top bunk he is right at eye level for me. I made him sit up, and rubbed his back while he coughed away.

“Aww, sweetie boy,” I said, “I’m so sorry you’re sick…I’m just going to say a prayer for you right now.”

“No, no don’t,” he yelped between hacks. “It won’t work!”
As I sit here and blog about it, Nate’s no-prayer plea is almost comical, but in the moment it made my heart sink. Thoughts began rushing through my brain about what was wrong with Nate’s picture of God and the purpose of prayer, and I made copious mental notes about the theological concepts we would need to discuss when he was well again. But that would have to wait. We weren’t going to address anything too profound right then.
“You know, Nate, ” I said, “praying isn’t just about getting God to fix things. The Bible says that we are supposed to pray, to tell God what we need, even though He already knows what we need. So I’m going to pray for you right now.”
And I did. I prayed that God would allow Nate to stop coughing and get a good night’s rest. God graciously answered my prayer. Nate didn’t cough at all for hours, and slept peacefully until morning.
When he finally did wake up for the day, I looked forward to talking to him about the true purpose of prayer. I wanted Nate to understand that just because our prayer the night before was mercifully answered just as it was prayed, that God hears and answers all our prayers–whether we see it right away or not. But when I tried to talk to Nate, he didn’t remember anything from the night before. Nothing. Zero. Zilch.
My perfect teachable moment was lost in Nate’s slumber, but the whole thing really got me thinking about prayer–how, what, when, and why we pray. I thought it would be a great series to talk about prayer for a few weeks here at Spur. After all, what better to spur than prayer itself?
So I hope you’ll feel free to share some great quotes or resources about prayer today and in the coming weeks.
For now, I’ll leave you with thought and a verse. The quote below was inscribed on an English church in the Eighteenth Century. I think its application is almost universal, and certainly applies to prayer.
A vision without a task is but a dream;
a task without a vision is drudgery;
a vision with a task is the hope of the world..
“Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
May you pray fervently and with vision this week.

The Virtue of Reserving Judgment

Have you ever been incredibly wrong about a person? Is there someone you know who ended up being the opposite of what you first expected? I hope you are thinking about someone that surprised you in a good way, because I am. Actually two examples leap to mind. One person, based on body language and seeming attitude, struck me as completely aloof. Instead this person is surprisingly tenderhearted, choking up at the slightest instigation. And another gentleman Will and I both met a few years back made the worst first impression on me. No he wasn’t rude, or ill-mannered. He wasn’t conceited or hypocritical. He was just so mild-mannered that I mistook him for uninteresting. In fact, I would not have made any effort to know him better. Ahh, but God had other plans. You see, my life is orchestrated, and so four years later, I know this gentleman pretty well, and he is nothing that I first imagined. In fact, his story is the least boring of any person I’ve ever met. My trusty intuition was dead wrong.
We make innumerable snap assessments everyday. We judge people’s motives and intentions. We infer rationales and ulterior motives. Our brains are amazingly efficient machines. We input data and nanoseconds later we can spit out all manner of conclusions. But is that wise? Don’t you think it’s good to recognize our own fallibility, to remember that we can be totally off base?
Two books that I’ve read in the last month address this issue. The real life story of Ron Hall and Denver Moore in Same Kind of Different As Me compellingly illustrates the propensity to misjudge. The love that replaced snap judgments in the lives of Ron and Denver proved astoundingly transformative for both men. And I recommend this thought-provoking book without reservation. In a less direct way, Andy Andrew’s The Noticer is also about misjudging others. This book is full of wisdom, imbedded in vignettes and dialogue. While this format is popular right now, it is not a personal favorite. Stories are helpful in understanding principles. Some of Jesus’ most convicting teachings were told in parable. But for me, stories are not always necessary. And if you use a story to demonstrate a point, I want it to be fantastic. Unfortunately, the stories in The Noticer do not always meet that standard. That said, Andrews has many great thoughts about right perspectives, encouraging words, human relations, and loving each other well.
But isn’t it interesting, and yet predictable that the best and most succinct advice is found in Proverbs? Solomon aptly summarizes the wisdom found in any book. For the two mentioned above the following verses offer a brief synopsis.
  • “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.” Proverbs 10:12
  • “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Proverbs 11: 25
  • “A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.” Proverbs 11: 12
  • “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” Proverbs 12: 1
  • “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12: 18
  • “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16: 24
  • “Do not exploit the poor…” Proverbs 22: 22
  • “Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:9.
May we reserve judgment this week, may we speak pleasant words that are sweet like honey, and may we cover the wrongs we encounter with love.
And if you’ve read Same Kind of Different As Me or The Noticer I’d love to know your thoughts.

Moving Top Ten

I’ve been blogging for nearly a year, and have never gone this long between posts, but circumstances have just not been conducive to sitting at the computer for more than a few seconds, and six of the last ten days we have not had Internet in our home. I have an iPhone, but I still missed the ready of the real thing, the tidbits of information that I rely so heavily on. The other day my son Will asked, “how long do cats stay alive?” Great question, but without the Internet I can only guess. We are now fully wired and wireless and so next week I hope to resume my usual weekly schedule. For now, I thought I’d share a quick top ten about moving.

  1. You unearth lovely items you forgot you had.
  2. You unearth ridiculous items no one should ever have and then throw them away.
  3. The slate is clean in a new space, and organization seems attainable. I can look around and envision a place for everything, and everything in its place. It may never be achieved, but at least it seems possible.
  4. Movers remind me something of the greatest generation; they are like the greatest vocation. Each time we’ve had occasion to use them they have worked their tails off with a spirit of joy. The Peruvian crew we had last week was a particularly merry and tireless band of oxen.
  5. Whenever I move I like to make a mental list of all the places I can easily walk to. And the world is my walking oyster in this new place. So exciting! I can even walk the boys to school.
  6. Moving demonstrates how much stuff you have, and ignites a fire to simplify.
  7. And yes we have too much stuff, but this move is one of reunification of our things, and it feels good to have all our belongings in one place. I found it challenging, mentally, to pay that storage bill. Storage seems like such a wasteful thing.
  8. New neighbors are another perk. Will and I have had great neighbors wherever we’ve lived, but it’s always nice to make new friends too. Plus, I’m pretty sure our neighbors from our condo are rejoicing about our departure. The indoor mowing and plastic trucks and obnoxious and persistent noise level that we create is just not appropriate for sharing walls.
  9. New places mean new windows, and I love learning where I can relax with a book and enjoy the warmth of the sun. Our new place has an astounding number of windows, and faces west so the possibilities for reading and basking are many.
  10. Finally, moving is a great reminder that this life is transient. We aren’t ever going to be fully settled, fully content, or fully at home, because this isn’t our home. The more we realize this reality the more our outlook and priorities align with our Heavenly Father’s, and that means greater contentment and fulfillment in this life…however transient!