Monthly Archives: November 2011
What is prayer to you? Is it just hopeful or desperate words letting God know you need or want something?
I’m finding that it is so much more.
Despite any questioning, discouragement, or perplexity that my cancer diagnosis of three and a half years ago has produced, today’s morning devotional reading reminds me:
“No calamity will ever bring only evil to us, if we will immediately take it in prayer to God. . . And when we flee to God, taking refuge beneath the shadow of His wing, we will always find more in Him than we have ever before seen or known.” Nathaniel William Taylor
I have been saturating myself with books and music that are faith building, healing, and peace producing. I am learning the daily benefit of ducking under the shadow of His wings at any anxious, disturbing, baffling, or irritating moment; sometimes talking to Him in words, thoughts, or emotions, and other times just being in His presence.
If you believe that prayer only happens when you are kneeling at an altar, or reading words to God from a prayer book (as beautiful or heartfelt as those words may be) than you are missing out on a true delight of the Spirit life.
Although the writer quoted above refers to the “shadow of His wing”, I picture my Father’s arm around my shoulder as I move about doing my chores, chattering to Him. During my listening times He draws me near Him as I sit on the rug in front of my couch, facing the sliding glass door to our deck that overlooks our back yard and adjoining field, with the stand of tall trees at its back edge; focusing my thoughts on the beauty He has created.
I used to turn to God mostly with my troubles and needs, or those of my friends and acquaintances; sending my prayers up to Him and hoping, sometimes actually trusting, that He heard them. And wondering if He would be pleased to answer those prayers as I confidently recommended to Him my most logical solutions.
I’ve read several awesome books on prayer in the last 3 years – I’ll recommend some of them in my next post. But nothing – including a good “how to do prayer” book – brings us into the essence of real prayer more quickly than personal, on-going challenges, either temporary – or as the Apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” seemed to be – permanent ones.
Prayer is more than having faith – though without faith, prayer seems to be ineffective.
Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”
I believe that though faith is what brings us to God in prayer, it’s trust that gives us assurance that our prayers are being answered in spite of current appearances to the contrary. And you don’t trust someone you don’t know.
God is knowable and wants to be known. The Hebrews passage above points us to relationship with God – “for whoever would draw near to God” – rather than merely sending prayers up or out to wherever we picture God “residing”.
Relationship with God – think about that for a minute – not just faith or belief in God. “Relationship” shows nearness – like husband/wife, parent/child, aunt/uncle, boyfriend/girlfriend, horse/rider – personal connection.
So instead of picturing yourself in your place of prayer sending SOSes to God somewhere out there, picture your Heavenly Father’s arm around you drawing you to a seat on the couch next to Him – or if that scares you a bit – seated across from you in the stuffed chair.
Hear Him ask you, “Well, child, how’s your day going?”
“Did you receive that gift I sent you yesterday: that call from your friend? That unexpected check in the mail? That beautiful sunset I painted for you? What did you think of that?”
“By the way, I heard that prayer you said for your friend; he’s in serious trouble. But I’m taking care of him.”
As you let your spirit respond to Him, drawing near and becoming personal, you feel the weights lift off your mind, body and spirit.
Then, hear Him ask, “Now what’s on your heart today? What would you like for me to do for you?”
You pour out your requests; big, small and sometimes ridiculous – being confident from your time with your Father that what’s important to you is also important to Him, because He loves you. That the answers are already there, or on the way – though occasionally He may say, “No. I have a different plan” and often will say, “Wait a while – it’s not time yet.”
This is the next step for faith – this thing called trust – because you won’t put your faith in someone you don’t trust. This is the confident assurance of conversational prayer that is born out of a heart-relationship with the One we’re petitioning – it goes beyond a certain time on the clock, or a ritualistic physical posture, or recitation of words, or a call to religious duty.
So, whatever else our personal challenges do to us, when we trust our Father, we find they also do something for us – they draw us into a deeper relationship with Him, where He shapes our character, changes our perspective, and conforms us to the image of His Son.
How’s your prayer life going? Anything you’d like to share?
©2011, Marcy Alves
*Lifesong by Mark Hall as heard on Casting Crowns album Lifesong
Have you ever been a trial witness? Being put on the stand can be an unsettling thing.
I have only once been called upon to be a witness in a courtroom; this was an insurance hearing for a personal accident in which I was the innocent victim.
Being a witness can be a tricky thing; lawyers have a way of casting doubt concerning the validity of a testimony. My case was judged in favor of the plaintiff, the driver who hit my car, because his lie (or bad recall) was judged more believable than my testimony of the truth.
We’ve been following the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson’s personal physician, on ABC news for the past month or so. Dr. Murray is being charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Jackson on June 25, 2009.
The testimony of a key witness for the defense was turned on its ear by the prosecuting attorney this past week. Dr. Paul White, the expert defense witness for Dr. Conrad Murray, was supposed to be one of the strongest keys to Dr. Murray’s vindication for actions taken the night Michael Jackson died. What resulted was a series of answers that actually indicated possible negligence on Dr. Murray’s part.
Though I have never been called on to be a witness in a criminal or civil trial, as a Christian, a Spirit-born follower of Jesus, a disciple of Christ, I am a witness! I don’t know where I may have to testify for my faith, as many witnesses who have gone before me.
The disciples were told that they would be led before kings and governors for a witness of Christ Jesus.
Luke 21:13-15 “ . . . you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13This will result in your being witnesses to them. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.
John the baptizer was sent by God as a witness to the authenticity of Jesus – identifying him as “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”.
John 1:6-9 “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
Christians are also to “bear witness to the light”. The way we become genuine Christians is through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit of God. The empowerment for our witness is after we have receive the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Notice that we are not asked to be witnesses, we are told that “you will be my witnesses . . . “.
If you are a Christian, the question you have to ask yourself is not “Will I be a witness?”, but “What kind of witness am I being?” to people around you in your daily life and spirit beings in the unseen world who are watching you.
Heb.12:1-3 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Once people know that you are a believer, a Christ follower, they will be watching you closely. It’s not enough to say, “Don’t look at me, I’m not perfect.” and to use that for an excuse for being a bad witness.
Our Savior, our Heavenly Father, and the faith we ascribe to, are being judged by our behavior. That’s why the writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews says to:
“. . . throw off everything that hinders and the sin that gets us all tangled up”. Heb. 12:1
The way we live is more important than our words – it either validates or discredits what we say we believe. Sometimes people can’t hear us for what they see in our behavior; our words and our walk don’t line up.
My husband and I were watching a short documentary video called 180 recently. A sampling of people were asked if they would ever kill anyone. Most said “No.” Then the question was modified, “Would you kill if ordered to do so, as in the concentration camps in Nazi Germany and Austria.” They all said “No.” Then the questioner added, “What if they told you that if you did not comply, you would be shot, would you kill someone then?” Most of those interviewed, irrespective of age, said “Yes, I would.”
Our verbal witness has to be backed-up by our action witness – which can’t be based on a situational ethic. How far would you go for your witness?
Rev.2:13 ”These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.”
There are nations where “Satan has his throne.” We have been praying for months now for Asia Bibi, the Pakistani woman who has been imprisoned for 2 years because of her Christian faith, and Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who is facing a death penalty for his faith in Christ. Both are holding firm to their faith in their Savior Jesus, living witnesses to the love of God.
We are to be such witnesses to anyone and everyone regarding our relationship to Jesus:
Acts 22:15-16 “You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for?” (Ananias to Paul)
As I thought of this blog topic while sitting on my deck the other day, I asked God some questions: “Father, what kind of a witness am I? Does my life point people toward You or give people a good reason not to have faith in You?”
I don’t want the “prosecuting attorney” – the “accuser of the brethren” – to be able to turn my testimony against my Savior in the eyes of the world; I want my beliefs, my words, and my lifestyle to form a consistent witness. It would be better not to talk about my Savior at all, than to give a mixed message.
As the lyrics of a Casting Crowns song entitled “Lifesong” say, “I want to sign your name to the end of this day, knowing that my heart was true. Let my lifesong sing to You.”*
Something to think about this week: are you a witness for the defense or the prosecution of Christ?
©2011, Marcy Alves