About EVERYTHING

“Do we pray about everything?!” he asked in whispered desperation during a church prayer one Sunday. I shushed him but smiled and contemplated his inquiry.

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After that prayer was complete, I perused the bulletin  and made a mental tally.

-Gathering, Announcements, Prayer of Centering (at the very beginning of the service)

-Sharing of Joys and Concerns (after the beginning)

-Apostle’s Creed and Prayer of Affirmation (before Scripture reading)

-Congregational Prayer (after the children’s moment)

-Pastoral Prayer and Lord’s Prayer (before offering)

-Scripture Reading and Prayer (before sermon)

-Prayer of Commission (after sermon)

-Benediction (prior to leaving)

Our service is NOT four hours long. It’s the standard one hour service. But after considering the order of worship, I realized that a third of that time is occupied in prayer. Prayers of the pastor, prayers of the people, silent prayer, meditation after prayer, prayers before action, prayers after action…

I reconsidered my son’s question–Do we pray about everything?!

Why is so much of our church service used for prayer? We pray before we start, we pray just after we start. We pray for those who are ill and absent, and we pray when the Word is shared with children who are present. We pray before we hear the Word and after we hear the Word. As we began with prayer, we end with prayer before we re-enter the world from our worship experience. Every activity we attempt, we bathe in prayer. We approach God with our intentions and ask His direction. We return to Him later to request his blessing. We plead for answers, we ask for patience while waiting, we praise Him for the outcome. We turn all our actions over to His divine plan.

Church is the holiest place we encounter all week. If we this often in THIS place, then how much more often should we pray throughout our week? Before we get out of bed, while we’re drinking the morning joe, on the way to work, before we enter work, throughout the workday and on the way home again. Before we enter challenging situations, in the midst of them, and after them.

I Thessalonians 5:17 advises that we “Pray continually”...and verse 18 goes on to say “…giving thanks to God in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Pray continually. All the time. About everything. Before, during, and after. Everything.

So, yes, son, we do pray about everything, as we well should.

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Photo credit: http://www.karipatterson.com/long-view-short-prayers/

 

Expectantly

It is with expectation that I put my interview clothes on

on my day off.

With expectation I keep my phone at the ready,

With expectation I write down the questions I have

about the new workplace.

In faith, I go about my errands,

Trying not to drink too much caffeine, IMG_0024

Realizing I could really benefit from some gum,

Jumping a bit when the phone rings (Hi, mom).

I know the real call will come

I know they will want me to ‘come by when you can so we can talk’

And I want to be ready.

I am ready.

Get to know George Mueller

If you don’t know who George Mueller was, you need to.

George Mueller was a rotten Christian…a Christian who made fun of other Christians. A questionable Christian who partied too hard, gambled too much, got arrested too often. He was invited to a Bible study by another Christian friend, and he went…to harass the attendees. Imagine Saul, the persecutor, without the threat of death. Never did rapscallion Mueller think that Bible study would change his life.

After a week of attending, he realized his actions needed to change. He asked God for forgiveness and began his life transformation. Mueller decided to focus his attention on helping poor people and orphans. With this decision, Mueller lost all financial funding from his parents. He truly felt this mission field was where God wanted him to serve, so he began studying Scripture, meditating on what he read, and praying.

Prayer became George Mueller’s bread of life…literally. He never asked people for contributions to his orphanages…he just prayed. Time after time, God supplied for the 300 orphans. Food would be left on the orphanage porch by anonymous donors. Neighbors who just felt ‘led’ to bake loaves and loaves of bread stopped by and donated their goods. Milk showed up for the children. Clothes were always provided. Volunteers were always available. George Mueller only talked to God about his needs…and God was the only one who needed to know.

From his book, Answers to Prayer:

‘Truly, it is worth being poor and greatly tried in faith, for the sake of having day by day proofs of the loving interest which our kind Father takes in everything that concerns us.’

‘Through reading of the word of God, and especially though meditation on the word of God, the believer becomes more and more acquainted with the nature and character of God, and thus sees more and more, besides His holiness and justice, what a kind, loving, gracious, merciful, mighty, wise, and faithful being He is…’

‘If we, indeed, desire our faith to be strengthened, we should not shrink from opportunities where our faith may be tried, and , therefore, through the trail, be strengthened.’

‘Because he delights in the prayers of his children, He had allowed us to pray so long; also to try our faith, and to make the answer so much the sweeter.’

‘May the Christian reader be encouraged by this, should his prayers not at once be answered; and, instead of ceasing to pray, wait upon God all the more earnestly and perseveringly, and expect answers to his petitions.’

Want to read more? Great! Go get his book Answers to Prayer…it will transform your faith and your prayer life.

For a quick biography, click here. And there’s always wikipedia, though I don’t always trust it, I did get Mueller’s loving little face photo from there. So here’s that link, too.

Pray for him

Things have been challenging around here lately. My son is testing the limits…surpassing the limits…and looking back from the other side of the limits and sticking his tongue out at me. I love him so deeply. It hurts so much for him to blatantly defy and disrespect me. It robs me of the joy that I have tried so desperately to celebrate this season.

I’ve thought, ‘Maybe I need to do more…to get my mind off of the aggravating behaviors…’, but I’m already committed to Sunday School, mission projects, the school play, the little one’s birthday next week, children’s choir… so, another commitment would probably just add more aggravation. More stress.

Maybe I need to spend time alone with God. Yes, that helps. Soothes my soul. Reminds me of my purpose. And allows me to hear him speak.

Which he did. He said, ‘Pray for him.’ 

Well, duh. The little guy has been fighting a cold recently and hasn’t been sleeping well which doesn’t excuse his behavior, but explains his short fuse. He’s told me that there’s a kid on the playground who always stirs others up, so their kickball game is repeatedly ruined by conflict. That’s a big deal for a second grader. He’s told me that he’s nervous about his speaking part in the upcoming school play. He’s excited but nervous. Again, that’s a big deal for a young fella.

Hmmm…pray for him. 

Maybe, before we start arguing, we should start talking. And praying. Praying for health. Praying for classmates. Praying for enthusiasm and confidence. Praying for peace in our relationship together.

I feel like such a child myself, most days, about this parenting thing. Yes, I’m the adult, but that doesn’t mean I know what to do. So frustrating sometimes.

But today, I feel like Samuel, a kid with a big job…helping care for the temple and the priest. He couldn’t sleep one night because he kept hearing someone call him. It wasn’t Eli, the priest. You know the story, it was God. Samuel simply said, ‘Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.’ God had an even bigger job for Samuel to do…deliver some bad news. But God remained with Samuel, even through this tough task.

Quite often, parenting involves delivering bad news to the kids. No, you can’t do that. No, we’re not going there. Nope, you’re too young. Not now, we don’t have the money for that. No sir, you are NOT allowed to say that. But we know that it’s for a greater reason…a greater joy…greater discipline that we’re saying these things, though it’s so difficult at that moment.

Parenting, what a ride. Joys and pains, highs and lows, wins and losses. But God is always with us…and he wants our kids to know that. How will they know it, unless we tell them? How will they know that we depend on God, unless they see us struggle and turn to him? We need to pray for them and with them.

Thank you, God, for drawing me near and teaching me this today.

(Here’s the Samuel story, in case you need a refresher… 1 Samuel 3)

wings

24/7

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Photo courtesy : twentyfoursevenmusic.wordpress.com

My son has always had a fascination with firemen, fire trucks, fire stations…anything related to fighting fires and keeping people safe. We are fortunate to live down the road from a small fire station, the ‘retirement station’ they call it, as it rarely gets calls. Due to such local access, my little guy likes to stop in and chat with the heroes therein.

He has recently been introduced to the phrase ’24/7′, though he’s still struggling with the exact meaning. He thinks it means starting work at seven in the morning and working a full twenty-four hour day, as the guys down the street do. I have tried my mother’s best to explain to him what it really means, but at his age, he’s more determined to be right than correct.

Those numbers took on a new meaning to us this week. The evening of July 24th, (7/24) as we snuggled in bed at story time, my little theologian asked, ‘How do you ask God to come into your heart?’. I smiled a little smile, not wanting to imply teasing but happiness. ‘Well, you just ask him…really. It’s kinda that simple.’ He pondered, not certain I was right about such a monumental event. So, I went on a little further.

‘Do you remember that Bible school song that said ‘A…admit to God that you’re a sinner and you need him…B…believe that Jesus is God’s own son…C…confess that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord…’?’ Still pondering and not making eye contact, he nodded.

‘Do you know that you sin and do bad things sometimes?’

‘Oh yes!’ He nodded and released a wry smile, probably remembering some events of that very day.

‘Do you understand that Jesus died on the cross to clean away your sin, so that you can be with God?’ Nodding…we’d had a thorough discussion about this ever since Easter this year…

‘And you know that Jesus is God’s son…You just kinda talk to him about all those things. Tell him that you know you do bad stuff and that you realize he loves you enough to forgive you and he wants to be with you.’

He still wasn’t really making eye contact with me, and admittedly, I couldn’t read him at that moment. I gave him a few moments to process what I’d said. The way his active mind works, he might have been finished with the whole topic and ready to discuss where firemen store their breathing apparatuses. I didn’t want to push my spiritual excitement on him, but after a minute or two I quietly asked, ‘Do you want to talk to God about it all?’ He said he did, but he didn’t want to do it out loud.

He put his hands over his face and curled up in a little ball and was silent for about a minute and a half. I put my hand on his shoulder and prayed my own little prayer, that he would truly know what God’s forgiveness meant… And then he opened his eyes, looked right at me and smiled. ‘I did it.’

It doesn’t matter to me that he will argue about the daily work schedules of the firemen down the street. What matters is that on that night, 7/24, I knew that he understood the forgiving faithfulness of God. Yes, he’s young, but he’s old enough to know that he needs forgiveness because he sins…and that God not only provides forgiveness, he does it with open arms. And he’s old enough to know that God wants us to care for others and share his loving ways with others. Isn’t that the gist of it all? Forgive and love on.

 No matter what he does during the twenty-four hours of his seven days a week, God will be by his side.  Dawn, dusk, noon, midnight, afternoon, evening, midmorning, midday…no matter the time, God is with him, forgiving and loving him and directing him to others who need the same.

Thank you, Father.

John 8:34-36 (www.biblegateway.com)

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Oh mercy….

The three year old sighed exasperatedly and said, “Oh mercy!” as she walked through the kitchen. Sticking magnets to the wooden kitchen drawers had not worked out as she planned, and she was now on to something more productive. I smirked at her burdened tone. Life is so hard when you’re three. Then, I realized, ashamedly, that she had learned that expression, the sigh and the exclamation, from me. That’s my token phrase of vexation…and my plea, I think.

Why do I say it? Mercy? It’s a kind of  reminder, I think, to help me to remember to be patient, forgiving, accepting in moments of frustration. It also keeps me from saying things that would be inappropriate for little ears to hear.

I had a teacher in high school who claimed that mercy was her ‘gifting’. I disagreed. She was preferential, manipulative, and hypocritical. I did not learn merciful traits from her. But she did cause me to begin to wonder what mercy looked like. I think it was more like the teacher who understood someone’s phobia of public speaking and let him turn in a written report instead. Or the coach who didn’t ream out his players when they lost dreadfully to a more affluent school than ours. Or the teacher who bought a winter coat for a child whose mother wouldn’t even realize her son needed one. Or even the student who began a shoe collection for families who lived in landfills in other countries. Yeah, those were merciful actions.

I try not to get impatient at stoplights when the car ahead of me won’t go…maybe it’s a mom looking for that all important pacifier. Or waiting for her child to sit correctly in the car seat before she will drive. When a driver zooms past me on the road, I say a little prayer for their safety…maybe they are taking their child to the ER. Or they’ve just gotten a call about their own parents’ health. When that coworker will not shut up in the meeting, I try to realize that she just needs affirmation and remind myself to say something nice to her when I can.

I don’t want to enable negative behaviors in people’s lives. But I also don’t know their whole stories. If they heard my snarky comments, saw me recklessly driving, watched me lose my temper, I would hope that rather than gossip or judge, they would just say a little prayer for me and plead, “Oh mercy!”