Prayer -Just Do It

Pearl’s Red Peony
Photo by Sherri Woodbridge

There have been times when I’ve gotten frustrated with all the books on prayer that seem to be available to anyone who is considering deepening their prayer life. It seems such a simple thing – to pray. After all, weren’t we given instructions by Christ personally, on how to pray. Doesn’t it seem obvious then, that all that is left to do is… just pray?

Yes. And, no.

If we are seasoned in the habit of prayer, then yes. We can get down to business and pray. We can come before the throne of God in faith and with confidence and present our requests, worship Him, repent of our sins, give Him thanks for all He has done and does still. We have been there at His feet often. We have learned the importance, the necessity, the need to pray. The key thought here however, is that we have already formed a habit of prayer. A routine of and a dependence on conversations with God. We have become (one might say) addicted to prayer.

However, I have found that just because we may think of ourselves as seasoned in prayer, it seems that it’s quite easy to become, if we haven’t already done so, ‘unseasoned’ in the area of prayer.

Instead of forming a habit or starting a routine or becoming dependent on meeting with our heavenly Father, we’ve somehow, somewhere along the way, allowed ourselves to easily become addicted to other things that take us away from that precious time with the Lord. So perhaps a few of those books on prayer might get a wayward prayer warrior back on track. Perhaps they will inspire and create a newness of spirit toward the act of prayer. Maybe we will become like a Nike runner and just do it… Just pray.

Lord, help me not become distracted so that other things take the place of being with You…

You’ve spoken all the words
time and time again,
voiced everything,
in every way you know how.
How do you utter a word
when it seems you can’t pray?
How do you reach into the darkness,
way down,
deep inside
longing to voice the pain
you find hiding there?
The aches and the wounds
have robbed you of words.
The burden you carry
has left you raw and weak.
Yet, still you kneel at your bedside,
holding your heart in your hands,
vulnerable and exposed
and admitting your weakness
you cry for help.

You need to talk to someone –
Is there anybody –
just one somebody who understands?

Your heart
pierced
you have nothing left to give
as your tears mix with the salt of the ocean
where you stand standing at the water’s edge
contemplating your fate.

Yet somewhere within your weakened spirit
Someone calls you by name
and in the silence of the present
you hear the Voice once more,
and you weep.

In the dark of your desperation
you cry out
expressing the anguish
the heartache you’ve held for so long within.

When words begin to flow
the feeling of loneliness
the ache in your life subsides
as hope you’ve known before now
begins to surface once more
and a healing balm soothes you deep inside.

There is a God who cares
though at times
hard to see,
or to feel,
or to touch,
or to hear.

He waits
longing to meet with you
with me
in the dark places
where we’ve thought
and felt
He’s left us –
without Him.

You hold onto His promise:
He will never leave you –
a promise He gave from His heart

and in the times
when words can’t be found,
His spirit intercedes
and speaks for you.

While He already knows
the depth of your pain
the source of your tears
He also knows
you need to tell Him –
you need to say the words
few though they may be
they will cleanse you inside out
and heal from within

and let Him do
His most holy work
to restore
​to renew
​to refresh
​​your life
as broken
and bruised
and beaten
though it may be

He can
and He will
do it.

For He is

Abba Father.
Daddy.
Our Lord God.

Prayer: Just Do It

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The other day I stood in the bookstore (you know, those buildings that house thousands of rectangular objects made of printed paper and which are pressed between two pieces of cardboard and glued together on one side), scanning the titles of all the books on prayer. I was intrigued (and not for the first time) at how many different books there were on the subject.

One minute prayers for busy moms took up a good amount of space on the shelves, as well as books on summoning God to teach us how to pray, books on explaining what happens when we pray, books teaching how to pray using God’s word, and there is a large series just on the power of prayer by just one woman: The Power of A Praying Wife, The Power of Praying for Your Child, The Power of a Christmas Prayer and many, many more.

I have read my share of books on prayer. What Happens When Women Pray by Evelyn Christenson was my first, followed by Becky’s Tirabassi’s, Let Prayer Change Your Life, which certainly did change my prayer life.

I think there is a place for books on prayer just as there is for Bible studies for studying God’s word. I guess what I have concluded, however, is with so many books on prayer, we spend ample time reading about prayer and often, very little time doing it. This not only comes from personal observation but also experience. I’ve taken several classes on prayer where the last thing we actually did was pray.

At church a few nights back, I sat in on a class about outreach in the church and well aware of the class in session in the next room. Both classes were scheduled for a hour and a half and the person teaching the class on prayer talked from beginning to end. When I thought about it later, I couldn’t recall the class ever stopping to actually pray. What an opportunity we give to the enemy when we merely get fired up talking about prayer, about doing it more effectively, but never spending the time doing it.

I was speaking to a friend about this and told them how I was beginning to see the same thing when it came to dealing with God’s word. We go to Bible studies, attend church services, and support groups based on spiritual principles, but how often do we actually take time to sit and just read His word for ourselves and not just so that we can answer question number two on page 31 in our current Bible study workbook.

A few months ago a woman spoke at our church about drawing closer to the Lord. She made a comment about spending time with Go and how she prayed often for gib blocks of time to study His word. She was saying that she asked God for a window of three to four hours where she could sit and soak up His word, study His word, examine His word. As she talked about it, my spirit hungered for the same thing. She went on to add God’s response to her when she had spoken to Him about it.

“What are you going to do with four hours what you haven’t even begun to do with four minutes?”

Ouch. She paused for effect as she stood behind the podium. I paused with her out of conviction. We fool ourselves into thinking that if we just had more time, less commitments, took more classes, summoned a friend to prayer regularly with us – these are the things that will give us a relationship with the Lord for which we yearn.
Sometimes they do. Sometimes they are beneficial. Sometimes they serve the purpose of the writer and the reader, but I tend to believe that sometimes they become a distraction from the deeper relationship we desire instead of a connection to it.

If I really want to learn God’s word, I must read it and not just read about it. If I want to experience the power of prayer, ultimately I need to put down the teaching manuals and just… pray.

Until We Know We Are Loved

sunset.JPGWhen I read my Bible, I like to write out what I’m reading as a paraphrase, or if something significant for that day – I will expound on why, or I will record my  thoughts for other reasons.  Today when I finished with John 17 (I’ve been re-reading the book of John), I was so encouraged that I wanted to share. Here are my notes… I have tried to ‘clean’ them up a bit so they make more sense. Hopefully, you will be encouraged, too.

 

John 17

verse 1:
Jesus looks up toward heaven and prays…

He begins as He taught us to pray, with ‘Father’…

Jesus asks to be glorified by His Father so that HE might glorify the FATHER.

What does that look like? I can only immediately picture a father who is extremely proud of his son and he’s telling the world about his son’s talent. After, his son then demonstrates this wonderful talent,gift to the world. When the son is finished, he tells the world that the credit – the glory – goes to his father, not taking any of the accolades for himself.

Even that analogy seems so paltry.

Jesus is ready to give His life – give the ultimate sacrifice – and doesn’t ask that he get the attention or due applause He deserves, but before He is even called to ‘perform’ – give His gift/His life to the world – he asks that the glory He may receive goes directly back to his Father.

Jesus ask the Father to glorify Him so that the Father may be glorified. You can’t glorify one without giving the other glory.

verse 2-3:
Jesus was granted authority over all people in the hopes that HE might give them all eternal life.

Eternal life is knowing the true God and Jesus Christ who he has sent. You can’t know God without believing in Him. To really know him, you would believe in Him and to believe in Him, you would really know Him.

verse 4-5:
Jesus completed all that was required of him by God and asks to be glorified in His Father’s presence with the glory he had before the world began.

And then He prays for his disciples…

verse 6-12:
He tells God of their faith, their belief. He says that because the disciples belong to the Father, this is why He is praying for them. Because if they belong to the Father, they belong to Him (and so therefore, He prays for them).

Glory already has come to God merely through the faith and belief of the disciples.

Jesus tells his Father that He is coming home but the disciples are remaining on earth and asks his holy Father to protect these men by the power of his name – JESUS – so that the men may be one as Jesus and the Father are one. While Jesus was with his disciples, he kept them safe by his name (except Judas who was doomed to fulfill Scripture).

There is power in the name of Jesus. It isn’t just a word to a pretty song or an insert to a well-meaning poem. It is truth. THERE IS POWER in the name of Jesus. Jesus himself proclaimed it. First.

So Jesus asks to protect the disciples so that they may be one as he and the Father are one.

What would this look like? To be in constant communion with each other – having the same mind, the same faith, the same love, the same forgiveness, the same struggles? A Jesus community of believers.

verse 13-16:
Jesus is on His way home… But he prays while he is still in the world so that his disciples have the full measure of joy within them.

How does praying for them here, complete their joy?

They hear Him pray for THEM. They hear Him pray directly to His father FOR THEM. They hear Him pray for their PROTECTION. They hear Him tell the Father how powerful His (Jesus’)  name is. They hear Him ask God,(because He does not ask them to be rescued from what is to come), to PROTECT them from the evil one. 

 

Because the disciples are not of the world any more than Jesus was/is of the world, they will be targeted by destruction, as every believer is.

Wouldn’t it complete my joy to hear my Jesus pray for me like that? Ahh… but HE has!

verse 17-19:
Jesus asks for the sanctification of the disciples by God’s truth – His word. Cleansing comes by His word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God. Jesus is the Word. From the beginning. (John 1) Sanctification comes through the Word. Through Jesus. We are made holy through Him.

“For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17:19)

Sanctification, or holiness, means being separated. Before sanctification, we are separated FROM God. After being sanctified, we have become separated from the world. We have been sanctified and we continue to be sanctified on a daily basis

Jesus was sanctified by His sacrifice on the cross so that we “too could be truly sanctified.” He gave the sacrifice required by the old law so that we could live by the ‘new law’. Belief. One sacrifice eliminated the need for all others. One sacrifice eliminated the requirement for regular offerings of your best. Jesus said it right there in His prayer to the Father – I sanctify myself so that they too may be truly sanctified. There is no other way to be one with God. It is only through believing Him.

verse 20-23:
Then He moves His prayer to include ALL believers, not just His disciples. He prays for those who will believe in Him because of the  message the disciples  will bring. Again, asking that the believers, as He asked for the disciples, be made one as He and His Father are one. He in the Father and the Father in Him. What power! Jesus asks this so that the world may believe that His Father sent Him. He gives us the glory that God gave to  Him so that we may be one as, again, He and the Father are one. Jesus in us and the Father in Him.

He then asks that believers will be brought to COMPLETE UNITY to let the world know that the Father sent Him and has loved them even as the Father has loved Jesus.

***It is in the complete unity of believers that the world will know the love of the Father.***

verse 24:
“Father”, Jesus says, “I want those you have given me [believers] to be with me where I am, to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”

HIS GLORY. He wants us to see His glory. The excitement for us to see what He has done for us is like a child who has just made her best drawing as a gift. She can’t wait for the one she has given it to. Waiting in anticipation of the look on their face when they finally open it. He wants us to see His gift. The gift of His glory. Glory given to Him because He has been loved before the creation of the world. Whew.  Again,  a platry illustration, but leaves me  speechless to think upon…

AND IF THAT WEREN’T POWERFUL ENOUGH…

verse 25-26:
“Righteous Father,” he prays, “though the world doesn’t know you, I do and they know you’ve sent me. I have made it known to them and will continue making it known to them in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Jesus knows the Father and the world knows He was sent by the Father, though they choose not to believe that and deny His existence.

Jesus made it known that the Father sent Him and will continue to make it known, IN ORDER THAT THE LOVE GOD HAS FOR HIS SON MAY BE IN THEM ALSO AND THAT JESUS HIMSELF MAY BE IN THEM AS WELL.

Wow.

He will keep making the truth known.

Until we know we are loved and know it’s all because of Jesus – He will keep making it known.