Category Archives: prayer

Are You Ready to be Changed?

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Axentowicz_The_AnchoriteWhen You speak, when You move
When You do what only You can do
It changes us
It changes what we see and what we seek*

Yesterday morning in church, I had to stop and reflect on the words of this unfamiliar song. It is an invitation to God to speak to us—the humble cry of a heart wanting to hear His Voice. I understand the deep well of longing for that Voice. God often seems so distant and silent—or I just need a Word of wisdom, encouragement, guidance in the moment—and I cry out for God to speak.

What caught my heart and mind in the lines above, though, was the subtle acknowledgment of the power unleashed when God does speak. I wonder, do we really know what we’re asking for?

Truthfully, I usually don’t want God to change me, but my circumstances. I want Him to make my life easier, to tell me what to do in a situation, to make my plans and dreams reality. I am so much like the crowds who pressed in on Jesus, wanting to be healed. I want to see—what I want to see. I want to walk—to go where I want to go.

Jesus is often willing to oblige. He heals lepers who walk away without a word of thanks. He gives sight to blind men who reveled in the beauty of the creation more than in the glory of the re-Creator.

But this song acknowledges that there is so much more power in Jesus’ Word. He not only makes me see, He changes what I see. I think of Elisha’s servant (see 2 Kings 6), who awoke in the morning and saw an enemy army surrounding the house; Elisha prayed, and God opened the servant’s eyes to the fiery chariots of God’s army that stood between them.

And He changes what I seek. Instead of fulfilling my plans and dreams, God changes them. Peter, a fisherman, was cleaning his nets after a fruitless night on the sea when Jesus told him to go back out. The nets began to break with every fisher’s dream catch…and Peter was changed, walking away from the fish to follow the One who created the fish.

The Creator re-Creates; the Spirit breathes fresh breath; dry bones walk; blind eyes see; old is made new; the dead live again. Are you ready?

*”Spirit of the Living God” by Vertical Church Band

Planted by the River

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God spoke to me this morning—and, ironically, He used Facebook! Prayer Tree in EthiopiaNow, I don’t recommend starting off the day with Facebook, but that’s exactly what I did this morning; and it just goes to show that God can use any means He wants to get our attention.

What caught my eye this morning was a post from a friend who… well, you should read it in her own words:

Saturday night I was baking cookies for my boys when I burnt my hand badly. Brian came home from a work-trip at midnight and we were in the ER until 8:30 the following morning. My hand was so badly burned and swelling that they cut my wedding ring off and recommended that I see a plastic surgeon asap.

Twenty-four hours later, after a horrible reaction to the pain meds including multiple rounds of vomitting, I called the plastic-surgeon’s office. And, I cut off the bandage on my hand. Despite not being able to keep down any pain meds, I had NO PAIN and MY HAND WAS HEALED.

Later Monday, I was in the plastic surgeon’s office, reviewing pictures from the ER and said “I think maybe I’m here to encourage you…”

The doctor, a beautiful asian woman, Harvard Med School Grad, former Johns Hopkins Resident said, “Yes, actually, I’ve been really sad because my son is leaving for college. I could use some comfort!”

“Well, God is a God of comfort! I’m so thankful that he’s gifted you to be a healer for many! That’s just incredible!” I said.

She replied, “Well, thank you!”

Then I said, “I don’t normally do this but… can I pray for you?”

She said yes.

So I prayed, “Lord, you’ve known this doctor and watched over her all the days of her life and you have a plan for her future! I pray that she will experience your comfort like the arms of a kind, strong husband around her. I thank you for equipping her to help kids and grown ups heal from horrible scars, allowing them to be accepted in our culture. Lord, you know that it’s not what’s on the outside that matters to you. Thank you for helping others heal with this lady’s help from scars and may they heal from the inside out…”

I explained that praying is turning to God. That she could turn to God in prayer for comfort at any time.

The doctor said she had chills while I prayed.

It’s two days later and my hand looks perfectly healed. No pain.

Did I mention that my mom, sons and husband prayed for my healing? Because they did!

I shouldn’t be surprised that God still answers prayers like that, or that He heals people like that, but I confess: I am. But I’m also encouraged. And I needed that reminder of God’s sovereignty and His care for us.

But God didn’t use just my friend’s words this morning; He also spoke to me from His own Word. I’ve been slowly making my way through the book of Jeremiah recently and after closing down Facebook, I read these words in chapter 17:

The man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence indeed is the LORD, is blessed. He will be like a tree planted by water; it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit. (verses 7-8)

Then this, in verses 14-15 (which hit me especially hard after reading my friend’s story!):

Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved, for You are my praise.

My prayer for today: Healing, Sovereign Father, help me to trust you today. Refresh me from the streams of Your grace. Sustain me in the time of drought. Free me from worry and keep me producing fruit. Heal me; save me, for You are my praise. Amen and amen.

Sanctuary in the Wilderness

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God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You.
I thirst for You;
my body faints for You
in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water.
So I gaze on You in the sanctuary
to see Your strength and Your glory. (Psalm 63:1-2, HCSB)

These words from David convict me. My prayer is far more often, “I eagerly seek from You. …I thirst for what You can give me.” I wonder if I will ever be satisfied with God rather than constantly longing for what God offers.

I wonder, too, how David went from the wilderness of the first verse to the sanctuary of the second. This may be poetry, but the dry and desolate land is no mere metaphor for David; he was in an actual wilderness, most likely running from a blood-thirsty King Saul—and yet it is not water he craves, but God. He needs water; he thirsts for God. He needs food; he faints for God. I, on the other hand, need God; but I long for a job. I need God, but I crave security, stability, income.

So… A simple word that suggests the answer to a problem, the satisfaction of a need. David is thirsty, fainting for God, so he “gazes on God in the sanctuary.” But wait—David was in the wilderness, not the temple; he was in a cave, not a house of worship. Was the sanctuary a metaphor? Maybe both yes and no. David seems to have cultivated a life of worship, much of which was likely experienced in the temple (actually, probably the tabernacle at this point—sort of a mobile, portable tent-temple). So as a poet, David could probably simply close his eyes and imagine himself there, worshipping God in the company of the people and the presence of the priests.

But as a shepherd he had also spent countless hours and days outside, bearing the sun’s blazing heat, the bitter cold of wilderness nights, the bone-drenching winter rains. He had worshipped God there, too, alone in the company of his flocks, coming alone to his God without the benefit of a priest; looking up to God not through the cloth and skin ceiling of the tabernacle, but in the canopy of space and stars and clouds.

Here, alone again and fainting from thirst in the wilderness, David again looks to the sanctuary of space and finds God’s strength and glory. And he worships. And he is satisfied. And…

My lips will glorify You
because Your faithful love is better than life.
So I will praise You as long as I live;
at Your name, I will lift up my hands.
You satisfy me as with rich food;
my mouth will praise You with joyful lips.

When I think of You as I lie on my bed,
I meditate on You during the night watches
because You are my helper;
I will rejoice in the shadow of Your wings.
I follow close to You;
Your right hand holds on to me.

Praise. Glory. Meditate. Rejoice. In the wilderness sanctuary.

When Prayer Doesn’t Seem Like Enough

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I confess that I have had, since I was a boy, a “savior complex”; it’s tied in closely to my Type-A, take charge, “doer” personality, so when I see things going on around me and something needs to be done – like the wildfires in Southern California – I want to kick it into high gear.

Despite the fact that I grew up in a Christian home, with parents who have dedicated their lives and careers to faith-based ministry, I have somehow never felt that prayer was doing. It’s always seemed like what you do when you’re waiting to do something real, or when you can’t do anything else…sort of a time-filler, not really “doing” anything, just waiting…and wishing.

Having moved up from San Diego last year, and having experienced (to a limited extent) the devastation from the Cedar Fire there four years ago next week, the fires raging down there now are challenging both my faith and my savior complex. I want to pray (and I am praying), but I also want to do something more, as if that were possible. I’m not comfortable with the possibility that God may just want me to learn to pray, and quite frankly, I’m going to fight him on that a bit. Theological lessons aside, I want to see what we can do from here. Maybe it will be “just” praying, but maybe there’s something more. There are some very real, immediate needs – for doctors and nurses, coffee, cots, blankets, sun block, prepared foods…. There will be ongoing needs, for cleanup first, but also for rebuilding, refurnishing homes, replacing clothes and toys and dishes and couches and beds. (Many people haven’t even finished rebuilding since the Cedar Fire four years ago; others, I would bet, have already lost what they just rebuilt.) [For a look at real needs in real time – and to see what some people are doing – check out the blog for Flood Church in San Diego at http://www.diveintoflood.com/impactblog/?p=48.]

How might we mobilize ourselves, our professional associates, our clients…and their extended resources…to be of service in these fire-devastated areas? I’m open to your thoughts…and your prayers.