Praying the Bible with Gratitude

Life is hard. Sometimes we go through seasons where everything feels so discouraging and futile. During those times (and at all times) it is important to have the support of a community who can remind you who you are and whose you are. I don’t recommend that anyone try to go on this journey of following Christ without a tribe. (Meet my tribe here! I am grateful for them.) God created us for fellowship.

During difficult seasons (and again, at all times) it is also important and so helpful to focus on prayers of gratitude. When you speak to God with gratitude, it realigns your heart and mind with who He created you to be.

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Praying the Apostle’s Creed

Depending on your church tradition, you may or may not be familiar with the words of the Apostle’s Creed. I grew up in a church where we memorized the words in Sunday school at a very young age. Our teachers taught us what the words meant and why we stood and said these words each Sunday in church.

The Apostle’s Creed is still a great way for people to learn about the Christian faith. For those who are new to the faith, the words can help people learn, ask questions, and grow. For those who have been Christians for a while, it can be helpful to look over the words of the creed to remember and affirm what we believe. On difficult days and in trying times, the words of the Apostle’s Creed remind us that no matter what we are facing, it’s all worth it.

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The Power of Blooming Where You Are Planted as an Intercessor

I am blessed with great friends who are intercessors. Each one is planted in a different environment for the purpose of changing the environment. I am always amazed when I hear their stories of how God moves them in prayer during their workday.

Several of my intercessor friends work in corporate environments. The situations, pressures, personality clashes, different religions represented in those environments are fertile ground for intercession. Their daily prayers at work truly change the atmosphere.

How do they know what to pray, and when? God prompts them. As intercessors, they are available to the Lord throughout their work day, in whatever ways He leads.

I remember my own experience working in corporate America, and I wish I had realized back then that God wanted me to pray. I remember flare-ups, crises, family dynamics, wounded hearts, and just plain daily challenges. At any of those moments, I might have been a vessel for God to change the atmosphere, had I known and been ready.

Intercessory prayer
Photo by Congerdesign at Pixabay

Are you called as an intercessor and placed in a secular environment? Ask God how He wants to use you to pray and change your atmosphere. Ask Him to tell you the reasons He has appointed you in that place, and what He desires to do through your prayers.

Then go to work every day, alert to your environment and attuned to God’s Spirit. Realize you are not just there to do a job, although your work is important. You are also there as a praying vessel, through whom God can affect the environment for His purposes. Set your heart in tune to His, the same way you would tune your transistor radio into a broadcast channel. Then listen; and be. He will prompt you.

Sometimes His promptings will not be obvious to you. You will simply find yourself praying in the spirit, and not knowing why. Just obey, and do as He leads. At other times, the circumstances will be obvious, and you will know to pray. Again, pray in the spirit, and let the Holy Spirit lead your prayers. He knows what He desires to do in that atmosphere, and He needs a willing intercessor – you! – to say, “Yes, Lord. Please do that. Have Your way here today.”

How amazing to go home at the end of the workday and realize you have lived, actively, in the kingdom of God today.

The corporate environment is just one example. I have another intercessor friend who works at a public school, where as we know, prayers are not allowed by staff. However, because she is attuned to God each day, she knows when and how to pray silently on behalf of the students. As she learns more about prayer, and the ways God works in people’s lives, she is able to pray more specifically. I know other teachers who pray for their students. They may not feel called specifically as intercessors, but there is a wealth of prayer happening at the public schools on any given day, which means God is moving in that atmosphere and changing students’ lives.

Intercessory Prayer
Photo by Reenablack at Pixabay

Another precious intercessor friend was led on a different path of prayer. She went through a difficult surgical procedure followed by a challenging recovery time. Before her surgery, a group of us prayed with her, and she told us, “I can’t wait for the surgery to be over, so God can start using me.”

What she didn’t realize was how much she had just ministered to us, by sharing how closely she felt to the Lord during this time. What a scary proposition she was facing medically, knowing the difficulties and the risks. She didn’t feel well to begin with, and now she had to accept a really hard road to walk with the Lord. But she focused on Him and felt His presence. She made a point to stay in His presence, and she let God bring her His strength and comfort. Whenever she felt afraid, or weak, she turned to the Lord and was encouraged. What struck me the most was her surrender, her willingness to just “be” with Him, no matter what she had to face.

Because of her peace and her surrender, she was ministering strength and encouragement to us, as we listened and prayed with her. She said she couldn’t wait for God to use her, once this was over. Yet here He was, using her right now.

I told her, “Your ministry has already begun.”

The next week, she went into the hospital for her surgery. Imagine all the ways God used her, as an intercessor, during the prep time at the hospital, with people all around her, and with her allowing the Holy Spirit to flow through her and to affect the atmosphere. Even during the difficult weeks of recovery, imagine how God used her as an intercessor to the hospital staff, to her visitors, and to those who were praying for her. So many people told her during that recovery time, “You have blessed me today.” She gave all the glory to God and told them of His constant presence and love. What a witness. All because she bloomed as an intercessor where she was planted.

When you are called as an intercessor, God intends to use you right where you are. He has placed intercessors all over the world, in every city, in every neighborhood. Some may not be aware of their calling; others may be aware, but unsure of how to step into their calling. But He has placed a network of intercessors worldwide, so that He can change our world.

This doesn’t mean God doesn’t move us around or call us into new environments and seasons. But for this moment, today, ask God how He desires to use you, right where you are.

Are you one of His intercessors? Whether you know you are, and have actively been praying, or whether you think you might be, and don’t know where to start – take this moment to talk with God. Ask Him for His vision for you as an intercessor. Realize that it starts right here, right now. Be ready to listen to Him, and keep your heart attuned to Him. And bloom, right where you’re planted. If every intercessor blooms in our own flower bed, God can truly change the world, and we will see the kingdom of God more and more, around us every day.

Pray Through It

Have you ever taken on a new challenge where you weren’t really sure you could do it? I think we all have – probably many times. It’s in those experiences where we learn how to pray from a deeper level of dependence on God. What a great opportunity to grow in prayer and relationship with Him.

Last summer, I took on a part-time job I never thought I would do. I became part of a family’s home health team. I was trained by a home health care nurse in how to dress a surgical incision that had opened and become infected, as well as how to administer IV antibiotics through a PICC line.

If you are shrugging your shoulders like this is no big deal, then maybe you work in the health field or you can stomach a lot. If you are, at this point, hoping I won’t give any further details about that job, then you are like me. I am not a person who wants to be around any situation where things that should be inside the body are, in fact, on the outside or visible. The sight of blood freaks me out and makes me just about pass out. And I certainly can’t look at an open wound, let alone touch it.

Yet there I was, on the morning of the Fourth of July, heading to the assisted living home for home health training.

I prayed as I approached the place: “God, please help me do this.” While I often pray that prayer, it seldom comes from the place in my heart where I realize, “Without You, I literally cannot.” And yet, without God, I cannot do anything, even the things I think I can do. I cannot even draw breath without Him. Note to self: Pray from that place in your heart all the time!

I learned how to do the PICC line, which isn’t complicated, but it’s also not something you want to mess up. I began to pray through every step, asking the Lord to do each part for me. As I attached the bag of antibiotics, I asked Jesus to move throughout her body, administering the healing Himself. I prayed through the entire process, each and every time, all summer. I prayed with the patient, and I prayed over her. I prayed before arriving, the whole time I was there, and after I left. I prayed as I sterilized equipment and took inventory of supplies. I put the entire procedure into God’s hands, each and every time.

When it came time to learn about wound care, I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the sight of the incision. When I had surgery many years ago, I couldn’t even look at my own incision until weeks later. And my incision was closed, not open and infected. Yet as I approached the patient’s bed, I prayed, “Lord Jesus, You are going to have to make this okay for me.” He did. I was able to look at the wound and follow the instructions for wound care without flinching. All I felt was a determination to do what God and the home health nurse asked me to do, and let Jesus take care of healing the wound.

The first time I tried to change the dressing myself, I had difficulty with some of the steps. It was necessary to place a debriding strip into the wound. That was hard to do. The strip kept falling out. I realized how much discomfort I was causing the patient. I knew I had to move faster, and yet I could barely make the process work. So I prayed harder. Before my next shift, I prayed, “Lord, please take care of changing the dressing Yourself. You are the Healer. Use my hands as You know best.”

Driving to the assisted living home for the next treatment, I felt the Lord prompt me just to go in and talk with Him the whole time I was changing the dressing, and to do it out loud, so the patient could hear. That’s exactly what I did. As I began to remove the old dressing, I said, “Lord Jesus, thank You for helping us do this. Thank You for protecting her skin. Thank You that the wound is already starting to heal by Your power.” I just kept a running dialogue (or monologue, really) through the whole process. And it worked out fine. From that point on, I never had a problem. We were done quickly, and the patient said she was fine through the process.

A few nights after I started wound treatment, the Lord gave me a dream about the patient. In that dream, I walked in, removed the dressing, and the wound was completely healed. It looked beautiful. I began to pray for that, and to thank Him for that dream, every time I went in there. I told the patient about the dream, and she was grateful to God for giving us that promise.

Thus began the daily miracle of watching her wound heal. Every single morning, it had improved. When I removed the dressing, I would say to her, “Let’s see what Jesus did last night.” Sure enough, there was a marked difference, each and every time. I have been involved with healing prayer ministry for many years. I have seen God heal many times. This was a different way to watch Him heal. To see the daily improvement of His handiwork. What a miracle, and what a privilege.

Toward the end of the summer, the course of antibiotics was completed. The patient was doing so much better now that the infection was gone. Wound care had to continue until the incision was completely closed. I don’t remember how many weeks that process continued. But I do remember the morning I went in, removed the dressing, and all that was left was a dent the size of a pin prick. The wound was completely closed. Just like in the dream. The Lord had allowed me to see it with my own eyes.

This experience taught me a deeper awareness of my utter dependence on Him. I would love for all my prayers to come from that realization in my heart – that without Him, I can do nothing. It also reminded me that with Him, I can do whatever He asks me to do. I just have to pray through it, and leave the rest up to Him.

What is God calling you to do that you don’t think you can do? Talk to Him from that place in your heart that knows how desperately you need Him. See what He says, and see what He shows you. Enjoy your fellowship with Him.

Centering Prayer

Centering prayer is one of my favorite ways to spend time with God.

It’s a time to just sit and be still in the presence of God. Not talking or listening. Just being.

We seldom spend enough time just sitting quietly. Every part of us needs that stillness – body, soul, spirit. Even more so, we need that time just being in God’s presence.

Psalm 46:10 reminds us:

“‘Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!'” (NKJV)

During centering prayer, I don’t feel like anything is happening. That’s okay. That’s how it is supposed to be. It’s not a “feel good” exercise. It’s simply being with the Creator of the universe – the Creator of me.

Have you ever had the experience of sitting with a spouse, family member, or friend that you know really well – and just sitting, not saying a word? If you reflect, you’ll probably recognize you have done this many times. It’s so peaceful when you can just be yourself around someone else, and not have to do or say anything. That’s a genuine relationship. And that’s exactly what God desires with each one of us. He is the best family and friend we will ever have.

Even though it feels like nothing is happening during my time of centering prayer, for the rest of the day I can tell the difference. I’m more attuned to what He wants to show me. Everything in me is more at peace. When I leave my time of centering prayer, I often feel like I’ve just gone for a swim or a kayaking excursion. It’s refreshing. Renewing. As only His presence can be.

Centering prayer is not the same as secular forms of meditation. I don’t empty my mind. (That would not be good because the enemy would rush in.) Instead, I fill my mind with God and focus on Him: “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” — 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NKJV).

When distractions come – and they always seem to multiply when I sit down for centering prayer – I simply re-focus and re-center myself on God each time. Not a bad way to spend 20 minutes … or 10 … or 5.

I’ve had people ask me if centering prayer is really Christian. Absolutely, it is. The desert fathers and mothers practiced all forms of contemplative prayer, including centering prayer, in the 4th century of the early Church. They did this because they felt that the Church had become institutionalized (sound familiar?) and had lost touch with simple devotional practices of relationship with God. Contrary to common misperceptions, the desert fathers and mothers did not remove themselves from the Church. They remained active in the Church community and were influential toward leadership, pouring wisdom and the peace of the Holy Spirit into the Church.

Imagine if the Church today made centering prayer and other forms of contemplative prayer a daily practice. It makes my heart glad to see that more gatherings of the Church are beginning to do so. God bless them. It all starts with each one of us deciding to spend quiet time in God’s presence every day.

Just simply being with Him.

God bless your day.

Three Voices – Yours, the Enemy’s, and God’s

Years ago, a little girl took one of my prayer classes. She heard from God easily and had a great relationship with Him. But she didn’t realize at first that not every voice in her mind was God’s.

She had a big decision to make, and she told her mother God told her what to do. Her mother asked, “Are you sure it was God?”

The little girl seemed puzzled. How could the voice she heard not be God?

Her mother explained that not every voice we hear is God. Sometimes we hear the enemy’s voice, and often we hear the voice of our own mind.

After a moment of shock, the little girl expressed her frustration, as she realized not every internal voice she heard was God’s.

Can’t we all relate with that frustration? How much easier life would be if all we heard was God’s voice, telling us clearly and exactly what to do.

If Not God’s Voice, Then Whose?

But we live in a fallen world. The enemy speaks to us, loudly and clearly. His voice often drowns out the still, small voice of God.

The enemy is not the only one talking. Often, we hear a voice louder and more damaging than the enemy’s. It’s the voice of our own mind. The things we say to ourselves, and have taught ourselves to say, can derail us. Our own voice, ringing through our mind, can block what God is trying to say.

Early in life, as we encounter hardships which, as children, we are not equipped to deal with, the enemy begins to tell us lies: “You are no good.” “You are stupid.” “You will never amount to anything.” “You don’t need God’s help, or anyone else’s, for that matter.” This happens as early as in the womb! The enemy starts the process, but we take it over. It’s as if he pushes the button on a tape player, and the tape repeats in our minds, over and over. We are the ones who keep it going, as we continue to block the voice of Father God.

Discerning God’s Voice from the Clutter

When you talk to God and listen for His response, it’s important to quiet your mind and let yourself hear Him. When you receive interference – from the enemy or from your own mind – be still. Turn once again toward God, and submit your mind to Him. Let Him speak in whatever way He desires.

How can you tell whose voice you are hearing? The more you talk with God, and listen, and be still in His presence, the more you will know the sound of His voice. Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

But there are also some checks you can make, to see whose voice you are hearing:

Do the words line up with God’s Word? Then you are probably hearing God. Do the words line up with God’s nature? It’s probably Him.

Do the words sound condemning or unloving? Do the words tear down the value of who you are as a person? That is not God.

Romans 8:1 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:31 goes on to say, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” God also tells us in John 3:16 that He “did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

God convicts us. But He doesn’t condemn us. When you hear a voice of condemnation, you are either hearing the enemy, or more likely the voice of your own mind. We often choose to beat ourselves up, where God has already forgiven us. We often tell ourselves harsh lies that are opposed to God’s Word.

Whenever you are listening for God’s words to you, check what you hear. Be sure it lines up with Scripture and the nature of God. If you do this check regularly, you will become more finely attuned to God’s presence and His voice.

My article, “Hearing God’s Voice” will help you to practice hearing and discerning through journaling.

What Blocks Your Hearing from God?

“Do you have cotton in your ears?” I remember my grandmother saying this whenever she thought we kids weren’t listening.

Sometimes I feel that way with God – that He knows I’m missing most of what He says. Why?

What Blocked Our Listening When We Were Kids?

Think about what it was like as a kid, when you didn’t listen. What were the reasons?

My list looked something like this:

  • Too busy, preoccupied.
  • Rebellious – didn’t want to hear, let alone respond.
  • Not really sure what the grownups were saying, so I tuned it out, or the words became distorted (like the teacher on Peanuts).
  • Didn’t like what I heard, or didn’t want to hear anything a grownup had to say on the matter.
  • Believed lies about myself, so whatever was really said became muted, muffled, or lost in translation.
  • Too many other voices in my head – mostly different parts of my own mind chastising or ridiculing myself.
  • Or just plain overwhelmed and checked out.

Those, and more, are the reasons we as kids often missed what grownups were trying to say to us. We missed helpful advice and direction. We missed expressions of love and concern. We missed fellowship.

The same can happen today in our communication with God. When our spiritual hearing becomes dull, we miss things.

How Can We Tune in to God’s Voice?

As an intercessor, you are no doubt interested in hearing from God clearly and frequently. How can you better attune your spiritual ears to hear Him?

One way is to identify what blocks your hearing.

This requires some heart introspection. What are the things in your heart that stand between you and God?

I went through many years of inner healing ministry to identify and allow God to remove many obstacles that blocked my hearing and my relationship with Him. I strongly recommend inner healing for everyone. We have all “stuff,” and it affects our relationship with God in more ways than just “hearing.”

Praying to Uncover What Blocks Us

Here is a starting point:

Ask God to search your heart and to reveal the things that block you from Him. That is one prayer He is very glad to answer. He began to answer me when I first prayed like this more than 12 years ago. He is still answering me to this day, showing me things in my heart that stand between me and Him.

Ask God to show you:

  • What lies you believe that are contrary to what His Word says.
  • Where you might hold unforgiveness or bitterness in your heart, or areas of your life where you might need to repent.
  • What lies you believe about Him, based on your relationship with primary caregivers in your young life. We often see God based on how we saw those first adults we encountered.
  • Where you have become consumed by religion, instead of relationship.
  • Any ways that fear or pride might block you from hearing Him.
  • Anything and everything in your heart that stands in the way of hearing and responding to Him.

Then realize that Jesus is here to help you pray through these blockages, to be healed, and to be free. Freedom means hearing your heavenly Father’s promptings, and responding to Him in love and prayer.

God Often Speaks in Silence

As an intercessor, it’s important to realize that you might not hear or sense God in ways that you would hear a person who walks into the room and speaks. God will have His own ways of communicating with you, and often His first language is silence. As an intercessor, your heart may simply beat strongly in tune with His, without you hearing a word.

So don’t take silence as an indication that you are not hearing.

But if you feel blocked in hearing from God (it’s usually a distinct feeling), the prayer detailed above can be a helpful starting point for drawing closer to Him and opening your heart even more to Him.

If you would like to learn more about hearing God, I recommend reading this wonderful article, “How Do I Learn to Hear God?” written by my friend Kerri Johnson at The Center for Inner Healing. It’s a quick read, and it gets to the heart of how we hear God.

Praying for Students Entering College

If you feel called to pray for your community and/or your church, one of the best ways you can pray right now is for young people who are entering college.

Our community prayer group is currently praying for:

  • Students still in high school but starting dual enrollment classes in college this semester.
  • College freshmen returning to school after their first home break.
  • High school students applying for college for next fall.
  • High school graduates who took off the fall term and are just entering college for the first time this spring.

If you went through this process as a young adult, you may remember how stressful it can be. At that age, students often feel that the rest of their lives depend on the decisions they are making in the moment. They put a lot of pressure on themselves.

It is helpful to pray that the Lord, first of all, will keep them in His peace. That they will be fully aware of His presence and His leading through this process. That they can trust Him with their lives and their futures. That they will be able to enjoy the moment and the experience with Him.

Pray for wisdom. For God to open and close the right doors. For God’s intervention where the enemy or man might present an obstacle.

Pray for God to keep them encouraged, and to help them find peace in their own identities and in knowing they are absolutely precious to God. Pray for godly people in their lives and for God to keep them from the wrong influences.

Above all else, pray as the Holy Spirit leads you to pray.

Remember also to pray for the parents as they guide and support their young ones through this process.

You can pray this in general for your community and/or for your church family. God knows who the young people are that need your prayers, even if you do not know.

If you personally know young people going through this process, tell their parents you are praying for their children in their transition to college life.

If you are part of a church prayer team, perhaps the pastor would like for you to say a prayer out loud on a Sunday morning – ask him or her about it.

In whatever ways God leads you to pray, just know that this process of transition to college is a big prayer need for our communities and churches at this time of year. Thank you for your heart for prayer. God bless.

The Writer’s Prayer Life

Prayer is a key part of the writing process. We should seek God regularly for what He would have us write. We need to begin and end our writing time and writing projects with prayer. We should remain prayerful as we write. Ideally every word we write should be bathed in prayer. But that’s just part of the prayer life of the writer.

Here are five ways that will enrich our writer’s prayer life:

1. Daily conversation with God – As we spend time each day growing in relationship with God, we will experience a daily process of transformation. That process is about our life, not our writing, but it will shape our writing and give us a new excitement for the things God calls us to write.

2. Seeking God for inner healing – Again, this is part of our transformation, and we should do this whether or not we are writers. But the benefits will be clear to us and our readers. Imagine how different our writing will sound when we have found peace or forgiveness in an area where we have struggled with bitterness. Imagine the testimony through which the Holy Spirit can impart peace to those who read our words of God’s healing.

3. Lectio divina – This meditation on scripture that has been practiced for centuries in the monasteries can benefit the prayer life of the writer. We just need to be sure we are engaging the process as God’s kids, not as writers. While we can (and should) engage in lectio divina as part of our preparation to write about scripture, we also need to take time for ourselves to immerse in scripture with no writing agenda. A time to just be with God in His Word. As the Word of God comes alive in us, He will shape our writing.

4. Centering prayer – This spiritual discipline, also practiced in monasteries, is devoted to simply sitting quietly in God’s presence. Just being with Him. During this time with God, we are not aware of anything God is doing. We are simply present with Him, focused on Him, and filled with His presence. Not talking, not listening, just being. This time spent with God will shape our whole day. And the next time we sit down to write, we will see that God has been (and is) with us.

5. Soaking in God’s presence – God is always with us. But the world is also very distracting. It is life-sustaining to take time and intentionally soak in God’s presence. Just breathe Him in and revel in who He is. This may look different for each of us on any given day. It might be taking a walk and enjoying nature, listening to music, playing with animals, reading an uplifting book, or enjoying a meal with friends. If we ask the Lord, He will prompt us for what He knows we need that day. Our writing will reflect what we have soaked in.

Those are just five (of many!) ways to engage a life of prayer as a writer. We need to remember that we are not simply practicing these ways for the sake of our writing. The life of prayer is vital to our spiritual growth and well-being as God’s kids. But a healthy prayer life will also affect our writing and will impart God’s peace to our readers.

Rodent Removal: a Lesson in Overcoming Fear

I want to thank everyone who prayed for me this past week. Last Wednesday, I returned from a Christmas trip visiting my family. My apartment had been empty for a week. When I arrived home, the first thing I noticed was the plants I had left sitting on the kitchen counter. One had two holes burrowed into the soil, and dirt was lying everywhere. A creature had been there. An hour later, I walked into the kitchen to discover that the cabinet door (which I had closed) was now open. The creature was still there. Later that evening, I saw the creature running through my kitchen. It was a rat.

I am terrified of rats. I freaked out. I asked my friends to pray. A friend offered for me to sleep at their home, but after a week away I was so ready to sleep in my own bed. But I did not sleep. I left all the lights on, and the box fan, and I dozed off a few times. But I was terrified.

The next night I stuffed bath mats under the doors to my room and adjoining bathroom. I felt a little more protected from the rat, but I still kept the lights and fan on all night. I sat up till about 3 a.m., unable to relax. When I did finally try to sleep, I just cat napped. (Now I know why cats do that, by the way. They never know where the next rat will appear!)

The friends who know me well will not be surprised that I was afraid. Fear is my biggest challenge. I have come a long way over the years, but there is more to overcome (clearly). This rodent visit was a new opportunity to work through fear.

After a few nights, I realized I had become a hostage in my own home, hiding barricaded in my bedroom after sundown and trying to sleep with the lights on.

As a friend of mine told me, “The rat is afraid of you. It ran when it saw you. It’s not like it stopped and stared you down and challenged you for the keys to your home.”

True.

Since then, I’ve been living normally and sleeping with the lights off. Trusting God with my well-being.

So the spirit of fear left first. Followed by the actual rat. It was finally caught and removed this morning.

Thank You, God. For the lesson, the healing, and the rat removal.

I’m reminded of a scene from the movie Facing the Giants, where they have a similar experience and the husband says, “Face your fears.” Thank You, Jesus, for helping me face mine.

And thank you all for your prayers and offer of shelter. 💕