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.

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. 💕

I Vow to Be Afraid

There is a story that comes with this picture. I love the water and I love boats. Always have. But I’ve always felt fear in a kayak. If you look closely at this photo, you will see the fear in my face. But guess what? God used this event to bring healing to my fear.

Sometimes we make vows, especially in our childhood. We do this in reaction to pain, or in an effort to prevent pain. We may see something bad and say, “I will never …” or “I will always …” The problem with this is that we take matters into our own hands, lock ourselves into our vow, and try to protect ourselves with our own strength. Instead, we should be relying on God. When we make our self-protective vows, no matter how well-intended, we don’t line up with God’s Word. We demand that He line up with our own word. (Never a good idea.)

While I was kayaking, and shaking inside, and growing frustrated with my fear (did I mention how much I love the water and boats!), I asked God why I was so terrified. Everything inside me wanted to quit. And here we were, on this beautiful, placid lake. I’m a good swimmer. What was there to be afraid of?

Well, as I started praying, God reminded me that when I was a kid, I read a book about how people would kayak through river rapids, and the kayak would turn a 360 circle, flipping the person under water and back up again. As a kid, that seemed terrible to me! So I made an inner vow: “I will never get in a boat that flips me upside down.”

And here I was in a kayak, the very same boat I vowed never to be in. No wonder my fear meter was off the charts! And no wonder I didn’t feel the peace of God. I had taken matters into my own hand, and God respects our free will!

Fortunately, I had a friend with me who knew how to pray with me to break that inner vow, which I did immediately. The change was immediate. Night and day different. It’s hard even to explain the change that came over me. The fear was gone, and I was myself again.

All of a sudden, I felt God’s peace surrounding me and leading me. My love for the water and boats kicked in. I enjoyed paddling across the lake. The wake of the motor boats didn’t affect me. I got close to the other kayaks. Previously, I was afraid to come near the other kayaks because they might tip me over. (That’s why I’m so far away from everyone else in the photo.) Once I broke that inner vow, I literally couldn’t even remember the feeling of fear. It was completely gone.

Best of all, I can’t wait to get back out on the water in a kayak and do this again. That is the greatest sign of healing of fear.

I was amazed at how fast and dramatically everything changed. All because I put my life (and my fun!) back in God’s hands. He is AWESOME!!!

If you want to learn more, I recommend reading about inner vows at The Center for Inner Healing.

Don’t Avoid the Pain

I used to try almost anything to avoid pain (food addiction, denial, avoiding people, deciding not to care, etc.). I even caused my own pain to avoid the pain of being hurt by someone else. That may sound crazy, but if you have been in an abusive relationship, you might understand that. Little did I know that if I would seek God in my pain, instead of trying to avoid pain, He could use my moments of pain to help me get healed. And He has! And is. And will continue. I have a long way to go, but I have also come a long, long way. That freedom is not something I would trade for anything.

A few nights ago I had a painful experience during a would-be peaceful vacation. Because of what I have learned about God meeting me in my pain, I was able to invite Him into the pain, let Him lift the pain, help me navigate through it and learn from it. I was also able, in that painful moment, to enjoy a beautiful dinner with some awesome people, to stay engaged, to laugh, and to create an amazing memory where pain might have taken over. I didn’t “put on a happy face.” The laughter was real. Why? Because I didn’t suppress the pain. I simply invited Jesus into the pain, and His presence helped me enjoy that dinner. There was a time in my life when I wouldn’t have thought that was possible. But it truly is.

If you want to know more about how God works His healing through our pain, here is a quick and amazing article written by my friend Kerri Johnson at The Center for Inner Healing. She is the person who taught me all of this in the first place. I hope you will enjoy this article and see how God can help you find healing through your pain.

A Prayer in Times of Pain and Sorrow – Psalm 22 (Jesus Prayed It Too)

I love Psalm 22. In this psalm, God provides us with an awesome way to connect with Him in our sorrows, and to find His strength and peace in that place.

In this psalm, God doesn’t tell us our sorrows will completely disappear. But He shows us that He will be present with us in that place, and bring us HIS peace.

Jesus Is with Us in Our Pain

To show us that He truly understands the pain in our hearts, Jesus prayed Psalm 22 from the cross.

Here is the first verse of Psalm 22:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?” (NRSV)

And here are Jesus’ words from Matthew 27:46:

“And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”

In His most difficult hour, when God the Father Himself had to turn away from Jesus (because Jesus had taken on all of our sin), Jesus began to pray Psalm 22. 

In praying this psalm, Jesus gives us a model for how to pray during times of sorrow. He also shows us that He is with us in our pain.

Psalm 22 Helps Us Pray in Pain

How does Psalm 22 guide us in prayer? The psalmist begins with a lament, an expression of his sorrow. From the very start, he makes it clear he is telling all of this to God – all of his pain, all of his sorrow. Out loud. To God.

In verses 1-21, the psalmist offers three laments, and they get progressively worse! He gets to the point where he feels like he is at death’s door (verse 15). And honestly, some of the other stuff sounds worse than that.

But in between these laments, something interesting happens. The psalmist remembers about God’s faithfulness. He turns to the truth He knows about God.

The Struggle in the Heart – It’s Real

That doesn’t mean the psalmist feels that truth in his heart. His heart is hurting. He knows what the truth is, but he doesn’t feel it yet. There is a battle going on in his heart. His pain and his sorrowful experiences are very real. But he also remembers that God is good.

It’s in the midst of that struggle within the heart where God does His best work.

So the psalm goes like this:

Lament (verses 1-2) – the psalmist feels abandoned by God.

Truth (verses 3-5) – the psalmist remembers God’s faithfulness in times past.

Lament (verses 6-8) – the psalmist feels scorned.

Truth (verses 9-11) – the psalmist remembers God has always been with him.

Lament (verses 12-18) – the psalmist is at death’s door (and worse).

Truth (verses 19-21) – the psalmist is confident God can deliver him.

Heart Change – God’s Peace Is Here

Notice that the truth doesn’t take away his reality or his sorrow. But it does bring peace to his heart, the peace of knowing God is present. How can we tell? Verse 22 says it all: a change of heart, where the psalmist begins to praise God in the midst of suffering. This praise grows with great intensity to the end of the psalm.

He doesn’t praise because he “has” to (although that would be okay). He praises because God has brought him peace in the midst of his very real suffering. The psalmist knows God hears his pain. He says this in verse 24. And not just his own pain, but also the pain of everyone who is suffering.

There is a lot of peace and comfort that comes from knowing that someone else is present with us in pain and really hears our heart. We need this from each other. Most importantly, we need this from God.

Sorrow and Truth – We Need Both

The beauty of this psalm, as a prayer, is the movement between lament (expression of our sorrow) and truth. Often when we pray in times of pain and sorrow, we end up with one or the other, but not both.

We need both.

We can lament and lament until there is nothing left of us. But if we haven’t taken the next step to pray for God’s truth in our situation, we end up consumed with lament, and no peace (just like the psalmist at the end of verse 2 – unable to find rest).

On the other hand, sometimes we rush too quickly to speak the truth. And we overlook the pain in our hearts.

Sometimes we do this because we are afraid of giving words to our sorrow or struggle – afraid that once we start crying out in pain, we will never stop.

We might also avoid the pain because people around us might get uncomfortable with our expressions of grief and sorrow. Society (even in the church) doesn’t really like “lament,” and we rarely feel like we have permission to grieve. We’re supposed to just “get over it” and move on. “It’s under the blood” – we hear that so often, meaning that whatever we are struggling with, God’s already taken care of it, in some way or another.

But when we say things like that, we risk applying truth like a band-aid without draining the wound.

It’s important that we do both: That we lament, expressing our sorrows out loud to God; and that once we have completely poured out all the pain that’s stuffed in our hearts, we then remember God’s truth.

Psalm 22 teaches us beautifully how to pray both, back and forth, until God’s peace comes into our hearts. The situation may not change. But we have His peace. We can take the next step forward in our daily life, even in the midst of painful things.

Again and Again, until Our Hearts Know God Is Here

What I also love about this psalm is how very real the psalmist is. He doesn’t just stop at verse 5. He laments again. And again! Until he is done. Really done.

Only then does he turn to praise.

When you read verses 22-31, you can tell that God’s peace has come into his heart in that place of deepest sorrow. There is nothing quite like the tearful and heartfelt praise of someone who has just cried out all of her pain to God.

Jesus Prayed This for You

If you are in pain or sorrow of any kind right now, I encourage you to read and pray through Psalm 22. Remember that Jesus Himself also prayed this psalm at His worst hour. He prayed it while carrying all of your pain and sorrow in His own body, mind, and heart. So in a way, He has already prayed this psalm for you.

When you join Him now in praying Psalm 22, He will meet you there and will bring His peace to your heart, as only He can.

That doesn’t mean your pain or sorrow will lift completely, or that your circumstances will change overnight, especially if you have experienced and are grieving a loss. But it does mean that you will have the strength and comfort of Jesus’ presence with you in that place.

You will be able to experience His peace, which is a peace like no other. It’s the peace that helps you take the next breath and keep going.

It’s also the peace that reassures you, deep in your heart, that God is here, and that He loves you from a deep well of love that’s almost beyond imagining.

Thank God for Everyday Miracle Healings

Bible Verse

“For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.” – Psalm 139:13-14 (NRSV)

Reflection

Recently in a class on healing prayer, I was introduced to a new understanding of “miracle healing.” I’ve always believed God heals in many ways, including through medical science. At one point in my life, God used surgery to heal me because it was the only way to get me past my lifelong fear of doctors. (I’ve written about this in my book, I Choose Life, available on Amazon.)

But until I took that class, I had never understood that medical healing is also considered “miracle healing.” Even the body’s natural ability to heal itself, after a cut, bruise, or burn, is a miracle healing. Why? Because God created our bodies. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Today I was reminded of an example from my own life. I was editing a book for a retired sports physiologist, based on his writings from the 70s. He was talking about the dangers of heat stroke, and my mind went immediately back to the mid-70s, growing up in Miami, Florida.

I was about eight years old taking baton-twirling classes. We had an all-day outdoor baton clinic to attend on a broiling June day. My mom had dropped me off and I waited with the other kids outside a large gymnasium. We waited, and we waited. Turned out no one had the keys. This was in the days before cell phones. It was also in the days before lawsuits for putting children into dangerous recreational situations.

The clinic director made the decision to hold the clinic outside. All we had for hydration was a small cooler of water. We practiced baton twirling and marching outside for six hours in the summer Miami heat, with two mini cups of water per child.

By the time my mom picked me up, I was not well. I felt like my insides were broiling. My mom didn’t know what to do, but she felt led to stop at a convenient store and get me a Coke. When we got home, the sprinklers were on in the yard. I told her I wanted to lie on top of one of the sprinklers. That was all I could think to do. I felt too sick to sit up but I just knew I needed cold water on my body.

An hour later, my mom helped me walk across the street to our neighbor’s swimming pool and I just sat on the steps, letting the water wash over me. She kept asking if I could drink anything, and I said no. Fortunately, she didn’t force me. I know God was leading both of us.

My parents were planning to visit another neighbor for dinner that night. They had thought about canceling, but I said I felt strong enough to go along, even though I couldn’t eat. They tucked me into our neighbor’s guest bed while they had dinner, and I slept for a long time.

Finally, my mom woke me and held a plate with a little food. Miraculously, I felt able to eat. And I had the feeling you get when you know you’ve turned a corner in getting through an illness. I had enough strength to walk out to the living room and visit our neighbor for a little bit. Then my parents took me home to sleep. By the next morning, I was completely fine.

Those who live in hot climates or have experience with outdoor athletic activities will recognize that I had heat stroke. It actually could have killed me. And if my mom had forced liquids inside of me, that would have made it worse. For heat stroke, the outside of the body has to be cooled with water first. How did we figure out what to do? We didn’t have internet research back then. I listened to my body and my mom listened to God.

It was a miracle healing because our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Prayer

God, thank You for helping us recognize everyday miracles of healing through our amazing bodies. Remind us, the next time we watch a cut heal, that we are experiencing Your miracle of healing. Thank You for being with us during our times of sickness and injury. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Thought for the Day

What miracle healing have you experienced recently? Take some time to pray and thank God for your healing.

How Do I Pray for a Performance-Driven Child?

I was asked a question about prayer from a mom who also works with children. Her concern was about how to pray for/with children who are performance-driven.

We see a lot of that, especially in American society. I’m not sure about other places in the world, but in the United States, we have a way of raising competitive, driven, perfectionist performers from a very early age.

What Does Performance Look Like?

When children are performance-driven, this can lead to all kinds of behavior that is not biblical fruit of the Spirit. And the fruit of the Spirit should be how we measure our behavior. If something is not producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, it is not led by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Think about the fruit you might see in a performance-driven child. The fruit can vary depending on the personality of the child, situations at home, family history, and more. But here are a few examples: anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, inappropriate appetite (either stress eating or lack of appetite), addictions (which can take many forms), meanness, lying, manipulation, intolerance of others, self-hatred, pushiness, irritability, inability to focus, emotional instability, self-injury, and so many other struggles.

Whatever form it takes, and whatever the immediate causes may be, performance-driven behavior ultimately runs on a lie the child believes deep in his or her heart: “I have to perform in order to be loved.”

As a parent, you might wonder, “How can my child not know he or she is loved!”

There can be many reasons for this lie to take hold in a child’s heart. No matter how good you are at parenting, children misunderstand things and react to things. Look at God – the best parent ever. And look how we, His kids, behave. If you see performance-driven behavior in your child, don’t let the enemy win by beating yourself up. There are powerful ways to pray and invite Jesus to turn things around.

Why Do Children Think They Have to Earn Love?

It might help to realize how children begin to misunderstand, react, and take lies into their hearts. This happens because every child is conceived in the womb with free will. From that moment on, the child is brought into a sinful world. And what a way to enter that world – without a fully formed brain, without the ability of speech, without an understanding of emotions, and without knowledge of God’s Word. If it weren’t for Jesus, we’d all be a train wreck.

Reflect for a moment on what it might be like for a little one in the womb. She hears voices around her, and those voices might express any number of emotions. She senses things from mom and dad. Even parents with the best intentions will have bad days, fears, worries, and sinful reactions to things that happen. The little one in the womb picks up on all of this. Add in the fact that some sins carry down through the generational lines, and the child is already being harassed by the enemy because of this.

The little one doesn’t have cognitive abilities to understand what’s going on or know how to express emotions in healthy ways. (Most of us can’t even do that as adults!) Instead, the little one just reacts to whatever is happening. Seeds of behavior get planted in the child’s heart, and now the enemy has a project: To nurture those seeds in the child, rather than allowing the fruit of the Spirit to grow.

God Has a Plan!

Of course, the enemy isn’t the only one with a plan. God has a plan too! And from the moment of that child’s conception, Jesus is on the move. He is ready to help that child take truth into her heart, rather than lies. This is where your prayers come in. You can invite Jesus to help your performance-driven child learn that he is unconditionally loved by God. And that there is nothing he needs to do to earn love. He is loved just for who he is. (As adults, we need to learn that too, for ourselves.)

Extremes of Performance

Performance can take extremes as well. Some children will bend over backwards in the effort to earn love. They believe love is available, but they also believe they have to drive themselves into the ground just to find it. When they are “rewarded” for their performance, that immediate feeling of love doesn’t last. They are already trying to earn the next reward.

On the other extreme are children who don’t believe love is available to them. I was one of those children. They perform to avoid punishment. They constantly worry when the next shoe will drop, and they race and perform to stay ahead of that. This can happen even in a loving home. My parents loved me and were kind to me. But my mom was emotionally unpredictable. Somehow in my little heart, I came to associate that with fear. I tried everything in my power to prevent an emotional outburst from my mom, which was way too scary for me. Do you see how this stuff happens?

Not only does performance or driven behavior hurt your kids in childhood. If it’s not taken care of by Jesus, it will stay with them into adulthood. Then it just multiplies and takes on so much dysfunction. However, if you start praying with your children now regarding performance, and help them learn the truth – that they are unconditionally loved by God – not only are you saving them a lot of grief now. You are also helping them have much less strife as future adults.

Praying for Jesus to Help Your Child

How do you pray for/with performance-driven children? Ultimately the Holy Spirit will have to lead you, but here are some suggestions to help you get started:

1. Pray the truth with them. Pray God’s Word. Help them hear, in the words He gives us, that God loves them unconditionally. John 3:16 is always a great place to start. Pray this verse with your children. Help them pray it out loud. Help them turn this verse into a prayer about God’s unconditional love. And teach them what “unconditional” means.

Help your child know that when the Bible says, “God so loved the world” that He means your child specifically. Put your child’s name into the verse. Keep praying this until the truth gets into your child’s heart.

It’s important for you to realize the difference between “heart” and “head.” Your child may have learned John 3:16 in Sunday school (that’s “head” learning). But now your performance-driven child needs to get this truth into his little heart. It’s easy for a child who has learned about the Bible to “know” something about God without believing it with his own heart. (For performance-driven children, this tendency can be magnified, as many of them will try to memorize Bible verses in order to please their parents or teachers, without believing the Bible verses in their own hearts.)

Then look for other Bible verses – there are many! – that teach about God’s unconditional love. Zephaniah 3:17 is a great one. It talks about how God sings over your child. How awesome! And how God brings peace to your child’s heart by His love. It would be wonderful to help your child pray and sing this verse back to God.

Psalm 139:13-18 helps children realize God has been with them from conception (and they were in His heart already, even before that moment). This Bible passage teaches your children how God carefully and lovingly planned and created their life. Depending on the age of your child, you may have to help put this Bible passage into words they can understand. I recommend that you pray over these verses first, and really hear God’s heart. Hear His love for each person that is so clear in these verses. Then help your child hear God’s heart through this beautiful Psalm.

Whichever Bible verses you choose, help your child hear God’s unconditional love specifically for her. Help your child make it personal. Be sure you read and pray it from the Bible. It’s fine (and necessary) to teach these things to your child, using your own words. But your child also needs to hear it from God directly, in His own words. That biblical truth, prayed straight from the Bible, has a spiritual power that will take root in your child’s heart. That truth will counteract the lies. Pray it, sing it, read it together. Then on your own time as well, pray those verses for your child, in intercession, putting your child’s name in each verse.

2. Help your child recognize the ways he performs to earn love. Help him see how this is affecting him. Do this prayerfully and filled with love. The enemy will try and use this to heap shame and more self-loathing on your child. So help your child recognize performance, but in a way that is healthy and loving. Help your child know that he is forgiven and that Jesus is here to help make things better. Give your child permission to be exactly who God has created him to be. Then pray together. Here is a sample prayer, but it’s always best if you let the Holy Spirit lead you in your prayers together:

God, thank you for showing me that I’ve been trying to earn your love. And thank you that I don’t have to earn love. What a relief! God, you love me just for who I am. Not because of what I do or don’t do. You just love me. Period! You made me exactly the way I am, and you are so happy about that! Help me to feel your love in my heart every day. Help me to love myself the same way you love me. Jesus, I know you live in my heart. Teach me about your unconditional love. Amen

3. Help your child to realize that she learned performance somewhere in her young life. She may have learned it from someone, and she may even know where it came from. The Holy Spirit might show her, or you. Either way, help your child pray to forgive whoever taught her to perform. (If the Lord shows you some responsibility in this, repent to your child.)

Even if she doesn’t know where it came from, she can still pray, “God, I don’t know who taught this to me, but you do. I want to forgive those people.” (That prayer alone might bring specific situations and people to mind, for further prayers of forgiveness.) And then have your child apologize to God for deciding to perform to earn love: “Jesus, I am sorry that I’ve been trying to perform to earn love. Thank you that you forgive me. Help me to just be who I am and to be filled with your love.”

Then you can be God’s messenger: Tell your child, in your own words and from your own heart, that you love your child just for who he is. That you are proud of your child just because of who she is. Children need to hear this. They need to hear it from you. And they need to hear it more than once.

4. Then pray together and invite Jesus to show His love to your child every day. Jesus will do this. He will absolutely answer this prayer. Jesus wants to show your child how much He loves him. So pray and invite Him to do this. Help your child to pray this directly to Jesus. And then on your own time, pray it for your child as well.

Jesus will show His love to your child in different ways. It might be through a Bible verse, or He might put words of love in her heart. She might have a dream that tells her God loves her. Jesus might show love through people who encourage her. Through friends who show unconditional love. Or it might be an overall feeling of being loved.

But trust that Jesus will answer this prayer, and He knows the best ways to answer it. Keep your eyes open and watch for what Jesus does. Help your child to recognize how Jesus shows His unconditional love. Notice it and celebrate it together. The more your child sees and feels Jesus’ love and takes it into his heart, the more he will accept that he is truly loved by God.

Let the Holy Spirit Lead

These suggestions barely scratch the surface. And they are just suggestions. Be careful not to turn these prayers into another type of performance – a religious performance. These prayers are meant to help you and your child simply connect with Jesus so He can heal a performance-driven heart. Remember that you don’t need to pray more, or prayer harder, to earn God’s love in response.

Just sit together with your child and share your hearts together with God. He will meet you there. Jesus knows what to do, and you can trust Him with your child’s heart. As much as you love your child, God loves your child infinitely more than you can imagine. And He is so proud and pleased with your child – just for who your child is.

For Teachers: A Word of Caution

Everything I have shared here is geared toward praying with your own children. But for those who are reading this, who work with children in a spiritual environment, you may be wanting to pray for these children as well. For teachers, I would add two words of caution:

First, it’s best if you and the parents are on the same page with this teaching and with these prayers. Whenever you are praying for deep issues of the heart, other issues can come up. So it’s best if the parents are involved in this process wherever possible.

Secondly, this teaching and these prayers should be offered in an environment where children understand how to honor their parents (Deuteronomy 5:16). Getting free of performance issues is not about placing blame on someone else. It’s about repenting for how we ourselves have responded to situations. And it’s about forgiving the people who have taught us to perform. It should be done in a loving and honoring way. These prayers shouldn’t become an excuse for anger, resentment, or rebellion.

Adults Can Pray This Too!

One final thought – If you, as an adult, recognize performance tendencies in your own life, you can pray all of this for yourself as well. You were taught performance somewhere in your childhood. Just as you pray these prayers with your child, on your own time you can pray them for yourself – and maybe ask your spouse or a trusted friend to pray with you. Jesus can show His unconditional love to your heart, so you too will stop believing the lie that you have to perform to earn His love. If you let Jesus break you free of your performance tendencies, this freedom will affect your children spiritually as well.