Faith

Prayer: Shoulder Someone’s Burden Today

30 May 2012

“God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.” 1 Sam. 12:23

It’s a classic scenario. A friend approaches you with a need, asking you to pray. Eagerly, you nod and assure your friend, “I’ll be praying for you” … only to forget about it approximately 30 seconds later. And then there’s that twinge of guilt when you see the friend again: you meant well, but you totally forgot to pray.

Praying for someone in need is arguably the most unselfish thing you will do today. Committing to pray for someone means that you are willing to shoulder their burdens until the Lord provides answers or relief. But developing the habit of prayer takes discipline. Here are some things to remember:

  • You are not responsible to pray for all the requests of the world. Pay special attention when someone comes to you and asks specifically for prayer.
  • When you “take on” a prayer request, treat it as what it is: a divine commission.
  • Ask God for reminders and take advantage of them when they come; don’t be surprised if they occur in the middle of the night.
  • Don’t rely solely on divine reminders. Get the proper systems in place as memory aids. Keep a prayer journal to facilitate recall.
  • Schedule a regular time for prayer, just like you would anything else of importance in your life — like exercise and meal times.

Just saying “I’ll be praying for you” may get you some points with your friend in the here-and-now, but it doesn’t make much impact unless you follow through. But the exciting thing is the more you pray, the more you will see God’s hand working in mysterious ways to answer your prayers!

“Gracious Holy Spirit, so much of my life seems to revolve around my interests and my welfare. I would like to live just one day in which everything I did benefited someone besides myself. Perhaps prayer for others is a starting point. Help me to do so without any need for praise or reward. In Jesus’ name. Amen.” (From Richard J. Foster’s Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home)

Praying but not getting answers? See post titled An Explanation for Unanswered Prayer?

Quote of the Day

24 May 2012

My love for you, Lord, is not an uncertain feeling but a matter of conscious certainty. With your word you pierced my heart, and I loved you … But when I love you, what do I love? It is not physical beauty nor temporal glory nor the brightness of light dear to earthly eyes, nor the sweet melodies of all kinds of songs, nor the gentle odour of flowers and ointments and perfumes, nor manna or honey, nor limbs welcoming the embraces of the flesh; it is not these I love when I love my God.

Yet there is a light I love, and a food, and  a kind of embrace when I love my God — a light, voice, odour, food, embrace of my inner man, where my soul is floodlit by light which space cannot contain, where there is sound that time cannot seize, where there is a perfume which no breeze disperses, where there is a taste for food no amount of eating can lessen, and where there is a bond of union that no satiety can part. That is what I love when I love my God.

— St. Augustine in Confessions

Quote of the Day

27 April 2012

Many a Christian has cheated himself out of the blessing of the Holy Spirit’s inspired impulse to do something good or kind for someone else by not obeying that urge. Instead of bringing joy to someone else’s life by an act of kindness, the self-centered person stifles the impulse and sinks deeper and deeper in the slough of despondency and gloom. It is one thing to get good impulses; it is quite another to transmit them into acts of goodness.

– Tim LaHaye, Spirit-Controlled Temperament

Hymn of the Day

24 April 2012

King David often compared God to a fortress, a strong tower and a refuge in times of trouble. The Tower of London may have provided shelter for kings and been a stronghold against their enemies but it had flaws and weaknesses. On the other hand, we have a Fortress that never fails.

A Mighty Fortress is our God

Words and Music by Martin Luther

***

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;

Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:

For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;

His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,

On earth is not his equal.

***

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;

Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:

Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;

Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,

And He must win the battle.

***

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:

The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.

***

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;

The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;

The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,

His kingdom is forever.

“The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” (Psalm 18:2)

An Explanation for Unanswered Prayer?

21 April 2012

In Matt. 13:3-23, Jesus gives the parable of the sower who throws his seed out onto various types of soil. Most of the seeds don’t stick for various reasons; some do and bear fruit. Jesus states to his (confused) disciples that He’s speaking of the Kingdom of Heaven and the seed of the gospel on men’s heart.

But I’ve often felt there’s a similarity between the sower in this story and the intercessor who sows the seeds of prayer. When you’re praying for people going through a rough time — illness, loss of job, etc. — it seems that the more receptive they are to divine intervention in their lives, the more open their hearts are to the moving of the Holy Spirit, and the more apt they are to receive a miracle or a breakthrough in their lives.

And even if a breakthrough or miracle doesn’t arrive, those people seem to be given extra grace to survive or handle their situation with strength and fortitude.

The least receptive and most self-sufficient “sufferers” — even among Christians — seem to continue simmering in their problems with no apparent breakthrough unless there’s a turning point within their heart. Perhaps this sounds judgmental. I don’t mean for it to be. It’s just something I’ve observed in my own prayer times and as a result of my own frustration with unanswered prayers, both directed at situations in my own life and prayer for others.

So, ask yourself, Am I being receptive and open-minded when it comes to the prayers of others for me and my life or have I hardened my heart a bit — because I think I can get out of this or handle this situation on my own? Or maybe because I have given up or feel like I deserve punishment and don’t deserve to be blessed?

With prayer, persistence is key (remember the parable of the widow who kept knocking?) but at the same time we must acknowledge that the human will plays a key part. God will not force anyone to salvation, to faith or even to blessing. We must open our heart’s door to Him.

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. — Revelation 3:20

Hymn of the Day

18 April 2012

God, Who Touchest Earth with Beauty

Mary S. Edgar

***

God, who touchest earth with beauty,

Make my heart anew;

With thy spirit recreate me,

Pure and strong and true.

Like thy springs and running waters

Make me crystal pure;

Like thy rocks of towering grandeur

Make me strong and sure.

Like thy dancing waves in sunlight

Make me glad and free;

Like the straightness of the pine trees

Let me upright be.

Like the arching of the heavens

Lift my thoughts above;

Turn my dreams to noble action,

Ministries of love.

God, who touchest earth with beauty,

Make my heart anew;

Keep me ever, by thy spirit,

Pure and strong and true. Amen.

The Cornerstone of Your Day

10 April 2012

In my opinion, failing to set aside time each day to read the Bible and pray is like glancing at a map of a city just once and thinking you can find your way around. Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes you get lost. Often you waste a lot of time worrying about whether or not you are on the right path, when if you had just studied the map a little longer, you would know it by heart.

Life is not a walk in the park; it’s a spiritual battle. Don’t be caught without your armor.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6:10-11

Living Life’s Dramatic Pauses

2 April 2012

I was awakened by a knock on my door at 3:30 am last Thursday. My dad softly told me that my mom was in severe abdominal pain and that he was about to call 911. One minute I’m fast asleep dreaming about mundane things and the next I’m throwing hospital-friendly clothing into an overnight bag.

In 2011, I moved in with my parents to help take care of my mom who had not been given long to live. Miraculously, she beat the odds and gained strength each day until she was healthy enough to go about her life in an almost normal way. But we lived under the cloud of knowing that an emergency could arise at any moment.

On Thursday, that moment came.

We spent nine hours in the ER and then she was transferred to an isolation room in the hospital. It’s now Sunday. While she came in with abdominal pain, she ended up contracting pneumonia. Fortunately, they were able to control that since it was caught in the beginning stages. Every day has brought new hopes on the heels of new fears.

Sometimes preachers preach to the choir. Sometimes preachers preach to themselves. It’s the same thing with writers. As I read over last Sunday’s post, Life’s Dramatic Pauses, I realize how much I need to be reminded that God is in control, even in those heart-stopping pauses when the rug is swept out from under us.

P.S. We are hoping to go home tomorrow!!

Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

 

Life’s Dramatic Pauses

25 March 2012

Sometimes the greatest chapters in life are preceded by dramatic pauses. Times when God is silent. Times when the world around us seems meaningless, empty, void. Times when we find ourselves waiting and waiting and waiting. Waiting for what? We don’t really know, but we can’t deny the feeling of being in a holding pattern.

“Waiting. Waiting for a train to go, waiting around for a yes or a no.” These lines, from one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books Oh, the Places You’ll Go allude to those precarious, maddening times in life when we have no control.

Sometimes waiting leads to good things. Waiting through engagement for marriage; waiting through nine months of pregnancy for a precious bundle of joy; waiting for our birthday to come — at least before age 25! — and for Christmas Day; waiting, only to find out we got the promotion at work.

But there are also waiting periods filled with pain and fear. Waiting only to find out we lost out on the adoption. Waiting for a diagnosis in the doctor’s office, or holding a loved one’s hand as they lie in a hospital bed, life slowly ebbing away.

God knows that we cannot handle lives of constant action and that we often need waiting times to slow us and help us refocus.

The greatest symphonies incorporate breaks and pauses. Sometimes the pauses are necessary for musicians to catch their breath; sometimes the pauses are dramatic and cause the audience members’ hearts to pound as they anticipate the next movement. Where would storytellers and comedians be without the necessary pause before a well-delivered punch line?

Do you feel like someone hit the pause button on your life? Do you feel at times like you’re the punch line in some great cosmic joke? Yet without pauses, when would we have time to reflect and anticipate, to remember the past, to consider the future or to be thankful for the present?

If we will let Him, God often grows close to us in those quiet times of waiting. He waits to reveal Himself in the quiet, still aloneness that follows disappointment, loss, fear and suffering. Learn to appreciate the dramatic pauses in your life: they are special gifts, though so often wrapped in trials.

 

God knows that we cannot handle lives of constant action and that we often need waiting times to slow us and help us refocus.

A Visit to the London Mosque

24 March 2012

London Mosque from Regent's Park

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the London Central Mosque with a group of students from a Christian university in the U.S. who were studying the topic of Middle East relations. As we arrived at the mosque, the air was filled with a mixture of nervousness and anticipation: this was a new experience for most of us. What would it be like?

Our Guide Omar

We waited a few minutes at a guard station for Omar, our escort, to arrive. The women we saw were all much more heavily veiled than we were, even though the women in our group had taken care to dress modestly and to cover their heads with scarves, as had been recommended to us when the tour was set up.

We seemed to stir up a bit of curiosity among the mosque-goers. Omar, who is the chief PR person for the mosque, was an excellent and genial host. He had a heavy beard, was very young (probably mid-20s), of Afghan background and therefore darker skinned, with a white skull cap. He was in Western dress – a button-down shirt and trousers.

A Lesson in Mosque Etiquette

Before we walked into the prayer hall, we were required to remove our shoes and put them on shelves – a shoe rack of sorts. I wish I’d had time to read the sign that outlined mosque etiquette but we were moving too quickly. At a glance, I saw that one of the first rules was that anyone coming for prayer should refrain from eating onion or garlic or anything that would cause bad breath and distract other people. That might be a good rule for our churches as well! They were also admonished to wear clean socks. Women should refrain from wearing perfume because it might excite desire among the men.

After removing our shoes, we all sat down on the carpeted floor in the middle of the prayer hall to listen to Omar. It was a stunningly beautiful room, more beautiful and full of light than any cathedral I’ve ever seen. But, then again, I kind of overdosed on cathedrals as a child growing up in France so perhaps what I admired was the novel aspect of the architecture.

Point to Ponder: Pray Continually

Muslims pray five obligatory prayers per day, and are encouraged to do so in congregation with other Muslims. This encourages a discipline and builds a sense of fraternity and community among those who pray, and an opportunity for them to exchange thoughts and help each other with problems. Can you imagine the wonderful things that could happen if Christians prayed fervently five times a day, every day? Consider putting this theory into practice and setting an alarm on your phone or other device to go off at five preset times during the day as a reminder to drop everything and focus on what’s most important: God and prayer.

Barefoot Inside the Prayer Hall

It helped that the hall was decorated in my favorite color: blue. The room was domed and the ceiling painted in different shades of blue. Just below the domed ceiling were beautiful Arab inscriptions, also in blue. There were bookshelves along part of the wall. No icons, no pictures, no statues.

It was pretty quiet, this not being a Friday or the mosque’s most popular prayer time, with people (only males) praying or sitting in small groups. Some were lying on the floor (one guy was snoring until his mobile phone – another mosque no-no – woke him up).

Omar was a very good teacher, using a question and answer method. One of the first things Omar clarified was that removing shoes is in no way an act of worship. It’s just common sense: it’s to keep the carpet clean. He spoke for nearly an hour about the five pillars and I found his method of explanation very clear and easy to understand. I was struck by how sincere and passionate he was about devotion to God, about prayer, about giving to others, about fasting and about his own pilgrimage to Mecca.

A Poignant Moment

The atmosphere was quiet and peaceful as he spoke and there was a nice breeze floating in from the open windows. It rather reminded me of nursery nap time. A scene that really marked me was the sight of a little blond-headed boy, probably about two years old, kneeling to pray beside his dad.

A visit to a mosque, while perhaps controversial for some Christians, can be an excellent way of gaining insight into the Islamic faith and of praying for Muslims “on location.”

For a suggested half-day’s itinerary of the Regent’s Park area of London, see Walk 5: Parks & Recreation.

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