The Journal Journeys Excerpt #3 – Does Prayer Make a Difference?

Ever wondered if your prayers make a difference? Does it matter if you pray at all? Why does it seem that there are so many unanswered prayers? Is prayer even necessary?

Over the years, I have come to believe that all prayer is answered prayer.

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Often in prayer, we ask for a specific resolution to a problem, plead for a circumstance to alter or a person to change. We wish to be quickly rescued from discomfort, airlifted out of a trial, and have peace in our relationships.

But God is after the best. The trouble is that his idea of best doesn’t always match ours.

God is present in every situation we face. He says he never leaves us or forsakes us (Deut 31:6), and we can be sure he hears all our prayers. We may misinterpret answers when a situation fails to improve as rapidly as we’d like, appears to fail altogether, or we don’t see a specific answer to our supplication. At such times, I choose to believe that God loves us too much to give us all we pray for, exactly when we pray for it if he knows it isn’t his best or isn’t best for us.

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Over the past six weeks, I’ve been enjoying prayer walks in nature.

Perhaps other times God remains quiet, or delays answering, in order to produce something of great value within us—increased faith and trust, perseverance, repentance, deep inner healing, and a character that reflects his.

What if the no’s are really delayed yes’s for something far greater and more beautiful than we could have asked for or imagined? A more complete work? At times it appears God holds back and allows something to die so he can beautifully resurrect it (see John 11:1-44). Though we may regard this as silence or unanswered prayer, it is an incredibly loving act on God’s behalf that allows room for the miraculous and God to be glorified. Though he’d rather we trust him, God can handle our disappointment, disillusionment, frustration, and fear for his greater purposes.

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Our family in 2016, the year this week’s prayer journal entry was written.

Could the no’s also be God’s loving protection, keeping us safe from sure disaster? God knows the beginning from the end, knows every detail about us, our hearts, and the situation. He alone knows whether or not our desires will cause us to prosper, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’m sure there are times he lovingly withholds what we think is good for our own good.

The no’s, or delayed answers, also give us the opportunity to align our will with his and gain a Godly perspective. They give us time to adjust our hearts to a posture of thankfulness.

There are also times when our troubles reflect our choices, and God allows the natural progression of cause and effect as a result of our sin. He also shows mercy and comes to our aid when we repent and pray. To hear the story of how God answered my prayers when I was in physical pain see Moving Mountains.

It’s easy to forget that prayer isn’t just asking things of God. In prayer, we seek God and acknowledge his presence like we would anyone we desire to spend time with. Since he is holy, we praise him and declare him worthy. We acknowledge our failings and ask for forgiveness. We trust him with our troubles knowing he is all-powerful and in control of all that appears chaotic. We hand over our fears and concerns to him for safekeeping.

When I first became a Christian, I learned a helpful acronym—ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.  Though I don’t always follow this guide, it can be a useful tool to aid prayer.

Over the years, I added meditation, which for me is a time of quiet, a chance to rest with God and listen. Perhaps I should change the acronym to ACTS+M. This part of prayer allows silent space for God to awaken me to his spirit, whisper into my own spirit, refuel me with his joy, spark an idea, enliven or a verse, or alter my perspective or my heart.

All prayer is answered prayer. It may not arrive in the form we imagined, but it will be in the form God desires.

This week in the Journal Journeys, I read a few thoughts on prayer from my prayer journal. Click here for a video of this week’s excerpt. You can also read an abbreviated version below.

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Excerpt from my prayer journal from February 28, 2016

Feb 28, 2016

“At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved…” (Daniel 9:23)

“Then he said to me, ‘Do not fear Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.'” (Daniel 10:12)

Lord, 

This is such a beautiful segment of scripture, reminding us that God hears our prayers, and is working on our behalf. Our prayers—our words—are powerful. God hears them. 

Some may wonder, as I have at times, why pray? God will do what he wants anyway. But here (Daniel 9:20-23 & 10:12) we see illustrated that prayer makes a difference. Daniel is confessing his sin, has a repentant heart, and is asking God to forgive them. These kinds of prayers shift things. 

The angel was caused to fly swiftly and the command went out at the beginning of his supplications. And notice that the angel says, “I have come to tell you, for you are greatly loved.” It is a beautiful affirmation to know that we are loved, even though we grapple with sin. Our sin may distance us from God, but it does not change the truth that we are greatly loved by him.

Lord, thank you for showing me this. It is a poignant reminder that you hear my prayers. And though I may not ever see the spiritual forces acting behind the scenes, I can rest assured that you are working all things for good.

Thank you.

Amen

For more reading on prayer, see Un)Answered Prayers

 

Nose Tears

crying picRecently, my 10-year-old told me something enlightening. She said she learned in school that when you cry and your nose runs, it’s actually tears coming out of your nostrils. Nose tears? I was astounded. How could I have lived for forty-eight years and never heard of this phenomenon? This led me to think about all the other times my nose runs besides when I cry or have a cold.

For instance, my nose often runs when I’m enjoying hot food, particularly soup. I’m rather partial to soup. Does this mean I’m crying tears of joy while sipping? I experience a runny nose when outside in the cold. I rather dislike the cold. Perhaps I’m crying tears of pain that I must endure Canadian winters. And when I go for a run, my nose runs along with me. Are these tears of elation since running has always been a passion of mine, or my body secretly shedding tears of compassion for the endurance needed to complete the rigorous exercise?

Apparently there are different types of tears. My daughter informed me there are psychic tears (happiness or sadness), basal tears to keep the eyes lubricated, and reflex tears as a response to things like onions or tear gas. I looked it up and learned that the various types also look different under a microscope (see image below). How cool is that?

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The Topography of Tears ~Rose-Lynn Fisher

It’s amazing to me that God created us to release different types of tears, but also an outpouring of them when we experience strong emotions. Physic tears contain a natural painkiller, called leucine enkephalin, that also acts to improve mood. Apparently, when we shed tears, built-up chemicals are released from the body. I suppose the release of these endorphins and chemicals explain why we feel better after a good cry.

I have always loved this verse:

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. ~ Psalm 56:8

The idea that God keeps track of my pain and sadness, and even records them, is a marvelous comfort to me. But that he collects my tears and that they are precious to him brings tears of joy and wonder itself. It shows that our suffering matters to him—intimately. Not one tear or trial are forgotten by him. He hears every pain-riddled prayer and sees every soul-searing sorrow we experience.

I envision arriving in heaven and God holding up my tear jar. I imagine him sitting next to me flipping through the pages of my book of sorrows. I picture him showing me how all the pain and hardship I experienced on earth fit together. I’ll be in awe of how all the trials had a purpose even though I couldn’t understand while in the midst of them. I’ll be amazed at the way his mercy met me at every turn, how his love anchored me, and how his arms carried me through it all; nothing unnoticed by his loving gaze. I’ll gape at how God used it all and somehow managed to turn it into pure gold.

If tears have been your steady companion as of late, and trials pour in like the spring rains, take heart. He will not leave you or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6) You are not abandoned or forgotten. He collects those tears and records your sorrows. He sees it all.

Before Jesus was led to the cross, he warned his disciples about some of the trials to come saying, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) This life will not be without trials, we aren’t in heaven yet, but we have God’s spirit to help, guide, and comfort us.

His love is tender and true, and he hasn’t forgotten you!

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  1. Sometimes in trials we are tempted to think God doesn’t care or has forgotten us.
  2. How does it make you feel to know God collects your tears and records every bit of your sorrows?
  3. His love is unlimited and unconditional. Cling to him even in this trial.

If you enjoyed this devo, look for Soul Focus – 30-Day Devotional & Journal (coming Fall 2019), a collection of daily encouragements for overcoming life’s trials. Click here to learn more: Books  

 

 

12 Treasures I’ve Learned from My Spiritual Mom

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My spiritual mom and I at a birthday celebration with “The Prayer Ladies”.

I call her my spiritual mom. We aren’t linked biologically but through the things of God. She’s been a constant in my life for over ten years, and we’ve shared many conversations and events. Without meaning to, or possibly knowing she has, Nancy has taught me many things. I thought it would be insightful to share these priceless morsels. It may sound like I’m bragging, but bear with me. I’m hoping one or two might be meaningful to you!

Continue reading “12 Treasures I’ve Learned from My Spiritual Mom”

Build Bridges, Not Barriers.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:1-3

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How difficult it is not to judge! I was reminded of this recently when two of my children pointed out this propensity in me. Though not nice to hear, I’m glad they did or I, once again, may not have even noticed that particular plank.

Speck finding is easy. Locating planks…not so much.

In thinking about it, when playing judge, we take on a role we were never offered. Worse, whatever measure we use to judge, the same is piled back on us. This self-proclaimed loftiness reeks of self-righteous pride and turns the gospel upside down. Sitting in the judgment seat leaves little room for the miracle of mercy and the gift of grace. It’s like lowering a partition to make grace unreachable for those who are in desperate need. I hazard a guess that many more people would desire kingdom living if its citizens reeked more of love.

Jesus loved the ones the Pharisees judged to have missed the mark. He had a beautiful way of loving people in spite of their ‘junk’ and in the midst of their sin. He didn’t embrace the sin, but instead the person. With Jesus there was no shaming or making people feel they were unfit to be in His company. Amid His loving actions, a gently deposited word – or no words at all – there remained no condemnation. Instead there were changed lives.

Matthew gives this account: “When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’? On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:11-13)

When we spend time with Jesus, being renewed and reminded of who we are, our inclination to judge others recedes. After all, we are among those He reached out a mercy-filled touch to heal while we were still sinning. Just being with Jesus softens our critical, hard hearts. We don’t have to agree with the choices or behaviour of others in order to love them. A person is not the sin; the sin is not the person. We can love the person in the midst of their junk. Jesus did – and does – on a daily basis for us.

Won’t you join me in using those extracted planks for bridge building?

P.S. I love the story recorded in John about the adulterous woman. If you want a smile or need words of forgiveness, take a moment to read it now. (John 8:3-12)

I bless you that you would find your strength to love others unconditionally in the One who loves you that very same way!

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Take a moment to think of a person(s) you may have judged. Ask God for forgiveness and instead pray for that person.