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Thoughts and Prayers

By |2022-11-18T01:33:05-05:00November 18th, 2022|

“You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers.” If you hear those words, you might wonder if the person really means it. But you never had to wonder when Edna Davis said them. Everyone in the small, one stoplight town knew of “Ms. Edna’s” yellow legal pad—page after page, lined with name after name. Early each morning the aging woman prayed out loud to God. Not everyone on her list received the answer to prayer they wanted, but several testified at her funeral that something God-sized had happened in their life, and they credited it to the earnest prayers of Ms. Edna.

God demonstrated the power of prayer in Peter’s prison experience. After the apostle was seized by Herod’s men, thrown into prison, and then “guarded by four squads of four soldiers each” (Acts 12:4), his prospects looked bleak. But “the church was earnestly praying to God for him” (v. 5). They had Peter in their thoughts and prayers. What God did is simply miraculous! An angel appeared to Peter in prison, released him from his chains, and led him to safety beyond the prison gates (vv. 7–10).

It’s possible some may use “thoughts and prayers” without really meaning it. But our Father knows our thoughts, listens to our prayers, and acts on our behalf according to His perfect will. To be prayed for and to pray for others is no small thing when we serve the great and powerful God.

Just Ask!

By |2022-08-26T02:33:15-04:00August 26th, 2022|

The gleeful shouts arising from our basement came from my wife, Shirley. For hours she’d wrestled with a newsletter project, and she was ready to be done with it. In her anxiety and uncertainty about how to move forward, she prayed for God’s help. She also reached out to Facebook friends and soon the project was completed—a team effort.

While a newsletter project is a little thing in life, small (and not so small) things can bring about worry or anxiousness. Perhaps you’re a parent walking through the stages of childrearing for the first time; a student facing newfound academic challenges; a person grieving the loss of a loved one; or someone experiencing a home, work, or ministry challenge. Sometimes we’re needlessly on edge because we don’t ask God for help (James 4:2).

Paul pointed the followers of Jesus in Philippi—and us—to our first line of defense in times of need: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). When life gets complicated, we need reminders like the one from the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”: Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.

And perhaps in our asking God for help, He’ll lead us to ask people who can assist us.

Pressing Pause to Pray

By |2022-05-29T09:06:11-04:00May 29th, 2022|

The fire hydrant gushed into the street, and I saw my opportunity. Several cars had splashed through before me, and I thought, What a great way to get a free wash! My car hadn’t been cleaned for a month and the dust was thick. So I fired it up and headed into the deluge.

Crack!

It happened so fast. The sun had already beaten down on my black car that morning, heating its glass and interior. But the water from the hydrant was frigid. As soon as the cold gush hit the hot windshield, a crack struck like lightning from top to bottom. My “free” car wash ended up costing me plenty.

If only I had “pressed pause” beforehand to think or even to pray. Ever have a moment like that? The people of Israel did, under far weightier circumstances. God had promised to help them drive out other nations as they entered the land He’d given them (Joshua 3:10) so they wouldn’t be tempted by false gods (Deuteronomy 20:16–18). But one of the nations saw Israel’s victories and used stale bread to trick them into believing they lived far away. “The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace” (Joshua 9:14–15, italics added), unknowingly circumventing God’s instructions.

When we make prayer a “first resort” instead of a “last,” we invite God’s direction, wisdom, and blessing. May He help us remember to “press pause” today.

Leaning into God

By |2022-02-20T08:06:03-05:00February 20th, 2022|

Harriet Tubman couldn’t read or write. As an adolescent, she suffered a head injury at the hands of a cruel slave master. That injury caused her to have seizures and lapses of consciousness for the rest of her life. But once she escaped slavery, God used her to rescue as many as three hundred others.

Nicknamed “Moses” by those she freed, Harriet bravely made nineteen trips back to the pre-Civil War south to rescue others. She continued even when there was a price on her head and her life was in constant danger. A devoted believer in Jesus, she carried a hymnal and a Bible on every trip and had others read her verses, which she committed to memory and quoted often. “I prayed all the time,” she said, “about my work, everywhere; I was always talking to the Lord.” She also gave God credit for the smallest successes. Her life was a powerful expression of the apostle Paul’s instruction to the earliest Christians: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).

When we lean into God in the moment and live dependently in prayer, praising Him despite our difficulties, He gives us the strength to accomplish even the most challenging tasks. Our Savior is greater than anything we face, and He will lead us as we look to Him.

In God We Put Our Trust

By |2022-01-28T08:06:03-05:00January 28th, 2022|

The baby wasn’t due for another six weeks, but the doctor had just diagnosed Whitney with cholestasis, a liver condition common in pregnancy. In a whirlwind of emotions, Whitney was taken to the hospital where she received treatment and was told her baby would be induced in twenty-four hours! In another part of the hospital, ventilators and other equipment needed for the onslaught of COVID-19 cases were being put into place. As a result, Whitney was sent home. She made the decision to trust God and His plans, and delivered a healthy baby a few days later.

When Scripture takes root in us, it transforms the way we react in trying situations. Jeremiah lived in a time when most of society trusted in human alliances, and the worship of idols was prevalent. The prophet contrasts the person who “draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:5) with the one who trusts in God. “Blessed is the one . . . whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water . . . [that] does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green” (vv. 7–8). As believers in Christ, we’re called to live by faith as we look to Him for solutions. As He provides the strength, we can choose to fear or to trust Him. God says we’re blessed—fully satisfied—when we choose to trust Him.

Stay Awake!

By |2022-01-19T08:06:04-05:00January 19th, 2022|

A German bank employee was in the middle of transferring 62.40 euros from a customer’s bank account when he accidentally took a power nap at his desk. He dozed off while his finger was on the "2" key, resulting in a 222 million euro (300 million dollars) transfer into the customer’s account. The fallout from the mistake included the firing of the employee’s colleague who verified the transfer. Although the mistake was caught and corrected, because he wasn’t watchful, the sleepy employee’s lapse almost became a nightmare for the bank.

Jesus warned His disciples that if they didn’t remain alert, they, too, would make a costly mistake. He took them to a place called Gethsemane to spend some time in prayer. As He prayed, Jesus experienced a grief and sadness such as He’d never known in His earthly life. He asked Peter, James and John to stay awake to pray and “keep watch” with Him (Matthew 26:38), but they fell asleep (vv. 40–41). Their failure to watch and pray would leave them defenseless when the real temptation of denying Him came calling. In the hour of Jesus’ greatest need, the disciples lacked spiritual vigilance.

May we heed Jesus’ words to remain spiritually awake by being more devoted to spending time with Him in prayer. As we do, He’ll strengthen us to resist all kinds of temptations and avoid the costly mistake of denying Jesus.

Hearing Us from Heaven

By |2022-01-12T08:06:02-05:00January 12th, 2022|

At eighteen months old, little Maison had never heard his mother’s voice. Then doctors fitted him with his first hearing aids and his mom Lauryn asked Maison, “Can you hear me?” The child’s eyes lit up. “Hi Baby!” his mom added. A smiling Maison softly replied, “Hi!” In tears, the mother knew she’d witnessed a miracle. She’d given birth to Maison prematurely after gunmen shot her three times during a random home invasion. Weighing just one pound, Maison spent 158 days in intensive care and wasn’t expected to survive, let alone be able to hear.

That heart-warming story reminds me of the God who hears us. King Solomon prayed fervently for God’s attuned ear, especially during troubling times. When “there is no rain ” (1 Kings 8:35), during “famine or plague,” disaster or disease (v. 37), war (v. 44), and even sin, “hear from heaven their prayer and their plea,” Solomon prayed, “and uphold their cause” (v. 45).

In His goodness, God responded with a promise that still stirs our hearts. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Heaven may seem a long way off. Yet Christ is with those who believe in Him. God hears our prayers, and He answers them.

Is God Listening?

By |2021-10-28T09:06:11-04:00October 28th, 2021|

When I served on my church’s congregational care team, one of my duties was to pray over the requests penciled on pew cards during the services. For an aunt’s health. For a couple’s finances. For a grandson’s discovery of God. Rarely did I hear the results of these prayers. Most were anonymous and I had no way of knowing how God had responded. I confess that at times I wondered, was He really listening? Was anything happening as a result of my prayers?

Over our lifetimes, most of us question, “Does God hear me?” I remember my own Hannah-like pleas for a child that went unanswered for years. And there were my pleas that my father find faith, yet he died without any apparent confession.

Etched across the millennia are myriad instances of God’s ear bending to listen: to Israel’s groans under slavery (Exodus 2:24); to Moses on Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 9:19); to Joshua at Gilgal (Joshua 10:14); to Hannah’s prayers for a child (1 Samuel 1:10–17;) to David crying out for deliverance from Saul (2 Samuel 22:7).

First John 5:14 crescendos, “If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” The word for “hears” means to pay attention and to respond on the basis of having heard.

As we go to God today, may we have the confidence of His listening ear spanning the history of His people. He hears our pleas.

Insight from the Spirit

By |2021-10-17T09:06:03-04:00October 17th, 2021|

As the French soldier dug in the desert sand, reinforcing the defenses of his army’s encampment, he had no idea he would make a momentous discovery. Moving another shovel-full of sand he saw a stone. Not just any stone. The Rosetta Stone, containing laws and governance from King Ptolemy V written in three languages. That stone (now housed in the British Museum) would be one of the most important archaeological finds of the nineteenth century, helping to unlock the mysteries of the ancient Egyptian writing known as hieroglyphics.

For many of us, much of Scripture is also wrapped in deep mystery. Still, the night before the cross, Jesus promised His followers that He would send the Holy Spirit. He told them, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit is, in a sense, our divine Rosetta Stone, shedding light on the truth—including truths behind the mysteries of the Bible.

 While we are not promised absolute understanding of everything given to us in the Scriptures, we can have confidence that, by the Spirit, we can comprehend everything necessary for us to follow Jesus. He will guide us into those vital truths.

No Misunderstanding

By |2021-09-22T09:06:05-04:00September 22nd, 2021|

Alexa, Siri, and other voice assistants embedded in smart devices in our homes occasionally misunderstand what we’re saying. A six-year-old talked to her family’s new device about cookies and a dollhouse. Later her mom received an email saying that an order of seven pounds of cookies and a $170 dollhouse were on their way to her home. Even a talking parrot in London, whose owner had never bought anything online, somehow ordered a package of golden gift boxes without her knowledge. One person asked their device to “turn on the living room lights,” and it replied, “There is no pudding room.”

There’s no such misunderstanding on God’s part when we talk with Him. He’s never confused, because He knows our hearts better than we do. The Spirit both searches our hearts and understands God’s will. The apostle Paul told the churches in Rome that God promises He will accomplish His good purpose of maturing us and making us more like His Son (Romans 8:28). Even when because of “our weakness” we don’t know what we need in order to grow, the Spirit prays according to God’s will for us (vv. 26–27).

Troubled about how to express yourself to God? Not understanding what or how to pray? Say what you can from the heart. The Spirit will understand and accomplish God’s purpose.

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