A little tale about when things get hard…

Many of you have read the book, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie… to your kids or grandchildren or nieces and nephews.  It’s one of my personal favourites.

The title keeps rolling around in my head as I think about the last few weeks. In the spirit of that style, I came up with my own loose version; If You Start to Pray Then You Will Get Hammered. (You can insert any spiritual discipline in place of prayer.)

If you start to pray, you will get hammered.

Because if you start to pray (read your bible, memorize scripture) the enemy is not going to like it. In fact he’s going to zero in on your efforts.

You’ll start out excited and enthusiastic and then you’ll realize the enormity of the task you’ve taken on. He’ll make sure you see only that side of it and make sure you are so overwhelmed that you forget that I AM is on your side.

You’ll pray hard and then someone will get sick. Or two or three. The whole family is down for the count.

You’ll start again the next day, only to get distracted with all the chores that are now on your plate because everyone else is sick.

After much pep talking and earnestly praying again, things, not people, in your house will break down. Multiple times.

You’ll forget about your quiet time because now you are in crisis mode. I don’t have time to think about stopping to pray, you tell yourself.

But as the days turn to weeks, you whisper prayers as you run, then stop because what’s the point? Everything’s tanked since you started to pray! This isn’t how it’s supposed to be, the enemy will whisper in your ear. You’re doing it wrong. Your prayers are worthless. Give up.

You’ll listen for a while to that slippery snake. And then you’ll realize that even though it feels like the house is crashing down around you and all the balls you’ve been juggling have been dropped and smacked you on the head, in fact you are still standing. And so is your house.

Truth pushes it’s way to the front of your chaotic thoughts. You must be doing something right because it got hard. The enemy didn’t like it so he went after you. Stay the course. You are not alone, I AM with you, says the voice of Truth.

As you look around, you realize that this is indeed true. You see His handprints throughout the chaos, the brokenness and the crazy. They can’t be wiped away. Instead a glimmer of hope cracks through the darkness.

If you start to pray, then you will get hammered. But I AM is with you and He has placed you in the winner’s circle.    The end (but not really as it’s just the beginning!)

Prayer To Change

Prayer Warrior. Do you know one? I know several. Unfortunately those words don’t describe me. I’d like to change that.

Prayer is a discipline that has never been a strength of mine. It should be as important as talking to our family or friends. It’s not. At least for me.

I get bored easily and sometimes the thought of praying turns me off. It’s something I have, in the past, dreaded rather than looked forward to.

I think my problem is two-fold. First; I haven’t been very disciplined about it. Second; I’ve looked at it as too much of a discipline.

Yeah you read that right. I think my problem with prayer lies in who I think I’m praying to. My thinking has been all wrong. It’s been about me rather than Him. It’s been about performance rather than relationship. It’s been about one more To Do or get punished, rather than about grace and love.

Sometimes I treat God as my personal Genie in a Bottle.

That’s not I AM. Almighty God. Heavenly Father. I find I don’t know God, like I should after all this time. Instead I find I easily believe in the lies that the enemy whispers in my ear. I’m not okay with that anymore.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, we’ve been reading Craig Groeschel’s book, Daily Power. I mentioned about picking just one discipline to work on this year to get you where you want to be by December.

You’ve guessed by now, I chose prayer. I believe prayer leads the way to change because it takes you into the presence of God. Real prayer is letting go of the Genie factor, and surrendering to Him. In letting go of my lies and preconceived notions, I can begin to get to know God in a personal way. Communication is the best way to get to know someone, right? That’s where I want to be in December. I knew I needed some help in getting started.

A series of events, led to me the book, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. It has changed my thinking about prayer and how I pray. It has also challenged my lack of faith and frankly, my whining.

I recently read these words in The Circle Maker:

”…the will of God doesn’t get easier. The will of God gets harder. Here’s why: the harder it gets, the harder you have to pray.
God will keep putting you in situations that stretch your faith, and as your faith stretches, so do your dreams…And it won’t get easier; it’ll get harder. It won’t get less complicated; it’ll get more complicated. But complications are evidence of God’s blessing. And if it’s from God, then it’s a holy complication.” (p.111, The Circle Maker)

Ironically, this was encouraging to me. Why? We don’t need more complications, right? Shouldn’t God be making our lives more easy?

If that’s the case, I’m doing something drastically wrong. How about you? The more I obey God, the more complicated life gets. So Batterson’s words make a lot of sense and comfort me. I’m not going crazy. We think when things go awry or get complicated, we’ve done something wrong, right? But if we are following God’s will, the complications are holy and viewing them in that perspective changes everything. Maybe we are doing something right.

Up to now, this is where I usually give up. But Batterson says this is where you have to dig in.

“This is where many of us get stuck spiritually. We’re willing to pray right up to the point of discomfort, but no further. We’re willing to pray right up t the point of inconvenience, but no further. Praying hard is uncomfortable and inconvenient, but that is when you know you’re getting close to a miracle!” (p. 112, The Circle Maker)

One of the things that always put me off prayer was it was inconvenient. I didn’t want to get up earlier to pray. I didn’t want to stop and take time out of my day to pray. My agenda was too busy. My pride said I was more important. I didn’t really trust that prayer was going to do anything because I didn’t trust God.

I was having trouble praying because I was still working under the idea I had to earn everything, including answers to prayer. I knew I was a mess so why would He answer? I didn’t trust Him because I really didn’t know Him. Not like a daughter. Not like a friend. Or heir.

This is where I want to be, come December. Daughter, friend, heir. Making time to speak to God is key to getting there. It’s baby steps but already shifts are happening. That’s the power of prayer and I hope to not only discover that power but know deeply the one who wields it.

 

Reasons to Pray

Is there one area you feel like you have totally failed as a parent, wife, friend or Jesus Follower?  Prayer is one of those areas for me.  I lose focus.  I forget.  I get busy.  I remember to pray for a few weeks only to abandon it again for a while.  There are full days that go by that I have not prayed for my kids!  Or my husband or even myself!  That’s an embarrassing confession!  Most days my prayers are one sentence as I breeze through some errand or drive the kids to school.  These aren’t bad.  I think God quite understands and hears these prayers as well as the longer ones.  I totally believe that God hears the very short one word prayers of moms with very young children!  Most often mine was “Help!”

So what am I trying to say here?  I think it’s more a state of my attitude than the length of prayer.   Secondly, it’s an area God is challenging me to step up.  The topic is on my heart and brain and is coming up in the occasional conversation as well.  

As kids get older, problems become more complex.  Children strive for independence and there are so many choices for them out in this crazy world, some good and some bad, that it’s quite scary.  I feel scared as a parent.  Each of our children have strengths and weaknesses that we’d like to see embraced and enhanced or dealt with and overcome.  Does praying wave a magic wand?  I wish.  It is considered a discipline after all.

I have wondered why is it so important that I pray for my family and friends, if there is no guarantee for a good outcome.  If God already has a plan for their lives and I believe He does, why bother to pray?  These two questions have bothered me for many years.  

These are the answers that God has taught me over the last few years as I’ve studied and read.  It’s an ongoing lesson so don’t think I have all the answers.  I do not – not by a long shot!

  1.  Prayer becomes more like a two way communication link the more I learn about God.  The more I know about Him, the more real and personable He becomes to me.  It really is just like getting to know a new friend.  You have to find out what He’s like and the main source is His Word.  He tells us all about Himself right there.

2.  If you don’t ask, you don’t get.  It’s as simple as that.  I’m just learning this lesson mid-life!  I’m not a boat-rocker.  I get seasick.  I’m learning that sometimes it’s worth the discomfort.  And so it is with prayer.  Ask.  God tells us to ask in Matthew 7:7 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” I don’t want to come to the end of my life and hear, “If you’d only asked…”   I’m going to ask for wisdom, love, and patience in abundance!  I’m going to ask for guidance and discernment and anything else that will make me a better mom, wife and person.  I’m going to keep putting my requests and dreams before God even if the answers aren’t necessarily what I want to hear at the moment.

3.  Praying gives the control back to God.  Oh I’d like to think I was in control!  That I can control my children and their choices but the truth is, I AM NOT and I CAN NOT!  But God does and he can direct their paths.  In letting go, I am letting go of my pride.  I read somewhere that in letting go of control, you are letting God be God instead of you trying to be God.  It’s about humility and trusting that God knows best.  

 I have started to move on this urging to pray for my family.  There are a few resources I use to help me stay focused.  The books, The Power of a Praying Parent and The Power of a Praying Wife, by Stormie Omartian are really good and give me the words to pray when I can’t find the right ones, which as I start out is most days.  I also pray passages of scriptures.  Ephesians 3:14-21 is a great one.  I insert the boys names in where it’s suitable.  It doesn’t matter how small we start, it just matters that we start to make this a habit that eventually we can’t live without.

 

Anyone else out there struggling with their prayer lives?  What do you do to keep up this particular discipline?