How Do I Pray?

It’s the middle of the night here in the UK but I can’t sleep. I’m sitting here drinking camomile tea and tossing up between ironing or ordering food shopping 😝. I don’t really want to do either of those things so instead I’m writing this post.

Don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten how to talk to God. I talk to Him a lot. I share my feelings with Him all the time and I tell Him even the things that no one else knows – I mean why not? He knows anyway.

My difficulty is that once again we have a friend who has cancer. The doctors can do no more. They’re using words like ‘palliative care’ again. We’ve been here before. More than once. Each time my friends have been asking God for a miracle. Each time I’ve prayed for that with them. I know God heals (I’ve seen this before too). I believe He wants to heal. I’ve expected God to heal. So far (if I’m remembering correctly) only one out of many friends and family members has been healed from cancer.

So how do I pray? Am I doing something wrong? I remember a few years ago teaching on this very subject in church. It was a difficult time. We had not long since lost a young friend to cancer. Many of us were struggling with continuing to ask God to heal. I’d go back and reread that sermon now but I lost it when my hard drive packed in so I don’t know if there’s anything that God was saying to me back then that would have helped me now. Probably. I remember that in essence I felt that I shouldn’t stop asking.

It gets harder to keep asking though. I mean I still do. I still know God can. I just don’t get why so often it doesn’t happen. I know God isn’t a genie in a bottle but He is God and He tells us He’s willing to heal and I know He’s able to heal so what am I missing?

I guess I’ve heard most of the answers to my question already too. I’d be surprised if you can give me an answer I haven’t heard before (feel free to try though). I’m just putting this out there because it’s on my mind tonight. Someone gave a word this morning about keys at church (related to something different) and I feel like there’s a key somewhere to be discovered where healing is concerned. I’d love to know where it is. I’m sure I’ll keep looking because it feels like I need to find it.

Pray… but how?
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Prayer of Dedication

I just wanted to share this here this morning. I didn’t write this prayer, it’s one I came across in a devotional I read about 4 years ago but it’s one I go back to fairly often and pray again. Maybe it will bless someone else?

Prayer of Dedication

God, today I dedicate my mind to you. I want to think on things that are good, right, pure, and excellent. I want to take captive any thoughts that aren’t from you. I want to remember your past faithfulness when I am tempted to doubt.

Today, I dedicate my eyes to you. I want to see others the way you see them. I want to view my circumstances through the lens of hope and faith. I want to look at life as one who is confident that you are with me. 

Today, I dedicate my ears to you. I want to hear your voice above all the others clamoring for my attention. I want to listen to you and to honor others by listening well to them.  

Today, I dedicate my mouth to you. I want my words to be life-giving. I want to speak honestly and sincerely. I want to think before I speak. I want to let others have the last word.

Today, I dedicate my heart to you. I want my heart to be pure and undivided. I want to master my emotions, not serve them. I want my dreams and desires to please you.

Today, I dedicate my hands to you. I want to work hard at whatever I put my hands to. I want to touch others in love and goodwill. I want my hands to be open for whatever you want to give me and willing to release anything you want me to surrender.

Today, I dedicate my feet to you. I want to go wherever you send me. I want to walk toward the messes, not run from them. I want to stand firmly upon the truth and not stumble.

The most important relationship I have deserves my greatest expression of worship: a dedicated life.

Elaine Scott
Browns Bridge Church

Life’s not fair!

Do you ever feel like screaming at God?  I do.  It’s not fair is it?  It’s not his fault that I’ve stuffed up.  Not his fault that I’ve hurt people.  I don’t know why I want to scream at him.  He’s the one that has stuck with me though everything.  When I’ve been sad he’s held me while I cried.  When I’ve been down he’s pulled me through.  When I’ve had suicidal thoughts he’s reminded me why I can’t do that.  When I’ve felt at ease he’s held my hand and reassured me that he has a good plan and a future for me.  Why do I want to lash out at the only one who loves me completely and unconditionally?  It doesn’t make sense.  I guess my feelings aren’t rational a lot of the time.  I feel like I’m fighting some sort of battle and not getting very far.  Having said all that I don’t want to focus on the negative stuff.  I guess I’m just trying to come to terms with where I’ve been and where I’m at.  Trying to accept that God wants me here for a reason and will bring something good out of my situation.

You can probably gather from the start of this post that I’ve still been struggling a bit over the last few weeks.  In spite of this I’m actually trying to be more positive and look at things from a different perspective.  I guess sometimes I remember to do that for a bit and then I almost come under attack again (I’m not really talking spiritual attack although I guess that could be involved) and it’s hard work to remember to keep my mind set on God and his will.  I will keep picking myself back up and dusting myself down and trying again though.  As exhausting as that is I am a fighter.

I’ll fill you in briefly on what I’ve been up to since I haven’t done that for a while. Obviously there’s been all the usual work and business stuff and church. I’m still seeing the counsellor and looking after baby B each week. I’ve had a few coffees and lunches and dinners out with various friends which is always fun. Apart from that there have been a couple of events that stood out.  I had a little run in with a bus one day – well the bus ran into the back of my car – it wasn’t a great day to start with so that one made me a bit emotional at the time.  I wasn’t hurt though (well not badly anyway – just a sore foot) and the car was quickly sorted out through the insurance.  My in-laws visited for a week over the school holidays.  I had a birthday as you know and one of my lovely friends took me for a night away at a spa hotel.  That was a treat and we enjoyed hanging out together and catching up.  My hubby started a new job too which is an answer to prayer.

One of the most rewarding things recently has been my business.  I started it earlier this year and I’m running relaxation classes for children – sometimes they help me to relax too.  Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had some lovely moments with the kids.  One little boy who’s about 5 years old and who told me his mummy died just climbs on my knee and wants cuddles all the time.  Another slightly older girl told her friend who was new that it was okay to hug me – it wasn’t weird 😆 (I’ve never said anything to the children about hugging me – I don’t encourage it – they just do).  One boy of about 8 kept saying stuff like ‘you’re the best person in the world’ to me when we were doing an affirmation web activity – so sweet.  Actually this next moment that stands out is pretty sad but it made me feel like I was doing something worthwhile.  The children were relaxing and I was reading a whole list of affirmations over them.  I got about half way down my list and one little boy started saying things like ‘no I’m not special, I’m not loved, I’m treated like dirt at home.’  It broke my heart to hear him say those things.  I went over to him and put my hand on his shoulder and kept reading positive affirmations over him.  I pray that what I’m doing will make a difference for these little ones.  When I’m struggling I need to remember the kids I’m working with.  Their lives are often unfair.  They have too much responsibility and stress and not enough love and attention for young children.  Thinking about them helps me to get my life in perspective.

There are people suffering and lost and lonely all over the world.  Life’s not fair!  Much of that is down to our choices as humans I guess.  But alongside that God is good and has good plans.  He is on a rescue mission – to rescue us from ourselves.  He loves us and wants what’s best for us.  He also wants us to grow into the people he wants us to be and wants to use us to rescue others.  Maybe my own struggles will help me to help others in some way?  I want to be part of his rescue plan.

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Patterns and Shapes

When I was walking on holiday last week I became very aware of all the patterns and shapes in the plants around me.  There is so much variety when it comes to shapes – shapes of flowers and plants, shapes of birds and animals and people, shapes of coastlines and mountain ranges.  And there are so many patterns on trees, plants, shells, rocks, animal skins…  I’m sure there are many more things that haven’t crossed my mind too.  It got me thinking that God must be really into shapes and patterns.  Maybe I’m over-stretching this thought but it really stuck out to me at the time.

You know those shape sorter toys that kids have?  Well (like many people I guess) I’ve always felt a bit like a square peg in a round hole.  Or maybe I’m a round peg in a square hole?  Somehow I feel like the shape I’m supposed to fit in is more square 😝  and I’m probably not round but more of an irregular shape😂..  Anyway you get my drift.  Why is it that when God made such a huge variety of shapes and patterns that we limit each other so much?  Our tiny minds can only handle so many shapes and patterns so we try to make everyone fit into a few categories or types.

I’m not exactly sure where I’m going with this.  I guess what I’m saying is it’s important to find out who you really are and what really matters to you and be yourself.  It’s also important to allow others to do the same.  We need to stop trying to make people into clones of the ideal people we think they should be – the ideal parents, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends, colleagues or whatever and allow for the variety that God has created.

‘Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.’
Romans 12:2 TPT

It’s very easy to rhyme off this well known verse about not ‘conforming to the pattern of this world,’ (NIV) but I think that what I’m realising more and more is that it’s just as dangerous in some ways to conform to the religious ‘patterns’ we see in churches – even the ones that don’t seem to be traditional.  There is a danger of producing a string of lukewarm clones who smile and sing and warm the pews (or chairs) on a Sunday morning and don’t make any real impact on the world.  I don’t know about you but I don’t feel like I’ve made enough of an impact.

I’m looking for that total transformation, to become a reformer.  In Philippians 3:17 Paul says we should imitate his example.  I think we need to be looking for more in our lives and in our churches.  We need to be looking for better examples to imitate – be it your favourite Bible heroes or Jesus himself.  For the majority of us (I appreciate that there are exceptions) no matter how nice or how good your pastors or church leaders are they probably ain’t no Paul.  I’m pretty sure most of them aren’t living out Jesus words about doing even greater works than He did (John 14:12) or our world and our churches would look quite different.  This is in no way at meant to be having a go at leaders – I’m not into ‘bashing’ anyone.  I just think we need to raise our expectations if we’re really going to stop conforming and make a real impact in the world.

A couple of months ago I heard a sermon illustration that got me thinking.  The speaker was saying if you found yourself in a boat and someone fell overboard you would do everything in your power to try and save that person.  Yet we are surrounded by people who are drowning because they don’t know Jesus and we are sailing along happily in our little boat that is church – feeling quite comfortable and enjoying the worship, the fellowship and some ‘feel-good’ sermons and ignoring the people in the water all around us.  We need to have the same urgency to do something about that as we would if we were trying to save that person who had fallen overboard.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not there yet.  I’m talking to myself here (yes, it’s possible that I’m slightly mad 😜).  I’m not the most confident person in the world but I’m praying for boldness and change in that area.  I want to make an impact.

So whatever your true shape is I would encourage you not to conform – either to the world’s pattern or to the pattern of lukewarm Christianity but find someone worth imitating, step out of your comfort zone and make a difference.  Be the person God designed you to be and not the person that fits into a mould designed by other people.  And be bold!  I truly believe that if we allow ourselves to do that we can change the world.

Who Am I Really?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about who I really am. You’d think I would know at 44 years old right?

I grew up in a loving Christian family and was a daughter, sister, friend, cousin and niece. I was a normal kid, did the right thing sometimes and the wrong thing at other times. I wasn’t the most popular kid at school but I had a small group of friends and never really found myself alone. Most people seemed to like me even if they thought I was a bit weird. I became a leader of sorts at a young age starting various kids groups and clubs from around 11 years old. I was actively involved in church from an early age – maybe ’cause my dad was the pastor.

In adulthood I quickly became wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, teacher and an active part of my church community. I took my responsibilities very seriously and did what I thought was expected of me. In the process of trying to be what I perceived was expected of me I lost myself somewhere along the way. I tried to live up to my labels and be ‘what it said on the tin’. Essentially I let the labels define me. I became so busy I didn’t realise I had no time just to be. In the ups and downs of life I tried to be a rock for everyone else and forgot that ‘no man is an island’. I wore a mask more often than not, keeping up the appearance of how life should be. I wasn’t consciously trying to deceive anyone, maybe it was my way of protecting myself and others. Who I am was swallowed up somehow and buried deep below the surface. The real me was suffocating and desperate to get out.

I guess you can’t go on like that forever. Eventually the mask slips and you are exposed. The good and the bad. And despite everything you have done and who you’ve been many people (not all) can’t get past the bad or at least that’s how it feels. The real me is torn. I’ve been desperate to get out of my cocoon and be myself but wearing a mask was easier in some ways. Hiding is easier. Not having to face people’s judgement. Being who they want you to be keeps everyone happy. It takes bravery to be myself – people will see my brokenness, they’ll know I’m not perfect. Some people won’t like who I am.

But I want to be me. God made me unique. He didn’t make me to conform. He made me fun and free. He made me creative and loving. He made me strong and safe. He made me beautiful. He made me a worshipping warrior and a leader. He made me to soar. God tells me this stuff and sometimes I find it hard to believe it about myself but I guess if he says it it must be true.

I often feel uncertain about who I am but I know who God says I am. There are loads of great songs about that around just now. I love ‘Who You Say I Am’ by Hillsongs and ‘You Say’ by Lauren Daigle. Despite the fact that I’m not perfect He says I’m His child and He loves me. He says I am chosen and I am free. He says I am enough and I am strong even when I don’t feel it. He says I belong, He has a place for me and He is for me.

On Saturday I found myself writing over and over ‘God is for me’. Almost like writing lines at school. Writing is one of the ways I process stuff. As I wrote it over and over God started filling in other stuff between my lines. God is for me – who can be against me. God is for me – it doesn’t matter what other people think of me. God is for me – it doesn’t matter what I think of myself. God is for me – I don’t have to fear the future. And more like that. It’s starting to sink in now. God is for me. God is for me. God is always for me. He likes who I am. He made me that way. He doesn’t want me to be someone else or to wear a mask cause he made me in his image. Instead of trying to be like other people or like who I think I should be I need to try to be more like Jesus.

I feel like this journey is gonna take a while. It’s gonna take all the courage I have to be myself again. I could do with a bunch of cheerleaders to encourage me to keep going. Maybe I’ll need to find some of them? I wonder if it’s just me or if anyone else out there feels like I do? If you’re reading this and you can relate I want to encourage you to be yourself. Be the awesome, amazing, beautiful person God created you to be. The other day I saw this on Facebook:

As the Steven Curtis Chapman song says ‘there’s no other masterpiece like you, You are the only one and only you.’

BE YOU!