Tree-lined path at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

He’ll answer when it’s time

I’m one of those people who runs around like a crazy person, doing everything I can think of to prepare for trouble or to take care of people who are in trouble, and then I pray. I rarely pray first, although I’m getting better about it. There’s something in my wiring that tells me praying is a last resort, when it really ought to be my first response.

This month, I’ve been doing a personal study of prayer, and in the last few days, I’ve experienced some pretty cool things about prayer that I really feel like I need to pass along.

Tree-lined path at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Tree-lined path at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

The Bible says in John 14:13-14,

You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!

That’s quite a promise. Have you ever put it to the test?

I’ve lived in the same general area since 1991. You can look at that as a good thing or a bad thing, but that’s been my life. And as a result of that, I’ve formed a lot of really awesome friendships. I’ve watched my peers grow up, get married, move away, move back, and have kids. I never liked kids very much, and I’m not a big fan of babies. But in recent years, I’ve had to start liking babies or I wouldn’t have any friends left!

I remember very vividly talking with four of my lady friends about how badly they wanted to have children. But they just couldn’t. It just didn’t happen.So we all started praying together that God would give them families.

Until one day when one of them got pregnant. And stayed pregnant until she had a healthy baby boy. Shortly after her, another one of the ladies got pregnant and also had a boy. And then another one of the ladies ended up with a girl. And it wasn’t just these ladies either. It was half my friends on Facebook. Everyone started having babies, except for this one friend of mine. She and her husband wanted a child. And they had tried everything for years, and nothing worked. We kept praying and praying and praying, but nothing changed.

Whenever we would talk about it, I just kept encouraging her to wait. And I hated that answer, because that was the answer I kept getting too. Not waiting for a baby but waiting for things I want out of life. I’ve been so frustrated with God at times because He doesn’t work on my timetable. I want Him to give me the things I want when I want them. And it’s in those moments that I forget who He is and treat Him like a genie in a lamp, my personal wish granter. And that’s not God.

I remember a particularly difficult day I had during that time. I was just so tired of waiting for what I wanted. And when I get down—really really down—I usually just grab my Bible and start reading Psalms. Psalms always cheer me up. But the Psalms weren’t doing the trick this one night. They just didn’t resonate like they usually did.

So I decided that because I was in such a mournful mood that maybe I should read Lamentations. After all, it doesn’t get much worse than Lamentations, right? I thought it in jest, but now I’m glad I did because I found a passage that changed the way I look at prayer and God’s timing.

Lamentations 3:21-26, 31-33

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. … For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.

I don’t like waiting. I want what I want, and I want it now. I think I’m ready for it, but most of the time, I’m not. If God gave me my way and let me have what I wanted, the weight and responsibility of it would crush me like a bug. He knows how much I can handle. He knows what I can take. There’s a reason why He’s withholding the things I want, and it’s not to hurt me or cause me pain.

I don’t know better than He does.

Waiting stinks, but there’s always a reason for it. Maybe you need to grow. Maybe someone else needs to grow. Maybe circumstances or seasons need to change. Whatever it is, God knows, and He’s not going to interrupt His great plan to grant us our good request. But eventually, He will answer. And when He does, the fulfillment of that prayer will be better than you ever expected.

Baby Hoo has finally arrived! Meet Audrey Kay Hoover!

Baby Hoo has finally arrived! Meet Audrey Kay Hoover!

I spent my lunch break yesterday at the hospital with a 7-pound, 7-ounce little girl who most of us had given up hope would ever exist. She was born June 10 at 10pm. And if God had given into our requests and allowed her to be born four years ago, I don’t think the world would have been ready for this little miracle bundle of crazy.

So if you’ve asked God for something, if you’re waiting on God to answer you, don’t give up. He’s not ignoring you. He’s not trying to hurt you. He’s not testing your patience. He’s waiting for the right time to give you more than what you asked for.

He won’t answer when you want Him to. He’ll answer when it’s time.

The devil made me do it?

 

This month I’m studying prayer, and I started with the most famous prayer (probably) in history, the Lord’s Prayer. But it’s not a prayer to be prayed as our only conversation with God. It’s a format or an outline of how to pray, using your own words. And one of the parts of prayer is asking God for help in dealing with temptation before it gets here.

Stone dragon statue looking out over the pool at the Chinese garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Stone dragon statue looking out over the pool at the Chinese garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:13.

And don’t let us yield to temptation,
    but rescue us from the evil one.

You’re going to be tempted. If you’re human and you’re breathing, Satan is going to throw something at you to get you to take a wrong step, to get you to compromise your faith, to get you to lose your testimony. That old phrase, “the devil made me do it” doesn’t really play. Maybe he suggested it, but if you’re a Christ-follower, you have the power to say no. That makes sin your choice.

Understand that being tempted isn’t a sin. Everyone is tempted. Even Jesus was tempted when He walked on the Earth, but when you’re tempted, you can choose to yield or be strong and stand against it. Yielding to temptation is where the sin comes in.

So many times I think I fall when I’m tempted because I don’t anticipate it. It sneaks up on me, and I give in because I wasn’t ready to defend myself. That’s the trick with our enemy. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and he knows exactly what to throw at us to get us to cave. And if we don’t expect it, we’ll give in.

Now it’s true that sin has no power over a Christ-follower. Even if you do yield to temptation, you won’t lose your salvation. But you will have consequences in this life. It’s a natural law, like sowing and reaping, that actions have consequences. And if you choose to do something wrong, you’ll experience wrong circumstances as a result–maybe not today and maybe not even tomorrow but eventually. And if you don’t experience it, someone you love will.

Sin always has a price. And it always has a harvest.

But God has given us the power to resist temptation. That’s one of the reasons why we have the Holy Spirit, and it’s another reason why we have each other to help us stay accountable. I’m not saying to see Satan under every rock and shrub, but be aware.

It’s foolish for a woman to walk through a dark alleyway at night, even if she has mace. That’s just asking to be attacked. But so many of us treat our lives that way. We go through our daily business, not even thinking about the fact that there is a spiritual war going on around us, where the forces of God and the forces of Satan are locked in combat. The things that are real are the things we can’t see, so what does that say about our lives?

Don’t be naive. You’re going to experience temptation. That doesn’t make you a bad Christian. It makes you human. But if you don’t want to be a fool, anticipate it. Understand that it’s coming. Learn to recognize the tools Satan uses to throw you off track, and ask God to help. He will.

Foxglove at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

The elephant in the room

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to have a conversation with someone who hasn’t done something they know they need to do? True, they may be really good at hiding it. But if it’s a friend you’ve known for a long time and you know they’re purposefully ignoring something they’re supposed to get done, what do you talk about? Sure, you can talk around the problem. But isn’t there a saying about the elephant in the room? It’s like a cloud that hangs over both your heads, that has a negative effect on your conversation and your relationship.

It’s like trying to talk to someone who has something in their teeth. Can you focus on what they’re saying?

I’ve noticed that’s true in my human relationships. So why wouldn’t it be true in our relationships with God?

Foxglove at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Foxglove at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:12.

And forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.

If this looks familiar, it should, because this is the same verse I blogged about on Friday. But on Friday I only took the time to focus on asking forgiveness for our own sins. I didn’t touch on how we need to forgive others, which is just as important as asking forgiveness for ourselves.

As followers of Christ, we are commanded to forgive. Christ told multiple stories about forgiveness throughout the Gospels, and the Bible is full of stories about how people forgave those who had done them wrong. But that was then, right? Is it really still the same? Well, people haven’t changed. So why should this?

If you’re holding something over someone else’s head, that’s what you’re focusing on. That’s a part of yourself that’s tied down. A part of your heart is distracted. And God wants our whole heart. All the pieces not just the ones we’re willing to give Him, not the pieces that are perfect or in good order. He wants all of us.

Unforgiveness is one of the hardest hurdles to overcome, I think. At least, that’s been my personal experience. It takes a lot to really hurt me. Most of the time I just let things roll off. I don’t get offended easily, and I try to live understanding that people are perfect, that everyone has bad days, that life isn’t about me. But every now and then, I run into a situation where someone manages to hurt me on a level that I don’t expect. And as someone who doesn’t get hurt often, it’s difficult for me to forgive, especially if I’m not the one who was hurt. Forgiving others who have hurt people I love is more difficult for me than forgiving people who hurt me.

But unforgiveness is just as damaging no matter who got hurt. And holding on to it does nothing to the perpetrator while it poisons me from the inside out.

I’m not going to go into details but a long time ago I had a friend who stabbed me in the back. I was naive back then, and I didn’t see it coming. The one person I thought I could count on turned against me, and I didn’t understand why. I still don’t. Not really. I thought I let it go. I thought I left it behind me as I moved on with my life, but deep down inside I hadn’t. And that old hurt festered and turned to resentment and then to bitterness, and all the while I was living a good Christian life. Anyone who talked to me wouldn’t have known any different. But I knew I was holding on to it because every time I talked to God, it would come up at the back of my mind–a still, small voice that whispered, “Hey, you need to take care of that.”

And I knew I did. I just didn’t know how to go about it.

I’ll never forget. My awesome pastor preached a message called “Scar Tissue” ages ago in a series called Life Ink that really changed the way I looked at forgiveness. And I remember letting go. Finally. And I can’t tell you it felt like a weight off my shoulders. I can’t tell you that I noticed a change in my daily life. But talking to God didn’t feel strained anymore because I’d finally acknowledged what I hadn’t done yet, and I’d taken care of it.

It’s important to ask forgiveness for yourself, yes. We all do wrong. We all sin. And we need to acknowledge those sins when we talk to God, but we also need to forgive others who have sinned against us. If we don’t, holding that against them will change you, and it will have a negative effect on your prayer life.

Whatever you’re holding on to today, consider letting it go. I’ve never tried to talk to someone with a literal elephant in the room, but I can only imagine how distracting it would be.

Little purple flower, San Pancho, Peten, Guatemala

If it matters to you, it matters to God.

I hate pestering people, but I like getting things done. So my professional life is usually a tug of war between my results-oriented, performance-driven personality and my need to remain anonymous and low maintenance. But sometimes I wonder if my professional life creeps into my personal life a little more than I think.

This month, I’m studying prayer because it something I want to understand better. I’ve grown up praying. I’ve prayed in different languages. I’ve listened to prayers in even more languages than I can speak. I’ve heard prayers I understood, prayers I didn’t, prayers that rhymed. You name it, and I’ve heard someone pray it.

And I’m just as guilty as the next Christian at wondering, “Why would anyone pray for something like that?” Do you ever do that? Do you ever wonder why someone would pray for something?

I hate to admit that I do. I’d like to think I don’t do it as often as I used to because I’ve learned more about prayer the older I’ve gotten. But that doesn’t stop my sharp-tongued brain from thinking things I’ll never say out loud about how silly a prayer request might be.

Seriously. What gives me the right to judge the worth of someone’s prayer request? What are we even supposed to be praying for anyway? We’ve already established that we’re supposed to worship God in our prayers, telling Him who He is. We’re also supposed to pray with an attitude that prefers His way instead of our own. But when we get to the “asking for things” part of our prayers, what are we actually supposed to ask for?

Little purple flower, San Pancho, Peten, Guatemala

Little purple flower, San Pancho, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:11.

Give us today the food we need.

Is that it? Well, it’s far from the shortest verse in the Bible, but not by much. So what on earth does this mean? Does this mean we’re only supposed to pray for things that we need? What about things that we want? Can’t was ask God for those things too? What about our dreams? What about the impossible? Don’t we need more than food?

Remember, the Lord’s Prayer is an instruction manual. It’s the basics of how to pray. It’s like an outline for how to talk to God.

There are other verses that talk about how God wants to know what we want, how God wants us to tell Him about our dreams. And I think Jesus used the “daily bread” example to show us that nothing is too small or insignificant to ask God about.

Do you ever not pray about something because you’ think God wouldn’t care about it? Do you ever skip over a prayer request because you think it’s not worth the time? Well, if Jesus is saying that we can pray for our daily bread, which we were probably going to get anyway, we can pray to ask for help finding our keys. We can pray that our gallon of gas left in the tank gets us to the next gas station. We can pray for the little things.

Nothing is too little. If it matters to you, it matters to God.

Don’t judge your problems by how the world sees them. Don’t make a judgement call about someone else’s issues using the world as a measuring stick. The world has a tendency to muddle things up.

Yes, ask Him for spectacular things. Ask Him for amazing things that no one else could accomplish. But don’t get so focused on those huge flashy things that you forget how huge and important the small requests are. Oftentimes, it’s the small things that mean the most.

Blossoming thistle flower as a major storm approaches Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Remember who you’re talking to

I don’t like reading instructions. I’m one of those silly people who prefer to jump into assembling things without the aid of an instruction manual. I prefer to guess, even if it voids the warranty and especially if there are parts leftover. I’d rather figure it out for myself than have someone tell me or than have to take the time to figure out which page has the English on it.

Did you know there are instructions to prayer? Jesus gave us a format that we should use when we pray, but not many people use it. As I blogged about yesterday, some folks traditionally like to recite the practice prayer. To me, that’s like reading an instruction manual out loud. I’m sure it’s beneficial, but it doesn’t accomplish what it was designed to accomplish until you use it.

Blossoming thistle flower as a major storm approaches Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Blossoming thistle flower as a major storm approaches Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:9.

Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
    may your name be kept holy.

This is the first line of the Lord’s Prayer. In other translations, you might remember it says something about “hallowed be thy name” but this means the same thing. There is so much going on in these first two lines, I almost split them up to talk about on separate mornings, but they are basically communicating the same concept: God deserves our worship.

That’s the first thing we need to remember when we pray. That’s the first step in the process. Worship. Praise. Telling God how awesome He is.

Why?

How many times do we just go to God with a request? With a demand? How many times do we open the line of communication between us just to ask for something and then shut it down?

Don’t get me wrong. God wants us to ask for things. He wants us to tell Him what we need, but that’s later on in the process. To start with, we need to get our perspective right. We need to remember who we’re talking to.

All too often, I think we get really comfortable with our relationship with God. And on one hand, that’s good. God wants a personal relationship with us. He wants us to call Him our Daddy. He wants to be the closest friend we have–but not at the expense of us forgetting Who He is. He is God. He is I Am. He created everything. He rules everything. And everything is about Him, whether we want to admit it or not. He is terrifying in strength, glorious in power, awesome in love, and furious in wrath. He is so far above us we couldn’t possible comprehend Him, so why do we expect that we can treat Him like a genie in a lamp? Where does that idea come from?

No. Before you ask for things, before you make your requests, before you delve into your list of demands, worship Him. Tell Him who He is to you. Thank Him for what He’s done in your life, in your heart, in our world. Remind yourself of how He’s changed you.

This is so important because by first acknowledging that He is God and you aren’t, it’s easier to remember that He knows what He’s doing. And it’s good to remember what He’s already done for you so you’ll remember that He’s never left you hanging.

So as you pray today, start off by telling God how great He is. Actually, even if you don’t get to your requests, just tell Him how great He is. Thank Him for specific things in your life. Thank Him for specific events in your life, good or bad. Thank Him for always being there.

Once you recognize everything He’s done, it’s hard to stop thanking Him. And once you’re done praying, don’t shut the line off. Don’t hang up the phone. Don’t forget He’s there. Worship Him all day. Keep an open line of communication going all day. When something goes wrong, praise Him. When something goes right, praise Him. Not only will it change your perspective, but it might change your circumstances too. Because Scripture proves that God loves to do things for grateful people who know Who He is.