Monday Morning Meditation: A Path to Answered Prayer

After hearing a inspiring and convicting sermon on prayer yesterday, my Bible reading just “happened” to be John 4 today. I always think of John 4 as the story of the Samaritan woman and find myself relating to her, but God had something else to speak to me today.

After the story of Jesus’ work in Samaria, there is a short story that is headed “Jesus Heals the Official’s Son.” There are a few things that struck me about this story as it relates to prayer. It is not a long story, and I encourage you to read it here or in your Bible before you consider these thoughts of mine.

An Example of a Path to Answered Prayer

The man went to Jesus.
He traveled a distance to get there*. There was a cost and much effort to his prayer.

The man begged Jesus to come.
He first invited Jesus to be present.

He begged Jesus to heal.
He clearly stated what he hoped Jesus would do in his begging. It was a passionate prayer, a prayer of faith.

Jesus said that people need a miraculous sign to believe.
He may have been speaking directly to this man, but likely was also commenting on what had just happened in Samaria.

The man said, “Sir, come before my son dies!”
The man said, “I don’t know what that means; all I know is I love my son and am asking that You would heal Him!” He restated his hope and his prayer.

“Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.
The man chose to believe all that the Son of God had spoken to him and left prayer, believing.

*The man headed straight home. Later, when his servants met him on the road toward home, the man learns his son was healed yesterday at about 1 PM (or the seventh hour). This means the man had traveled at least overnight to go to Jesus. And the servants confirmed that Jesus healed the boy at the moment He said He did.

The man and his whole household believed.
Healing is not just for the benefit of the person healed. It is a testimony to those around the person that God is alive and active.

What do we learn about prayer here?
There is a cost to prayer. My pastor’s sermon on prayer yesterday was based on Mark 1:35-39. It was fantastic, and will be available on iTunes within a day or two (Church is Brockton Assembly of God). As I considered my own prayer life in light of what he shared, a thought came to me: the time and effort I am willing to devote to prayer is often directly proportionate to my belief about prayer. In other words, if I only devote a little time to prayer, I likely don’t really believe that prayer works or that it will help.

Ouch. I hate it when I convict myself!! OK, not really. But it made me face the fact that sometimes I leave prayer, more discouraged than when I started, because I’ve already talked myself out of believing that God is going to move!

I sang this song at church yesterday. I was asked to sing a song about prayer due to the theme of the day, and this song came to mind. 18 years ago last week, I surrendered my life to Jesus while listening to a song by this artist, Keith Green.

I want my whole life to be a prayer to God. I want my thoughts and actions to reflect that I believe in a God who is near and who loves us and who desires to answer our prayers.

In this morning’s reading, I was most struck by verse 50: “The man took Jesus at his word and departed.” God has already shown me in about 15 different ways that learning about prayer and having a fuller prayer life is to be my theme of 2017.

OK, God, I’m listening and obeying. Lord, may that be my response to prayer. May I always leave prayer, walking in faith, taking You at Your Word.

What has God spoken to you concerning 2017?

Freedom Friday: Fourteen Years

It’s January 4th.

I saw the date several times today. I even wrote it on something and thought, That sounds important. 

I then took my littlest out with me to run errands. I just put a couple of CD’s in my car 2 days ago, the only 2 I could find (still nowhere near unpacked): Keith Green and Sara Groves.

Soon it came on:

There is nothing new
I could give to You
Just a life that’s torn
Waiting to be born

I Can’t Believe It.* The song I was listening to that week of January 4th 14 years ago when Jesus invaded my life.

Rivers overflow

Friends may come and go
But You’ve been by my side
With every tear I’ve cried
I don’t actually know the day Jesus grabbed ahold of my heart. It happened several times during the week of January 4th as I wrestled with the truth of who God says He is.
 
Oh, I can’t believe that You’d give everything for me
I can’t believe it, no, I can’t believe it, no, no
I know You never lied, and so it’s just my foolish pride

That I just won’t receive it,
It’s so hard to receive it in my heart 

And make the start with you

I just could not believe that someone would die for me. Who would do that? It doesn’t even make sense! But I desperately needed a fresh start. I was failing miserably at life, at relationships, at – well, most everything. I longed to believe that Jesus is who He says He is.

Help me, help me now
I just don’t know how
You know, I’ve been so alone
Please melt this heart of stone

There was no longer any question on that day in January of 1999 that I desperately needed Jesus.

I have a serious gap in pictures during that time, but here’s a gem from about 6 months later:

I still do need Him. There is nothing magical that happens at the moment of salvation (if you have a “moment,” yet it’s often a process) that makes us less reliant on God. If anything, I believe we become even more keenly aware, through the power of the Holy Spirit and our spiritual eyes being opened, that apart from Him, we really can do nothing.

Especially recently, I’m intimately and painfully aware of my weaknesses and failures and continual dependence on Him. I know the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:10, that when I am weak, I am strong in Him, but I don’t know if the power of that truth has been fully recognized in my soul, or embraced in my heart.

Yet when I shared with my dear husband why January 4th is significant, I got choked up. I know that I know that I know that Jesus has deeply transformed my heart and my life.  He continues to change me and set me free, one breath at a time.

And I continue to choose to trust Him. Trust that He is good, that He is my only hope. That He cares about me so deeply and passionately that His perfect will was for His only begotten Son to suffer, be crushed, punished, condemned, and to die so that I would not be punished or condemned, but may have peace and life till it overflows.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 (NLT)

Thank You, Jesus, for life. For breath. For a fresh start. For joy in my sadness, light in my darkness, truth in my confusion, peace in my anguish, sight in my blindness, hope in my desperation. For when I am weak, Your grace becomes sufficient, and then, I am strong.
 
Jesus, let’s go for at least 14 more!
*I much prefer this acoustic version of the song to the one that is typically played. It’s raw, it’s pure, it’s just Keith Green and his piano – how I like him best.

Freedom Fridays: I’m Not a Superhero

I’m taking a break from today’s scheduled Freedom Friday post to do a public service announcement of sorts.

There are 2 issues I wanted to address in this blog post that have more to do with my story and my personality than really the topic of freedom. So bear with me 🙂

First, you may have noticed that when I write, I speak very matter-of-factly. I think sometimes I likely come across as unfeeling – or even worse, I come across as if I think the things I’m saying are easily done or achieved. That I’ve somehow “arrived.”

That’s not it at all.

I’m still growing as a writer and figuring out how to let more of my personality come out in these blog posts. If you’ve heard me speak, I share lots of personal stories; I’m told I’m good at laughing at myself (I think that’s a compliment!). Those things are much easier for me to work in to my teachings as I speak than they are for me to work in to teachings as I type.

That said, I do feel I’ve written lots of articles (such as Bye Bye Pebble Baby) where I’m pretty free with sharing my life and my heart. I need to go back through and add some personal stories and anecdotes to my Freedom Fridays 🙂

Second, I am not a superhero. News Flash, I know 🙂 But I do find that some people look at me that way. The reason I am sometimes idealized is the same reason I was drawn to Keith Green during the period of time when I became a believer. I thought Keith Green was awesome, authentic, passionate, had an amazing heart, and he had something I desperately needed. So on that night in January of 1999, I wasn’t all that sure what that “something” was, yet my declaration was simple: I want what Keith has.

I know the life I live and the things I have overcome are like a breath of fresh air to many. I have come out of and overcome many thing – big things: same-sex attraction, self-injury, disordered eating, to name a few.

I’m still coming out of and overcoming other things – things that don’t seem as “big,” but can be far more insidious: selfishness, impatience, envy, greed, resentment, bitterness, entitlement, pride. just to name a few.

I may not be a superhero, but Jesus is. That’s what I’ve been telling my 3 year-old, who is in love with all things superhero. I’m not sure he understands completely, as he still thinks “Jesus died on the crosswalk,” but we’re working on it.

In all seriousness, though, it’s perfectly Biblical to, as Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” the original superhero. It’s just important to recognize that while I may be further down the journey of freedom than you are, I’m still just a human being, like all believers, who has been empowered to be free by a supernatural God. The promise of the Gospel is life-changing transformation. That’s available not just to me, but ALL believers.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

If you want what I have, it is available for you. Press on and take hold of it.

Remember that “freedom is not the absence of something; it’s the presence of someone.” Bob Hamp. Ask the Freedom Giver to continue to reveal Himself to you as only He can.