Powerful Prayer

The fervent prayer of a righteous man is POWERFUL.  James 5:16

This week I want to share something that is on my heart; something that I believe many of us struggle with especially when  discouragement and the pace of everyday life become overwhelming.  The struggle I speak of is a neglected prayer life.

Prayer coupled with scripture is the most powerful tool that God has given us and we haven’t begun to scratch the surface of its awesome power.  Scripture says in Jeremiah 29:12 & 13   Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you.  Then you will seek Me, inquire for and require Me as a vital necessity and find Me; when you search for Me with all your heart.

The problem is that more often than not, we don’t pray fervently nor do we seek God with all our hearts.
When I have pondered and asked the Lord why it’s so easy to neglect our prayer lives, four main reasons have stood out: The first reason comes from being so occupied and busy with life that it squeezes prayer from our schedule.  Secondly, we live in turbulent times that are filled with uncertainty and fear which make God seem distant and uninvolved.  That diminishes our belief that prayer is powerful…so we don’t bother.  Thirdly, our culture has conditioned us to seek instant gratification and self-fulfillment of plans rather than searching for God and His purpose for our lives. God sees everything through the scope of eternity and answers prayer with our eternal good constantly in mind.  The desire for instant gratification destroys our ability to wait on God and submit to Him. Lastly, discouragement and hopelessness from trials and disappointment sucks the life out of our faith and our prayer life suffers dramatically.

This past winter I was feeling numb after going through months of stress.  I walked through a serious injury with one of my children and was closely involved with the illness and death of my father in law. I was emotionally and mentally exhausted and it was hard to pray no matter how much I tried.  I would sit down, intent on praying fervently and couldn’t get through three sentences before I was daydreaming. Powerful, fervent prayer was a distant memory for me.
Discouragement from the pressures and disappointments of life had robbed me of my ability to pray and Satan was laughing at his victory.  I knew in my head that prayer would help pull me through and change my heart but I was helpless to myself and words of prayer were frozen in my heart.

I told a friend about my problem and she emailed a prayer that I could print out and simply read.
I started out reading the prayer word for word, out loud to the Lord.  Within a few days I started adjusting the prayer to fit my life and my family.  Within two weeks I was praying fervently and changed most of the words to my own and even added sections with specific requests for each of my family members.
The simple act of reading that prayer broke the ice that held my heart captive; it refreshed me, and moved me back into a fervent prayer life with a heart that was seeking God again.

If you are having a hard time praying and you feel like your heart for prayer has dried up, write one down on paper or on the computer and print it out.  Simply read it each day to God and allow your heart to be renewed.  Talk to a fellow prayer warrior and ask them to pray for you…God might use that friend to help supply just the right tool for you like he did for me.  With everything that is going on in the world, we must be ready to stand; we must be light in a darkened world.  How will we do this if we aren’t sitting at the feet of our God?

It helps to follow the concepts of the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6: 9-13.  Begin by praising and thanking God and asking for his will to be done; then make your requests and needs known to God; next ask for forgiveness and for help in forgiving those that have hurt you; ask God to keep you from temptation and sin; and end by praising and worshiping Him again.  I always mix in binding strongholds and loosing the opposite and praying scripture as well.  Most of all, remember to be totally honest with what you are going through and how you feel.  God already knows it anyway and He deeply desires an honest, intimate relationship with you.

Pour out your heart to God; He cares for you, loves you, and will never give up on you.  I know, because no matter how many times I let Him down, He never gives up on me.  He has an amazing purpose for our lives but we will never know that purpose if we don’t stop and seek Him with all our hearts and make our requests and thoughts known to Him.  Sometimes He changes our circumstances, sometimes he changes us; whichever it is, we will come through each circumstance changed for the better – forever, if we will just take the time to seek Him and pray with all our hearts.

By Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Hope After Betrayal

 


A Coward’s Stance


Like the sound of thunder vibrating the heavens
     The solitary rooster crowed.
     It was magnified inside my ears,
     vibrating my mind,
     rumbling my soul.
     A crow from the rooster and
     three times you were betrayed
     by my heart and my mouth.
     You were right.
A lion’s roar,
     My loyalty I pledged
     with you I was strong,
     my convictions were incorruptible.
     I was prepared for the
     mighty sea of adversity.
But a coward’s stance,
     I was like a dry leaf hanging on an
     Olive tree in the winter’s wind.
     I cumbled without you near.
     I pulled my cape over my head
     hiding my face from you.
Because of my betrayal,
     My heart twists and burns
     while it still beats.  Warm
     bitter tears slide over my lips and beard.
     These tears will not cleanse my soul.
To ease the pain,
     I search for a silver blade to cut out
     my lying tongue or to cease the
     life fluid in my body. 
     I fall to the ground and my heart spills upon
     the sandy soil, my tongue next to it.
But I have a coward’s stance,
     The sword is too brave an act for me.
     I scoop up my troubled heart and
     replace my lying tongue then
     slithered away into the dark night
     too weak to look over my shoulder.
You knew me,
    Yet you loved me,
     forgave me, and used
     my coward’s heart for
     Your glory.


By Debora Kingston


 

ROUGH LIFE? BIGGER GOD

When my kids were in high school, there was constant pressure to have children that were the best in academics, sports, and clubs…in other words, the best at everything.  If you were lucky enough to have one of those multitasking, overachievers, it was definitely a status symbol.  As a parent, I found this status impossible to achieve, even though I sometimes wished I could.  Other than athletics, my kids simply didn’t care about the various types of school success and they were contented, underachievers.   It’s easy to assume that great success at school translates into great success later in life.  But more often than not, school success is an unreliable indicator of who will ultimately prosper and who will not. 

Not only do we doubt our children and wonder about their future success but we also doubt ourselves and our spouses.  Its common to feel like our lives haven’t quite panned out the way we planned – that we haven’t achieved as much as we had hoped and that life is passing us by.  Recently, while reading the story of Moses, I was filled with hope as the words from the book of Exodus reminded me of his mistakes and his less than ideal life.  In spite of being a messed up guy, Moses became what could easily be considered the greatest leader the Israelites ever knew.  If we stop and think about many of the bible greats, they weren’t the obvious picks. They weren’t the overachievers that won all the awards, nor did they come from the perfect life, but God looked down and saw something in their hearts; He saw something that was completely invisible to man.  That fact, that God looks deeper than the surface when choosing who He wants to use, should plant hope deep into the hearts of us all.

MOSES:
Moses was raised in less than ideal Christian circumstances to say the least.  He was born into a family of slaves at a time when Pharaoh was killing all Hebrew baby boys.  For this reason his mother hid him at home for three months until it was no longer possible to conceal him. She then constructed a waterproof basket and set it amongst the reeds in the Nile.  Pharaoh’s daughter found the basket and brought Moses to the palace to raise as her own.  God specializes in wonders, and through a series of events it worked out that in his early years, Moses’ own mother nursed him at the palace. 

Reviewing Moses’ early life, we find that God chose a slave that may have had attachment disorder or abandonment issues; that was raised in a home religiously and morally polar opposite to everything in God’s own principles… It’s hard to comprehend that this is the man that God smiled upon and chose to be his great messenger and leader.  

Moses’ first forty years were in Pharaoh’s household where he was constantly subjected to a life full of paganism and debauchery, as was common in Egyptian society.  As Moses approached forty, he began to look to his Hebrew roots and developed a heart for his people.  One day he saw an Egyptian master beating a Hebrew slave.  Moses was enraged and killed the Egyptian believing he was doing the Hebrew a favor.  Word spread that Moses was the murderer and rather than being praised by his fellow Hebrews, they rejected him because they believed that this murder, would make things even harder for them.  The Egyptians rejected him as well and sought his life since he had betrayed them.  Moses, abandoned once more, fled Egypt in shame with no one as his advocate and no one loving or caring about him.  But God loved and cared about Moses even though he was a slave, was neglected as a newborn, was raised and lived the life of a pagan, was a murderer, and was an aimless, lonely runaway that had been rejected by all. 

This is the man God chose to lead his people out of slavery; a man with a life far less than ideal in every way and certainly not the man we would expect God to choose.  It would be interesting to know how Moses viewed his own life as he fled Egypt.  He probably felt hopeless and alone and might have felt like a real loser. Did he have any idea that his future would be greater than he could ever begin to imagine?  Or did he doubt himself and his abilities and wonder why his life was upside down? 

Moses’ life had come full circle when he fled into the desert to escape certain death.  The first 40 years began with him fighting for his life as an infant then subsequently living the life of a prince and sitting under the tutelage of pharaoh.  The second 40 years started with him fighting for his life as a fugitive and living the simple life of a shepherd while sitting under the tutelage of the Priest of Midian.  When Moses was 80, God appeared to him and gave him his marching orders and suddenly the table was turned on his life of loss, mistakes, and pain.  Talk about God taking beauty from ashes.

Let’s take our eyes off all the failures and the painful things we and our loved ones have experienced. Let’s grasp onto the truth that the mistakes our kids, spouse, and we have made do not bind us to failure or mediocrity forever.  Forget the standards that the world pushes upon us and instead look to God to do something great in your family and in you.  You may see God’s greatness right away or it may be years as was the case with Moses.  But as with Moses, success will come and you never know just how big it might be. 

By Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Overcoming Interview Anxiety When Unemployed



There have been times in my life when I’ve struggled with knowing God’s will for my life.  I’ve struggled with knowing whether staying home was God’s will or if the practical demands of life were requiring me to go back to work.  This struggle between life’s demands and resting in God’s will is a situation I’m currently struggling with because I’m unemployed and need to find another job, yet I know there are family members and situations that benefit greatly from my being at home.  The following story is about my struggles.


I was laid off from work in January 2010. I knew it was coming and felt a sense of relief
when my boss called me into his office and said he had no choice but to lay off the office staff.  His desk was strewn with papers and assorted computer parts, his eyes were sunk deep into the black bags that surrounded them.  His overall appearance was that of an exhausted man, a man fighting many demons and losing.  The story went that he and his accountant had spent the weekend going over the company’s finances and he could no longer afford to pay the employees.  We exchanged the type of words that people do
in difficult circumstances, then I went into my office to clean out my desk and take down the pictures.


During the drive into work that morning I knew something was going to happen, the signs were there.   Business had been slow and the boss’s attention had been diverted to personal issues with a pending divorce and a new office in another state.  Concerned about the day ahead I prayed for God’s will to be done.  When I pulled into the office parking lot the boss’s car was the only one there; a sign of things to come.  Although I had been expecting it, I still felt an odd mixture of relief, sadness, and a little anger.  Relieved because I was having some serious ethical issues with my boss and saddened because I truly enjoyed my position and the people I worked with, not to mention the loss of income to my family’s budget. The anger came from my belief that the boss’s own hand was the instrument that brought about the company’s undoing. 


Turning on my office light for the last time I surveyed the familiar space.  A melancholy feeling enveloped me.  Sitting down at my desk I began cleaning out the drawers which held an interesting collection of tea bags, lotions, cold tablets, thank you cards received, notes on tidbits of paper, and business cards.  Closing up the box of personal effects I took a deep breath, time to leave.  Poking my head into the boss’s office one last time I said goodbye and wished him well, then left. 


While driving home the melancholy state of mind began lifting as I thanked God for the pleasant exit.  It could’ve been angry and bitter, my boss had proven his ability to vent many times, but it was calm and that was a blessing.  I knew where my energies would now be placed; Ike, my son who was a senior, was struggling academically and had been fighting depression for months, he needed me home and more available to help him navigate through the last half of his senior year.  I also had a long list of chores and projects around the house that I could now make a priority.  Oh, and I would be looking for another job, which I knew would take a while in the current economic down turn. But all things considered being laid off would be a blessing and I knew it.  Things would be tight financially but with unemployment we would make it.  The melancholy feeling drifted out my car window and flew away with the January wind.


I went right to work making appointments, calling school counselors, painting bathrooms, cleaning corners, walking regularly with friends and signing up for unemployment.  As a recipient of unemployment I’m required to make 3 or more active job searches a week.  That was good because I needed to find another job sometime in the future; God knew when and where.


Within two weeks I had a job interview for a position that had potential, but I wasn’t passionate about.  The day of my first interview came and I was anxious; my stomach churned and my palms were sweaty.  This frustrated and amused me because I’m not a spring chicken; I’d been in many meetings, but having to prove my worth to a stranger caused anxiety.   While I drove to the interview I took a moment to pray once more about the outcome.


I sat at the table in my new “Interviewing Suit” making eye contact, answering in complete and accurate sentences, selling myself to the best of my ability. I carefully watched the body language of the man interviewing me while trying desperately to control my nerves and sweaty palms. Hoping he did not notice the red hot burn of my cheeks caused by yet another hot flash; what bad timing for a hot flash.   We shook hands and I left feeling pretty sure I would not be getting the job.  The following week I received an email saying they had chosen another candidate.  I was a little disappointed but reminded myself that God was in control and went back to my list of chores.


A few weeks later I had another interview in which the same scenario played out again.  I prayed, studied up on the company to prepare myself,  did my best to control my nerves and hot flashes while answering questions as charmingly as possible during the interview; I did not get the job.  I laid the outcome at God’s feet and thought about the truly important things I was taking care of at home.  But I was still a little down at being rejected again and started truly considering for the first time that my age may be affecting my ability to get a job. 


A pattern soon developed where I had an interview every few weeks.  Each time I would be filled with excitement and anxiousness about the possibility of a new job.  Some of the interviews were for positions I really wanted, others I was ambivalent about, but the outcome was the same; I did not get the job.  Each time my emotions went on a roller coaster ride.  Up with excitement and possibility, down with disappointment and feelings of inadequacy; each time I would once again lay the outcome at God’s feet and think about the family members and situations that needed my attention.  Staying mindful that God’s timing was not my timing.


After a few months depression crept in and feelings of worthlessness clung to me as I looked in the mirror and saw the fine lines around my eyes staring back at me.  What did they want that I didn’t have?  Was it youth, more education, more experience, someone whose cheeks were not flushed by hot flashes?  My husband was and is supportive and the kids were sweet, but I could not help but ride the emotional roller coaster each time an interview was scheduled. 


Not coincidentally, at my weekly Bible Study we were studying how God values each of us for who we are.  That we have value to him whether the world around us sees it or not.  God values me with hot flashes and lines around my eyes.  God also has a purpose for my life that is not conditioned on a job interview or even having a job.  It is based on the talents God gave me to use for his glory.  My spirit felt warm with understanding and I could feel the tightness of condemnation and depressions leave my chest.  I had been focusing on the wrong things.  I had been focusing on the outcome of each job interview and allowing it to negatively affect my self-worth; this brought about depression. In our Bible study book it said, “Every one of us who embraces the glory of God as our purpose will end up doing great things precisely because we do God things.  His holy hand resting on the least act renders the ordinary extraordinary.”


I’m still unemployed and recently had two interviews in two days and should find out in the coming week if either job is mine.  However, I went to each interview knowing that my purpose is to glorify God, that to God I have value and I’m worthy of his love.  I need a job, but my value is not based on whether I have a job or not.  My value is in Christ.  I needed my sisters at Bible study to remind me of this lovely fact. 


By Debora Shelford Hobbs