The Power of Prayer

Author and speaker, John Ortberg challenged me when he stated, “Many people believe that their prayers won’t change God’s actions, so they ask themselves what the point is of praying.” It reminded me I am often much like the father in Mark 9. He cried out with tears, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”  This father new where to take his requests, and, just like me, he had all faith Christ could do anything, but he lacked the faith to believe Jesus would do it for him. When I read in Ortberg’s writings, “prayers of real human beings – like you and me – interrupt heaven,” I was shaken down in my soul. To think all of heaven pauses when we offer up our pleas to God moves me to dispute the enemy’s lie my prayers are not important.

I have not always valued the art of praying as a spiritual discipline. The impact your prayers can make on someone else’s life can be quite significant. I am a product of another’s prayer life.  So how can it be so easy for me to forget that prayer is one of my most powerful tools in fighting the enemy? 

Even though I have witnessed the miracle of God answering prayers, when I do not see immediate reversal of a bad situation, I grow weary and doubtful.  Many prayers seem to go unnoticed. I allow myself to get frustrated way too easily when a prayer’s answer requires waiting – and trusting. I hop on the pity wagon thinking my prayers are simply not as important as someone whose faith seems stronger, or walk a little deeper and truer than mine.  I felt conviction as I pondered how easily I give up or walk away from a prayer because my flesh gets frustrated.  So, when I read back over an old paper I had written, I found comfort in the fact great saints of God can identify with the way my mind can tend to wander. They assure me prayer experts are not simply born that way. Prayer is a learned discipline, and no one ever truly masters it this side of grace.  We none pray perfectly, and thankfully, perfection is not what our Savior is looking for.  God desires me to pray my heart, and come to Him just as I am. Those wandering thoughts, confessed struggles, doubts, and fears lead me to what God most wants to discuss with me.  John Ortberg calls them “steppingstones to prayer.” I love that!

According to theologian and biblical scholar, Walter Wink, “it pays to haggle with God.” What a picture – haggling with God. I began to think of places in the scriptures where prayers were heart wrenchingly real. And while there are many from Genesis to Revelation, I enjoyed recalling the Syrophoenician woman as she besought Jesus on behalf of her daughter. This broken woman modeled the “impertinent, persistent, shameless, undignified” prayers Wink references in his teachings. When Jesus seemed to ignore her, she was indecorous; when He twice gave her reason to believe she may not receive help, she was persistent. With her final plea, “Truth Lord; yet the dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table,” she was shameless. She knew Christ was her hope, no matter what, and she would not let Him go. I desire a relationship with my Lord like hers, one in which I will not let Him go.

Intercessory prayer is one of the most powerful weapons we have as the enemy wages war against us. It is important we do not concern ourselves with the details we cannot see happening on the other side of the prayer. God is in full control.

To know that He holds us in the palm of His hands is quite overwhelming to me, and so is the fact He will place me on someone’s surrendered heart trusting they will pray for me – and they do! Nevertheless, the most awesome gift I feel unworthy of is when He believes in me enough to place a precious soul on my own heart. To know He is entrusting me with their prayer-need humbles me to tears. I can only ask He guide me and grow me in the powerful discipline of prayer, because it is one of great honor, and importance – it is one of our greatest protections.

Tantrums and Grace

Have you ever thrown a fit when talking to the Lord? I mean, mine was more like a tantrum, but who’s comparing, right?! Anyway, the few brief moments and months leading up to my toddler outburst had been hard – and often hurtful. My emotions were being driven by my feelings and my feelings by my focus (which was on myself.) As I sat in my car, I listed all the ways I had been slighted, the lack of understanding shown, what injury injustice had done to my heart, and how exhausting it was to have to always take the narrow path on the high road. See what I mean about my focus? I was Elijah in the cave, except I was in a car. Still yet, the Lord allowed me to cry, complain, question, and yes, He even allowed me to be angry and self-centered – He just didn’t let me stay there. I knew what was coming, but I was fighting it. His Words of life and truth hidden in my heart bubbled up, one at a time, until I knew what was to come.

Repentance through an act of service, forgiveness, because the love of Jesus compels us to see others, to view our circumstances, through Holy Sprit colored glasses.

As I turned the keys in the ignition and began to drive to my destination, I had calmed down; but, I was still resisting what my spirit was directing me to do – the kind and godly thing, that thing which goes beyond oneself. I remember my words as if I spoke them yesterday. “I just want to know I am loved, and you hear me.” As I cried out to my Father, He just listened, then I felt Him lean in and love on me with His heart. I heard Him whisper, “You are mine, and I am yours; I am your Maker and Husband. I am your rewarder when you diligently seek me. I love you with an everlasting love; and the same love that covers a multitude of your sins, is the same love which compels you to love others.”

His tender correction toppled my tantrum, His faithful hand of love subdued my fit.

I could go on to tell of the divine happening in the grocery store, but let it be said, some miracle moments are just between a father and his daughter. Just trust me when I say this, His love is big.

His love is bigger than our hurt, bigger than our selfishness, bigger than our complaints, bigger than our fear, bigger than our brokenness – so big it blows my mind!

I am certainly thankful He doesn’t only whisper into caves to prophets, and that His love covers my tantrums with grace.

Abigail’s Appellant Faith

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“Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God.” Tozer’s words echoed within me as I sat down to listen as my Father introduced me to His precious daughter, Abigail. This woman and her faith, what a powerful display of humility, grace, and wisdom. Aside from the fact she is one among only three women in the Holy Scriptures to be singled out and noted for their outward beauty, she is a woman noted for her inward magnificence as well.

The Lord says of his daughter that she was “a woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance…”

Her life had certainly not been a fairy tale while living as wife to Nabal. No two people could have been more antonymous than they. The Lord described Nabal using the Hebrew words qâsheh and râ‛âh, meaning he was cruel, grievous, hard-hearted, obstinate, rough, stubborn and troubled, evil and wretched. A deeper word study reveals Nabal was most certainly a beastly and cruel man.  Abigail was described with Hebraic words such as, ṭôb, śêkel, yâpheh and tô’ar which are the exact opposites (and then some) to Nabal. In detail, Abagail was noted to be beautiful on the outside and one who had a favourable countenance. She was bountiful, cheerful, joyful, kind and most pleasant. This sister of grace was known for her intelligence (by implication of success;) discretion, wisdom and her pleasant ways were her testimony.

Now can you picture her life?

Her home?

She walked in a path directly opposite from her spouse, yet aligned perfectly to Her Creator’s will. She sought hard after the ways of her God, and as one commentator states, “manifested a love stronger than death.” 

As I continued to read from the pages of history, it was becoming increasingly clear Abigail was a sweet peacemaker whose life modeled the ways of her Lord. Her words were gracious and seasoned with salt, and she looked well to the ways of her household – she was trusted. The events that unfolded around her were not of her making, she could not control how her husband behaved. Yet when her servants came to her with the grim news of Nabal’s insolence toward King David, Abigail was quick to respond. All the King had asked was for a show of kindness and Nabal, in his churlish and evil way, refused David and his men kindness, respect and decency. Needless to say, the King was furious. Nabal had provoked the wrath of King David and, had it not been for Abigail’s prepared and appellant faith, Nabal and all of his household would have been destroyed. Her discernment in withholding her thoughts and actions from Nabal until the next day show wisdom in placing her trust in God alone.

As she quickly loaded the donkey with more than enough food and drink for the King and his men, take note of how humble, appealing and encouraging she was when finally reaching the King.

“She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him….Please forgive the trespass of your servant. For the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the LORD, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the LORD your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling.”

-I Samuel 25:24-31

In the history lesson taken from the book of I Samuel, chapter 25, it is revealed Abigail is a woman of patience who cloaked herself in the love of God. She “put on kindness, mercy, humility, gentleness and patience,” and pre-dated Paul’s exhortation to “put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” What an amazing moment in history, where faith in God from the Old Testament marries the sweet teachings of the New Testament.

One need only read of the events that could have cost Nabal’s household their lives to see the actions of this sweet daughter of God were clothed in love and humilty. Abigail, fearfully and wonderfully made was a woman of beauty, prudence and grace.

Abigail must have known a little something about storing up treasures where moth and dust do not corrupt, about those eternal jewels thieves cannot steal – and, about the faithfulness of God to be a rewarder of those who have the faith to diligently seek Him.

Her convictions and meditations in the ways of the Lord must have been her most valued inheritance, for she walked in them and lived in a manner pleasing to Him. And, in the end, He brought her to the palace of the King. Abigail was a woman after God’s own heart, it is only fitting she ended up the wife of a King described this way too. 

Eugenia Price said this of gracious Abigail, “Only God can give a woman poise like Abigail, and God can only do this when a woman is willing to cooperate as [she] did with Him on every point.” 

Abigail’s life and witness have challenged, rather, beckoned me, to walk closer to my Maker, for He is my true love. She has encouraged me to take a look inward and sit before the Lord, asking this question, “How do I actively treat those who are unkind?” And, on an even more personal level, her life begs the question, “How do I respond to my spouse when I don’t like him very much?”  I most certainly do not live with a man such as Nabal, and for this I am increasingly grateful. However, do I clothe myself as Abigail did, with love and mercy when he behaves in an unkind way? Or, do I feel vindicated when I behave in an unloving manner toward him? Is it possible to muster an appellant faith, and am I willing to intercede on his behalf to the King? When I go to my closet, do I find a wardrobe of love, humility, forgiveness, kindness and wisdom or selfsihsness, envy, impatience and self-righteousness? I am most certain the later can be found hanging there ready, but oh that my King would remind me to outfit myself with the first instead. 

There will be many times in our lives when we are faced with the nastiness of human selfishness, anger and frustration. I am not, by any stretch, suggesting God says we are to be abused by another person’s behavior, I am simply saying He calls us to be kind in the we handle them in return. When we choose to turn away from hurtful situations (and nabalish (my word) type of people,) we should pray to walk in a manner worthy and pleasing to the Lord. This speaks volumes to the world around us of the love of Christ which compels us to regard one another with a heart fixed on the One who gave His life for us all. 

In encountering Abigail on the pages of HiStory, I am finding myself inspired to pray for my spouse more earnestly, and to yield to my Savior more readily. One woman’s faith marked the pages of Scripture with a fragrant grace and purposeful poise, and is changing my life for the better. 

 

Going in Circles

It was a late-into-the-night kind of experience when the Lord brought me to a soul moving passage of Scripture five years ago. I remember sitting in the middle of my bed crying and begging God to speak to me- to show me what I should do. The battle between my spirit and sinful flesh ensued through the night – weeping – negotiating – reasoning – reckoning, and in the end, when the sun began rising, resolving to surrender.

It was a life-changing and sorrowful place of truth and wrestling. I struggled with the letting go of what I thought I wanted and moving into what He had ahead for me.

As I read Deuteronomy chapter 2, I heard His heart for me – “Stop going in circles around a mountain you were never meant to conquer, Tonya. Don’t settle for a meager cup of soup simply because you’re hungry, wait for the feast that is your birthright.”

Yet, letting go isn’t always as easy as it should be, especially when the soup tastes yummy – nevermind indigestion it gives you later. How thankful I am God doesn’t give up in His pursuit of my complete heart.

What a treasure it is to know He is righteously jealous for me. What? Me? And just like that, I am stunned by His grace all over again.


Just like with the children of Israel, He has watched my every step. He has blessed me and kept me – all 48 years of my life – and He promises to always be with me, and to bless me.

 

He knows my trudging through the wilderness seasons, He allows them for my good. And even when I cannot sense He’s there, He remains steadfast in His love for me – always.


These days have been odd and challenging, yet they are no different, in many other aspects, as they were 5 years ago. I still seem to head my own way, thinking I am right, and then My Father speaks to my heart, “Stop going in circles, turn your face toward me and walk on – there are better things ahead.”




Look Up Child –  Lauren Daigle

Day 3 on Day 1

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Last month, I opened my life up to a circle friends and asked them to hold me accountable in my study of God’s Word. I beseeched them to inquire how my Purpose Driven Life Bible study was going, and to pray for me along the way. So, last night when one such friend inquired as to how my study was going, I had to be honest – “I am on Day 3…” I relented. He chuckled, “That was two weeks ago.” Ugh, he was almost correct. I actually started two and a half weeks ago – hmmph – I am supposed to be on Day 18. <insert embarrassed emoji here>

But, is that not that reality of life? We have hurdles, we have victories, and we do our best to survive all the in-between. To stay stuck in the embarrassed-emoji mindset is to let the enemy win. Move on.

So, I opened the book, and read the long-awaited Day 3’s question – “What drives your life?”

It would have been nice if I could have told you guys Jesus alone was my motivation in 2019. Honestly, I wanted that to be the case, but I let so much of life’s circumstance distract me into forgetting. Thankfully, He is ready to remind me as often as my memory lapses. Even when I skipped the study, He was faithful to bring me to the right path, all I needed to do was sit surrendered and waiting at His feet.

On the day of Christmas Eve, my Father gave me the gift of Psalm 16. His words have consumed my thoughts ever since underlining their truth through my tears.

The Lord Himself is my inheritance.

What an astounding truth – He is my “ḥel·qî ” – my portion, my share, my reward. This divine, holy, perfect, merciful, forgiving, almighty God – this, this is my legacy, my truth. See why Psalm 16 is such an incredible gift?! Even the Psalmist himself said, “What a wonderful inheritance…no wonder I rejoice!!” And, I do rejoice, especially since I recognize I have such a tendency to fall short.

Truth is, my heart and flesh are going to fail; however, Christ Jesus is my portion, my strength, my hope – forever. Forever is hard to grasp for my finite human mind, but it is no less true simply because I do not understand it. Honestly, understanding doesn’t need to accompany trust – just surrender.

What drives your life, Tonya? I believe it is no accident I just made it to Day 3 on Day 1 of the new year. My heart echos Psalm 16:11. The Lord will surely show me the way of life, granting me the joy of His presence and the pleasures of living with Him forever. This is the gift He has given me – the manna of His perfect counsel, the provision of His steadfast love and a share of His enduring grace.

Kindergarten Science

For this teacher, Kindergarten Science is often a beautiful lesson in life. Just this week, we discussed how sometimes, with temperature variations, substances can undergo reversible changes (such as with water being frozen and then thawed.) But that also, with many other substances, modifications happen which can never be reversed- as with these little pumpkins.

Prior to being cooked, they were hard and could not be molded (or squished) by our hands. Yet after being heated (from the inside out) they became all-too-easy to squash, and at this point, the change was irreversible – they would never be raw pumpkins again.

We squished the pumpkins into pieces, and chatted about our actions and words, and how once we act or speak it cannot be undone. But, my thoughts couldn’t help but wander over to the truth of God’s irreversible love, and to how we can fully trust in the good news of the Gospel. When Christ sheds His love abroad in our hearts, He makes an irreversible mark on our souls that can never be erased or undone – we are His forever!

Nothing we do can alter His great love for us! What an amazing truth this is!

Nevertheless, the lesson did not stop there. While the truth of His unchangeable love resonated in the deepest part of my spirit, I began to also think of how His love reshapes us through the tests and trials of life. These are all a part of the intricate “heating up” process as we walk with Him. And once He changes us with the warmth of that kind of love and grace, we are truly never the same.

He sometimes puts us in the fire so as to help us become more “squishable” – usable for His glory. And, while this may not always be welcomed by our hard-shelled, inflexible, decorative-only selves, it is necessary if we want to become more like Jesus.

What began as lesson for my Kindergarteners, ended up a lesson for their teacher. I am thankful for Kindergarten Science – and the little pumpkins God uses to change me.