Thursday, March 31, 2016

How to Pray in 4 Simple Steps

As a young girl, I didn't grow up learning childlike bedtime prayers, or how to talk to God. I wasn't raised in a Christian home. My decision to accept Jesus as my Savior came at about age 16, but I didn’t truly make him Lord of my life until another decade had passed. My desire to pray didn’t fully develop until I had children of my own. 

In 1999, soon after the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado, I sat in my car outside my children’s school with tears pouring down my cheeks. I was listening to a radio broadcast that discussed the Moms In Prayer ministry (at that time called Moms In Touch). 

The woman on the radio asked, “If you’re not praying for your child, who is?” 

My heart was immediately convicted and I knew that I needed to become purposeful and deliberate in my prayer life. I made a few phone calls and joined a local prayer team through the ministry. 

In all honesty, I knew how to ask the Lord for things I wanted, but I didn’t know how to pray. What’s the difference? One method focused on a presentation of a wish list, while the other was about communing and building relationship with the God of the universe. 

I was immensely grateful for what I learned through Moms in Prayer. As we met together as moms, we followed a simple 4-step formula of prayer. Not because it was a legalistic ritual, but because it was simple, Scriptural, and easy to follow. By praying through the four steps, a group of moms could easily stay on track, begin and end our prayer on time (we prayed for one hour each week), and cover our children with fervent, timely, and meaningful prayer. 

Each prayer group had a leader. That leader was responsible for selecting Bible verses each week that provided the framework for our prayers. One Bible verse was selected to enhance to each of these four steps:

1) Praise

During this portion of our prayer, we offered praise to the Lord for His character.  Praise turns our focus to the Lord and turns it away from other distractions, large or small. The Bible teaches that the Lord inhabits the praise of His people (Psalm 22:3). Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name”. Our praise serves as a vehicle into the presence and power of God.

A very brief sampling of Scripture verses:  Psalm 28:1-4; Romans 11:33-36

2) Confession

Every day we fall short, in some way, of pleasing the Lord. Let me tell you, some days are much worse than others, but we know that as human beings, we will never fully hit the mark. When we confess our personal sins to the Lord, we agree with Him that what we have done isn't in accordance with His will. The action we confess might be as simple as a momentary, angry hatred toward someone (like the driver who just cut us off), or a blatant, inappropriate act.  

Mind you, we didn’t verbally confess our sins in our prayer group. There is a time and place to “confess your sins one to another” (James 5:16), but in our prayer circles, all of our confession was silent. Always, we asked the Lord to bring to our minds things that we had thought, done, or said that were not pleasing to Him. 

Simply explained, with confession behind us, our slates were clean, and we could enjoy uninhibited communion with a holy God. God’s holiness means that He physically cannot be in the presence of sin. We couldn’t enter His presence at all without the saving work of Jesus Christ. Confession expresses our desire to “be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16) and our reliance on Him to grow toward holiness. 

Sample verses:  Psalm 51:1-2; Psalm 51:9-10; 

3) Thanksgiving

This was the portion of prayer where we specifically thanked Him for answered prayer. 

With a brand new prayer life, I’d often forget what I’d prayed. Since I didn’t remember asking, I didn’t remember to say thank you and give Him the honor and glory when He answered.  This deliberate time of thanksgiving helped us acknowledge the gifts, grace, and mercy that our Lord provides. It also acknowledged God as the Giver of all good and perfect gifts (James 1:17). 

Sample verses: 1 Chronicles 16:34; Psalm 95:2-3

4) Intercession

Finally, as a last step to our prayer time, we would ask the Lord for the needs, wants, and for the desires of our hearts.  This part came easily, especially as a group of moms who had long lists of concerns for their children.  

It seemed I knew how to ask for what I wanted even when I didn’t know who God was.  But when this became the least emphasized part of my prayer life, I truly learned what it meant to spend time with my heavenly Father. It didn’t seem so awkward to ask for what I needed when I’d already acknowledged Him as my Heavenly Father and prayed through the other three steps. 

Sample verses:  Joshua 1:9; Zechariah 2:5; 2 Corinthians 3:5

I stayed involved with Moms in Prayer for a number of years and enjoyed every minute. My prayer life has grown since those early gatherings, and to this day, I meet with a weekly prayer group. Not only does joining with others offer great accountability, it provides the blessing of interceding for one another.  Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered, there I am in their midst.” (Matthew 18:20) Once I experienced that truth, I never looked back. 

These four steps of prayer are nearly always a part of my prayer life, but I’ve also learned the blessing of silent meditation on His Word and character, waiting on the Lord for direction and guidance on decisions (John 16:13), and reliance on the Holy Spirit. A deeper prayer life didn’t come immediately, but is worthy of the practice it took to achieve. 

I continue to grow in my prayer life and trust the Lord will always reveal His greater glory in the process.  Nearly every day, I appreciate the teaching I received in the beginning phases of my intercessory walk. It was a valuable, foundational starting point that I hope blesses you today.

Your Turn:

Where are you in your prayer journey? In the beginning stages or at a deeper, more established point in your walk?

What is the best advice on prayer you’ve ever received? How has it helped your prayer life?

Be Strengthened Today, by His Word,

Psalm 119:28

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

3 Painless Ways to Reconnect with a Lost Friend

We all have them - those friends who, for a variety of reasons, have moved on. Perhaps the friendship ended in a disagreement, or maybe gradual life changes led you to drift apart. No matter the reason, most of us have a handful of long lost friends.  

It’s not uncommon that these friends come to mind from time to time. We may have regrets, wish things turned out differently, or just miss the relationship. Yet we don’t take the time to reach out. 

  • We’re embarrassed that we haven’t connected for so long
  • We don’t know what to say
  • We allow ourselves to believe we don’t matter to them anymore
  • We don’t really know what caused the drift in the first place 
  • We don’t know how to reconnect

Sometimes reconnecting is a matter of putting on our big girl panties and just doing the difficult thing. That’s right. Take a breath, say a prayer, then reach out. It doesn’t have to hurt, in fact it can be rather painless!

Reconnection 101

Easy and Painless Ways to Connect

Talk to God First:

Pray that the Lord will fully reveal truth in your relationship and restore anything that’s broken. Ask that He’ll soften each of your hearts and draw you together in love and unity, leaving the past behind and pressing on toward a friendly future together. Consistent prayer over the relationship can bring unexpected and joyful redemption to your friendship. Pray with expectation and a willingness to take action as the Lord prompts. 

May I encourage you to resist praying, “Lord change her heart” and instead pray, “Lord, change our hearts”? 

Use Technology:

Send a text or Facebook message to say, “I was thinking about you today. I hope things are going your way!”  (If you mean it you can add, “I’d love to hear from you,” or “Why don’t we get together soon?”)

Use the Mail:

With all of the bills, catalogs, and JUNK that fills our mailbox, it’s a refreshing bright spot in our day to receive a handwritten card - a piece of mail that doesn’t want our money, our vote, or our time.  Send a “Thinking of You” card to that lost friend with a short note that says, “Just want you to know I prayed for you today and asked the Lord to deliver a smile and happy memory.  I miss you.”  ** Please don’t tell someone you’ve prayed for them unless it’s true! **

There are times, especially when a relationship may have drifted because of a problem, when we need to sink our teeth into the issue and work a little harder. 

Reconnection 201

Connecting When More Heart and Fortitude are Required 

Use the Phone:

Consider a call to your lost friend and a gentle conversation that asks, 
“Do you know what happened between us? Because I sure don’t understand.”
Have a willingness to listen. Really listen to how your friend responds. Decide in advance that you won’t respond with defensiveness but take to heart what she says and receive it as constructive criticism.  Pray before you call, and ask that the Lord prepare both of your hearts for the conversation. Ask that He lead you to reconciliation.

Take a Vague Suggestion a Step Further: 

Instead of suggesting, “Let’s meet sometime” actually schedule a time to DO IT!

Forgive and Ask for Forgiveness: 

The power of forgiveness can’t be overstated. With the Lord’s help, you - yes you (and me too) - can forgive any wrong. Remember that forgiveness doesn’t bring instant trust or immediate reconciliation. It doesn’t make what your offender did you you “okay.” It releases the offender from any debt you believe she owes you and helps free you of the weight of burden you’ve carried.  

It’s said that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. So choose, today, to forgive. Remember that Jesus has already paid the price for her wrongdoing. Surrender your lost friend and the situation to Him. This may take several tries. You may have to remind yourself every day that you’ve decided to forgive. Eventually, it will become easier and your heart will follow your obedience.

There’s great power in asking for forgiveness too. Even if you don’t agree that you were in the wrong, you can still feel genuinely sorry that your friend was hurt. Say with sincerity, “We don’t see this situation the same way, but I am truly sorry for anything that I did that caused you pain. I don’t like to see you hurting and angry. Can you forgive me? What can I do to help you trust me again?” 

Let’s stop allowing the enemy of our souls to steal cherished relationships because we don’t know how to start a reconciliation. Remember, with God, nothing is impossible. Take the first step to resume a friendship and watch the Lord work! 

1 Thes 5:24 ESV
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

1 Peter 4:8 ESV
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

Your Turn:

When has taking a risk to restore a relationship paid off for you?

What other tips would you suggest for restoring a friendship with a long lost friend?

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Be Strengthened Today, By His Word

Psalm 119:28