Prayer


end of a roadCarla is not adjusting well to this time.  It is an end of an era for her.  Carla  is a high functioning person with intellectual disabilities.   Both parents have died.  She became too ill to live in her own apartment any longer.  For health and safety reasons, Carla has been moved into a group home where she can receive medical attention and help with personal care.

Joseph is experiencing the opposite.  It is also an end of an era for him.  His mother’s health has forced his family to make a hard decision.  He, too, has been moved into a group home.  While living at home, Joseph was never allowed to dress, shave or clean himself.  He was told where to go and what to do.  At the group home, he is required to clean, dress and shave himself.  He must take part in the chores and activities of the household.  He is required to do his own laundry and clean his own room.

Carla’s personality is softly pleasant.  Her manners are tender and appealing.  Joseph’s manner is gruff and abrasive.  He never walks.  He struts, giving the impression that he thinks more highly of himself than he ought.

unhappy catWhile Carla finds group home living restrictive and oppressive, Joseph has never had more freedom.  Carla has fewer chores and responsibilities now that she no longer lives in her own apartment. Someone cooks her meals, helps her with her household chores when necessary.   Without even informing her, the staff completes the paperwork required by the government which she often hid rather than traverse through the unintelligible maze of questions.  Carla resents the assistance she receives.

The demands on Joseph have multiplied but his finds increasing freedom in this new arrangement even though it is wrapped tightly with chores and requirements.  Of course, Joseph has never been one to complain.  He takes life as it come; and he trusts the Lord to work things out for his benefit.  Joseph often prays out loud, seriously or happily asking God to help him.

Carla admits that she almost never prays.  The requirements of “religion” are much too difficult and confining.  Carla cannot grasp the concept of God being a friend–her friend.

Joseph’s cognitive level is far below Carla’s but his faith quotient soars far above most other people.  He prays and expects an answer “because God loves me.”  He believes that “all things work” for his good because “God said it in the Bible.  Therefore, it’s true.”

In short, Carla is miserable and has been for years.  Joseph is joyous. Each day is a welcomed adventure.

sitting on a porchEach of us come to times in our lives when things radically change.  We graduate from college.  We get married.  Our first baby is born.  The first child enters kindergarten.  Then poof.   In a few short days, she is entering college.  The children leave home.  The children come back home.  A spouse dies.

Our IQ does not determine the position of our misery barometer.  Through prayer and fellowship with our Heavenly Father and Savior, Redeemer, Friend Jesus that our barometer are adjusting determining the joy and love into which we motivate through life.  I am praying that my life will follow the example set by Joseph.  Even though, he is a young man with a lousy personality and low IQ.  Joseph has tapped into the life-giving force of the Lord Jesus.  His example gives my hope and joy.

family celebrationRemembering is a vital Christian discipline that is either ignored or taught in an off-handed, casual manner.  Most of us know that routine thinking is defined by psychologists as remembering what happened in the past and rehearsing how we would change it if we could relive the event.  Perhaps that is the reason why Christians disregard the command of Jesus to “do this to remember me.”

Why should such a common event as remembering become a Christian disciple?  But isn’t God the redeemer of all things, especially those events and objects which we take for granted, find most common or deem less valuable.

family preparing for deploymentOur memories are an essential part of who we are.  Family events often mean sitting around the table rehearsing past joys and sorrows.  We laugh again and again at Uncle Billy’s comment about Vero Beach.  We delight in Tarah’s antics telling about the ordeal of preparing for her husband’s deployment to Afghanistan. We use our dinner napkins to wipe away the tears when our laugher turns to piercing loneliness as we joke about Mama’s long, convoluted prayers that each year kept us from eating our Thanksgiving dinner until it was cold.

We know that these are times of joyful sorrow that make our hearts grow with love and appreciation for each other.   Yet, that experience is not often shared among the church family.  One of the highlights of my Christian life was when The Tabernacle Church of Melbourne hosted their 25th anniversary dinner.  It was a time of remembering and sharing the joys and hidden sorrows of a congregation that had grown into a family.

I believe that communion was to be more than a ritualistic handing out of the cup and bread.  It was to be more than the sharing of the “host.”   It was to be a time of true remembrance and celebration.

community churchOf course, there are times that our hearts are filled with the cares and concerns of our world.   We approach communion with a need for more time, more energy and more resources.  We don’t have the time, energy or resources to “rehearse” that joyful night which ushered in the heart-bending sorrow of a crucified Savior.

Working in the mentally challenged community for 24 years has taught me many lessons.  One is the value of remembering.  Saturday night, as I stood beside Keith’s hospital bed with two of his caregiver, our conversation slowly ambled toward Chris, Grace, Tom and so many others.  Young people who were snatched from us too soon. Keith slept because his medical emergency was over.  Relieved that he would go home, we hugged each other with sweet memories and conversation of our loved ones who have gone to be the Lord.

Perhaps turning these moments into a traditional ceremony will only take away the value.  Yet, it is apparent that the Lord wants to become a vital part of the joys and sorrows of remembering.

camelsOnce again reading about Abraham’s sojourning from his family and country after receiving a command of the Lord makes me realize how portable our lives could be.  Perhaps portability should even be an expected the way of life. The most important thing we have goes with us no matter where we settle.

Of  course,our relationship with the Lord and our ability of communicate with him are the most important things in our lives.  Prayer enables us to speak with the Lord and allows us to hear from our Savior.

walking in the desertIn the past few weeks, the Lord impressed me to move my prayer spot.  I’ve prayed for years in the living room.  Yet, several mornings he told me to go into the family room instead.  This week I’ve had visitors; and I’ve been praying in the bedroom.  I’ve hated praying in the bedroom because it’s much too easy to snuggle down into the blankets and go to sleep.

Determined to continue in my prayer routine, I’ve pressed into the time and felt a new joy in my prayer, even though the surroundings aren’t as familiar.

comfortableAgain and again, we are reminded that God wants us to seek him, not a place or event.  I find that I’m an expert at putting everything in front of the Lord.  I must struggle daily forcing my will and my desires into the background.  He rewards and allows us to grow and become productive followers when we allow him to move us from our comfort zones back into his will.

cross and prayingAfter 6 decades of praying, I’ve developed an awareness that the Lord honors and values our prayers far more than we do.  Considering prayer, I often think about my adult children.  They often call me merely to check and see how I’m doing.  No matter what time they call, if I’m able I answer the phone.

As they approached adulthood, I attempted to make them my friends.  It is impossible to express what their friendship and consideration for my well-being means to me.  I don’t always like or agree with their needs or desires.  Yet, I’m going to listen, give advice if they ask for it and help whenever possible.

parent and hildBeing a human, I can hardly imagine the great heart of God as he listens to our prayers.  Whether complaints, concerns, petitions or intercession, God desires to pour into our lives his blessings of grace and mercy.  Therefore, I cannot ever imagine a time that the Lord will say “No” to a plea that comes from the needs and concerns of one of his children.

However, I’m convinced the Lord always responses, “I’m not going to give you what you desire.  In my wisdom, I know that this is not my best for your life.  I’m going to give you something much better.”

James wrote that we have not because we ask not.  That implies to me that God is far more eager to answer our prayers than we are to pray.

Should our prayer life be thoughtful and reasoned?  Of course.  Should we desire God’s best for our family and friends?  Absolutely.  Should we be concerned that this bountiful, loving God will withhold from us any good thing?  Never.  Can we trust him to honor and answer each prayer with the same mercy and grace that poured from Calvary into a world lost in sin? Yes, with certain assurance.

waiting

Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of prayer is when the Lord answers, “Wait.”

We’ve all experienced that waiting time.  Personally, I’m quite ready for my prayers to be answered the day and even the moment I ask.  I’ve prayed for a good friend for more than 25 years to receive the Lord.  Daily, I’ve asked that He bless and help her.  Recently, I paid her a visit and learned that she had received the Lord as her Savior.

joyful peopleI must admit that rather than being overjoyed, my reaction was much more subdued.  I quizzed the Lord about my emotionless reaction.  In my spirit I felt His response, “If I’d done the work more quickly, you would’ve wanted to take credit.  I wanted you to realize that I’m the Savior of her soul, not your prayers.”  Understand this wasn’t a rebuke from the Lord but a simple statement of fact.

The New Testament records an interesting verse. Yet when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days (John 11:6).  

Jesus had received a plea for help from his best friends, Mary and Martha.  Their brother, Lazarus was dying.  Jesus didn’t rush to his bedside to comfort and heal.  He waited.  Oz Hillman wrote,

God often has to delay His work in us in order to accomplish something for His purposes that can be achieved only in the delay. Jesus had to let Lazarus die in order for the miracle that was about to take place to have its full effect. If Jesus had simply healed a sick man, the impact of the miracle would not have been as newsworthy as resurrecting a man who had been dead for four days. This is Jesus’ greatest “public relations act” of His whole ministry. What many do not realize is that the key to the whole story is in the next chapter.

Many people, because they had heard that He had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet Him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after Him!” (John 12:18-19)

The Lord was setting the stage for Jesus’ death and resurrection.  It was only after this great miracle that the Pharisees began to see that the only path to the elimination of Jesus’ influence was his death.  From that moment they purposed in their spirits to destroy Jesus.

God's plaMonths ago, I shared with a young pastor who had been elected to an important office some on the things that I’d learned while serving in a similar position.  He reaction was rejection of my ideas. Then, last week, we again sat at a meeting.  He shared his discouragement and the lack of success he had experienced in his ministry over the past two or three years.  Another more experienced pastor quietly shared what I’d proposed a year ago. The young pastor heard and adopted the plan

After the meeting, the older pastor came to me and whispered, “You said that a year ago; but he couldn’t hear it then.  He had to learn the hard way.”  Then the seasoned minister grinned, “We all have to learn the hard way–our way.”

Delays aren’t merely part of God’s great plan for eternity.  They are also part of his plan for our lives.  Perhaps the hardest to receive–yet most profitable–answer God can give us to our prayers is “wait.”

praying on her kneesPrayer is an eternal mystery that haunts even the most devote warrior in God’s kingdom.  For Frances, prayer was her bread and drink.  She spent her days and nights in supplication to the Lord.  I earnestly believe that it was the prayers of Frances that turned our nation back to the Lord in a great way in the late 1950’s and 1960’s.

Of course there were many others who also prayed and sought God but I experienced first-hand the result of Frances’ ministry.  I sat under her teaching and walked hand in hand with her during her times of struggle.  I also saw her confidence in prayer.  I rejoiced in what God was accomplishing through the hours spend listening, speaking, loving and even wrestling with a holy God.

tent meetingsWhile TV pundents often proclaim that everyone was stoned during those decades, there was an underground movement that consisted of late teens and young adults whose hearts pled for God to change them and our nation.  My husband and I were part that movement–the Jesus Movement.  We led a vibrant and holy group of teenagers whose sole ambition was to find a deep relationship with Jesus.  They gathered under tents and in churches.  They fasted and held all night prayer meetings.

While the focus beamed on the teens and the other young men and women who led this army of teenagers, it was the matrons and masters of prayer–such as Frances–who had plowed the ground, planted the seed and rejoiced in the harvest.  Their battle was hard-fought.  They struggled and wrestled with the enemy of our souls on their knees, weeping, laughing and facing that dreaded enemy with grace, courage and valor. The power of the Holy Spirit never failed them.  The Father’s love always embraced them and assured them that his great destiny would save even the most horrible reprobate.

These prayer warriors didn’t possess the advantages of social media, blogs or the Internet but their prayers had world-wide and lasting effects.  Somehow, Christian leaders from around the world heard about Frances and came to her humble home for prayer.  They delighted in staying in the home of Frances and her husband. eating her food, laughing and enjoying fellowship long into the night.  But they came for prayer–recognizing her vital connection to God that brought success in ministry.

joanFew of us have been given the grace Frances possessed in determined, steadfast prayer.  Yet, all of us can seek God with the grace God has given to us.  Frances died stubbornly, without fanfare.  She resisted death even after her strength and vigor had been long spent.  I asked her oldest daughter, “Why does she struggle, resisting death so strongly?”  She believed that Frances clung to a desire to be on earth when the Lord returned.

Was this woman of God perfect?  No! Was she a warrior who helped to change the world for Christ?  Yes!

For years, one of our Bible teachers at Special Gathering reviewed the same Bible verse with his class every week.  “I will pray morning, noon and night.”  As the first five years rolled around, I became a bit disturbed.  Doesn’t he know any other verses? I asked myself.  Then I came to welcome the value of what he was teaching his class.  The learning abilities of his class were limited.  He drilled them each week.  While some of the members could quote the verse easily, others struggled week after week, year after year.

Slowly, as the years melted into seven, eight years, I came to see that my understanding of the verse was deepening.  Almost every week, I would sit in his class.  I found that this simple Biblical declaration became dear to me.

“I will pray morning, noon and night,” I would mutter to myself as I climbed into my car for lunch.  At odd times, I realized that my spirit mind was telling my sub-conscious mind, I will pray morning, noon and night.  It became a call to prayer for me that became a welcomed reminder and spurred my mind to think about prayer more often.

My mother took a selling job when I was a pre-teen.  In her training, she was taught an important principle that she shared withher daughters, “Repetition brings out thought.”  For those of us who value our quick minds, we sometimes discount the value and purpose of repetition.

However, men and women who make a daily practice of memorizing scriptures, repeat even the familiar ones several times a day.  They carry their scriptures packets for review during their down times.  Not only are they learning the Word and hiding God’s message in their hearts, they are bringing out new thoughts about what God has to say to them.

As God moves on the hearts of the more mature members of Special Gathering, they are expressing a desire to serve the Lord in “important ways.”  I’ve been surprised at how much they are yearning to have their lives count for God’s kingdom.  Special Gathering members are intellectually disabled, but their spirits are whole and holy.  Some of them are starting to discuss how they can be effective Christians, reaching out into our community and sharing the good news of redemption through Jesus.  They feel that they are having to spend a lot of time waiting for the Lord to use them.

Like these men and women from the disability community, most of us spend much of our time waiting in the wings, peeking around waiting for our turn.  The Bible is full of men and women that we consider heroes of the faith who spent most of their lives waiting for a promise of God to be fulfilled.  My mother often said, “God is wanting a people who are faithful.  Our success is not as important as our faithfulness.”

I’m not one to look backwards; but I’ve recently been asked to share a testimony regarding things which happened to our community in the 1960′s.  This has triggered a look into my past that is interesting.  My day to day observation has been that I’ve been waiting for God to move most of my life.  Looking back, I’ve been a bit shocked at how much the Lord has moved in the life of our community.

In fact, my life appears blessed compared to the lives of the men and women we find in the Scriptures. Nearly all of his life, Daniel lived in captivity and forced to serve in the courts of the conquering kingdom.  By his own accounts, Jeremiah had a disastrous career.  He was not trusted, ridiculed, thrown into a pit and left to die.  Esther was forced into a loveless marriage.  Ruth became a widow at a young age.  Later, she chose to move from her homeland to take care of her mother-in-law.

Perhaps during the 21 years that David was waiting to become king, he could have grown tired of waiting.  Joseph spent an equal amount of time in prison before he was elevated to prime minister of Egypt.  Moses languished for 40 years in the wilderness until his burning bush experience.

It is obvious that God’s measuring stick of what is accomplished in the “wings” of life is different from our human accounting processes.  Yet, as the author of our faith, He alone will be our final judge.  Reviewing the lives of these men and women that were used to bring forth and spread the Gospel, I’m relieved that the Lord is one who is keeping the records.  Perhaps a time of waiting is necessary to bring his children into maturity and able to be faithful to the end.
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/simplelife/#ixzz26jtVjwQX

Glenn McGruffie, the team manager for Veteran Services for Brevard County, Florida, signs his emails with this quote. “A veteran is someone who at one point in his or her life wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’ for an amount of  ‘up to and including my life.'”

Chris Stevens

While this isn’t a special day in which we pay honor to our veterans, this quote is so significant I feel it must be shared.  Our nation has seen too many of our most valiant men and women lost in the turmoil of war.  This week we have been shocked and saddened by Libya Ambassador Chris Stevens.  The accounts that are emerging are disturbing and sad.

We live in a blessed nation that may be teetering on the brink of several disasters.  We are in unthinkable debt.  There are billions of people who hate us.  Yet, the men and women continue to write that blank check so that we can live in freedom.

We own them more than a debt of gratitude.  We own them our prayers and our commitment to the faith in the Lord that we, as Christians, recognize is the true reason for our strength.  The Lord calls his people to prayer.  During this holy week in the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah, those who call on Christ as our Savior should not only pray for the peace of Jerusalem but for our troops who are willing to die for our freedom.

God is Patient

II Peter 3:9

Central Theme:  God is patient with everyone.

Introduction–  Bring branch from the jassmine vine.  Tell about the other one getting killed in the storm.  I was sad because it was beautiful and large and provided shade for the back yard.  Do you think a man of God should be more concerned about a dead plant or a city like Vero Beach (Melbourne), Florida?

I.     Have a member read II Peter 3:9

A. Tell the story of Jonah.

B.  Show a dead plant.

C. Jonah wanted God to kill all the people in the city.  However,  he was so angry when the plant that had grown over night had died that he said he wanted to die.

II.     God is patient with everyone.

A. He does not want anyone to have an unhappy life or die without Him.

1.  Tell about getting angry with some people who were spreading terrible gossip about you.  At times you wanted them to disappear.  I didn’t really want them to die but I wished they would just be gone.

2.  God helped me to love them because he loves them.

B.  This is how God  helps me be patient with people I don’t want to be patient with.

1.  God can help me remember that he loves that person as much as he loves me.

2.  God can help me find good things about that person.

3.  God can help me love that person when they are not with me.

A. Many times when we are not with a person, we think about what the other person did or said and then we get angry.

Conclusion–God is patient and he can help me to be patient also.

Prayer includes listening

Jeremiah 33:3

Central Theme:  We should learn to listen to God speaking.

Introduction–Tommy Andrew Dorsey, the gospel song writer, heard a small voice speak to him to stay at home but he did not listen.  He had to come back to the house, a voice said, “Stay!“ but he did not listen.  While he was gone, his pregnant wife died.  Then his little baby died.  He was angry at God, until he remembered that this small voice kept telling him to stay at home.  He wrote the song, “Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on let me stand.”

I.     Paul learned that a large part of prayer is listening to God.

A. Have a member read Jeremiah 33:3.

B.  Tell the story from Acts 16:6-10 of Paul‘s vision to go the Macedonia.

1.  Paul listened to God and we should be very happy.

2.  This meant that the Western World, many of our ancestors would hear the gospel.

II.     Listening is no mystery to us.

A. We are all familiar with a small voice that speaks to us.

1.  Usually says, “Don’t do that.”

2.  Many times we hear a voice that says, “Stop and help.”

3.  We might feel that we should, “Pray for George.  He needs help.”

B.  We call that our conscience

1.  Everyone has it–Christian and nonChristian.

2.  Every person in the world has an inside voice that speaks to us.

C. As Christians, we recognize that voice is usually God’s Spirit speaking to us.

D. We need to begin to follow God’s voice

E.  We need to begin to listen for God’s voice

1.  Maybe today, as we get ready to eat our refreshments or talk to a friend but that voice says, “Help with the chairs.”

2.  Or we get ready to help put up the chairs and that voice says, “Stop and help a friend.”

3.  Take a few minutes each day to listen.  God will speak to you.

Prayer must include listening to make us strong.

Every stress-relieving prescription in books or articles begin and end with “throw away, organize and simplify. ” Therefore, it isn’t hard to see the pattern that the experts recommend for eliminating stress.

Following the advice of these men and women who have studied these things, I’ve looked around to find where I can simplify my life.  Here and there, piece by piece, I’ve whittled at the excesses.

Over the years, I learned that I am effected by the things which surround me.  Walking through the grocery store brings about extreme sensory overload for me.  It is as though I have a complete brain drain as I enter the doors of Wal-Mart.  Without a list, I never leave the store with all the things I need, no matter how much money I spend.

Yet, like the experts advise, I find that simple things restore my sanity.  A walk around the block relishing the brisk fall breezes.  Sitting on the beach watching the waves with my feet covered with wet sand.  Propped against two pillows reading my Bible each night before I go to sleep.  Waking before dawn to share moments with the King of the Universe in intimate conversation.

Tonight I had supper with friends. Afterwards, we talked for hours.  I explained a disturbing dream I had this week.  My friend took the dream and helped me to understand a complex issue that has troubled me for several months.  The answer was simple.

Here and there, I find that the more I learn, the more I don’t understand.  The more I desire to be holy, the more I realize how far I must travel toward that goal.

Yet, in the middle of these confusing issues, one simple principle remains steady. God loves me and He desires my love more than my adherence to a group of legalities.  God loves me and no matter how much I fail him, he stands ready to forgive, cleanse, release and heal.  God loves me and my failures don’t surprise him.  He knew about them before I was even born.  Yet his love for me is unchanging.

Darting back and to, here and there, I’m confused and disoriented.  But resting in the gracious arms of his love, I’m safe and secure.  In his love, life becomes simple.  In Him, I am made complete.

Today, during Special Gathering worship, we said good-bye to a dear and trusted friend who is moving away.  Erik Conrad came to us seven years ago and he has done more tasks that I can name.

For me, he has been a person of value helping, teaching, ministering, loading equipment, and leading praise.  Regarding ministry within the mentally challenged community, there are few people who dare to jump into the work as Erik has done.  He will be greatly missed.

I’m a bit surprised that Special Gathering ministry has become as dependent on this young man. I am strangely feeling as though I’m once again sitting on my brother’s bike trying to get my balance. Nevertheless, I am reassured that God will help all of us and that things will come back together as soon as I gain the courage and experience to push away from the fence.

The Psalmist said, “Because your love is better than life, I will praise you.  I will praise you as long as I live.  I will lift my hands in prayer to your name.  I will be content as if I had eaten the best food.  My lips will sing and my mouth will praise you” (Psalm 63:3-5).

Are you facing a new experience that has left you unsure of yourself?  How will you appropriate your faith in God to help you regain your equilibrium?

Hot and sweaty I came in from a 10-minute run. Wiping my forehead and drinking a large glass of water, I’d neglected to turn off the TV.  Absently, I observed as the morning show hosts flashed the live picture of the first tower with a large gaping hole. Flames shot from the opening.

As we watched, another plane plowed into the second tower. There was a gut wrenching realization that this was a terrorist attack. What I didn’t know was that within a few hours I would watch in horror as both towers collapsed. All doubt regarding a systematic attack was erased when news cameras quickly craned on the Pentagon attack. Then the Pennsylvania crash was recorded.

Moment by moment, I realized that history was being made. For the first time, the entire world watched as buildings crumbled and planes crashed, dragging our nation into an extended, brutal war.  Our prayer for our nation remains the same.  We pray for God’s mercy as we repent of those things which are glaring sins and failures in our lives.

Linda G. Howard, “A Simple Life, A Childlike Faith”

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