Prayer That Impacts Our Perspective

When I was growing up, Mom or Dad usually said “the blessing,” a rote prayer, before supper. Sometimes Dad told one of my three brothers or me to say it. Being kids, we flew through it so we could eat. And then one day Dad instructed the four of us to each write multiple prayers that would become our suppertime prayers. “I want you to think about what you’re thankful to God for and write it into prayers,”

I still remember walking to my bedroom thinking, “I bet nobody else’s family does this.”  None of us had ever written a prayer before. But, we wrote them, and for weeks, we took turns and read one person’s written prayer each night at supper. Though I rolled my eyes the day Dad assigned this “task,” I enjoyed listening to my brothers’ prayers and sharing mine.

Over the years, I strayed significantly from Dad’s effort to lead us to thoughtfully thank God—until I began to read the Bible. Oh, sometimes I thanked Him for giving me something I was praying for or for helping me out of a hard situation—but that’s about it.

“I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” (Ps. 9:1)

When something wonderful happens in our life, we feel like being thankful. We tell others about the wonderful thing God did. However, read all of Psalm 9. The psalmist describes his current affliction and oppression. He recalls others’ long seasons of trial.

Yet, he trusts God. He recounts ALL of God’s wonderful deeds—not only his personal experiences of God’s goodness. The psalmist knows the testaments of God’s people who have lived before him.

“An those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” (v. 10)

When I started reading the Bible, I began to get to know God. He writes His Word on our heart and gives us recall for His wonderful deeds that cover all of time.  Our view of Who God IS no longer is limited to our life experiences of Him. His Word shapes our view to include the testimonies of all His people.

The Old and New Testament reveal His steadfast love, faithfulness, and grace over generations, as His people walk through hardship, trouble, long waits, and great loss.

So how does this affect our gratitude?
Our heart swells with gratitude for who God IS.
Who God IS anchors our gratitude—not circumstances.

Whenever I read or hear someone’s words of brave gratitude toward God, I think, Wow, her trust in God is strong. God grows this strength in you and me— as we believe HIs Word and as we recognize Him moving throughout our day. . . Thank you, Lord, that you will lead me through this…that you see everything…that your plans are perfect…that you are with me right now…that I have eternity with you…

Yeah, being thankful is brave. We stare our troubles in the face and trust that our God is so much bigger.

Life can be really hard. Each of us face hardship, heartache, short and long seasons of discouragement. Sometimes when we don’t think we can endure one more thing, one more thing happens. The details of our stories vary, but the themes mirror those of generations of God’s people. The emotions and thoughts that wear us down and wreak havoc within are common to us. And God IS.

Especially in my hardest seasons, prayers of gratitude shift my perspective. When we thank God, we mark His goodness—in creation, in the generations before us, in the testimonies of our friends and strangers. We remember countless gifts we don’t deserve—a loved one, an ability, an experience, a miracle. We remember who God IS.

“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people, it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”  (2 Corinthians 4.15–16)

God Wants You To Know His Pleasure In You

When my three brothers and I were little, we would get so excited when Mom or Dad would stop what they were doing to watch our latest “feat.” Like what? you may ask. Oh, amazing things like a basketball shot we finally mastered, tricks off the diving board, a dance move, a bike trick . . . The thing was we often didn’t get it right the first, second, or third time we tried for them. So, more than once, we’d ask (or plead), “Wait; can I start over?! . . . “Hold on; let me try again! . . . I’ll get it right this time!”

Whatever our final performance looked like, their facial expression, words, or clapping showed us their delight. Looking back, I don’t think their delight was mainly about what we were doing. We knew their pleasure for who we are to them.  When our children were little, they called us to watch them, too. Whatever they presented was fun to see, but mostly we enjoyed them and our relationship.

God enjoys you and me. He takes pleasure in us because we are His. Do you know the experience of enjoying God’s pleasure in you?

For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” (Psalm 149.4)

I lived a lot of years thinking that God’s pleasure was earned according to my performance. (You can read more on this theme in my book, Becoming A Peaceful Mom.) God takes pleasure in us simply because He made us.  We can experience His pleasure through relationship with him, even as we struggle through our ugly stuff, weaknesses, and times when we’re distant from Him.

Relationship with God is not a daily performance—to say or do something right. God is not watching for how we perform, to only then express His pleasure if we behave well.

Relationship with God is a daily partnership of the heart. He is always very near to us. We can decide daily to draw near to Him–or not. When we make time to read God’s Word, we demonstrate that we want to know Him, and He instills understanding for how committed He is to relationship with us. When we pray—praise, confess, thank, ask, listen—we partner with God. We practice depending on Him and experience how dependable He is.

The more we know God and spend time with Him, the fact of His pleasure in us captures our heart as real and true—and awe for such grace overwhelms. He knows we’ll mess up, and He forgives us. We practice heart partnership, one hour at a time. Through each right-step, misstep, humility step, and faith-step, God shapes, loves, and reveals His pleasure in us.

Thank you, God, that I am not a human project for your evaluation. Help me grasp Your tender love and pleasure in me and enjoy our relationship, which you created me for. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Our First Love

I spent some time with my mom recently. (She lives a few hours away.) She has Alzheimer’s. As I approached her, the caregiver leaned toward her and asked, “Do you know who that is?” One more time I was blessed with her frail words, “It’s Teresa.”  And I whisper thanks to God.

At some point in our visits, I scoot my chair close to her wheelchair, wrap my arms around her and rest my head on her shoulder. Sometimes she brings her hand up to mine, and I feel like she’s holding me. I know that doesn’t make sense . . . Her touch simply represents the strength of her love over the years.

When I arrive and before I leave, I turn her chair to face me, look into her eyes, smile, and tell her how much I love her. Each time, I feel like I’m held in the moment, as I look into her blue eyes. Her words are few these days, but she still speaks love through those eyes. She always has.

A little over a year ago, a traumatic incident almost took Mom’s life. As a result, she was hospitalized, non-communicative, and only briefly opened her eyes to then sleep again. One night while I sat with her, she began to murmur, so I put my ear near her mouth. She never opened her eyes, but her words became clearer as she repeated this prayer over and over again, “Jesus make thou my heart humble; Make it humble unto thine.”

Jesus is always with us. Our prayers respond to His presence.

As much as I wanted to help her, I was comforted to realize she was being held by the One she needs.

Hard stuff is woven into the fabric of Mom’s life—just as it threads through yours and mine.  God was her Go-To and her First Love . . . and I trust Him, that He still is. Often she would say, “I know God must be tired of hearing from me.” Her words spoke instruction and inspiration.

Our First Love is the One who first loved us.
“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4.19)

Our primary go-to is the one we trust most, the one whose love we believe above all others.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4.19)  In all that we ask for, God first gives our truest need—Himself.

As we spend more time with the One who first loved us, He grows us aware of His love for us. He becomes the one whose love we depend on, the one we trust above all others. Our First Love becomes our primarily Go-To.

Dear God,
May the truth of your Word—that you first loved us—permeate our heart, this day. Thank you that you loved me long before I was even born. Your love for us never changes. No one can love us like you. Help us draw nearer to know you as our First Love, our greatest love. Amen.