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)

For When It’s Hard To Be Still

Have you ever noticed how a photograph—of someone you know or a scene of nature—can cause you to be still for a few minutes or longer? It holds a moment in our life or a mesmerizing sample of God’s creation. When my computer screen is idle, my photo collection rolls, and if my husband or I are nearby, it’s inevitable that we just stop and watch and eventually get misty-eyed. The photos stir emotion and memory, gratitude to God, and sometimes reflective words that testify to His character.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46.10a)

These God-breathed words have arrested my heart countless times. When I’m overwhelmed in a years-long trial or stress is shaking me to the core, God makes this Word known again to my heart. All at once, I feel loved yet humbled. His words comfort me like I might comfort a child. Stop. Remember who I am, how you’ve experienced me, what you’ve read about me—and trust Who I am. He humbles me, too, and I realize I haven’t been still much lately, and the power of my will, mental wrestling, and self-determination are wearing me out.

You and I have opportunities every day to stop, give time to be present to God, and practice experiencing Who He is—and what that means for us. As LORD, He commands us, and as our loving heavenly Father, He guides: Be still, and know that I am God.

His aim is our heart, that we personally know Him as our all-powerful, all-knowing, always present, sovereign God—through firsthand experience in prayer, the scriptures, and being still with him. He calls us to stillness for our good and for His glory.

Be still.  Stop moving, be quiet, and be present. Stop moving our mouth and mind and maybe our body, too. Put down the phone, close the computer, turn off the TV, step away from that project. The rhythm of our work or family life challenges us to believe that we can give up some time to ‘be still.’ Yet, notice God doesn’t say how long. He doesn’t say, Be still for 5 minutes… 30 minutes… once a week. It’s an intriguing invitation and uniquely personal to each of us.

If you go to a presentation that requires your undivided attention, you stop everything else because you don’t want to miss the big moment. If you have a child, you’ve likely told him to be still when you want to tell or show him something significant. God requires our undivided attention, for us to truly know him and trust him.

Be still.  Where? When?  . . .  in the carpool line, while you sit in the bleachers alone, during your lunch break, in a comfy chair with a cup of coffee, or looking at the amazing sky, a flower that’s just bloomed, your child as he sleeps or simply fascinates you. Ask God when and where, and He will show you. He wants this time for you and with you. How? Close your eyes or watch, listen, reflect, wait, praise Him. God is always in our midst; yet in stillness, we step in to holy communion with Him. We obey and show him our love, being still WITH HIM. And He keeps his promise—He grows us to know Him, such that His peace anchors our heart and transcends every matter it carries.

In stillness, insight unfolds. Nature reveals His power and majesty. Quiet makes space for His voice. Reflection transforms hard life stories into testaments of His character.

Dear God,
You are mine and I am yours. You are all I need, my safe place, my strength. Quiet my thoughts now and help me be still. I want to know you. I want to rest in You as God. Amen.

Passionate Pursuit {day 26}: The Surpassing Worth

DSC01950I know who she is… she works at the school and has 2 little boys.
I know her… she’s dependable.

We know the difference between knowing about someone and truly knowing the person.

For instance, we know about our child – hair color, height and weight, current abilities and activities. The facts. But to truly know her or him, spending time together is key. Intentional, focused time. This is the only way to experience who she is. To discover her character. To learn how to engage with her in every circumstance and conversation. Getting to know her takes from our time. Time whose purpose we determine daily. Yet our gain is incalculable really. How do we measure the value of intimacy? God-ordained, heart-enriching, relationship-transforming intimacy. The truth is we’ll be discovering who she is for all her life and ours. Well, that is, if we pursue this. To continue to know her.

DSC01951This series, Passionate Pursuit, points to the most important.  Knowing God.
Experiencing who He is, discovering His character, practicing engaging with Him in every circumstance and taking time to know Him through His Word.

Jesus said to God, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17.3)

…that they know you…

“Indeed, I (Paul) count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3.8a)

The worth of knowing God…
security, peace, wisdom, discernment, courage, encouragement,value, vision, hope, love… and guidance for how to have that beautifully intimate, God-ordained relationship with our child.

Holy God,
Give me the courage and grace to step in and draw near to You. Show me the way to know You more. Thank you that You remain near, always. Amen.