Prayer to me is like a car engine. I don’t know everything about it, but I know it works. Sure I can point out some parts under the hood and tell you what they do, but I don’t understand fully how they work. I’ve replaced a couple of parts that were easy to do, but for the harder stuff, I go to someone who understands it more fully. They are able to replace anything under the hood and make it run as intended. I take it to them because they know and understand every part of an engine. They also know how to tweak it to get the most out of it.
Every one of us can pray. Every one of us can make it work. We may not understand how it works or what to do to get the most out of it, but we can push the gas and make it go. I know people have broken down “The Lord’s Prayer” and taught me how to pray that way. I’ve been given methods like “ACTS” (Adoration, Confession, Thankfulness, Supplication) to give structure to my prayers. I’ve been shown how to pray intensely so that my prayers have more power. There are so many things we can learn about prayer, but most of us leave the hood closed.
If you’re going to pray more effectively, you’re going to have to spend some time under the hood tinkering. Powerful, effective prayers come out of spending time with the one we’re talking to. They come from intimately knowing the One to whom we pray. They come from understanding what His will is and what His Word says. The more we know what His Word says, the more we pray in accordance with it. The more we pray in accordance with it, the more He answers. The more He answers, the more faith and confident we get. The more faith and confident we get, the more effective our prayers become. James 5:16 says, “For tremendous power is released through the passionate, heartfelt prayer of a godly believer!” (TPT)
Don’t be afraid to look under the hood of prayer. Learn what you can. Take time tweaking this and that to make it comfortable for you. Understand there are different types and ways to pray. Your prayers get an audience with the One who created everything you see. It’s worth investing time and energy to make them as effective as possible. Hang around others who get their prayers answered. Learn from them how to pray. Each one of us have room for growth in our prayers. To get better, we just have to open the hood
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The story of Joseph always intrigues me. God gave him a dream that one day his parents and his brothers would all bow down to him. His brothers became so jealous that they kidnapped him and sold him as a slave. From there he was sold to a man in Egypt. After working there for a while, he was falsely accused and sent to prison. He spent years in prison and was forgotten. Not once in this story do we hear him complaining to God, “What about the dream you gave me?” He went through a drought figuratively and literally. So how does one hold onto faith and trust in God when nothing seems to be moving or is going in the wrong direction?
Honestly, that’s a question I think about a lot because God’s plan will often lead us through a drought. We hear His voice, follow His path and then nothing happens. It can definitely get you to questioning if you’ve heard God, if you’re headed the right direction and if God is going to come through in time. I’m a believer that great faith gets rewarded greatly, but I’ve also learned that great faith goes through droughts after you’ve acted. Just because you’ve taken the leap, it doesn’t mean that God makes everything happen right away. For your faith to be stretched, you’re going to go through some, “What have I done and where are you God” moments. So how do you hang on in those times?
Jeremiah 17:7-8 gives us the answer. It says, “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit” (NLT). You stay planted in your faith with your roots down deep in God’s Word. When we do that, it doesn’t matter what our external circumstances look like. Our faith is being watered and we can hold onto our trust in God. It’s not easy by any means, but when we keep our spirit fed and watered, we will still produce no matter how long the drought is. Remember that droughts end and God is faithful to His promise.
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Have you been through a barren season? It’s those seasons where you have planted seeds and watered them, but nothing is growing or producing. It’s a little frustrating and a lot scary. To have followed God’s principles in the Bible and to not see Him move on your behalf can be worrisome. In those times, I’ve prayed, “God, where are you? Why haven’t you responded yet? I thought by now you would have shown up,” only to be answered by silence. Barren seasons show up out of no where and can last a while. They put your faith to the test, but what you can’t see, and what you have to remind yourself, is what God is doing with those planted seeds underground.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 gives us the prescription for these times. It says, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (NLT) We must continue to praise God anyway and choose to honor Him. Our hope is not in the fruits of our labor, but in the Lord. We cannot allow what we see in our circumstances to dictate our relationship with God. Circumstances are fickle, but God remains the same yesterday, today and forever.
In those barren seasons, I recount the character of God. I look back on who He has always been, not on how I perceive Him in my current situation. Relationships dictated by emotions fail because emotions can be manipulated. They must be built on something deeper. You must choose to love, to rejoice in the Lord and to be joyful even in the dry seasons. God has not changed who He is, nor has He stopped working on your behalf. Choose to rejoice no matter what the fields of your life look like right now. Trust in Him to be who He always has been. He is Jehovah Jireh, your provider and source even in the barren seasons. Your trust needs to be in Him rather than in the fruit of your labor.
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In II Chronicles 20, a huge army invaded southern Israel. The king and all the people were terrified because they had defeated several strongholds easily. He begged God for help and asked others to pray with him. It sounds a lot like any one of us when we are facing something that seems impossible to beat. Fear is our first response, then we beg God for help. I believe what follows in this story is something we can all learn from in these moments in life.
The first thing that happened was King Jehoshaphat got like minded people together, fasted and prayed. We are not to fight these battles alone. Fear’s goal is to intimidate you and to push you into seclusion. Don’t let it! There is strength in numbers and in fasting. Get a group of people around you who can fight on their knees and touch God with you. This first step is critical if you’re going to win an impossible battle.
In verses 15-17, God answered those praying. The Word of the Lord came back saying, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (NLT). Things only seem impossible when God is not in the equation. The battles we face are not our own, but they are God’s. We don’t have to be afraid or discouraged at the sheer impossibility of anything that comes our way because God goes before us.
As the army of Israel approached the battlefield, Jehoshaphat spoke in verse 20 and reminded them, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets and you will succeed.” Faith will help us to stand firm when standing is all we can do. We can trust in God, and in His Word, to get the courage to keep standing in the face of impossibilities. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to continue to trust God and His Word until we can see the victory.
Finally, the king appointed singers to praise God and he sent them out in front. At the very moment they began to sing, the Lord gave victory. We need to be able to praise God in advance of victory. We need to honor Him when all else seems to be going wrong. Praise is powerful. It activates our faith and moves our God. If you can’t find it in you to praise, play praise music until you do. Victory is dependent on God, not us. We can praise Him for that. Our impossible battles are no match for a God who says all things are possible.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
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Did you know that just being afraid of something is not considered a phobia? The fear must altar your behavior in some way to be considered a phobia. The same is true of anxiety. Many times we may be anxious, but when it causes us to change what we’re doing, we are considered to have anxiety. It shows up in different ways. Many times, we try to altar the situation ourselves, but that can make things worse. We don’t make the best decision when we are worried. I know that for me, it causes me to run through scenarios trying to find the right way to fix it. I lose sleep and can’t concentrate on things throughout my day. In turn, it affects every area of my life until I’m so desperate that I force the issue.
You’ve no doubt heard the Psalm that tells us to be still and know that He is God. What you may not know is that the Hebrew words for be still mean to let hang down; to be relaxed, especially the hands. It can also mean to not make an effort or exertion. Meaning take your hands off the situation and let God handle it. The Passion Translation takes that into account and writes that verse this way, “Surrender your anxiety! Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God” (Psalms 46:10). So many times anxiety has altered our minds to the point that we lose sight of God in our situation. God wants to remind us that He sees us, and knows what we’re going through.
It’s tough to take our hands off the situation. It’s better to ask God for wisdom in how to handle it though. Ask God to give you peace in your mind and clarity of thought as well. Surrender your anxiety to Him, recognize He is in control and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Our behavior change in a situation should not be out of anxiety, but rather out of thoughtful prayer after we’ve handed it over to God. If you want to see God in what’s going on, be still, put your hands down and relax. Breathe. Pray. Listen. Begin to thank God for all He’s done, and all He’s going to do. Your life is in His hands and He is in charge of the outcome. Trust that He will do what’s best and grow you through it. God is at work and it’s for your good.
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When you read the creation account in Genesis, it’s easy to think that God created everything with just His voice. “Let there be light. Let there be water. Let the land sprout with vegetation. Let the waters swarm with fish.” But in chapter two we find two things He made by hand. God formed man from the dust of the ground and He planted a garden where He then placed the man. I think it’s significant that out of all creation, He made these with His hands instead of with His voice. They were both made from the ground, but both had to be cultivated. Man needed the breath of God in him, and the garden needed Him to dig up soil so He could plant trees that bore good fruit.
If you’ve ever planted a garden, you know that the hard work begins with cultivating the soil. You have to break it up and churn it so that it is prepared for planting. Our lives are full of uncultivated soil that God wants to plant things in, but we must first be willing to till it. Many times we ask God for more, but we haven’t given Him the uncultivated parts of our lives. We tend to segregate our life into two parts: the part we let God into and the part we want to keep for ourselves. When the later part becomes unmanageable, we cry out to Him in desperation for help, but then promptly kick Him back out once the problem is under control. In reality, we should be seeking His blessings for every part of our lives and giving Him control of everything.
Hosea10:12 says, “Break up your uncultivated ground, For it is time to seek and search diligently for the LORD [and to long for His blessing]” (AMP). What parts of your life are uncultivated right now? If you’re wanting more of what God has in store for you, you’re going to have to clear away the weeds and break up the ground to prepare it for seeds of blessings. Seeds must have fertile soil to germinate in if they’re going to produce good fruit. God wants to have His fingerprints all over your life, but you’re the one who is going to have to give Him access. The Garden of Eden doesn’t just have to exist in Genesis. It can be cultivated in your life when you’re willing to break new ground.