One of the greatest pet peeves of parents is when someone who doesn’t have kids tries to tell them how to parent. Usually their response is, “Come back and talk to me after you’ve had your own.” Why? Because how can a person without kids truly understand the struggles of raising a child? They haven’t had to sit up all night with a sick child. They haven’t been asked a hundred times for the same toy. They haven’t felt the embarrassment of their own flesh and blood throwing a holy fit in public. Without them going through those things, parents are less likely to take any advice from them.
One of the purposes of Jesus becoming flesh and blood, beyond dying on the cross, was so that He could understand the human condition. The almighty God took on our frailty so that He could better understand what it is like when we are sick. What it feels like to lose a family member. How hard it is to fight temptation when it comes our way. He went through the entire human experience so He could better empathize with us when we struggle and call out to Him in prayer. He’s not up there telling us to just deal with it. He understands what you and I are going through.
Hebrews 4:15 says, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin” (NLT). Think about that. He understands what you’re going through because He took the time to leave the role of creator to become the created. You and I can now go to Him with confidence in prayer asking for advice, seeking wisdom and looking for answers because He knows what you’re talking about. He’s experienced it and can now empathize with us. Whatever His answer is to our prayers, it’s based on His experiences and on what is best for our future.
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Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. If life is full of anything, it’s full of decisions we all have to make. Every decision we make has ma consequence for good or for bad. If you’ve made some bad decisions in your life and have suffered the consequences, it can make it hard to make future decisions. There are tough questions we have to answer in life. Which college to attend, what to become in life, who to marry, whether or not to apply for a promotion, which church to attend, should we move, and so many more. Each has its own consequence and we want to make the right decision, but how can we know?
There are two things I do each time. The first is to pray for wisdom to know what to do. James 1:5 says, “But if any of you lack wisdom, you should pray to God, who will give it to you; because God gives generously and graciously to all” (GNT). Often, wisdom comes at the expense of failure and suffering consequences, but God can give it out when we ask for it. It may take some time in prayer, but in the right moment, God often speaks heavenly wisdom through someone or makes the best choice clear in our minds.
Another thing you can do is ask God to give you peace in helping to guide you into making the decision. Colossians 3:15 says, “The peace that Christ gives is to guide you in the decisions you make.” I often pray, “God, if this is what I’m to do, then give me peace. If not, bring unrest to my heart and mind.” God gives a peace that is beyond understanding especially when there are life altering decisions to be made. Praying for this and experiencing it will guide you through some of life’s toughest decisions. God has a plan and a purpose for each of us, and He’s given us tools to guide in our decisions us as we go. We just need to use them.
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Whenever I travel for work, it’s important to stay in contact with my wife. Sometimes when we end up talking I’m at the airport or I’m at dinner or while I’m with coworkers. It’s hard to have good conversations in those places. It’s often noisy, people are trying to get my attention or I’m trying to find where I’m going so I’m somewhat distracted. The best conversations are when I’m away from all the noise in the quiet of my hotel room. Only then can we truly have interruption free conversations where it doesn’t have to be quick snippets.
Luke 5:16 says, “As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer” (MSG). Having intimate conversations with His father while He was here was important to Him. People were constantly vying for His attention and needing a miracle. Often, He just wanted to have a quiet conversation. Many times He had those quick conversations in front of people, but very often we read where Jesus went to a desolate place to pray. If it was important for Him to do that, how much more important for us?
At one point, Jesus told us to go into our closet to pray. I don’t know that He meant that literally. I think what He was saying was that we need to find a quiet place where we can have some uninterrupted prayer time. We can’t always go to an out of the way place to pray, but we can find space to get alone with Him. It may be a closet or it could be before everyone wakes up or after they go to bed, but we each need to find time to get alone with God so we can have intimate conversations with Him. I believe the quality of our relationship with Him hinges on it.
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If you have ever been a kid, or if you have a kid you know what it’s like to ask for something over and over to the point that it’s annoying. As a parent (maybe because I’m a guy), I’ve learned how to have selective hearing. I can tune that voice out, and my kid can ask for days without me hearing him. Selective hearing is about the only thing that keeps a parent sane because kids are always asking for something. The great news for you and I is that God doesn’t have or use selective hearing.
Psalm 116:1 says, “I love the LORD, because He hears [and continues to hear] My voice and my supplications (my pleas, my cries, my specific needs)” (AMP). God doesn’t tune you out when you’re struggling with something and are having to pray nonstop for your needs. Your voice doesn’t fall on deaf ears because He cares about you, your specific needs and your desires. Just like a parent though, God doesn’t always give us as His children everything we ask for. He knows more than we do and sees ahead in time the consequences of the answer we are asking for.
We still need to make our specific needs and requests known to Him, but we also need to pray like Jesus prayed – not my will, but yours be done. God’s “yes” is as good as His “no”. We, like children, don’t like to hear His “no”, but that’s why we pray for His will. He has something better in mind for us in those times. We don’t stop praying in the waiting though. Keep praying. Keep making your specific needs and requests known to Him. He will answer His way, in His time, with His answer because He never stops listening to our prayers. He’s a good Father who gives good things to His children.
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One of the stories on the Bible that speaks to me every time is in 1 Samuel 1. Hannah wasn’t able to have a child so she was ridiculed, taunted, bullied and shamed. Year after year this went on. One year she had enough. Instead of attacking her bully, she went into the Sanctuary to pray. She wept bitterly before God, crying out in prayer for a long time. As she prayed, her lips were moving, but the words were coming from her heart. She wasn’t leaving until God answered her prayer for a son.
Verse 10 says, “Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord” (NLT). One of the first questions that comes to my mind is, “When is the last time I prayed with that kind of desperation?” Most of our prayers are simple ones with little emotion. I believe one of the reasons God answered Hannah’s prayer, and will answer ours, is because it was fervent and came from deep within her soul, not just her mind.
Verse 12 says, “Hannah continued to pray to the Lord for a long time” (GNT). I’ve heard the saying, “Don’t pray until you’re through. Pray until you’ve prayed through.” This is where it is applied. Too many times, we ask God for something and when He doesn’t answer right away, we quit praying. Hannah didn’t just pray for a long time, she prayed a long time for years. God uses her internal torment to develop a life of prayer. She wasn’t going to stop until she got her answer. One of the reasons God answered her prayer, and will answer ours, is because of persistence.
After the Eli, the priest, had told her God would answer her prayer, verse 18 says, “Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad” (NLT). Hannah believed God would answer and acted accordingly. She didn’t let the years of God not answering prayer create doubt. She held onto the promise and acted in faith before God answered. She quit believing the words of the bully and held onto God’s Word instead. One of the reasons God answered her prayer, and will answer ours, is when we act in faith.
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