I learned a lot while the men were gone. A lot more happened than just eating Five Guys or hanging out with ladies. Just before the guys headed out to the Shepherd’s Conference in California, my mom read a passage in Isaiah 58 about praying and fasting. There’s been a lot going on at our little church here–we’ve had death, sickness, accidents, and all sorts of things going on since the start of the year. It seems like we were all under attack in one way or another. Sometime God uses affliction to wake us up and to clean house. Jesus wants His body, the Church, to be clean and pure, which means He’ll be at work to bring that about.
Mom and both felt prompted to pray for the week that Payton and my dad were gone. Every day was a little different, some days we prayed for a short time and some for longer. But, by the end of the week, it was if we had stumbled onto something entirely new–we prayed through Scripture. I know it sounds elementary, but hear me out. The first day we prayed some prayers we’d found in Scripture and the original passage that prompted it (Is 58). But, we ran out and had to figure out what to pray the next day. So, we just started reading passages that we’d found that fit into particular situations that were going on at church. We’d read them and then pray the parts that had impacted us. We began to feel able to pray with boldness. I think it was because we were praying according to God’s will; His intentions became ours. Our heart’s began to beat with His desires for people rather than our goals for them.
But, pride is really sneaky, especially if you’re doing something as “righteous” as praying, right? Yep. But, this part was neat. As we would pray through a passage, the Holy Spirit would point out our sin as we went along and we could confess it right then and there! It was like, “Whoa, that’s me right now. How can I be praying for someone else when I’ve got that sin lodged in my heart?” Being exposed to God’s Word while praying kept us from thinking more highly of ourselves. It was amazing!
Every day we marched on through books and passages and used God’s Word as a guide for our requests on behalf of the body at Warrendale. It felt like we were encountering God in a totally new way! Then, when I started studying for the Ladies Class on Sunday, Elizabeth George mentioned praying God’s own words back to Him also, confirming that we hadn’t just made this up in our own heads.
It totally made sense. Why would I pray my own thoughts and my own hopes for people when God tells me exactly what He wants to do in people’s lives right in the pages of my Bible? The reason I’m telling you all of this is because I know how hard it is to pray and to keep it consistent with God’s will. My prayers often miss the important things, either lacking in faith or seemingly selfish.
Try it sometime. Take a passage and pray it for your church, for your kids, for your husband, for your neighbor, or whomever. If you’re feeling a little pride creeping in, run to Job 38-42 and imagine yourself in Job’s shoes as the Almighty answers! If you’re discouraged about all of the evil around you, read Psalm 37 or 73. If you’ve sinned, read Psalm 51 and confess. Find passages that resound in truth and get a worldview adjustment for free!
Just last night Payton spoke on shameless audacity in prayer from Luke 11 and Luke 18. As we looked more at the passages, we saw that all of us are called to persistence in prayer and God is willing us to ask, seek, and knock! The Syrophonecian woman (Matt 15:21-28) even went past the point of embarrassment in her persistence. One of my sisters said, “Well, I’d probably have stopped after He called me a dog…” I agree. I probably barely knock and get all self-conscious! Jesus’ delay in answering her request was to show the extent of her faith, at which He marveled! I’ve never had any problems being persistent when it came to asking for a snack (ask my mom!), but why is it that I lose heart when God doesn’t text me back an answer right away?!
I’ll leave you with one more thought on prayer. Payton mentioned in the closing of his message that God does, in fact, always answer our prayers. If we are asking for relief from an ailment and God does not grant that immediate request for relief, He will instead provide an abundance of grace in which to walk through the trial. This was true of Paul’s request in 2 Corinthians 10 for the removal of the thorn in the flesh. God didn’t take it away, but still responded with an abundant measure of grace to prove sufficient for the need. That was such a fresh reminder for me! I’m sure there is something that is ailing you at this moment. Pray! Pray with shameless audacity! Await God’s answer of relief or the grace to walk through it, knowing that you are living manifestation of the power of God made perfect in weakness.