Welcome to my blog...

Green trees, cool water, a gentle breeze...the perfect place to sit at the feet of the Master and learn. Jesus taught so often on the shoreline, and He's still speaking today.

This is where I share the lessons He teaches me, often during the time I spend on the shores of a local lake. I don't have all the answers...and some days I don't have any. But I go here when I need to draw near to Him in a tangible way. Come with me...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

From Despair to Prayer - The Prayer Addendum

Perhaps I was a bit hasty to write "the last installment".  When I went back over what was written, I saw a lot about my struggle, a lot about the lessons from nature God used to speak to my heart, and yet very little about the actual journey of prayer!  Yes, I logged that I began praying again on my way down to Ocean City.  And that God confirmed the convictions I'd had through my devotional the next day...but I did a lot more praying - especially as I read Bill Hybels book.

One of the things he talked about was the acrostic A.C.T.S.  If you've been a Christian for any length of time, I'm sure you've heard of it.  It stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplications (or requests).

I think for a long time, I confused Adoration and Thanksgiving.  Bill talked about acknowledging God for who He is.  Omnipresent.  Omniscient.  Omnipotent.

That's when I began to realize that praising him is not the same as thanking him.  Seeing who he is isn't the same as being grateful for what he's done.  When you're sitting next to the vastness of the ocean, you begin to get a sense of how immense and complex and creative He is.  Can you even fathom counting the grains of sand on that one beach?  Think of it in terms of space and stars and galaxies...does your mind hurt trying to wrap itself around that enormity?  Praise Him for He is glorious!  When you have a more accurate picture of who you're going to in prayer it does a number of things.  It puts stuff in perspective.  If God created all of this - and holds it together each and every day - can he not handle whatever your problems are?  He created you as well.  Psalm 139 tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made!  That he formed us in our mother's womb and knew us before the beginning of time.  He loved us with an everlasting love - can we do anything less that sit back on our heels in awestruck wonder...or fall on our faces in utter abandonment saying Abba Father, we adore you?  As I began processing these thoughts I started to sing the words to an old, simple song of praise Father I adore you, lay my life before you, how I love you.  Those same refrains then substitute Jesus for Father then Spirit for Jesus.  Then this song came to mind: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there's just something about that name.  Master, Savior, Jesus like the fragrance, after the rain.  Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let all heaven and earth proclaim...kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there's something about that name.

Now that my heart was in a place where I could truly see His perfection, I also clearly saw many of my imperfections...and I began to confess them.  Again, the book highlighted such a thing in a way I had not thought of before.  Bill tells a story of a congregant who came to see him to say he was tired of all this talk of 'sinning.'  As far as he was concerned, he wasn't a sinner.  Bill asked how long he'd been married.  It was a long time - something like 25 years.  Bill said, 'You mean to tell me in all that time you've never been unfaithful to your wife?  You have always done what is right?'  The man replied, 'Well, I'm in sales.  You know, I'm on the road a lot.'  He laughed a bit nervously.  Bill said 'He didn't admit it outright, but we both knew what he was getting at.'  Then he asked the man, 'Have you ever put down something on an expense report that you shouldn't have?  Gotten credit for something that wasn't really applicable?' 'Everyone does' was the reply.'  'And what about the product you sell?  Ever enhance the benefits knowing it wasn't true just to make a sale?'  'That's just industry standard' he argued 'It's expected!'.  Bill looked at this "non-sinner" and said to him, you've just admitted to me that you are an adulterer, a cheat and a liar.  The man looked shocked.  'Say it out loud' Bill instructed.  'This is what you are an adulterer, a cheater and a liar.'  Wow.  Have you whitewashed your sins?  I know I have.  Are you just sharing stories or are you a gossip?  Are you  just venting or are you a constant complainer?  Do you 'borrow' pens, paper, folders, any kind of office supplies from work?  You're a thief.  Ugly words, aren't they?  But sin is ugly.  We have ALL sinned and come short of the glory of God - instead of denying that fact, why don't you ask forgiveness for it and have it taken away?  I spend some time each day asking God to search my heart.  When I'm aware of what I've done that needs confessing, I do...but I also ask that He would show me areas I may not even be aware of.

Now that my heart was lighter, I could truly give thanks.  That week I started with thanking Him for the gift of the beach house, for my senses that allowed me to fully drink it all in - sight, sound, smell, touch...for the car that brought me down there, for the job waiting for me when I returned.  For the friends who texted to say they were praying for me, for revealing His love for me through my Bible and the writings of others.  For every lesson He loving taught me through the birds, the shells, the consistency of the waves and the rising of the sun each morning.  The words of another song came to mind and I sang them too...'give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks, to the Holy one, give thanks for He's given Jesus Christ His Son.  And now, let the weak say I am strong, let the poor say I am rich, because of what the Lord has done for us.  Give thanks.'

Finally, I brought my requests to God.  I prayed for my children to return to a right relationship with Him.  I prayed for clarity and wisdom on a number of issues where decisions needed to be made.  I prayed for the well-being of my friends - not in general terms, but mentioned each by name and lifted their specific situations to Him.  I asked that He would guide my ministry, the leaders of my church, and those of our nation.  There are always many requests, but with a heart that's been prepared, they don't take on such a 'give me' quality.

As I closed out that specific time of prayer - I say that because I also talk to God throughout the day as things arise - I thanked Him for His promises and that He is faithful to carry them out.  I opened my Bible, read a few Psalms, sang another song of praise and sat back silently to listen to what He had to say.  The words of Habakkuk 2:1 came to mind...I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say to me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.

So this then, is the true and fitting end to what happened on my journey from Despair to Prayer.  I hope you are able to glean something helpful from it.  I pray that God speaks to your heart as clearly as He spoke to mine...I know He will if you seek Him.

No comments:

Post a Comment