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 24, 2015

The Despair to Prayer Chronicles - Part 6

When I started this series, I indicated that I had spent a lot of time trying to compose a post about prayer, but nothing I wrote seemed quite right.

I guess God had to bring me through lots of tears and lessons to get to a point where the words would flow. If you haven't read the earlier entries, click here for part 5 which contains links to all the previous posts.

In this last entry, I want to take that look at the "mechanics" of prayer.

I  mentioned last time that I read Bill Hybels book To Busy Not To Pray.

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 Supplication (or requests).

Although I knew the acrostic, for a long time I confused the meaning and purpose of 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. 

Acknowledging 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?  How about 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 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!  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 than 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. 
Jesus I adore you, lay my life before you, how I love you.
Spirit I adore you, lay my life before you, how I love you.

Then another favorite 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 things 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?  Spend time each day asking God to search your 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 God revealing His love for me through my Bible and the writings of others. For every lesson He loving taught me through the birds, the shell, the consistency of the waves and the rising of the sun. 

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 my prayer time I thanked Him for His promises and His faithfulness to carry them out. 

I opened my Bible, read a few Psalms and sat back silently to listen to what He had to say. 

The words of Habakkuk 2:1 & 2 came to mind...I will stand at my watch, and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what I answer I am to give this complaint. Then the Lord replied: Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.

So this is the conclusion of my journey from Despair to Prayer. I am writing it down and making it plain in the hope that 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.


  1. I love a happy ending. No. Not happy--JOYFUL! Those are the same praise songs that well up in me--especially in low moments. Holy Spirit ministry, perhaps? Thank you for revisiting this series, Toni. I have been so blessed.

    1. Thanks for taking the journey Kathy! I needed to hear some of those things God spoke to my heart again, and I'm so glad you've been blessed in that process! Next year, join us for the singing at the writer's conference - those songs often make an appearance :)

  2. oh me too....Again, love your writings. They always speak to the heart. Funny...those are old songs you listed there. I was just singing some very old songs the other day, that I had almost forgotten about. It was good remembering them. Thanks again Toni.

    1. So good to know you were blessed by these. Yes, some of those old songs have such wonderful memories attached to them. I especially love "There's something about that name". My dad had an lp by a group called The Hawaiians. That song was on there and their harmony was wonderful...he played it all the time!