conversation

Our culture preaches a narrative that we are able, capable, and only limited by the imagination of our minds. We don’t have to listen too closely to the voices around us to notice the overt emphasis on self-help and human capability.

But we are more like the dependent child depicted in the prayer image than we are capable adults in control of all our circumstances and situations.

There are times in each of our lives where we realize how insignificant and weak we really are. A cancer diagnosis. Unexpected death of a loved one. Job loss. Pandemic. Work stress. Family illness. Natural disasters. Spiritual death.

If we are honest with ourselves, many things in our lives are outside our control and influence. This sense of personal helplessness is a prime opportunity to find ourselves anchored to God through prayer. This will be the fourth and final anchored post, and it culminates the underlying themes of the previous posts: Anchored in the Word, Anchored in the Gospel, and Anchored in the Church.

Why pray? Our sense of helplessness and inability is a key factor in our willingness to pray. When we are overwhelmed, uncertain, stressed, unable, or facing lack, through prayer we can find ourselves anchored to God who is in control, certain, able, and owns everything.

Prayer is a conversation. Throughout Scripture God invites his people to pray. Think about that. God wants you to bring your requests, burdens, and circumstances to him.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

If you are anything like me, you need God’s peace. So, if you are in need of God’s peace and interventions, then read on and learn some of the ways that prayer can anchor your faith.

When we pray, we are acknowledging God’s sovereignty and ability to intervene. There is nothing in this post more important than this truth. Praying reflects dependence on God. When we admit we are unable or that we lack, prayer and faith find their grounding in our spiritual lives. God is able to do far more than we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). So when we pray, we can express our faith in God alone. It is from this place of dependence that God intervenes and answers,.

When we pray, we are trusting God’s wisdom. There are many things that I’ve prayed about and asked God for that I have not received. We must remember God is not a genie in a bottle. Our prayers are not wishes he is obliged to grant. Rather, God is all-knowing and all-wise. We should bring our burdens and requests to him. He is able to meet every one of them. But since he is Sovereign and in control, he knows best how to answer. We need to trust his wisdom. Remember, even Jesus requested that the Father remove the cup of the cross from him (Matt. 26:39), but submitted to the Father’s will.

When we pray, we are talking to our Father. God designed prayer to be more than a ritual or an event in a worship service. God granted us prayer as a glorious privilege. It is a conversation. Jesus teaches us to call God, Father (Matt. 6:9). Our Father in heaven knows what is best and cares to hear us and spend time with us. Prayer is a relational conversation between you and your Father who loved you enough to send Jesus to die for your privilege of prayer. This alone should motivate us to pray.

If prayer anchors our spiritual lives, then should we pray at set times or for extended periods of time like Jesus (Luke 6:12)? Should we pray for hours at a time like the spiritual giants of old (Martin Luther, Hudson Taylor, and others)? Should we whisper prayers through the day never ceasing our conversation with God (1 Thess. 5:17)? Should we fast when we pray (Matt. 6:9-18)?

Yes.

Yes. To all of the above and to many more questions we could ask about our manner and pattern of praying. Whether you pray in the morning during your quiet times, at night before bed, throughout the day in whispers, or in groups and services at church, prayer is a privilege that we should take advantage of more often than we do.

Here are a few guiding reminders that will strengthen our prayer lives:

  • Pray Scripture. One way you can be assured that you are praying what God wants is to pray phrases and sentences that God has already spoken. After all his thoughts and ways are not our own (Isaiah 55:8). My daily Bible readings often provide the content for how I talk to God. I find myself thanking God for his interventions as detailed in Scripture and bringing requests to God that connect to his work in the past. A helpful resource on this topic is Donald Whitney’s book, Praying the Bible.
  • Pray the gospel. What do I mean by this? Well the gospel teaches that we are spiritually bankrupt (Matt. 5:3) and in need of spiritual life (Eph. 2:1-10). Our need for Christ doesn’t change when we receive salvation. We do not need to be saved again, but the pattern of humility and dependence that characterized our entrance into salvation should continue to permeate our spiritual lives. When we remind ourselves in prayer of our need, our desperation, our dependence, we move to an attitude of humility, surrender, and faith that God hears. Praying gospel truths also reminds us that we can approach the Father because of the sacrifice of Christ.
  • Pray with others. Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father.” Prayer is a community privilege (Acts 4:23-31). While we cannot pray about everything on our prayer lists with everyone in the church, we can pray together with families, group members (Sunday school and discipleship groups), and close friends. Sharing prayer requests, praying together, and reflecting on answers to prayer will deepen prayer in our lives. Here’s one example. In our family devotions, we have often prayed for the sick and for protection. We also pray for the salvation of friends. Each time God strengthens, heals, and saves, we make time to thank God and praise him for answered prayer. This practice strengthens our faith.

Have you prayed today? I don’t ask to make you feel guilty if you haven’t. I ask to remind you that you can.

If you have a prayer request, I would be honored to join you in praying about it. Feel free to share in the comment section below, and I’ll pray with you about it today. If God has recently answered a prayer you’ve been praying, I would love for you to share that in the comment section as well. God’s answer to your prayer could encourage someone else!

Governor Cooper issued a stay at home order on Friday for the state of North Carolina through the end of April. Social distancing and isolation are real. I realize that many of us will still be working. I also realize that many who remain at home are responsible for children or aging parents. But all of us will be affected by these bans.

We can no longer join friends or spouses for lunch at a favorite restaurant. We can no longer meet with our children’s friends for playdates. We can no longer meet together for worship services at our local churches. I could go on, but you are very well aware of these isolating circumstances.

I’m not here to debate the validity of the isolation, nor am I going to bemoan the difficulty of it. Rather, I would simply like to point out that God has used isolation as a tool for spiritual development for thousands of years. How can you be sure that God uses this situation in your life as a means of growth and development?

Here’s a short list of the ways God worked through people in the Bible while they were in places of isolation:

  • In the isolation of prison, God helped Joseph overcome bitterness and pride in preparing him to rescue his family from the famine.
  • In the isolation of the wilderness, God developed the heart and patience Moses would need to lead Israel during the exodus and their wilderness wanderings.
  • In the isolation of shepherding, God taught David the importance of worship and knowing the Good Shepherd.
  • In the isolation of famine, God taught Elijah his need to trust God for his daily needs.
  • In the isolation of captivity, God taught Daniel and his three friends the power of prayer and keeping the faith.

This is just a sampling. Throughout Scripture, God used isolating circumstances to get the spiritual attention of his people. Maybe he’s doing that with you and me today.

I reached out to some folks this past week with the question, “How are you managing your isolation?” I received a litany of responses. Here are some of the things people are doing to manage their isolating circumstances: housework, yard-work, serving family and neighbors, FaceTime with kids and grandkids, reading, writing, cooking, gardening, making art, playing music, studying, watching streamed worship services, writing down and sharing inspirational thoughts, walking, praying, exercising, making face-masks for hospitals, spending time with family, playing games, doing puzzles, extra devotional time, and schoolwork. These responses were great! Many of these activities provide natural stress relief. They help us deal with isolation while keeping us from desolation.

What can we take away from biblical examples and comments above to grow during this time of isolation? Here are several recommendation:

  • Set aside time each day to unplug and be quiet. It is tempting to constantly search for the latest COVID-19 update or binge watch tv. And these things aren’t necessarily wrong. But we will grow in the quiet with God. To be quiet and unplug for a period of time each day might require some aid from a spouse. Don’t be afraid to ask for some time alone.
  • Read the Bible and pray. Often, my time to unplug and be quiet is my time for prayer and Bible reading. They go together. Make sure you are reading the timeless and universal truths of Scripture and communicating to the only One who is sovereign.
  • Connect with others through communication. That we are socially distant and isolated does not mean that we cannot have any social interaction. Make time daily to talk to those in your life who matter most (parents, children, grandchildren). Call a neighbor. Text an acquaintance. Message someone you know. I’ve reached out to dozens of people in various ways in the last several weeks. My aim was to encourage them, but I’ve come away from nearly every conversation encouraged myself.
  • Find some good activities to relieve stress. The things people are doing to manage isolation are great. See the excellent list above provided by some of my friends. While all of these may not work for you, I would encourage you to find one (or several) that you can put into practice. Not only are these activities likely to reduce your stress, they can be God’s means for personal growth and development over the next weeks.

This time of isolation does not have to lead to desolation. It can lead to spiritual fruit in your life. By embracing the positives and opportunities of this situation, God can use these days to bring us closer to him. That in itself would be worth the isolation.

If you are in need of prayer or conversation, feel free to reach out. I’m happy and available to pray for you or chat with you. Message me through the social media platform that directed you to this blog or comment below.

Photo by Claudel Rheault on Unsplash