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Prayer: Now what?

I’ve been thinking about the now what of prayer for quite a while now.  It feels hard to know how to wrap up two months worth of talking about prayer and how it impacts our lives.

"We started looking at prayer by recognizing that prayer is a journey."We started looking at prayer by recognizing that it is a journey.  A quest.  Not something we every stop learning about.

And we can implement it in many different ways in our lives.

 

Anything and everything can and should be prayed about.

Anytime and all the time is appropriate for prayer.

I have learned a lot about prayer in the past few months.  It’s starting to become my first response in situations.  It’s starting to shift my thoughts and emotions.  I’m not perfect.  It’s still not my immediate response.  I’ve a ways to go before I’m happy with the prayer life that I have established.  But I’ve started the journey.

One of the things I’ve been thinking through as I think “now what” and start to focus more on another aspect of my walk with God and my legacy lifestyle is praying with specificity.  Pairing what scripture says with the things that I want to see happen in different areas of my life.

For instance, I found a list of 10 verses paired with phrases to pray over my marriage.  And I’ve found a list of verses to pray over Sarabeth.  Praying specific Bible verses over specific areas of my life allow me to not only memorize more scripture, but to apply it to my life and relationships in very specific and tangible ways.  In an effort to start myself out, I took to google and searched for some lists and ideas.  From there, I can now begin looking in scripture to identify more things to be praying for.

I’ve been learning a lot about writing and blogging over the last month.  And all of the notes that I’ve taken and things that I’ve learned point to leaving you with a concrete resolution that can be applied to your life.

But to do that would mean I would have to tell you that I’ve arrived.  And I haven’t.  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  In order to arrive at having figured out prayer, I will have "Prayer is always evolving. Just as you are. Just as your relationship with God does.died and gone to heaven.  Because only then will I be able to say that I’ve “figured” out prayer.

Until then, I continue to acknowledge that prayer is a journey.  It is something I will continually work on learning and growing in.  I won’t ever arrive as hard as I try.  And that means there’s no real resolution to the end of our study on prayer.  It is something that will we will have to continually come back to over and over again.

Prayer is always evolving.  Just as you are.  Just are your relationship with God does.

Amy

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Stop and Pray.

It’s easy to forget to stop and pray.  As I was looking over all the quotes and things that I learned about prayer the past few months, one thing kept staring me in the face.

Stop and Pray.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed: stop and pray.

When you’re not sure where to start: stop and pray.

When you’re excited about something new in your life: stop and pray.

When you’re about to do something big and new: stop and pray.

Before your day starts: stop and pray.

Before you go to sleep: stop and pray.

Lately in our house, a lot of things that are out of our control have been happening.  And Eric and I have felt the stress and overwhelming feeling of not being able to handle the things that have been placed before us.

The one thing that has forced us to do is to stop and pray.  And pray more earnestly about specific things more than we have in a while.

We’ve forgone any formula for praying.  We’ve just spoken what was on our hearts and what we felt we needed most in the moment.  Rather than giving in to the emotion and the fear and uncertainty and frustration, we stopped and prayed.  We stopped those emotions from taking over our lives.

"Prayer didn't change the situation, but it did change my heart.While the situations haven’t ended the way that we hoped, we were able to maintain a little more peace in our house because we stopped and prayed.  We stopped the emotions from running away from us and becoming too strong.  For me, while the emotions didn’t evaporate instantly, they didn’t linger.  I was able to laugh about situations faster rather than feeling overwhelmed and angry.

Prayer itself didn’t fix the problem.  We had to act and believe that God would allow the actions we were taking to help answer our prayers.  But prayer did refocus our minds, our hearts and our thoughts so that we weren’t solely focused on how the situations affected us, but instead we were able to refocus our minds on God.

After all, prayer is about Him and not us.

Amy

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Dream Big. Pray Hard. Think Long.

I recently soaked up some recommended reading ‘Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears’ by Mark Batterson and watched #1 at the box of office Christian film ‘War Room’. Although I have my critiques, these Christian resources reminded me of the principle that it is a spiritual battle we are facing against the enemy. True victory comes when I continually load up with scriptures and confidently give an early surrender to the God to fight the battle by giving up my life to Him. I cannot win on my own. I must continue to fight with intentionality for my prayer life in the Christian walk to be daily, urgent, and bold through taking the cross and taking up the right weapons of truth in Scripture and the willingness to be uncomfortable in surrender.

Photo of text ‘Dream Big. Pray Hard. Think Long.’ When I read that motto by Batterson, I quickly embraced it as a motto I wanted to live by in my current faith walk while I am easing into my early thirties and awkward job transition. Often others tease me for being a daydreamer and idealist, and many friends will share their needs as confidant and prayer warrior, and admire my goal setting and persistence. Despite these qualities, I was near breaking point. I realized the spiritual battle that comes up against the dreams, prayers and thoughts linked to my prayer life will easily crack or fall apart if there is no Jesus strategy. Why? Well, without a battle plan with solid strategy against the distractions, the busyness, the lies, doubts, and fears that so easily entangles me I will be losing or digress in my spiritual walk. And as a natural competitor, I like to win and I do not want a counterfeit triumph. Winning the game in my prayer life comes with intimate prayers directly, urgently and regularly to my savior Jesus.

Praying hard is inconvenient, as seen in Jesus, who reading in the bible was set apart in his high priority to pray and fast from food, despite odd hours or having to opt out of social time. Batterson asks, “Am I willing to do an all-nighter for God?” I admit I do stay up with late night phone calls and tweets, but what if I sacrificed that time to prayer, even if it’s prayers that seem stale, unanswered or prayers that are so big they give me nightmares? When I began to devote time to this inconvenient or uncomfortable prayer, my perspective began to shift and time began to open up. I no longer avoided praying for healthy marriage, although I am a child of divorce, or praying for unsaved siblings and father who stubbornly resist him. I began not just prayerfully considering but praying in pursuit of full time ministry or writing a book even if feel ill equipped. Batterson confesses, “I felt under qualified and overwhelmed, but that is when God has you right where He wants you. That is how you learn to live in raw dependence and raw dependence is the raw material of which God performs His greatest miracles.” Batterson continues, “Prayer turns life into a party, a gift a romance full of holy surprises.” As I continue to pray through, I’m given eternal hope and love in holy anticipation of the work God will do.

In War Room, retiree Miss Clara meets and soon mentors Elizabeth, her real estate agent. Over lukewarm coffee meeting about selling her cherished home, Miss Clara quickly shifts the conversation and models the dangers of lukewarm faith and prayer life. Elizabeth soon confides of her broken marriage and the hurts and wounds interfering with the relationship with her husband and young daughter. Miss Clara shows Elizabeth her favorite room-the upstairs small and plain closet, the ‘War Room’ where many spiritual battles throughout her long life have been won. This war room models the verse Matthew 6:6 “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Although stubborn and resistant at first, Elizabeth soon assembles her own room by removing all the distractions of accessories, name brand shoes, workout clothes and business attire. She closes the closet door away from the motherly and womanly pressures, insecurities and sins. She becomes immersed in the closed walls filled with notecards of scripture, family photos to help pray specifically for individuals, devotional entries and gets on her knees pleading the prayers to the Savior. Throughout the movie, the audience sees the transformational work only God can do, and the enemies that were trying to interfere no longer have a grip on Elizabeth’s life in marriage and motherhood. This scene is James 4:7 lived out, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Prior to this season in life, I hesitated with bringing God the details daily and would begin prayers with just silly feelings or not a full attention. But I’ve learned that praying through Quote, is about consistency, intensity, and making the sacrifice. Batterson advises to “hyperlink” prayers to promises of God, where praying hard is standing on the promises of God. After linking my prayer life to the truth I noticed a desire to seek Him and my spiritual appetite awakened, with a thirst for Jesus to fill my cup daily. Psalm 5:3 declares, “In the morning Lord, you hear my voice, in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” I may risk my status quo or likeability, declaring my neediness for a Savior and fearless authenticity. However, this divine risk right and situation is right where God wants me to be in order to transformational work and miracles through my prayer life.

Natalie Parrague

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It Will Be a Blessing

I am so excited to share today’s blog post with you.  My dear friend, Kelli Moore, of All Your Heart ministries is sharing her experience with prayer.  I can tell you that her prayers get answers.  She once was praying that Sarabeth would take a nap so that I could get a bit of a break.  That very next day, Sarabeth took more naps than she ever had before.  It was an absolute blessing to me.  So, I know that when Kelli speaks of her experiences with prayer, know that she speaks from the heart and her words are true.

Praying. Prayer. Prayer life. These words hold great meaning for some, great mystery for others. What does it mean? Is there a formula that works? Is there a checklist I can follow? Are there words I have to use? When do pray? Why do I pray?

I have asked all these questions and many more. As a child, I thought only preachers prayed. They knew all the pre"As my relationship with Jesus grew, I began to crave more communicationw ith him" Kelli Moore Quotetty words to say and when to say them. I didn’t have a clue where to even begin. As my relationship with Jesus grew, I began to crave more communication with Him. Mostly because I needed His help with all the trouble I got myself into. The more I went to Him with my list of problems to fix, the more I began to wonder if that was all there was to praying. I read so many books, I memorized the Lord’s Prayer, I wrote down all the acronyms down and followed them, step by step.

Still, I wanted more. I needed more. So, I told Him. “Father, this doesn’t feel right. I’m pretty sure there is something off with this deal. What can I do to feel more connected to You?” It didn’t happen overnight. Truly, it didn’t even happen quickly. We just started to talk. I would come to Him whenever I had a quiet moment and tell Him that I wanted to feel something when I prayed. I would tell Him that I didn’t feel comfortable with this whole prayer thing. I asked all kinds of questions. “If You are sovereign, why should I pray? If You already know everything I think and feel, why do I need to tell You? If You already have a plan, why do I need to ask You about it? What difference do my prayers make?”

He has answered those questions with gentle whispers about how He longs for my company and my companionship. He has yelled at me, (He has to do this with me sometimes. I can be slightly hard headed) “because I said so and I know what I’m doing!” He has allowed me to wrestle with Him and the answers until we have come to an understanding. The understanding is, I don’t understand it all and I don’t have too.

I understand enough to know that I am at peace when I pray, that I feel His presence when I pray, and all the things come together better when I pray."What this tells me is that prayer is not for God but for me" Kelli Moore Quote

What this tells me is that prayer is not for God, but for me. Just like the Sabbath was designed to ensure I get rest, prayer was designed to ensure that I spend quality time with my Father.

That quality time leaves me feeling loved, valued, and connected. I feel stronger and more secure.

Sometimes, the prayers are short and to the point. Sometimes they are long and wordy. Sometimes they are raw, and hard, and ugly. No matter my need, He meets me there and He listens. No matter my attitude or my words, He hears me. Knowing this truth, I am drawn towards prayer because it changes me, comforts me, and empowers me.

Somehow, in the midst of all prayer does for me, it also opens the door for God to bless us, support us, encourage  us. It as if He is a parent just waiting to be asked so He can give. We just have to open the door.

The question is now, how do we pray? What do we say? How do we get better? The answer is simple, pray. Talk to Him. Tell Him what you want Him to know, what you need Him to do, how much you love Him. Talk to Him like you would talk to a wise friend. He will reveal to you how and when to pray. There is no secret formula. There is the Holy Spirit inside you, translating to and from God. He tells us that if we ask for wisdom, and believe that He will give it, it will be done.

Like everything else, there will be seasons. Times when you have more time then others, more motivation, more words. Conversely, there will be times when the words are few, time is non-existent, and the motivation is going to survival mode. Keep praying. Keep coming before Him and asking for more. He will always answer. In fact, it is when you are having the hardest time praying that you need that time with Him the most.
Don’t give up, keep at it. Don’t compare, He only cares about your heart. Make some time each day to pray.

It will be a blessing.

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Cooking and Prayer

One thing I have learned over the first few years of marriage is a general understanding of cooking. I have enjoyed watching cooking shows on the Food Network. Food Truck Wars, Iron Chef America, and Beat Bobby Flay are some I enjoy watching just to name a few. My previous culinary experience before marriage consisted of frozen foods, oatmeal, and if I was feeling adventurous, then Macaroni and Cheese. Not the homemade, well prepared version, but the one in that little blue box. Then I got married and differing work schedules alongside a budget meant I actually had to try to figure out at least a simple basic understanding of cooking so that there would be edible food on the table but also so we wouldn’t get tired of eating the same food continuously. Food and cooking at the core are very simple, but can be made complex.  Often many view it as complex, without  putting much effort into trying to understand and learn how to enjoy its complexities.

Prayer is very similar to this. At its core it is very simple, a conversation with the Heavenly Father. Talking and listening, just like you would a friend or family member. But why does it feel so hard? Why is there so much mystery surrounding it? Is it because the person we are trying to communicate with is unseen? Or the fact He is always with us wherever we go? Is his power over all the world really affected by my prayers? To me these types of responses reflect something deeper. They point to the character of God. His characteristics of omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience are lofty and difficult to understand. How well do you know your spouse? How about your parents? Best friend? Does the more you know that person make it easier to talk, and especially listen, with them? I venture to say it is the same with God. The more you know Him the easier it is to talk with Him gets. Notice I said talk WITH Him, not talk TO Him. I am just as guilty as the next person of talking too much to God and not taking the time to talk with Him. It is easy and convenient to talk to God, telling him of all you are in need of, the troubles of the day, and even things that you are thankful for or ways He has provided.

How much more would you know Him and who He is, thus knowing what He likes and dislikes, if you spent time with Him? Include reading the Bible in your time talking with Him and conversing over it to really know His heart.

So the next time you think prayer is too tough, or is being frustrated by it, just remember to spend time WITH Him, because He is always there with you.

Eric's signature

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Self Love, Happy Habits and Prayer

This past week I went to a women’s event that focused on building happy habits.  Mary DeMuth spoke about the fact that we can do anything, every day for 23 minutes.  And spending those 23 minutes every day focused on one thing can make it a habit.  She talked about tying the things we love together with the new habit so that we are encouraged to actually engage in the new habit.  One of the main things I wanted to focus on was getting healthy.  Working out every day.  And I did work out for three days in a row.  I reminded myself that I could do anything for 23 minutes, and I did.  Even with a baby pulling on my legs and wanting to be held while I was attempting to work out, I did it.  I completed what I set out to do and it felt great.

Then I woke up this morning.  Sore.  And tired from a baby not sleeping well at all and demanding all of my attention all of the time.  And I realized something.  Rather than focusing on exercise to make me happy and feel good about myself, I should be practicing self love.  Taking care of myself means that occasionally I have to take a day off from a work out.  Because taking time to love myself, whether that’s through exercise or a bit of extra sleep or taking time to listen to a podcast or read a book.  All of those things are important.  So while exercise is one of the most important factors in getting healthy, it’s not something I can jump into and go full out on and except to be able to function every day.

Habits are built by starting small.  Perhaps by realizing where you want to be and taking baby steps to get there.  A baby doesn’t just start out walking.  We’ve watched Sarabeth try for months to sit up on her own until one day, about 5 months later, she actually managed to sit up on her own in her crib.  But first, she worked to strengthen her legs by standing in our laps or on furniture.  And she practiced holding herself up on all fours before she figured out how to move her arms forward and her legs so that she could actually crawl.  And it took about a week from when she realized she could move herself before she started crawling towards anything she wanted to inspect without us encouraging her to move towards us.  Sarabeth started small and is moving towards big things.  Any day now, she’ll be able to stand for more than 20 seconds without supporting herself and then she’ll start walking.  She’s gotten there by watching others and struggling through.  Whenever Eric or I stepped in to help her, it set her back because she wasn’t able to work through it on her own.  The struggle was just as important as the end result.Quote

As I’ve been learning about prayer and thinking about my own struggles with developing a prayer life something clicked today.  I’ve often gotten frustrated with myself, or down on myself and given up because I couldn’t maintain what I set out to do in the first place.  I viewed prayer as a pass or fail.  I either succeeded or I didn’t.  And that was the wrong way to view things.  I was letting myself get in the way of the end goal that I had in mind.

So now, I’m going to start approaching prayer differently.  Prayer isn’t a pass or fail task.  Prayer is a habit that can be built.  Just like exercise or self love, a prayer habit can be built in 23 minutes.  Perhaps you are like me and you need to create some structure to that habit.  And perhaps you’re like me and that means you have to try out several different ways of praying before you find one that helps you communicate best with God.

IMG_4269Create some space somewhere in your house that is just for prayer.  And study.  And time with God.  Carve out a place not marred by electronics and social media and distractions.  Perhaps that means you light a candle to remind you that you are in holy space.  Perhaps you are surrounded by photos of your loved ones.  Perhaps some of your favorite knick knacks are there.  Your favorite mug filled with tea or coffee or Dr. Pepper or water.  But it’s your space.  Your holy ground.  It could be inside.  Or outside.  In a corner or the middle of the floor.  Make it holy.  And meet God there.  Invite him into that space and keep it sacred.

When Eric and I first started talking about turning Be The Proof into a ministry, we created that sacred space for me.  And he told me not to bring my cell phone to the chair.  Or my iPad.  But I didn’t listen, and that sacred space is not quite as sacred as it started out to be.  But I didn’t fail, because I can begin rebuilding that happy habit once again.  I don’t have to quit trying just because I didn’t get it right this time.  I have to try again.  And start over.  And rethink the way I’ve built my space.

Share a little bit about your sacred space in the comments.  We’d love to see how you’ve created your space for you and God.Amy

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