heavy

So much is going on in the lives of people around me. My heart feels heavy for some good friends that are losing their home soon. For a mom friend that is being wounded and rejected by her own child.  For a group of people that are hurt by changes that are meant for good.  For a sweet teacher that flew halfway across the world to be used by God, yet has been attacked by an infection.

In all this, I have been reminded of my own powerlessness. I cannot fix any of these problems. I can’t heal anyone, change anyone’s mind, repair any families. All I can do is pray.

Why do we say it that way? As if prayer is some last resort… some desperate attempt to do good when all of our other efforts have failed?

Prayer is a spark that ignites power! Results! Answers! Healing! Freedom! I have spent so much more time praying this week with all of these issues weighing heavy on me. The more I pray, the lighter I feel. Is it because I have seen results after praying for one week??

Not really. The answers are slow in coming. I feel better because the more I pray about a situation, the more convinced I become that God is listening. He is watching. He is planning. He is preparing His rescue. He is coming!

King David describes the Lord’s response to our prayers in Psalm 18. Allow me to personalize it for you:

6 In your distress you called to the LORD;
You cried to your God for help.
From his temple he hears your voice;
your cry comes before him, into his ears.

7 The earth trembles and quakes,
and the foundations of the mountains shake;
they tremble because he is angry [at your enemies].

8 Smoke rises from his nostrils;
consuming fire comes from his mouth,
burning coals blaze out of it.

9 He will part the heavens and come down;
dark clouds will be under his feet.

10 He will mount the cherubim and fly;
he will soar  on the wings of the wind to save you.

11 He will make darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
the dark rain clouds of the sky.

12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds will advance,
with hailstones and bolts of lightning.

13 The LORD will thunder from heaven;
the voice of the Most High will resound.

14 He will shoot his arrows and scatter your enemies ,
great bolts of lightning will route them.

15 The valleys of the sea will be exposed
and the foundations of the earth will be laid bare
at the rebuke of the LORD,
at the blast of breath from His nostrils.

16 He will reach down from on high and take hold of you;
he will draw you out of deep waters.

17 He will rescue you from your powerful enemy,
from your foes, who seem too strong for you.

18 They confront you in the day of disaster,
but the LORD is your support.

19 He will bring you out into a spacious place;
he will rescue you because he delights in you.

the wailing wall

written prayers inserted at the Wailing Wall

written prayers inserted at the Wailing Wall

Once again, the power of prayer was made clear to me this week.  I visited with a good friend at church, and we chatted about the baby boy in my womb.  She reminded me of the moment when the seed was truly sown for this little boy.  It was a long time ago.

My friend and her husband were traveling to Israel nine years ago.  My husband really wanted to go on this trip, but I was newly pregnant with our second child.  It’s always been a dream of his (and mine) to see the Holy Land, but since he couldn’t go, he asked our friends to do something for him while they were there.  He gave them a slip of paper, and asked them to place it in the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.  On the paper, he had written a prayer… the longing and desire of his heart.

The Wailing Wall received its famous name from the British in 1917.   During their rule in Israel, they witnessed the ongoing presence of Jewish people praying and weeping at the last standing piece of the Temple wall  (built by Herod in 19 BC).   This piece of wall is actually a retaining wall that supported the extended Temple platform that Herod built.   The Jewish people have been visiting the Wailing Wall as a place of prayer since about 400 AD.   They come to mourn the destruction of the Temple and to make requests of the Lord.  They believe that there is something very powerful about the wall.  To them, it’s a holy site where God’s presence once dwelt.  They believe that there is no place on earth closer to God or to heaven.

It has become very common for people who visit the wall to insert their prayers on a piece of paper.  Since my husband couldn’t go to the Holy Land, this was his wish.  To have the prayer of his heart placed inside the Wailing Wall.  What did he write on the paper?  He asked God for a son.

I had completely forgotten about this time in our lives!  It was shortly after our friends’ return from Israel when we discovered that our second child would be another girl.  We were happy to have a healthy child,  but the longing remained in my husband’s heart in the days that led up to our daughter’s birth.

I moved on, became busy with two little girls, and was honestly content with the size of our family.  It wasn’t until 2 years ago when the Lord asked me to have another child that I thought about how much my husband had wanted a son.  Even when I talked with him about the Lord’s apparent plan to give us another baby, it seemed that even my husband had forgotten how much he desired to have a son nine years ago.

But the Lord never forgot.  He heard those prayers.  He knew the longing of my man’s heart.  He waited until the time was right, and brought the answer to prayer.

This time I knew, even before I got pregnant, that this baby would be a boy.  The Lord made it very clear to me that this child was a blessing to my husband, and that it would be a son.  When my friend reminded me this week about the Wailing Wall prayer, I realized once again just how amazing God is and how powerful our prayers are.  Nine years seems like a long time to wait.  My husband had long since left that request at the foot of the Father’s throne.  He trusted God with his heart’s desire. Even when the years went by.  And now here we are, just seven weeks away from meeting our little boy.

This nine year old story is a challenge to you and me today.  What do you need to bring to the Wailing Wall?  What is the desire of your heart?  Write it down, roll it up, and place it in your wailing wall.  In essence, you will be laying it at the foot of His throne.  Let Him take His time.  Let Him shape your dream and your desire.  Let Him answer you when He knows that the timing is perfect.

What have you been waiting for?  Does it seem like it’s too late?  With God, it’s never too late.  My husband will finally experience the joy and desire of his heart at 47 years old!  Don’t let the enemy tell you that it’s over.  Your future is being written by your Loving Father.  Rest in Him, knowing that He has you in His hands.

This is what the LORD says: “In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you.”  Isaiah 49:8

a prayer revolution

I promised to share some post-teaching thoughts on prayer.  Last week, as I taught women’s bible study, we came to John 14:13-14, when Jesus says:

“I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.   You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

This is an amazing promise.  Of course, it’s not a blank check for us to cash anytime we want to. Notice that there are two conditions.  The first condition is that we must ask in Jesus name.  Here’s one area where I wish I would have elaborated more at bible study.

We train ourselves quite well to end our prayers with the phrase, “in Jesus’ name.”   However, I don’t think that this is what Jesus had in mind when He made the promise.  We tack this phrase on the end of all of our prayers, but are we really mindful of what we are saying?   Are we contemplating the power of Jesus name at that moment?  Philippians 2:9 says that God gave Jesus the name that is above every name.  The Psalms tell us that the Lord’s name is so powerful, that we can run to it for safety.  We are cautioned not to use this wonderful name in vain. But how often do we say it out of habit, rather than awe???

What Jesus was talking about in this verse is our ability to call on His name in the midst of our need.  Being around my pastor, friend, and mentor Kathryn has taught me something about the power of Jesus’ name.  I noticed that something happens when she calls His name.  HE COMES.   Following in her footsteps,  I have felt His “arrival”  (so to speak) when I’ve called on His name.   JESUS.  In an anxious moment or situation, I’ve called out for Him, and I’ve sensed the wind of His Spirit blow into my presence.  Have you felt it too?

As I’ve faced spiritual opposition, I’ve learned to pray against the enemy’s tactics  “in the name of Jesus.”   Boy, that’ll do it.  The enemy can’t stand to hear that name, and he must bow to it. He must flee.

Then one day, I realized that it’s not just spiritual warfare that demands a request in the name of Jesus.  I’ve started praying more fervently and intentionally about things, and I’m requesting these things in His name.  Right there in the middle of my prayer.  I call on the name of Jesus.

When I do that, it makes me slow down.  I must think about what I’m asking.  I’m speaking the most powerful name, addressing the most powerful being in the universe.  Is this request worthy of His name?  Do you see how this line of prayer keeps me from praying selfish, thoughtless prayers?  I have to stop and think about it.

There’s another condition for this promise from Jesus.  He says He will do whatever we ask, “so that the Son may bring glory to the Father”.  The thing we’re asking for must bring glory to the Father.  Doesn’t that rule out a lot of requests??  This is where I made a statement (at the evening bible study) that might seem perplexing to some:

We need to ask God what we should be praying for.

That seems kind of funny.  Ask God what to ask Him for?  Isn’t prayer about asking for what you want or need?   Isn’t it obvious what I should be praying for?

The question is, are you always sure of what God’s will is?  Haven’t you faced some needs in your life or the life of others that were SO overwhelming that honestly you didn’t know WHAT to pray for?

For years, I would throw out my wish list, my wants, my perspective on things in prayer.  Of course, I learned to add a quick,  “if that’s your will, Lord” near the end.  That sounded so spiritual.  But something changed over the last few years.  I’ve experienced a “prayer revolution” in my life.  I spent some time praying with an amazing group of women, and they taught me how to come to God and just be still.  To begin with praise and confession.  To sit and wait for the Lord to lead our prayers.  Soon, a nudge would come.   Maybe a single word like “patience” or “freedom”.   Sometimes a picture would come to mind, illustrating the true nature of the situation we were praying for.   Often I felt the urge to turn to a certain bible passage that gave me guidance for prayer.  There were even times that I was overwhelmed by an emotion (like anger or grief) and it showed me what to ask the Lord for.  I can also recall moments when the prayer I had on my tongue would not come out of my mouth, no matter how hard I tried.  Clearly, the Lord was telling me that this was not the direction to go.  In all these things, I learned to follow His lead in prayer.

When a situation is bigger than you (which is so often the case in our lives, right?)  it’s time to recognize your limitations.  We cannot see all the forces at work.  We cannot see the future.  We cannot predict what the enemy will attempt.  We may not be sure what God’s will is.  So why not let God lead the prayers?   If He knows the outcome, then He can guide our hearts to pray for the right things.

How often have I sat with someone to pray with them, and I was clueless what to pray?  I didn’t want to offend.  I certainly didn’t want to get their hopes up.  I have learned to be quiet and let God quietly whisper to me a word, reveal a need, or show me a picture in my mind that will guide what I pray for.  It’s okay to just be quiet and wait… instead of trying to fill the silence with unnecessary words.  Do you know how many times I have looked up from these prayer sessions and seen a look of wonder on the friend’s face?  They’ll inevitably say that what I prayed was perfect.  Even if they told me all the details of their struggle, I may not know what to ask God for.   If I wait for Him, God  gives me insight to pray in the right direction.  Praying this way can give God the opportunity to confirm or correct someone.  When we let Him lead, He does His work.

So, Jesus’ words present a promise and a challenge.  He WILL answer. All we have to do is seek Him first, so He can show us what to pray.  Then we can call on the mighty name of Jesus our Lord.  The rest is just watching and waiting for results.  Praising Him until the answers arrive.  He is so good!