“Start a prayer journal.”
This was something God told me to do at the beginning of 2013.
“Okay God,” I thought, “I can do that.”
For the record, telling God “I can do that” and actually doing it are two completely different things.
January came and went. No prayer journal. February came and went. No prayer journal. March and April rolled around. If you guessed “still no prayer journal,” you’re a winner. Finally, May arrived, and with it, a heaping dose of conviction.
“It’s May. You still haven’t started the prayer journal.”
God. He can be so bossy sometimes.
It’s not like I wasn’t praying. I prayed all the time. If anything, He should’ve been sick of hearing from me. And why exactly did I need to start a prayer journal again?
“Because your prayers aren’t being deliberate. It’s not how much your praying, it’s how you’re praying. Start acting like your words mean something. Start praying like I can actually do what you‘re praying for.”
I love it when Jesus acknowledges me as if I think He can’t hear what I’m saying inside my head… and the revelation, waterworks and repentance that always seems to follow.
I was struck by that statement. Hard. What I think struck me the most though, was that deep down, I had already known it: God and I had a communication issue.
It wasn’t so much a matter of not communicating, but HOW I communicated. Certain words He spoke began to haunt me. “Your prayers aren’t being deliberate… Start acting like your words mean something… Start praying like I can actually do what you‘re praying for.”
I began to see my prayer life for what it was—boring, repetitive and sorely tedious. I started to feel like there was more to it, platforms I wasn’t giving Him, miracles I wasn’t allowing Him the chance to perform. I was offering prayer, but underestimating His power. My words were dry and without an ounce of deliberation. Something was missing.
You might wonder, what does a dry, un-deliberate prayer look like:
It’s me again. You know, we spoke yesterday? I just wanted to say thanks for being awesome. Because You are n’ stuff. I pray for Bob, Lord. He’s having kidney trouble. Bless Bob. Bless Bob’s kidney. Oh yeah, I almost flipped off this one guy in traffic today. He cut me off. I just wanted to apologize for that. Even if He would’ve deserved it. Well, thanks again, Jesus. Talk to You tonight. I mean, maybe. I can’t promise I won’t fall asleep or anything. You grant rest to the weary. You understand.
…can any of y’all relate?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying God discounts any sort of prayer. Long or short, elegant or clumsy, He doesn’t care. Heck, some of Jesus’ most powerful prayers were three words long. Three. Measly Words. What Jesus understood though, was that it’s not about the words you speak or the time you spend in prayer, it’s about the heart and devotion behind it.
Like any relationship, marital, familial, business or whatever, communication is key. You can’t sit down with someone, halfheartedly connect, and expect the relationship to grow. It’s a process of opening your heart and being honest with the other person, good, bad and ugly.
Picture it this way: You’re out to dinner with someone and trying to start a conversation.
You: How was your day?
Other Person: Bad.
You: Oh. What are you going to order?
Other Person: Food.
You: Did I do something wrong?
Other Person: Yes.
Make sense? Conversation is happening, yes, but nothing is progressing or being born from it. Something is missing, and it’s that very same something my prayers were missing, the key element to strong communication: Detail.
Details are how you get to know other people, connect with them, find what makes them tick and understand what’s going on in their lives.
Detail is as essential to a relationship as it is to prayer.
I’m one of the most detailed people you’ll ever met. You can’t ask me a simple question without getting a ten minute response. (Some of you can attest to this.) I’m all about the who, what, where, when, why, how, and what they were wearing. It’s ALWAYS a novel with me. So why on earth should my prayer life be any different?
If I really believe I’m talking to God in prayer, God as in the Almighty Maker of the universe and everything in it, why I do cut and run? Why do I keep my prayers dry and uninteresting? Doesn’t the Creator of every detail known to man care more about the little things than I do?
Is our prayer life, or lack thereof, a matter of just being lazy, or is it a painstakingly silent notion we posses that maybe God doesn’t care? After all, He IS a busy guy. Why would He take the time to be concerned about our requests?
Say I were to die, and miraculously, I came back to life a few minutes later, and say while I was dead, I went to heaven. If you were to ask me what heaven was like, I don’t think “cool” would justify as a worthy answer. You’d wanna know exactly what heaven was like! The colors, the smells, the sounds, who was there, what God looked like and more. You’d want more than a dry and uninteresting “cool.” You’d want detail.
The same way you’d want detail about heaven, God wants detail from you.
Psalm 139:17-18 says “Your thoughts are precious to me. They are so many! If I could count them, they would be more than all the grains of sand.”
This implies two things. Not only does God not “not care” about us, but His thought process towards us is precious. He’s never had an ugly thought about us! He’s not annoyed or bothered by our prayers. He doesn’t get angry when we approach Him or think we’re being demanding or ungrateful (though we can be—that’s another blog.)
It says He thinks about us more than all the sand on earth. I’d be Captain Obvious if I said how innumerable that number would be. That’s not the most amazing part. What is, is that that same innumerable number is how much He thinks us every SECOND of every DAY. And we think He doesn’t care about details?
Earlier in Psalm 139:4, it says “You know what I’m going to say long before I say it.”
What amazes me about prayer, is that we have a God who already knows every part of our lives inside and out (Psalm 44:21), yet He still wants to hear from us. All those details we think are too petty, the prayers we’re afraid He won’t listen to, He already knows them. Nothing is coming as a surprise to Him, but He wants it to come from you. He desires to hear YOUR voice.
It’s almost like being a little kid at Disney World, describing everything to your parents as if they’re not even there. They’re seeing the same exact things you are, nothing you’re telling them is new information, but there is something so much sweeter about the detailed excitement pouring from five-year-old you than what they already know (“Precious are His thoughts toward us…”)
So I started a prayer journal.
As I began to document prayers, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to not leave out any details. I need to tell God exactly what I was praying for. Not just a detached dry prayer, but a deliberate detailed prayer. God desires my honesty just as much as I desire His truth. Our bond grows only when we can be that open with one another.
God wants me to trust Him to do crazy things. He wants to prove that He’s capable of more than some chills on Sunday morning that produce applause. He wants to answers prayers so specific, that there is no way I can look at the situation and not say “Only God could have done this.” We’d be astounded at what kind of miracles could happen in our lives if we prayed like our words actually possessed power.
If you’re anything like myself and you find prayer can become a habitual routine rather than an open forum, begin to stretch yourself. Talk to God. Isn’t that what prayer really is? It’s a relationship. Be honest, be open, be deliberate. Come to Him with what’s on your heart. Don’t be afraid to offend Him. If anything, you’re handing Him the platform to show up and show off. Give Him that opportunity. Give Him the details.
“Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue.” —Andrew Murray
NOTE: I originality posted this a year ago on another website. I felt like it was worth repurposing. :)
The new year is in full swing. The tress have been taken down, the confetti has been swept and the glorified gopher has seen his shadow. All of this can only mean one thing: It’s almost Valentines Day.
If you’re anything like me, this was one of your FAVORITE days of the year when you were a kid. I went to public school till I was in 4th grade, and each year, my teachers would hold a Valentines Day party in class that consisted of dye your teeth red cupcakes and corn syrup, also known as fruit punch..
While I loved all the treats, my favorite part was the long awaited valentine exchange. We’d always make these cute little “mailboxes” for our valentines, and during the party, we were free to get up and “deliver“ them to one another. Once school was over and all of us were bouncing off the ceilings, we could take the mailboxes home and read the cards given to us.
I took my Valentines Day cards seriously. I went out of my way to make sure each of my cards were perfect, from the stickers I used on the outside, to color appropriate blue and pink sparkle gel pens for boys and girls. It gave me crazy joy when I was finally able to pass those cards out in class. Knowing how ridiculously hard I had worked on them, seeing the smile on someone’s face as they open and read the card made it all worth it.
Ever since I was young, I loved the romance behind Valentines Day. It was a day full of sweet, innocent little gestures such as candy and notes that showed my friends and loved ones how much I cared for them—who knew a Spongebob Squarepants card could pack such a punch?
Problem is, as we get older, our idea of romance beings to evolve. It stops becoming something sweet and innocent. It’s no longer about cute mailboxes or teeth-rotting cupcakes. It’s takes on a new meaning.
I made friends with a guy at the job I working for a year ago. He wasn’t a Christian, but he was willing to talk about God. A few days before Valentines Day, he asked me if I had any plans. He knew my views on waiting and purity and was honestly rather stunned when I told him about it (imagine that), so I don’t think he took it as much of a surprise when I smiled and told him “not this year.”
“Ha,” he laughed, “I think the whole thing is a joke.”
“Oh great, ”I thought, “here comes an ‘I Hate Valentines Day’ speech…”
And it was just that. He began to tell me the whole day was a waste of time, stress, and money. He said we’d be far better off without it. I just stood there with a smile plastered my face, nodding as I listened, all while thinking to myself, “Please just shut up.”
“What about you?” he finally stated, “I’ll bet when you get married you’re gonna want a teddy bear or something huh? Come on, be honest, you’re gonna expect something from your husband.”
Something about that statement stuck with me the rest of that afternoon. I HATED what he had to say. I needed to remember that his views on love weren’t coming from a Christ-centered perspective, but as much as I hated to admit it, he did have a point.
I’m not against wanting anything for Valentines Day. As a matter of fact, the answer to his question is yes. When I get married, I would LOVE for my husband to buy me flowers and candy, teddy bears and all that cute stuff. I wouldn’t complain if he wrote me an ooey-gooey love song and gave me a letter with his sweet sentiments in it. I am a romantic at heart. I don’t think this comes as a shock to any of you (and if it is, where have you been?)
See, it’s easy to get caught up in all that stuff, and when I say that stuff, I mean the stuff, and that’s where the problem lies. Romance, in our culture, is less about relationship and more about fulfilling wants.
It happens in Hollywood all the time. It’s just so glamorous, we see it as this epic love story for the ages. Beautiful young girl meet emotional brooding bad boy, emotional brooding bad boy is so dang emotional and broody that the beautiful young girl can’t resist him, emotional brooding bad boy sweeps the girl off her feet and rocks the beautiful young girl’s world for one night. Then beautiful young girl and emotional broody bad boy part ways forever and always remember those few special moments they shared together.
Oh, and did I mention the emotional brooding bad boy was a vampire? Because he was a vampire. The end.
Even before I was a believer, I didn’t get this. As much of a romantic as I was and am, I NEVER made the connection. This is just one example of how the world has manipulated love. The whole “I” want to be happy thing. It’s selfish, and it is NOT how God created love to work.
Romance, in it’s purest and rawest state, is about giving, NOT getting. Do I love teddy bears and gushy love songs? Absolutely, but if I am more interested in getting those things from the guy I’m gonna marry than to make sure I am loving him as I am called to love him, there’s no point to it. I don’t want my marriage to be two people just fulfilling a bunch of wants. I want it to be a fun, beautiful and yes, romantic, God-centered relationship. That kind of bond can only be made when two people want to commit to giving everything to each other, and not just making it a day-to-day matter of paying dues.
We ALL want something more. We all crave relationship that includes sacrifice. Because if life was merely about fulfilling the wants, we all would have settled for sleeping with the vampire a long time ago. (Yes. I did say that.)
Remember those 2nd grade Valentines Day cards? Remember how they used to make you feel when you gave them away? Sure, it was nice to get a few, but don’t you remember the giddy feeling you’d have when a friend opened their card for the first time? It’s a moment of pure selflessness. What you had didn’t matter as much as what you gave them. That’s what true love looks like.
God is the ultimate author of romance. When you think of how much He cares for us, it blows your mind. We as a human race are a bunch of conceded, prideful screw up’s who deserve so much less than what we‘re given. We spat in His Son’s face, rejected His compassion and hung Him naked on a tree in the middle of public. We stuck dirty nails into His hands, shoved needles into His skull and laughed like He was some pathetic animal as we watched Him suffer and die.
Yet He loves us, and not only that, He purses us. He wants a relationship with us.
Jesus was the ultimate gift of love. God laid His broken and bleeding heart out on the table for you just to prove that He’d give anything to take care if you for the rest of your life. To say that He’d save you (John 3:16-17), redeem you (Galatians 3:13), restore you (Jeremiah 15:19), value you (1 Samuel 26:24), help you (Isaiah 41:10), provide for you (2 Corinthians 8:9), bless you (Genesis 12:2), and above all, love you (1 John 4:16).
Christ desires to passionately romance your heart every single moment of every single day. As if what He’s done isn’t enough, He wants to do more for you. His CONSTANT motive isn’t to fulfill His agenda, regardless of how much He deserves it. It’s to give to you because you are His and He wants to endlessly remind you how priceless you are to Him. This is the way love is meant to be mirrored.
Valentines Day is almost here. Perhaps you are one of those people who dreads this day because you feel alone and all your friends are out on hot air balloon rides with their significant others while rainbows fill the sky and baby angels appear from the clouds playing harps. Yet you’re at home. Reading this blog. In your pajamas. Eating ramen. Seriously considering sending yourself flowers.
Turn around. Jesus is pouring His heart for you, literally, and He’s asking you to be His. Your day will come. Baby angels and rainbows are in your future, but in this moment, God wants you to treasure the time with Him as He lavishes you with His love.
Think of how God selflessly wins your heart and begin to genuinely give that love away, not just on Valentines Day, but every day. Now excuse me. I have some Spongbob cards to write.
Don’t you just love it when you’re meditating on something you read in the bible and God smacks you upside the head to drive the point home?
Christmas was several weeks ago. As an early Christmas present, I got an amazing new bible that offers theological commentary on scriptures. As Christmas Eve dawned, I spent the early portion of the evening sitting in my room and reading the story of Jesus’ birth. Cliché, but in a world full of materialism, it NEVER hurts to focus on why we celebrate in the first place.
I got to Matthew 1, which offers a brief account of the story and began to read through the genealogy of Jesus. While Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ biological father, he was born into his family and had the honor of raising Him as his own Son. As the chapter begins, we start reading about the bloodline that led to Joseph.
It all starts with Abram (later renamed Abraham.) No surprise there, but as the lineage continues, I couldn’t help but notice that this “awesome new bible” was offering a little more commentary than I was used to seeing. After Abraham was Isaac, after Isaac was Jacob, but then we get to one of Jacob’s 12 sons, Judah.
Now, most of the time, we skim past the genealogies quickly to get to the “meaty” stuff. Little do we realize, there is A LOT of meaty stuff in the genealogies…
The commentary beside the scripture noted that Tamar was the mother of Judah’s two kids. “Seems innocent enough,” I thought to myself, “I don’t see why they’d feel the need to point that out, but whatever.” Curiosity got the best of me, so I flipped over to Genesis 38 and started reading the account of Judah and Tamar. Turns out, Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law. “Okay,” I thought, “that kinda weird.”
Ha. Ha-ha. Hahahahaha. It gets better.
Tamar was married to one of Judah’s sons, but because this son was so wicked in the eyes of God, he ended up dying without having any kids, which back in that day, was a huge deal. Judah then told his second son to marry Tamar, that she might get pregnant and have a baby in honor of his brother.
I’m gonna let you read Genesis 38:9-10 to find out what happens. No really. Go read it. Then try telling me the bible is boring.
In a nutshell, Tamar wasn’t getting pregnant anytime soon. As this all unfolded, Judah’s wife dies, and he starts to get lonely. VERY lonely. Instead of joining a nice single seniors group at his church, he decides he’s gonna go solicit some street woman for sex. *Facepalm*
Little does he realize that the woman he’s soliciting is actually Tamar dressed like a harlot. Tired of being embarrassed by the fact that she’s a childless widow and having a deep hatred for her father-in-law, she decided to get back at him by having his baby. Long story short, she gets pregnant, he finds out it was his daughter-in-law, barfs (I would assume) and then she goes on to have twins.
“Ooooooookay,” I nodded, “onto the next part of this genealogy, please.”
As the family lineage continues in Matthew, you don’t go much further before you get to another slice of commentary pointing out that Rahab—the Canaanite prostitute who helped the children of Israel—was Boaz’s mother.
“How did I NOT know that?” I thought, shocked, as I went on reading. Boaz married Ruth, together they had Obed, Obed had Jesse and Jesse had David. No real shocker there either. Then it goes on to point out yet another stark reminder…
“David gave birth to Solomon through his wife Bathsheba, who was married to Uriah but she had an affair with David, so David had Uriah killed.”
This was starting to sound less and less like the bible and more like an episode of Maury Povich.
David’s story isn’t unfamiliar. He screwed up big time and paid the price for it. Yet even after what he did, he was still a man after God’s own heart and God forgave him, because of that, his son Solomon was born and became the King. Regardless, Solomon screwed up too and ended up causing a whole bunch of ruckus in the kingdom. So much so, that when HIS son became King, the kingdom split in two. *Facepalm*
The lineage goes on, and finally, through a lengthy list of corrupt Kings and shady figures, we finally get to Joseph—the adoptive father of Jesus.
“Well, that was a painful journey towards Christmas,” I sighed, sipping my cocca and singing jolly carols.
Skip ahead a few weeks. I’m reading through this same commentary bible when I get to Genesis 12, where it talks about Abram and Sarai leaving their home to go to Canaan as God had instructed them to. In the commentary bracket, it talks about how Abram told his wife to pretend she was his sister, because if the brute inhabitants of the land saw how beautiful she was and knew he was married to her, they’d kill him so they could have her.
“Which wasn’t really a lie,” the commentary stated, “seeing as in Genesis 20, Abram admits that he and Sarai really are half siblings. Same father, different mother.”
SHUT. THE FRONT. DOOR.
Okay. For realsies? I’ve read Genesis dozens of times. How did I miss that they were related?! It’s not like it makes a difference now, but still? *Facepalm*
As I pondered on this, the Christmas episode with the genealogies came flooding back to me, and I began thinking…
Thought #1: “You will NEVER, EVER, EVER see these things in a Precious Moments Bible.”
Thought #2: “Jesus, You came from a REALLY screwed up family.”
That’s when it hit me: Maybe that was the point.
I find it funny that God used some of the most un-precious moments in history to lead us to the most precious moment in of all… Jesus being born. His bloodline included harlots, hookers, murderers, thieves, liars, backstabbers, drunks and slanderers. Then there was Jesus. Perfect, spotless, sinless Jesus. Who came to die, and not only redeem the lives of everyone who called upon Him, but redeemed His own bloodline in the process. (Don’t you just love how God does that?!)
Jesus had the ultimate dysfunctional family. Chances are, you can relate. Maybe not as drastic as some, but you’ve probably seen a few rotten seeds fall from the family tree. It doesn’t matter. God doesn’t care where you come from. Just like Jesus, redemption starts with you.
It doesn’t matter what legacy you come from, you don’t have to be who the people before you were. God made you with a specific plan (John 15:16). You serve an incredible purpose because you are loved by an incredible God. All it takes is one choice… to live that purpose you were created for.
God can take the ugliest thing and make it new and beautiful (Romans 8:28). You have the ability to revolutionize the path of generations. Much like the redemption that took place from the garden to the cross, one healthy seed from a decaying tree changes everything.