Tag Archives: Prayer

Done – Or Finished?

Elderly woman praying before bed

   Mrs. Clara Jacobs, a widow, was seventy-two years old, and had been widowed for thirteen years. Her husband had passed after a sudden stroke and Clara had had to go to work for the first time since she’d married thirty-plus years before. She found a job at a small bakery and worked there three days a week using the only marketable skill she felt she had: baking. Clara was an excellent baker and her pies had become quite popular all around her town so she didn’t mind the work; it helped make ends meet. Nevertheless, at seventy-two years old, Clara was tired. But it wasn’t the work, it wasn’t the early mornings, it wasn’t even the loneliness – though there was that.

   It was her son.

   Kevin, Clara’s only son, was thirty-four years old, a “writer,” he said – although to Clara’s knowledge, he had never written anything that had ever made him any money. What he did do though was drink. A lot. That’s why Clara was tired – from the worry, from the helplessness, from the tears.

   Even so, every evening at seven o’clock, Clara turned off the evening news (she did like to watch that), sat down in her ancient rocker, and began to pray. And every evening until bedtime, Clara prayed fervently for Kevin, beseeching the Lord to set him free and to heal his heart from whatever wounds he suffered – for surely, an addiction had to be heartbreaking for Kevin, so bound in the chains of his cravings and sickness that he couldn’t even admit what had happened.

   In addition, Clara prayed for Kevin’s blind eyes to be opened to spiritual things and for his deaf ears to hear the voice of the Lord. She prayed for Kevin to have good influences in his life, a mentor, someone to be a spiritual father to him, and for those friends who encouraged Kevin’s drinking to move on from his life. Not that Clara wished them ill, mind you – in fact, she would have liked to have seen them all set free. But she only had so much time to pray for Kevin. Still, she’d mentioned them to the Lord.

   One evening as Clara was praying, she began to feel dizzy and slightly nauseated. When her hand began to numb, she called 911. And good thing, too, because Clara was having a heart attack. But she knew that.

   As she sat waiting for the ambulance to arrive, Clara felt herself become strangely calm and noted, somewhat remotely, that the physical pain of a heart attack was somewhat less excruciating than the heartbreak she experienced each night crying out to the Lord for Kevin. Every evening, the tears flowed as she wept, often sobbed, thinking about the sweet little boy that Kevin had once been. She remembered his 4th birthday party and how his blue eyes had lighted up when they’d rolled out his new bike, or how, even when he was a big boy of six, he’d climb up into her lap, snuggle in, and fall asleep. Or his first car, his very own, a seven-year-old Grand Am which he’d named Dale, and then the time he’d gotten his first paycheck, smiling with pride and then suddenly yelling, “Are you kidding me??” when he realized how much Uncle Sam had taken in taxes. His father had laughed and welcomed him to adulthood.

   Tears filled Clara’s eyes.

There were the times when she cried out to the Lord with questions:  Where had she gone wrong? What could she have done differently? Why hadn’t He answered her prayers??

   Clara sat, unmoving in her chair, without even the strength to rock. She felt her eyes begin to flutter closed – she was so tired, so done. Maybe it was time to let go. She was, after all, seventy-two years old. They’d find someone else to bake the pies . . .

   “Mom!”

   Clara’s eyes snapped open. She looked around the room but she was alone. Yet she knew she’d heard Kevin’s voice, clear as a bell, and she’d recognized the note of panic in it. And it was in that moment that Clara knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she was all in the world that Kevin had. She knew too that the Lord had answered her prayers: if not for them, Kevin would be dead.

   Taking a deep, shaky breath, Clara whispered – for that was all she was able to do, “Lord, please keep Kevin safe, guard and protect him, and have mercy on him!”

   In the distance, Clara could hear a siren, rising and falling, growing louder, racing closer.

   “Draw him to Yourself, Lord, and pour out Your spirit on him.”

   Clara took another breath as footsteps pounded up the apartment stairs, and she whispered, her lips barely moving, “And Lord, be with Kevin while I’m away. Let him not be afraid . . .” A sudden picture flashed in her mind: Jesus, hanging on a rough cross, all splinters and blood, crying out, “’It is finished!’”

   Clara closed her eyes. She remembered once when Kevin had become frustrated because he couldn’t figure out his math homework. He had thrown down his pencil and in classic ten-year-old style, balled up his paper and yelled, “I’m done!” Clara had quietly picked up the pencil, smoothed out the paper and gently placed them both back in front of Kevin.

“You may be done, Son, but you’re not finished.”

   As medics burst into the room, a weak smile played about Clara’s lips.

   Neither was she finished.

  

 

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Prayer Wreckers

Man in DespairWe all spend a lot of time and energy praying for all kinds of things – and some of those prayers are urgent, desperate prayers. But what if we’re sabotaging our own prayers? What if we’re doing something, even unconsciously, to negate them? Would we want to know that? Why wouldn’t we?

In my last post, “Ten Ways to Blow Up Your Destiny,” I introduced three things that will shipwreck our prayers. Today, I want to discuss the rest of the principles that we should know in order to not sideline our prayers.

Thing #1: Put God first. In other words, we cannot and should not put our dreams, visions or destinies before God. Jesus tells His followers, ‘”Your heavenly Father already knows all of your needs . . . Seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you as well . . .’” (Matt. 6:33). Our “needs” are not just categorized as physical needs; we need all kinds of intervention for all kinds of things. No matter – same principle applies: the big “if-then” – if we put God first, then we get whatever we might need. Period.

Thing #2: Unconfessed sin. David proved that after he sinned with Bathsheba, lied about it, and then killed her husband, Uriah, to cover it up. Now, if anyone should have their prayers tuned out by God, it would be someone who’d done all of those things. But David repented of his sin (with a little persuasion from the prophet, Nathan). David pleaded to God: “’Don’t keep looking at my sin. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God, Renew a right spirit in me . . .’” (LB, Ps. 51:9-10). After David confessed his sin, God was able to interact with him again. Remember, Habakkuk says to God, “’Your eyes are too pure [even] to look on evil; you cannot tolerate sin’” (1:13). “Tolerate” is a little mild for the translation. The KJ version says, “’You cannot [even] look on sin’”.  And the word “cannot” in all translations means “cannot”. It doesn’t mean “might not” or “can-if-He-wants-to-but-just-doesn’t-want-to”. God is not able even to look at sin, much less have fellowship with someone in it (thus the reason Christ died – but that’s another post entirely). So – unconfessed sin = unanswered prayers.

Thing #3: Wrong response to authority. We see this principle in Paul’s warning to children to submit to and obey their parents and they’ll be blessed. Why? Because their parents are the authority over children. If they will submit to authority, then they will be blessed. But that warning about authority applies to all of us, not simply children.

And why does God feel so strongly about submission that He ties conditions to responses to authority? Because societies fall apart when people begin to blow off authorities.

(Watched the news lately?) So God has built into His principles the condition that if we submit to authority, then we will be blessed. And aren’t all answered prayers considered blessings? I know mine are.

Thing #4: Pride.  This is another no-no if we’d like our prayers answered. We all know pride is bad – no surprise there. For example, take Naaman who came to the prophet Elisha to petition (pray) for healing from leprosy. When Elisha told Naaman to go and dip in the Jordan River some times, Naaman thought that was ridiculous and refused. His pride got in the way. Consequently, he didn’t have his prayer for healing answered until he decided to humble himself and take a dip. Then his prayer was answered. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5-6).

Thing #5: “Evil speech.”  Our words can be another problem if you’d like your prayers answered. Gossip, slander, accusation, arguing, lying, complaining – all of these can hinder prayers. Now, thank God for his mercy because who hasn’t, at the very least, complained? But for those who continue in these things without repentance, their prayers won’t accomplish much. Isaiah warns, “’If you do away with the pointing finger [accusation] and malicious talk . . . then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday [revelation]. The Lord will guide you always [direction]; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land [provision] and will strengthen your frame [healing] . . .’” (58:9-11, interpretations mine). Peter says, “’If you want a happy life and good days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and keep your lips from telling lies’” (3:9).

Thing #6: Have faith in God, not in faith itself.  It’s not up to us to manufacture our faith and moreover, “having faith” is not about how much faith we have, it’s about whether or not we trust God. Why is this important? Two reasons: first, sometimes we treat faith like heaven’s money; if we just get enough of it, we can cash it in for whatever we want. Doesn’t work that way. Second, the essence of faith is the question: “Do I trust God – whether or not He answers my prayers the way I want Him to?” That’s vastly different than “Okay, God, here’s how much faith I have so here’s how I want You to answer my prayer.” Faith is not cash, and God is not a vending machine. If we think so, I think I can predict that our prayers won’t be very effective.

Next post I’ll finish this up; there are three more principles for praying effectively and, if disregarded, will negate our prayers. In the meantime, lest we become overwhelmed with all of the ways we can shipwreck our prayers, let’s simply remember to begin our prayers with a sincere, “Lord, I’m sorry for . . .”