Prayer – Practicing His Presence

Searching His Word
     Seeking His Heart

Scripture encourages us to:

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face continually. I Chronicles 16:11

We can thank 16th century monk, Brother Lawrence, for coining the phrase, “practicing the presence of God.” I love that thought!

It conjures up the idea of being aware of God’s presence often—definitely when we are praying, especially when we are praying. I admit that, at times, I can verbalize to God but not fully key in with His very presence. Words in the wind, you might say.

It takes discipline to truly be aware of entering His presence as though He is sitting there with you in the room.

It means seeking the very heart of God, crying out to Him in repentance, in fervor, in earnestness  Are we willing to express our anger to Him, our heartache, our desire to know Him and seek  His direction more than our own, to grow in Him and receive nourishment from His vine?

That kind of praying takes work, my friend. It takes concentration. It also takes time.

Time to move from my presence into His presence. Time to talk out loud to Him, to draw up my inmost thoughts, pleas, and concerns. Time to praise and adore him before I jump into the sick list or intercession for those having difficult circumstances.

Time to sit quietly, focus, and… listen. (Oh, the hardest part of all!)

But look at the rest of Brother Lawrence’s phrase, practicing the presence of God.

Practicing means to be very intentional, even through the day—while making the bed, driving to work, walking to the grocery store, preparing to meet a friend, sitting on the bleachers at a ballgame, finding the right words in difficult situations, practicing, practicing his presence.

As Paul urges,

Pray without ceasing. I Thessalonians 5:17

This takes extreme discipline because we normally go through our days thinking about the next thing we have to do, going over our lists, engaging in an activity.

I did a little survey on Facebook this week, asking, “What time and how long do you usually spend on emails and Facebook each day. Most said about 30 minutes in the morning and 30 in the evening. One admitted what many of us need to admit—too much time.

Like all things, today’s tools can be used for good, but can also be used to excess.

Maybe social media isn’t your nemesis. There are thousands of other addictions. One way to self-examine is to think, What things are constantly on my mind?  

Is it possible for us to practice the presence of God as naturally as we practice other things? As with all challenges, one step at a time.

I paused just now to pray that some phrase in this blog would stand out to you with flashing neon lights. And I prayed that I would practice what I preach.

Let’s start practicing!

~ Joyce ~

Prayer – What Doth Hinder Thee?

  Searching His Word
     Seeking His Heart

…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles… Hebrew 12:1

Nothing delights our enemy, Satan, more than entangling us. Sometimes he does this through devastating circumstances—anything that overwhelms and brings on worry, stress, or fear.

The more dramatic, the better.

Most of the time, however, Satan is far more subtle. It is his specialty.

As I was led to write today’s blog, I felt an oppressive heaviness. I usually do my first draft on Sunday, but each time I started to sit down to write, something else took my attention. 

I’ve been reading a wonderful little book by Robert J. Morgan called “The Red Sea Rules.” He traces  the Israelites’ journey from the pillar of cloud to the Red Sea and through to the other side. The book provides “ten God-given strategies (or rules) for difficult times.” 

Rule #3 is “Acknowledge your enemy, but keep your eyes on the Lord.” Satan is likened to a serpent in Genesis 3, a bird in Matthew 13, a wolf in John 10, a lion prowling around in I Peter 5, and a dragon in Revelation 12.

As if to emphasize that point to me, the Lord led a blogger friend to include in her writing this week that very verse from I Peter 5:8 about Satan being like a lion prowling around to devour us. 

Our job is to be aware of him, but to put our focus on the Lord. How?

The next day I turned to another chapter—Rule #4 Pray!

We must practice continuous, fervent prayer—even when things are going well (especially when things are going well), for we can be lulled into passiveness, one of Satan’s favorite tactics. 

The author quotes seven verses that each use the word “earnest.” My favorite:

The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16 (NTL)

Or if you prefer: The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (KJV)

Interestingly, the Greek for both “effectual” and “fervent” have to do with working diligently. Therein is the key, I believe. We must work fervently in our praying until it becomes as natural as breathing. I confess I am still at the working stage.

Satan is delighted when we aren’t working at all!

While my husband and I are away from home right now, we visited a church Sunday. The pastor spoke about how the Israelites forgot their need of God’s presence.

Then I read a subscriber comment from my blog last week—”Life and laziness crowd in and Satan does a happy jig when I fail to take time to pray.”

That was the final push the Lord gave me to go ahead with this blog.

What was hindering me? That old serpent, the dragon of Revelation. But, while earnestly seeking the Lord, He gave me Scripture verses, a devotional book, reinforcement through a friend’s blog, a pastor’s sermon, and a comment from one of my subscribers.

He does things like that when we are fervent in prayer.

Get thee behind me Satan!

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

Prayer – Is It a Struggle?

         Searching His Word
               Seeking His Heart

For our new year, let’s talk about prayer.

 In those things-we-need-to-do lists or New Years resolution lists or how-to-be-a-better-Christian lists, we often couple “prayer” along with “studying your Bible” and rightly so.

We know in our heads that prayer is essential to healthy spiritual life. But… like so many things in our lives, we may fail to prayer effectively, regularly, or even pray at all.

Jesus said,

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

In other words, our job in His kingdom work is to be fruit bearers, but we can’t bear healthy fruit (or any fruit at all) without abiding or remaining in Him—attached to the vine, our source of strength. While there are many components to drawing our strength from Him, one of the major elements is prayer.

I’m talking to the choir, aren’t I? You know all this. I know all this. It’s just the consistent doing and deepening, isn’t it? Our branch can get so dry, so withered, barely clinging to the vine.

Perhaps your prayer life is fervent and vitally active. Your  branch is plump and full, brimming with fruit because of the way you are communicating with the Father, trusting the Son, and guided by the Spirit. Praise God. Your ministry is alive and active.

Many are coming to know the Savior because of your influence. Your branch is bearing the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness kind of fruit he wants you to have. We rejoice with you.

But some of us struggle either with not having powerful, productive prayer, or remaining faithful in prayer, or praying at all. Life crowds in, activities take priority, or our prayers feel more like duty than joy.

Our “need to” or “want to” has fizzled out.

Quite honestly, when life is moving along at a relatively good pace, we often become slack in fervent prayer. We can become more engaged when we hit those set backs and realize all over again our great need for the Father to intervene.

But unless we are “prayed up” as some like to say, we may be at a loss as to how to get reconnected to the vine. When catastrophe comes, we end up with “if You will do this, I’ll do that” kind of prayers.

When we have tasted deep, agonizing prayer: jubilant, victorious kind of prayer, or cleansing, life-changing, tear-producing kind of praying, we know what we’re missing and want it again.

So this month, let’s explore where we are, where we can be, and how to get there. I would greatly appreciate your input, testimonies, and questions as we focus on growing our branches through prayer.

   ~ Joyce ~   

 

 

 

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

As I write this, my husband and I are having a get-away 50th anniversary celebration in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. One feels a certain serenity in these beautiful Smokey Mountains, a sense of the majesty of our great Creator. 

We came here several times through the years and often brought youth groups to conferences. Now here we are—full circle. We tend to reminisce on such occasions. I’ve considered how faithful the Lord has been to us in these years through many productive times and in those difficult life challenges.

Great is thy faithfulness, oh God, my Father. There is no shadow of turning with thee.

Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not. As thou hast been, thou forever will be.

Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed thy hand hath provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

I came across an article the other day that so fit this topic. It came from the Glendale Star (a newspaper, I presume.) When I picked it back up, I smiled when I saw where it took place. Note the location.

A small congregation in the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains built a new sanctuary on a piece of land willed to them by a church member.

Ten days before the new church was to open, the local building inspector informed the pastor that the parking lot was inadequate for the size of the building. They would not be able to use the new sanctuary until the church doubled the size of the parking lot.

Unfortunately, the church had used every inch of their land except for the mountain against which it had been built. In order to build more parking spaces, they would have to move the mountain behind the church.

Undaunted, the pastor announced Sunday morning that he would meet that evening with all members who had “mountain-moving faith.” They would hold a prayer service asking God to remove the mountain from the back yard and to provide enough money to have it paved and painted before the dedication service.

That evening 24 of the 300 members assembled for prayer. They prayed for three hours.

We’ll open next Sunday as scheduled,” said the pastor. “God has never let us down before, and I believe He will be faithful this time, too.”

The next morning there was a loud knock on the pastor’s study door. When he opened the door, a rough-looking construction foreman appeared.

“Excuse me, Reverend, I’m from the construction company over in the next county. We’re building a new shopping mall and need some fill dirt. Would you be willing to sell us a chunk of that mountain behind the church? We’ll pay for the dirt and pave the area free of charge, if we can have it right away.

The little church was dedicated the next Sunday. There were far more members with mountain-moving faith on opening Sunday than there had been the previous week.

~ Joyce ~

Thanksgiving – or Not

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

The Halloween costumes are stored away and the moldy jack-o-lanterns are thrown out. Time to think about gathering in Christmas presents. After all, earlier this week, we lunched  at White Castle to the accompaniment of Christmas songs!

Perhaps you’re like me. You want to scream, “What about Thanksgiving?”

Thankfully, that is one of the holidays our forefathers saw fit to establish—a country of people with hearts of gratitude. I wonder when those with atheist leanings will protest this holiday. After all, who are we thanking for blessings?

Ah, but I digress. 

My main point is that I want to urge us to enter this season (and all the time for that matter) with hearts of gratitude to our heavenly Father. Let’s think in these next three weeks of some practical ways of carrying that out.

One of my favorite times of prayer is in the car—with eyes open, of course! Before I turn the radio on, I pause to talk to the Lord. May I suggest that we make that kind of time to spend in thanksgiving.Let’s see what endless list we can make.

For this week, let’s focus on material blessings. Mine often starts something like this:

– Thank you for this car and that is running well and I have gas to keep it going.

– Thank you that I can have a hot shower anytime, unlike others in our world who have to wait every two days to get two hours of hot water. 

– Thank you for the sunshine today and the way it cheers my very soul.

– Thank you for clocks that keep me on track for the day. Help me make good use of the time you give me.

– Thank you for music and the joy and inspiration it brings.

You get the idea. Having grateful hearts is pleasing to the Lord and helps spark our awareness of his blessings.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4

Well that’s it for week number one of gratitude. Short and sweet and easy. Can you promise yourself every day to give some time to thanksgiving? The very act will be a blessing.

I look forward to hearing your revelations!

~ Joyce ~

On a side note: Many of my friends are in great mourning this week because of the election. Many are rejoicing and filled with great hope. Others are watching cautiously and praying that the heart of our new president-elect will be touched by God’s Spirit. Let us add to our list, thanksgiving for our great country, pleading for God’s wisdom and direction.

Fear – The Things We Must Do

 

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

If my people, who are called by my name, will HUMBLE themselves and PRAY and SEEK my face and TURN from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. II Chronicles 7:14

I find myself continually coming back to this verse. If we have fear for the soul of our country, then God has given us a mandate in this verse. He provided the who, the what to do, and the result.

Who? Those who are believers.

What to do? Humble ourselves, pray and seek His face and turn from sin.

The result? Forgiveness and healing. 

When I went to Chronicles to check this verse in context, I noticed that I had underlined the verse and wrote in the margin, “9-11-01″—a date we all recognize immediately. 

The context? Solomon has just completed the building of the temple. The elaborate furnishings are in place; the ark is brought in, and the sacrifices are made during a great festival, complete with musical instruments. 

Solomon then comes to a platform before all the people. He kneels and spreads his hands up toward heaven to pray. The lengthy prayer is recorded in II Chronicles 6:14-42. In essence, he praises God and reminds Him of promises made to his father, King David. Hear the pleading in his voice:

The heavens cannot contain you, much less this temple.

Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy.

Hear the cry that your servant is praying in your presence.

May your eyes be open toward this temple.

Hear from heaven and when you hear, forgive.

Solomon goes on in much detail. The point is that he prays with passion and heartfelt, submissive pleas. God dramatically responds before the people by bringing fire down from heaven and consuming the burnt offering and the sacrifices.

That night, God appears to Solomon and says the verse above (among other things) promising to forgive their sin and heal their land. 

Let’s look closely at God’s mandate.

HUMBLE yourselves –  cease being prideful, self-centered, and greedy.

PRAY and SEEK God’s face – not rote prayers or only quickies, but truly spending quality time pleading with compassion as Solomon did.

TURN from your wicked ways – judging, gossiping, misusing valuable time, centered on self, whatever you see as sin in your life.

When you can’t “fix” the problems of the world or even your own little world, He calls on you and me to turn to Him. He wants to transform our living and our thinking, but once again, he gives us the choice as to who is in charge. Try to do it ourselves? Or surrender to Him.

How do you see the power of prayer in your life? Do you turn to prayer only if all else fails? Do you say, “When I can get around to it. I’m so busy.”

Or “I’m daily working toward submission. I’ve seen His power at work in my life and others. Even if I’m the only one, help me to be disciplined and passionate in prayer, O Lord.”

~ Joyce ~