What are YOU learning?

This week, as I prepare to speak at a women's conference on Saturday, I am going to post a section of my talk on "prayer." I wrote the message, "A Transformation of the Heart," about five years ago. In preparing, God led me to revise it, writing a bible study to accompany the talk. It is amazing the NEW things God teaches you each year. I didn't agree with some of the things I formally did. As I matured and grew in the Word and my knowledge of Him, some of my thoughts matured as well! The theme verses of the talk are Psalm 37:4-7.

Here is a portion of the talk on PRAYER:

Let’s go back to our key verse, Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” For me, that is the hardest part of prayer- being STILL and waiting for Him patiently. It’s hard for me to be still for anything. And PATIENTLY WAIT? I NEED MY ANSWERS NOW! But, if we are always are talking and never listening, God can’t speak and be heard BY us.

One way that God talks to us is through his Word, the Bible. We must search out his will for our lives by reading it. If you want to pray, but don’t know where to start, take heart. Romans 8:26 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints (that means you and me), in accordance with God’s will.”

There are times when I feel lonely or sad or depressed. I’m not sure why, or even if there is something wrong. Those are the times that I continually go back to that scripture and ask the Spirit to intercede for me, to pray for me because God knows my heart better than I know my heart. He created my heart. God knows what I need and what I desire, even before I do. The Spirit will search your heart and reveal to you what you need to pray.

There are often times that God calls to us. He wants US to seek Him out- to go to Him. He wants a relationship with us. We are programmed at birth to need him. God has placed eternity in our hearts and we have a space within our hearts that only God can fill. I am reminded of college life when I would get so lonely and homesick at times I would call home just to hear the sound of my mom’s voice. I physically felt a longing, a yearning. That is how we are with God because we are His creation. Our souls yearn for God and there is a yearning inside of us to grow close to our Creator. David says in Psalm 63, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Unfortunately, in today’s “me-centered” impatient society, we tend to fill this desire, this longing, with a “quick fix,” a chocolate brownie, a shopping spree, a margarita, TV shows, or gossiping on the phone. We think these worldly pursuits will fill us up, make us feel better, and quench the thirst we are experiencing. These invitations look so appealing. The world claims we will experience fulfillment and satisfaction. And, we want instant gratification. We don’t want to wait for God. We don’t want to be still and be patient.

We want to control our lives, to take care of ourselves, and pamper ourselves. We don’t like this uncomfortable feeling of denying ourselves and allowing our spirits to feel pain, longing, or loneliness. We think it is WRONG if we are feeling any pain or sorrow, and we try to fix it immediately with our own ways. So, instead of going to God, opening the Bible, going to the Lord in prayer, we try to fill ourselves- this yearning, this need by ourselves- or with the world’s methods. These methods will always leave us feeling dissatisfied, longing for more.

Jesus offers us such a better way! While talking to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), Jesus talks about “living water.” He points out the “world’s water”- the water of the well, and says, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.” Isn’t that true of our “water?” Food, exercise, TV, possessions, or praise from man never satisfies us. We continually want more and more until our desire becomes insatiable, sometimes consuming us. Jesus tells the woman at the well, “But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The spring is inside you waiting to be tapped into. In order to fill up on this water, we have to get quit before the Lord in prayer. That is the hard part- being still!

But, we don’t want to be still. We can’t get off of our cell phones long enough to be still. Have you ever stood in line at Blockbuster or Target, just watching and listening? People everywhere in caught up in their own private conversation on cell phones. We are so afraid of being alone and being still, we can’t even grocery shop without talking on the phone! The Lord says, “Be still and know that I am God.” We must patiently wait for the Lord. We need to give ourselves to the Lord, be still, and quietly wait for him.

In Hosea, God says, “Therefore, I am going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.
” God is talking to you! He wants to speak tenderly to you. But, why does He need to lead us to the desert before He can speak to us? We are so distracted and caught up in the world. God needs to get us alone, away from telephones and commitments, away from the busyness of life. Then, He can speak and be heard.

We need to be still before the Lord so that we can hear Him! God wants YOU. He wants a relationship, a living, breathing, relationship with you and prayer is the way to that relationship. Does this seem too hard? Deuteronomy 30:11 tells us how easy having that relationship is, “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will ascend into Heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so that we obey it?’ No, the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may obey it.”

You may think that you have to be a minister or this magnificent person to pray. You may think you have to use lofty, eloquent words. You may not quite be sure HOW God wants you to pray. You may think there is a set of rules or a magic formula to prayer. You cry out,

“Father, should I pray in the morning or in the night?
Should I pray in the darkness or in the light?
Should my eyes be open or should they be closed?
Should my prayers be spontaneous, or they should be posed?
Can I sit? Or should I be on my knees?
Which is the way in which you would be pleased?
And He said, ‘My child, I love you. This is true.
It does not matter how, just that you do.
Come before me and be still, with heart open wide,
Ready to listen and be by my side.”

Praying is just a relationship with God- loving Him and going to Him for everything. God is our Abba, Father, our God, our Creator. There isn’t a right way or a wrong way to pray. We need a natural relationship with God. Praying shouldn't’ be difficult. It shouldn’t be something we only do for a few minutes on Sunday morning. It shouldn’t be a chore or an inconvenience. Prayer should be a JOY- we are communicating with The Most High God! We GET this opportunity to grow closer to our Father, to develop a relationship with our Creator.

If you need help getting started, start by reading the book of Psalms in the Old Testament in the Bible. These are beautiful songs and prayers, many written by David, “a man after God’s own heart.” They are full of praise and thanksgiving.

Psalm 66 sings, “Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious!" Say to God, “How awesome are Your deeds! So great is Your power that Your enemies cringe before You. All the earth bows down to You; they sing praise to You, they sing praise to Your name.” Psalm 89 praises, “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make Your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that Your love stands firm forever, that You established Your faithfulness in Heaven itself.” And, I love to pray Psalm 100, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

In many psalms, David is suffering. Sometimes he is innocently being chased and other times experiencing pain after sinning. He says to God, “You lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the muck and mire.” Who hasn’t felt that? When we aren’t sure what words to pray, Psalms offers so many cries to the Lord. Psalm 102 laments, “Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry for help come to You. Do not hide Your face from me when I am in distress. Turn Your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food.” Human emotion hasn’t changed over time. We can relate to the authors of the Bible. We feel what they have felt. Praying scripture is so powerful and so helpful when we are at a loss of what to say in our prayers. Scripture can help us “get a handle” on the words to pray.

There are times we feel betrayed, persecute, or unfairly accused. David felt this as he ran away from King Saul for many years. Often, he would have to run for his life, hiding in caves. Sometimes, we also feel persecuted or harassed unjustly. Psalms offers prayers for these emotions, too. David cries out in Psalm 109, “O God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, for wicked and deceitful men have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues. With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause.” David finishes his prayer twenty verses later by again praising the Lord. He prays, “With my mouth I greatly extol the Lord; in the great throng I will praise Him. For He stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save his life from those who condemn him.”

In Psalm 140, David prays, “Rescue me, O Lord, from evil men; protect me from men of violence.” Even when David was hiding in a cave, he put His trust in the Lord, saying in Psalm 142, “I cry out to You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.’ Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need.” David goes to the Lord in times of need, in times of sadness, in times of desperation, in times of joy and jubilation. David always praises the Lord, no matter what trial he is facing. His prayers begin and end with praising the Lord. They are great examples for us during our own personal prayer time.
And I love Psalm 104, “I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to Him, as I rejoice in the Lord.”

What are distractions in your life that draw you away from God?

Father, help me to pray. “May the meditations of my heart and the words of my heart be pleasing to You, O God.” You know my heart and my needs and desires. Give me a heart, Lord that hungers and thirsts for You. Bring me into a deep relationship with You. I know the best way to do that is through prayer. Help me to pray. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

Please visit Gina at Chats with an Old Lady for more thoughts on what we are learning!

6 thoughts shared....:

Denise said...

Very lovely, praying for you.

Slowly Dying.. said...

Good afternoon Tracy! I understand the importance of being still, however, when I am still I feel lazy or someone asks, "What's wrong with you?" Then I feel as if I am supposed to doing something.

Thanks for this reflection. I hope to have a positive report for you on trying to be still.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. This is affirmation for me. I'm coming to learn more and more what it means to be still before the Lord.


Beth in NC said...

That was wonderful Tracy. So many times I feel like I am living off of yesterday's manna. I feel pulled in many directions (distractions) and don't spend enough time WAITING AND LISTENING. I continue to be challenged about BEING STILL. God help me.

Thanks for this beautiful post.

Laurie Ann said...

Tracy, this is absolutely wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing these powerful truths. Very encouraging and inspirational. Enjoy the conference!

Debra said...

Thank you, Tracy. This has ministered to me more than mere words can say. Blessings to you.