You may be thinking right now, “Well, if all I have to do is ASK, then why didn’t I win the lottery? Or, more seriously, “Then, why did my husband lose his job?” Or, “Why then is my mother dying of cancer?”
We have to remember, God always, always answers our prayers, but not always the way we want or understand. Sometimes, when God answers, the answer is “No.” Sometimes the answer is “not yet.” And it may not seem “right” or fair to us. We have to remember two important things- God’s ways are not our ways and God’s timing is not our timing. But, God’s ways are perfect and His timing is perfect. We can’t see things the way God can. God has your WHOLE life planned, not just this season of it. Remember, life on earth is just a snapshot of our eternal life. God sees the end from the beginning.
God is your FATHER. He has a plan for you. He knit you together in your mother’s womb. He created you. He has counted the number of hairs on your head. He takes care of you, better than you ever could. Again, He knows what is best for you, or how you will grow from your life experiences. He can see “the big picture of your life.”.
“Mommy can I have a cookie before dinner?”
“Mom, can I jump off the counter like Superman?”
“Mom can I go swimming in this 50’ weather?”
“Can I borrow the car?”
“Can I just blow off that appointment?”
“But, Mom, everyone else is going.”
“Can I go on that unsupervised overnight trip?”
Like, God, we cannot always say yes to our children BECAUSE we love them, because we know the consequences of those choices, because we can see, even when our children can’t the hidden dangers of those request, because we want the best for our children, because we want them to grow into mature, responsible, good people. Our children can’t always see the “big picture” when we can. So, we stand our ground, sometimes against tantrums, tears, the “silent treatment” and sometimes even the angry words “I hate you!”
When I was growing up, I often heard the word “no.” I would usually follow with “please.” My mother would repeat her “no.” I would then ask again with a more irritating “please.” That would be followed by “no,” which would be followed with “please”… Finally, in frustration, I would whine, BUT WHY? And often, my mom would say, “Because I love you. You don’t understand now, but when you grow up, you will understand and you’ll thank me.” Well, as an adult I do understand, and I do thank her. I can see the “big picture” and am grateful she said no. Like a good parent, God has to say no at times because he loves me.
We must trust that God is in control of our lives. At times, it may seem like we are suffering and struggling and that God is silent and that He is not answering our prayers. We get frustrated and angry that we have to endure this pain. But James tells us “consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” Once we have persevered, then we become mature and complete. We will not be complete until we have persevered under trials.
And Peter says, “Though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith, of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Peter tells us the trials have come into our lives for a purpose. He says that our faith may be proved genuine. We are not proving the genuineness of our faith to God, for He already knows our hearts. God is revealing our faith to our own hearts. The verse also says “our faith is worth more than gold”- it is priceless. Then, the passage goes on to talk about gold being refined by fire. When gold is heated to that degree in which it melts, the impurities come up to the surface so that they may be removed. When we are “refined” by our trials, our impurities and imperfections surface so that they may be removed. Our trials make us more beautiful, more priceless.
Peter goes on to say later in the letter, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” Our trials should never surprise us. We live in a fallen world. Because of sin, because of the presence of evil, life will never be perfect. It’s not that Peter is saying rejoice about this bad thing that is happening to you. No, he is saying rejoice, praise God, worship the Lord during this trial.
So many times we pray that we “want to be like Jesus.” What did Jesus come to earth to do? He came to suffer, to die to His flesh, to sacrifice Himself. When we “offer our bodies as living sacrifices,” when we are obedient to God, and when we rejoice in the midst of trials, we are becoming more like Jesus. We are “participating in the sufferings of Christ” as Peter explains it.
I grew up with a mother who instilled in me the belief that “everything happens for a reason.” Many times WE don’t know why, but we have to trust God, and know that HE knows why.” She repeated that saying constantly through my life and she has truly lived her whole life believing it with her heart. Has she ever cried out in pain and grief, wondering “why?” I’m sure she has. Has her faith ever been shaken? I’m sure it has. But, it has been this belief and trust in a GOOD God who is faithful that has gotten her through these painful trials. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” It doesn’t say in all good things, in only pleasant things, or in happy times, but in “ALL things, God works for the good.” And, again, it may not be the “good” that we would choose, but how God chooses.
My mother’s faith is so remarkable, considering all the trials she has had in her life. I have already shared the suffering she endured with Bob. Even before she lived through that nightmare, she had also endured many other trials. She had polio as a young child. The doctors told my grandma that my mom would never walk without braces. When they came to fit her for them, she was riding her bicycle in the driveway. She quit school after 8th grade to work and help her family. She met and married my father, the love of her life. As a young mother, she lost a 3 -day old baby daughter. Several years later, my father and my 13- yr. old brother were killed in a boating accident. My mother was devastated.
But, through all of this, she has never turned from God and given up on Him. I have never heard her accuse God of not answering her prayers. She has kept the creed that everything happens for a reason and we need to trust in God’s plan. She surrendered her life to the Lord and taught me as a young child to completely put my trust in God. All through her life, she went to God in prayer. Again, it is important to remember that God’s ways are not our ways and that His timing is not our timing.
What trials have you faced in life?
How have you dealt with them? After reading this, how would you change your reactions to these trials?
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
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 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.”
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.”
1. What are distractions in your life that draw you away from God?
2. What has God taught you about prayer through this study?
3. What are THREE practical application you plan on using in your life?
Lord, let our meditations, our prayers, be pleasing to you. Allow us to abandon ourselves to you and your love. Please, take away our inhibitions and doubt, Father. Let us throw open our arms and embrace you, Lord. Let our hearts fall passionately in love with you. Let our souls rejoice in you, O God. Lord, help us to trust you, to delight in you, to commit our ways to you, and to be still and patiently wait for you. God, help us to be silent before You so that You may whisper to our hearts. Open Your Word to us Father, so that we may understand it and You more. Give us a “spirit of wisdom and revelation so that we may know You better.
Father, I thank you for every woman reading this book. I praise you and thank you for each heart transformation. Help this woman let go of worldly pursuits, and instead seek Your kingdom. Help her to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let her run with perseverance the race marked out for her. Help her to “not lean on her own understanding, but to trust in You, so that You may make her path straight. Help her to “stand at the crossroads and look. Help her to ask for the ancient paths, the good ways, and walk in them, so she will find rest for her soul.” Remind her, “Above all else, to guard her heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Lord, Your Word says, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Help her to put her hope in You, O God. I pray that she would have the fruit of the Spirit within her- love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Reader, I pray that God would “strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your heart through faith.” I pray your heart will be encouraged and your faith strengthened. “And may my God meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus!” In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.