As I Live and Breathe

Prayer is so much more than I ever imagined it to be. I’ve read many wonderful books about praying by those who have beautiful connections to God. My favorite is “If You Will Ask” by Oswald Chambers, but “The Only Necessary Thing” by Henri Nouwen also touches my heart as does his “Way of the Heart.” Christ is the perfect example of a praying life. He sits at His Father’s side and prays for me without ceasing. That’s a praying life. He was able to sleep peacefully during the storms He faced while here on earth. That’s a praying life. He lived and breathed prayer, and I am beginning to understand that such a praying life comes as the result of deep love and complete trust in God.

As I listened to the wind howling and tossing objects about last night, my spirit was at peace. I let God’s love wash over me and asked His Holy Spirit to be like that wind and take all from me that wasn’t what God desired. He helped me first name that which was keeping me from Him. Judgment, anger, frustration, and selfishness were taken in His mighty rushing presence. As the wind howled, I let go of resentment and past hurts. Love doesn’t keep an accounting of wrong doing were the words I heard clearly. I agreed and felt a warm sense of peace as the furnace came on and warm air brushed my face. I smiled to think of God’s presence in every moment. Praying brings me into that presence whether it is a howling wind or a soft warm breeze.

As I live and breathe in His Spirit, I will have the cold north wind knocking me over, but I will also have the sweet warm indwelling that takes me out of myself and into the path that leads to a praying life. Dr. Sophia Steibel helped me see the importance of having a praying life as opposed to a life of prayer. Love and prayer are things I talk about very often, but living them out in the way God desires changes me in a beautiful way. Irene Padgett showed me the sweet face of a praying life filled with intercession. Ann Voskamp reminds me that I can have a Christian lingo without having a Christian life. John Tagliarini is a dear friend and prayer partner who has nudged, picked up, dusted off, and helped me see the beautiful effects of a non anxious loving presence. He helps me walk in God’s kingdom now. I thank God each day for those He places in my path to help me draw nearer to Him. Hand-in-hand is the way to walk in God’s kingdom, and the path is best traveled together.

Here’s John’s message on a praying life. I pray it blesses you as much as it blesses me:)

“A Praying Life” Dr. John Alden Tagliarini

Asking Without Worry:)

Matthew 7:7-8 says:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” NASB

I have the Children’s Story at church this morning, and when that happens, I know that God wants me to pay particular attention to the scripture at hand. I wasn’t expecting it this week, so I didn’t have as much time to ponder and pray about it. Pastor John helped yesterday as he offered a simple message with simple object.

The story for the children is the heart of the message and must be simple and have a concrete object to which they can relate. I love the story because it is an appetizer that gets my heart ready for the main course. The hymn of invitation is the dessert that rounds out the morning of worship. I am full to the brim when I leave the sanctuary and ready to share my fullness.

Asking is all that is required of me when it comes to receiving what God has in mind. If I approach Him as a spoiled child demanding what I want, He either ignores or lets me have it along with the consequences. If I sulk and wait for Him to give me what I want without asking, He waits patiently for me to voice my desires.

Matthew goes on to say that even terrible parents know how to give their children good gifts and want the best for them. If that is so, why do I worry and fret when I pray. I believe it is because I ask amiss. If Lillyann asked for a gun, knife, motorcycle, or pet python, she wouldn’t get them no matter how hard she cried. God knows what is best for me, and I’ve learned to simply ask for mercy and for the desires of His heart to be the desires of mine. That gets rid of those pesky worries in a powerful way.

Asking a parent for a healthy snack gets a much better response than a demand for chocolate. I am guilty of demanding chocolate and giving Him a grocery list of needs. No wonder there’s worry in my heart.

Intercession is the best prayer and puts me even closer to Jesus. He is the model for praying and lives a praying life. He is in constant intercession for me, and His Holy Spirit prays the prayers I cannot utter for me and others. Allowing Jesus to talk to God on my behalf and the Holy Spirit to pray for and through me, I find that my praying is becoming as natural as breathing. That changes the way I ask in a beautiful way and helps me live a praying life.

Sweet Side Effect:)

Side effect is defined by Bing as “a usually undesirable secondary effect produced by something.” Usually is the key word; the side effect I’m talking about is a very positive one. As I pray, I notice a sweet side effect that helps me understand Christ’s call to prayer. When I pray for someone who has hurt me or treated me unfairly, I notice that my attitude towards them begins to change. It’s a slow process that requires more than one dose of prayer to get the desired result, but the beautiful feeling defies description.

I see why Jesus sits at God’s right hand and prays for me unceasingly. He knows those prayers change me and bring me closer to God. When I understand that, I am also drawn near to those who have been at arm’s length or further away. Barriers are broken, priorities change, and suddenly the distance is absorbed by the love that intercession frees. There is nothing more powerful than intercession or Christ wouldn’t be doing it.

As I told my class this morning at church, if you’re looking for a financial advisor, shopper, lawyer, or sugar daddy, you need to find another Savior. This One is about the business of praying and lifting me up to God. So many look to Christ to get and do and fix. He loves and prays. Others need a superhero who is going to vanquish and kill. He loves and prays. Some might ask if that’s enough. As I’ve come to understand Who Christ is and Who He isn’t, I have come to know it’s more than enough. Prayer is the least and most any of us can do.

It’s only taken me sixty years to come to that understanding, but I’m thankful to finally get it. The fifties allowed me the space to find out who I am and begin to understand Who God is. I’m thinking the sixties is going to be more about what I am here to do. The call to prayer came at 57, but I kept God on hold for three years. I prayed during that time but not as He desired. I came up with my own to-do list and ignored His. I’m humbled that He never hung up on me but rather waited lovingly for me to understand the nature and importance of His call. I often wonder if the human life span is getting longer because it’s taking us longer to figure out what it is He’s trying to teach us while we’re here:) I say that as the slowest and most stubborn learner I know.

I’ve been sixty for almost a month, and I have to say it’s been an eventful twenty-five days. The lessons have been difficult, but the learning has been amazing. Change may be the theme for this decade, and that’s okay with me. Whatever God has in mind, I want to be open and ready to hear and respond with love. The good news is that I’ve lost ten pounds and can wear clothes I haven’t worn in years! I wouldn’t recommend the diet plan to anyone, but I have to say that I learned that I have to make some changes when it comes to what and how much I eat. Another positive side effect!

Change is good, and I know the sixties are going to be wonderful. Lessons in love are pointing me in the right direction, and my heart is changing. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks if you grab her attention and use the right motivation:)

Friends Who Pray Together…

Job 42:10 says, “And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” Praying for and with those in my path is so very powerful, and it is the call God placed on my heart three years ago. The power of intercession was clear as Ethel drove me to the ER yesterday afternoon. While I was retching away, she was praying fervently. Her hand on my shoulder and her sweet utterances surrounded me and reminded me of the love such prayer represents. When God clearly called me to pray and study, I am ashamed to say that I was disappointed. I wanted to do more than pray and study, so the wrestling match began between Him and me. I kept adding this and adding that to His call because I thought it needed beefing up.

I can’t think of many kids I can outwrestle, and even little Mylah can wear me down and pin me to the floor, so I’m not sure why I thought I might win this match with God. He wrestles as one who knows His strength and has confidence in who He is. He puts His hand lovingly on my head and lets me swing away until I get tired of fighting. Again, being face down puts all things into perspective:)

The scriptures for the past two weeks came, as always, when I needed them, but they humbled in a way that left me wondering why God puts up with my willfulness. I know the answer to that question; I’m His child, and He loves me dearly. Knowing that is a big part of the lessons this week. As I’ve struggled with a simple virus, I have been touched by the outpouring of love offered at so many levels, but I have also come to a place of repentant humility in regard to God’s call.

Jesus is my priest and intercedes on my behalf unceasingly. He sits next to God and prays for me. The Holy Spirit utters prayers that I cannot begin to understand much less voice for myself. As I listened to His message this week, I was struck by just what that means. Ethel’s fervent prayers and sweet touch made a difference. Rita’s willingness to come and get me, take me home, get my medicine, and do chores I needed to do touched me deeply, as well. Sharon drove to a hospital in another city because she thought I was there. That also touched my heart and healed in a special way. My prayer partners lift me up in a powerful way as do so many others. I am, indeed a very wealthy woman.

Having someone who prays with and for me is the greatest gift I can ever hope to receive in this life. Jesus knows my heart better than anyone, and He and the Holy Spirit are constantly praying and lifting me up before God. I have a friend with whom I can share everything without judgment. Sharing prayer with love is as good as it gets, and friends who pray together do indeed stay together. Job was restored after praying for his friends because God knew he had learned the greatest lesson of all; I am here to pray for those in my path and be a loving presence. Job’s friends had forsaken and judged him, but he prayed for them anyway. He was blessed beautifully as a result of his unselfish love for them.

The week filled with silence, fasting, and dizziness has left me reeling at times, but I found balance in the reeling when I realized that a call to prayer is a call to be like Jesus. He made it perfectly clear today that when I think praying is not much of a call, I am dismissing His own call. That sobered, humbled, and got my attention. I don’t plan to dismiss His call ever again or try to make it what I want it to be. The irony is that I used to tell my mama when she cried and said, “All I can do is pray” that it was all any of us could do. I keep saying that my autobiography should be called “Take My Advice; I’m Not Using It” because I do know better. I just don’t always live in a way that indicates that I do. I’m thankful for His patience:)

I have a new attitude when it comes to praying and studying as I understand that God’s call is His and not mine. That was the most powerful message this week. When Lillyann says the blessing at the table, she puts one hand on her mouth and says, “Thank you God.” I believe she knows more about prayer than I do. I also know that kids know a lot more about everything until adults start teaching them to be like them:)