Friday, January 24, 2014

My Everyday Prayer, Part 2

“Heavenly, Holy, Gracious Father,”
            Every day, I need to remember that He is a God that is far above me, heavenly and holy.  And that He is gracious, that He pours out His goodness to me every day, in many ways.  If I have the eyes to see it.

            “Thank you for another day.  And for loving me enough to send Jesus to die for me.  May my life be a Thanks offering for that beautiful, priceless gift.”
            I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I don’t have much to be “happy” about.  My life isn’t what I would have wanted it to be.

            It’s full of loneliness, financial troubles, a run-down house, scattered family, little success and encouragement, a broken home life as a child, constant fears and discouragement and feelings of failure, and a pervasive longing for our Real Home.  I’m just not a “happy” person.  I am not “happy” with this life. 
            And so before I say anything else, I need to be deliberate about thanking God for what matters most: another day, His love, and salvation.  I thank Him that He gave me another day to live, to love my kids and my husband, to work for His Kingdom, to draw nearer to Him.  I thank Him that He loves me, enough to die for me.  I need to be reminded of this amazing love sometimes, especially when I feel like life is against me.  And I remind myself that my whole life is meant to be a living sacrifice for Him, a thanks offering for all that He did for me.  He gave His all for me, and so I need to be living completely for Him. 
            I truly do long for the Lord to come back again as soon as possible.  I pray for it nearly every day.  There is very little that this world holds for me, and I long for our Real Home.  I understand what Paul meant when he said, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”  (Phil 1:21)  But instead of lamenting the fact that we aren't Home yet, I have to consciously remember that each day is a gift.  An opportunity to draw nearer to Him, to reflect Him to others, to do my job for His glory, to pour my life out for Him out of thankfulness, and to enjoy His goodness.           

            “And I truly, deeply thank You for the wonderful blessings of a good marriage, good children, and our good health.  Life is sweet!  You have been so good to me to grant me these things.  Anything else is just bonus.  Please protect them!  Protect my marriage, my children, and our health.  With these, I am rich beyond belief!”
            This part was added on 4/15/14.  For the longest time, I had been struggling (as you will read in future posts) with a sort of depression, feeling like there are so many things that just aren’t going right in my life.  And on 4/15, I was reading a book at the table when I suddenly felt the heavy chains of depression and anxiety slip off my shoulders.  I felt a freedom and a peace that I haven’t felt in a long, long time.  And I don’t think that I did anything to make this happen (other than hanging in there through the hard times, constantly running after God), but I believe it was a work of the Holy Spirit.
            I was reading about a family who lost a child to cancer.  And it deeply hit me how incredibly blessed I am just to have my children, a good marriage, and our good health.  With these three things alone (along with my faith in God, of course), I am rich beyond measure.  And I need to constantly remind myself of this.  I need to constantly thank God for these gifts and remember how blessed my life is because of them.  Everything else (besides winning souls and bringing God glory) pales in comparison.
            In all honesty, I have never taken them for granted.  I have known a lot of loss and heartache.  And I have always expected bad things to happen.  And so I have always considered these things blessings.  But for some reason, it hit me so much deeper in my spirit today.  Just thinking about the goodness God has poured out on me through these three things tapped into a deep well of joy that’s been closed for a long time.  Every other concern fell by the wayside as I was filled with this incredible sense of gratitude and God’s goodness.  And it felt so refreshing.  It released a sense of peace that I haven’t felt free to feel in a long time because of all the concerns and disappointments that have filled my mind. 
            I know, of course, that God could allow these things to be taken from me.  I often find myself afraid that if I enjoy some blessing too much, He will take it away just to test me.  And I know that anything that we value becomes a prime target for Satan, because he knows that hitting those areas will really hurt us.  And this is why I pray daily for protection over these things.  It is a spiritual battle that we are in.  And prayer is a huge weapon in this battle. 
            But for today, God has allowed me to have these blessings.  And as long as I have them, I will remember how truly rich I am.  I really don’t need more than these things.  I don’t need all of the things that I think I do.  I can live with a lack of friends, family that doesn’t visit with each other, a half-finished house, unexpected house problems, garden pests, financial struggles, an unclear future, a failed “book publishing” venture, etc. 
            I can live with those disappointments and struggles because I have been blessed in the ways that really matter.  God has walked with me through all my hard times.  He has met me again in my pain and released me from the bondage of depression and anxiety (at least for now, but I’ll take it).  And He has graciously allowed me to have a husband I love, four wonderful and healthy children that we truly enjoy being with, and good health all around.  I really have nothing to complain about!  God has been good!  Life is sweet indeed! 
            “Guide me today according to Your Will and for Your glory.  Fill me anew with Your Holy Spirit.  Help me discern Your leading and grant me the strength to obey.  Help me walk in wisdom and gracefulness.”
            It is so easy to forget that we are supposed to be doing His Will every day, that we need to get our will in line with His instead of praying that He gets in line with ours.  It’s so easy to want what we want and get discouraged when God doesn’t give it to us.  And so I remind myself daily that this whole life is really about getting His Will done and bringing Him glory.  And I ask His help in this, that the Holy Spirit fills me with a fresh sense of Him every day and helps me to listen and obey.  Because left to myself, I wouldn’t be able to do this, nor would my humanness want to do this.  I need His help in this.  And while life may not always be what I want it to be, I desperately want to live with the wisdom that only God can give.  And I want to walk in gracefulness, a character trait that has always intrigued and impressed me.
            “Give me eyes to see and ears to hear what You want for me and from me.  And help me to notice and be thankful for the blessings and gifts You have given me.  (*Thank Him for specifics now or after the prayer.)  Help me also to notice how I can be a blessing and a help to others.”
            I want to want what God wants for me in this life, not just what I want.  My view, my priorities, and my desires are so small compared to God’s.  And so I ask for the eyes and ears to discern what He wants for me.  And what He wants from me - the things He wants me to do, the lessons He wants me to learn, the character traits He wants me to develop, the things He wants me to give up or be content with.  I want His eyes and ears when I look at my life, at the things He has already given me that I need to notice and be thankful for, the priorities He wants me to focus on, the things He expects out of me, and the ways that I can be a help to others.  Because other people are a huge priority to God.  And it is so opposite our natural tendencies that I need His help in remembering to make them a priority of mine, too.  Just praying this reminds me to really see other people’s needs, to reach out to them, even if just in a kind word or a smile.  It helps me remember to “live Christ” to them so that they might come to know His great love, too.      

            “Search my heart and reveal any sins or obstacles between us.  (*Pause and listen now or after the prayer.)  Forgive my sins as I forgive others.  Create in me a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
            We are told to search our hearts. 
            Psalm 4:4:  “. . . when you are on your beds, search your heart and be silent.”  
            Psalm 139:23-24:  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” 
            This isn’t just a suggestion.  We need to be deliberate about letting God search our hearts and root out anything that is displeasing or dishonoring to Him, anything that interferes with a truly authentic, complete relationship with Him.  Sins, fears, doubts, feelings, thoughts, etc.  There is so much that gets in the way, between us and God.  And so we need to be always searching, letting God constantly purify our hearts. 
            And we need to take it seriously when God says that He forgives our sins as we forgive others.  (Matt 6:14-15, 18:35, Mark 11:25)  But how many of us just consider this poetic?  But it’s not just poetry.  Being unforgiving to others, holding grudges, puts up a wall between us and the Lord.  And we cannot have the kind of relationship with Him that we were meant to have if we have unforgiveness in our hearts.  Being unforgiving doesn’t just hurt the other person; it hurts us and our health and, most importantly, it destroys our fellowship with the Lord. 
            And so we need to ask God’s help in searching our hearts daily for anything that gets in the way of our fellowship with Him, anything that grieves the Spirit, because we need that intimate fellowship in order to have the best, most rewarding, most God-glorifying life possible.  (And if we need it, we should ask for His help in forgiving others.  He will help us do what we cannot do on our own.)
            I also pray for a pure heart and a steadfast spirit (Psalm 51:10) because a pure heart is so rare nowadays, yet it is so valuable and precious to Him.  And I cannot get one on my own.  I need His daily help in purifying my heart.  And I desperately need a steadfast spirit because there is so much in life that seeks to knock me down.  And I need God’s help to faithfully trudge through each day.    
            “Provide all we need for today.  And help me to be content with it, for You have decided that it is enough.  You are enough!  Help me to glorify You with what You provide today, with what You give or take away.”
            If there is one thing that God is teaching me, it’s to learn to be content with what He gives.  If we focus only on what we don’t have, we will be constantly discouraged and depressed.  But I try to remember daily to be thankful for my daily bread, and with getting only that much.  Because that’s what He has promised – daily bread.  Not tomorrow’s or next week’s, but today’s.  He will give us just what we need to get through today. 
            It’s not my job to be concerned with how He gives gifts, or with what He doesn’t give, or with what He gives someone else, but to glorify Him with my life as it is, with what He has chosen to give me or not give me.  I need to be able to praise Him and to say, “Blessed be Your name,” whether He gives or takes away.  (Job 1:21) 
            Oh, how He has been teaching me this lesson a lot lately.  And it hurts at times.  But when I learn to be content with the “take away,” the bitterness is replaced with a bittersweetness, with spiritual blessings that far outweigh the momentary troubles or pain or loss.  Because I am learning to find Him and His goodness and blessings in the pain and longing and heartache.  And as long as I know He’s there with me, that’s good enough for me.  Because He is all I really need, no matter what’s going on in my life!  And that makes me spiritually rich!