Tag Archives: Prayer

When You Don’t Know What to Pray

8 Jul

Enjoy this humorous prayer wisdom from a child’s perspective.ChildInPrayer_LOLwithGod_Graphic-Morguefile

Joe went into his daughter’s bedroom and heard her repeating the alphabet, over and over again.

“Honey,” he said, “why are you saying your ABC’s so many times?

His daughter Cheri replied, “I’m saying my prayers.”

Joe couldn’t help but laugh. “Prayers? All I hear is the alphabet.”

Cheri patiently explained, “Well, I don’t know all the words, so I give God the letters.  HE knows what I’m trying to say.” *

Cute … but full of truth, right?

Like that little girl, I’ve also given God “all the letters” and even my confused thoughts many times when I didn’t know what or how to pray in a particular circumstance. I remember a time when the burden was too big for words.

And you know what? My heavenly Father doesn’t frown on that. He knows what I am. (I’m made of DUST! Psalm 103:14.) He knows how weak I am. But my Father continues to welcome me in prayer as He expresses nothing but goodness, compassion, forgiveness, healing, mercy and love toward me (Psalm 103:1-12).

Who would not come to such a loving Father?

The truth is, all of the Trinity comes to my aid when it comes to prayer.

Yes, “The LORD is like a father to his children …” and He knows how much we need his help when we are praying in His presence. 

But what about the Spirit of God?

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27, ESV).

The Spirit of God takes my weak and inadequate prayers and interprets them to the Father. He prays for me according to the Father’s holy purposes.

This is a special gift of grace.

The Spirit makes sense of my words, straightens and cleans them all up—and corrects them if need be—and then He takes them into the Father’s presence.

This doesn’t mean I can’t come boldly on my own to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16); God invites me to share my heart with courage and humility. He has “grace to help” in my time of need.

But what a blessing to have the promise that if my prayers make no sense, if I am so stricken emotionally that I can’t utter a single intelligible sentence, I don’t have to worry that God won’t hear my cry. The Spirit is my helper (Romans 8:26). He convicts me of sin, leads me to repentance and prays for me in ways I will never understand. And my Father listens and accepts His prayers on my behalf.

And it’s not just the Spirit who pleads my case. The Savior is praying for me too. 

The Bible says He is “always living to make intercession for us” (Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:34).  Jesus is my Advocate—my Defender and Mediator (1 John 2:1; 1 Timothy 2:5), allowing me to stand forgiven before the Father.

Not only that, He has given us a helpful pattern for our prayers. Remember when Jesus taught the disciples who asked, “Teach us to pray”? (Luke 11:1-13)

So I don’t need to let the enemy, the Accuser (Revelation 12:10), make me fear for one moment when I don’t know what to pray. I can always cry out to God in repentance and faith.

The Lord Almighty, my Father God, leans in to hear my words, and I have the promise of the Holy Spirit to interpret for me and the Savior’s intercession to come to my aid.

Do you fret that you cannot pray well? What does it mean to you that the whole Trinity is working on your behalf when you pray the simplest of prayers?

 – Dawn

–  Adapted from “Not Knowing All the Words,” The Cybersalt Digest, Issue #3692, 7-14-11

– Graphic, adapted, courtesy of Morguefile

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6 Strategies to Deal with Distractions in Prayer

24 Apr

ChildPeekingDuringPrayerThe home group Bible study met at her parents’ house, and little RoseAnn decided to join the prayer circle at the beginning of the meeting.

As each person prayed, RoseAnn peeked and studied each man and woman around the room.

Then, as the prayers ended, she announced to the group, “You all looked really bored. You kept playing with your hair, Mrs. Green. You were doodling, Miss Willow. You even yawned, Mr. Hancock!”

“Well, little miss,” Mr. Hancock said, “you must not have been paying much attention to the prayers yourself, if you spent all that time peeking.”

RoseAnn’s mouth dropped open. She was so embarrassed. Apparently, she’d never thought about her own distractions in prayer!

I’m little RoseAnn sometimes. Most of the time, I’m focused on the Lord and what I’m praying about. But then it’s like I’m “peeking” into other scenarios.

  • “I’ve got to remember to put out some hamburger for dinner.”
  • “I wonder when Bob will be home?”
  • “When was that doctor appointment?”
  • “Do I smell chocolate?”
  • “I’ve got to get new shoes for the conference.”

Ugh. I have such a short attention span.

It’s like the dog who has the attention span of a gnat. In obedience training, he’s so easily distracted. DidYouSaySquirrel_Maltese

“OK, Master, I’ll heel. Such a nice day. I love walking right next to you all over the neighborhood. OH LOOK … a squirrel!”

And the well-meaning doggie is on the chase!

I don’t want to be like that dog, chasing after squirrely thoughts. So as I’ve thought about distractions in prayer, here are six strategies that help me have better prayer times.

1. Retreat: Find a Place that Makes Sense.

Obviously, although you can pray anywhere, you don’t want to have an extended time of prayer in a crazy-busy place. That doesn’t make sense.

If possible, find a private place, something that becomes a place of retreat from the distractions of your life. Matthew 6:6 says, “…when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place….”

2. Remove: Shut Off Other Sounds

The Psalmist said it’s in the “still” place where we come to know God (Psalm 46:10). This is stillness toward distractions from outside you. (There’s another kind of stillness in #5.)

To encourage stillness, shut off electronics — television, computers, the phone ringer, music, etc. — so you can listen for God’s voice in your heart.

3. Refocus: Lift Up Your Soul.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you look away from yourself and look to God. Then, focus your attention away from the things of earth and “lift up” your soul — give your full attention to the Lord (Psalm 25:1).

Practice His presence and rest there. It’s a choice! Let it become a joyful habit!

4. Resist: Don’t Give In.

The simplest solution, once you realize you’re distracted, is to turn your heart and thoughts back to prayer. Don’t take time to “entertain” or examine the distraction.

Recognize that the enemy, Satan, wants your mind to wander. Resist him (James 4:7) and capture your thoughts for the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:5b). Another way to say this is, refuse entrance to anything that hinders during your quiet time with God.

5. Relinquish: Yield Over Stresses and Struggles

Carol, a friend of mine in college used to say “Be still” near the beginning of her prayers. This “be still” was a message to her own heart. It was like she was saying a stern “Shhhh!” to remove the inner distracting rumblings of her troubled spirit.

This is stillness that is more internal, and the best way to arrive at this stillness is to yield (hand over) all worries or anxieties to the Lord as they arise in your heart (Psalm 55:22; Matthew 6:25-34; John 14:27; Philippians 4:6-7). Stillness comes when we cast all our anxieties on Jesus (1 Peter 5:7-8).

6. Record: Jot It Down.

Be prepared with paper and pen when you go to prayer. If a distracting thought returns, one strategy may be to write a simple phrase to help you dismiss the thought and pick it up later.

(Be careful with this one. I once wrote half of a blog this way because I couldn’t seem to shut my mind off to distracting thoughts! I’d pray a sentence, jot a note, pray a sentence, jot a note. Maybe that’s a good strategy for writing — to pray before we write — but it’s not very effective for developing intimacy with God. Imagine if you did that in a conversation with a good friend!)

What distracts you when you pray? Which of these strategies might help? Can you think of another strategy?

– Dawn

How to Cultivate a Breath of Praise

31 Aug

I saw a cartoon this week that says, “If you woke up breathing, congratulations! You have another chance!FishHoldingBreath_framed

But I remember another not-so-nice cartoon – actually, a photo of an angry looking cat – with this caption: “The problem with some people is that they’re breathing!”

I recently woke up struggling to breathe. I have asthma, and most days I’m just fine. But that morning, I felt I wasn’t getting enough oxygen.

I’m addicted to breathing (LOL); so I began the slow breathing technique I learned to calm myself (because I tend to panic when I can’t breathe – wouldn’t you?); it’s a technique that facilitates better breathing overall.

I told myself, “Breathe in slowly through your nose. Hold the breath five seconds. Breathe out slowly through your pursed, focused lips. And again …. and again ….” (Actually, I learned this during Lamaze classes, I think!)

But that morning, something else came to my mind. And it wasn’t just about physical breathing.

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” – Psalm 150:6 ESV

Hey, that includes me, I thought. Even when I’m struggling to breathe, I still have breath.

God gave me that first breath when I was born (Genesis 2:7; Job 33:4) and I will keep breathing until the day I die (Job 27:3).

The steady rhythm of breathing in and out – even if sometimes labored – reminds me that the One who gave me breath can just as easily take it away.

He is my Creator. He is my Sovereign God. He administers and manages His creation.

And I choose to be grateful and praise Him.

Let’s make this practical today. Breathe with me. Praise with me.

  • Breathe in deeply as you pray, “Thank you, Father God, for giving me life and sustaining me for all these years.”
  • Hold that breath for five seconds and pray, “I will love you and praise you for as long as you give me breath.”
  • Release that breath and pray, “And continue those praises when I walk in your house someday in heaven.”

Give glory to God … let everything that has breath praise Him!

Action Step:  Do you know people who struggle with breathing? (I know several.) Pray especially for them today.

– Dawn

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