Satisfaction Guaranteed Part I

What words would you use to describe your current experience as a Christian?Growing, disappointing, forgiven, struggling, defeating, up and down, discouraged, intimate, painful, guilty, so-so, frustrated, fulfilled, stuck, joyful, exciting, empty, duty, mediocre, dynamic, vital…?

Each and every one of these words could have been used at one point during these 3 years I have been a Christian to describe my walk with Christ. I would love to say that my walk has always been rewarding and encouraging, but the truth is, my walk has been messy, unpredictable, and at many times unsatisfying.

But… I’m a Christian! Isn’t life suppose to be fulfilling and awesome now?!

I never really went through a “mediocre Christian” walk, where I was half-heartedly following Jesus just because it was expected of me. This was because I was not raised in a practicing Christian home, so I could never simply follow Jesus by default; Christianity was something that was not expected of me. Still, I have felt my walk become lukewarm, even during such a satisfaction-guaranteedshort time following Christ.

When I look at my personal journey, and the journey of so many others, I have to ask myself why? Why do we get so negligent in our pursuit of Christ? Especially if we really are aware of all He’s done for us, why do we so often feel unfulfilled in our faith?

Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37-38). John explains what Jesus meant, “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified” (John 7:39).

Jesus promised that God‘s Holy Spirit would satisfy the thirst of deepest longings of all who believe in Jesus Christ as well as glorify Him who sent his Spirit. The Holy Spirit then, has the potential to be the source of our deepest satisfaction as well as God’s!

But just who exactly is the Holy Spirit? God? Jesus? Some kind of ghost?

The Holy Spirit is God’s permanent presence with us here on earth: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17).  And this Counselor is the one who enables us to understand and experience all God has given us. “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us” (1 Corinthians 2:12).

I have met many a person who claim to be Christian and followers of Christ, but who do not live by the Spirit. The Holy Ghost has no real place to live and move in their life because they do not allow themselves to be ruled by God. First Corinthians tells us that the person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God because they cannot understand them and that the spiritual person makes judgments about all things with the mind of Christ.

So.

Spirit= Understanding and oneness with Christ

No Spirit= Foolishness, lack of clarity, disunity with Christ

Perhaps, like me, this is starting to clear up some of the reasons you may have chosen some of those negative words to describe your walk with Christ.

We as Christians cannot experience intimacy with God and enjoy all He has for us if we fail to live by His Spirit. If we trust in our own efforts and strength to live the Christians life, we will experience failure and frustration, as will those who please themselves rather than God.

When I think about my walk with the Lord, there have been dark times and there have been times of illumination. Looking back, I can see that the darkness sprung from me deliberately or accidentally shutting out the Holy Spirit, and the illumination came as a result of relying on the Holy Spirit to guide my actions. It was all about how I chose to live, or rather… who I chose to live for.

Jesus tells us in the Gospel that all who love their life will loose it, but all who loose their life for Christ’s sake will find it. So too, when we live for ourselves rather than for God, we loose our satisfaction in His Spirit, we loose our guidance from His Spirit, and we loose our identity in Christ.

Before I dive deeper into this topic, stop and think about where you are in your walk with Christ. Do you desire more? Are you completely satisfied? How clear can you see God’s work in your life?

Then ask yourself, do you listen to the Holy Spirit?

Prayer Makeover Part III

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I just realized that I never finished my Blog Series. Not the greatest of me– to start my first series and then just not come back to it. Sorry Saints, I am not the best with spam postings. But, without further ado: Prayer Makeover Part III (the last installment…. I hope it’s well worth the wait!)

So, if you remember, I told you all to keep your bookmarks in Matthew 6, which includes the “Model Prayer” there-in-which Jesus teaches us how to pray. Well, we’ve been looking at how to pray and why, so I guess getting direct instruction from God the Son wouldn’t be a bad idea…

However, since it’s been a bit, let’s have a short review session:

The Rules of Prayer: In order for our prayers to be heard and answered, we must abide in and accept Christ as our Savior and read his Wordshow our faith through our confidence in prayer, pray for God to do His own will before our own, rid any sinfulness from our hearts and especially in the words or intensions of our prayers, and finally, we must pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

The Process of Prayer: Go in your room and talk to God, listen to Him too!, Keep a prayer journal that you can revisit throughout the day. Read the Word and speak the Word. God will surely speak to you through them to give them new meaning and application to your own life. Work to see God everywhere! When you are constantly aware of God’s presence, it’s much easier to speak to Him and listen to Him throughout the day.

And now for the Model Prayer:

“This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’ 

-Matthew 6:9:13

This is a pretty simple prayer no? But how powerful it is!

If you were raised as a Catholic like me, you might remember the priest chanting this along with the members of the church, holding hands and singing in minor keys. During those times, I never really thought about the words we were all chanting so solemnly, but let’s look at them:

First, Jesus shows his ADORATION: he reflects on God Himself, praising him for His love, His power and majesty, and His wonderful gift of Christ and the Holy Spirit, who in combination, teach us the way to live and God’s will.

Second, Jesus shows us how to give a CONFESSION (he himself does not confess, for he is sinless): he asked God to forgive our debts and he instructs us to remember to also forgive those around us. We must be honest and humble, and remember that God loves us no matter what we do before our repentance.

The third is not directly talked about, but Jesus talks about it in other scripture, and that is THANKSGIVING: we should tell God how grateful you are for everything God has given–even the unpleasant things! Our thankfulness will help us to see God’s purpose for even the most painful circumstances, and this will allow us to have joy amidst  sorrow.

Lastly, Jesus shows us how to make a SUPPLICATION: when we ask him for our “daily bread”, or ask him to “deliver us from evil” or “lead us not into temptation”, we are making supplications to God. (AKA, asking him for things). We are allowed and encouraged to make specific requests, both for others and for ourselves, just as long as those things are within our pursuit of Christ. In other words, we should not pray for the God to hurt others or for God to give us more of something that we are placing before Him (our addictions, idols, or sinful, fleshly desires).

It’s always a good thing to pray like Jesus did in another circumstance, and add the words “But not my will; You’re will be done” after our supplications. This way, we give God the ultimate power to decide what is best for us. After all, He does know best!

The first letters of these four words form the words “ACTS”. Use this as a mental guideline for a balanced prayer life.

This way, you won’t be always exalting God (although He does love that!), nor will you always be making requests for thing, or asking for forgiveness in confession (I struggle with only making my prayers about confessing, so I need this reminder too!).

So there you have it: ACTS! (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication). Conveniently, you can read the book of ACTS and see Paul and the rest of the disciples putting these into action. Or read any of Paul’s letters, which are similar to prayers in their structure…

Thanks for being patient in waiting for the last installment of my Blog Series on Prayer. I hope you have learned something and have benefited from it. Please feel free to offer any feedback or other thoughts!

Happy Praying ❤

Prayer Makeover: Part II

Last week I spent some time going over the rules or conditions of prayer. These five rules were not my own, they were found explicitly in the Word of God. If you remember, I used quite a few different books of the Bible to demonstrate God’s instructions about prayer.

This week, for Part II of our Prayer Makeover, I want to go into the process of prayer, and we will only be looking at one book of the Bible. So, (clears throat) please turn your books to Matthew 6, verses 5 to 8. You can go ahead and bookmark the page, because we’re going to be here for a bit…

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Here Jesus tells us a few things about how we should pray…. Well, first, He actually tells us how not to pray. We can’t be doing it out in the open for all to see. Now, does this mean we can’t pray out loud before a meal with our family? Does this mean that we shouldn’t pray in our small groups and group bible studies and prayer meetings with friends? Not necessarily.

See, the hypocrites that Jesus is talking about used to get all dressed up to go out on the street corner and shout out prayers that they could have just said at home in their pajamas. But they didn’t do it to talk (much less listen) to God. They did it so that other people would look at them and think, “Oh, look at that holy person! How faithful they are! They are so righteous! I love they way they pray!”

This is why Jesus says that these people have already received their reward. They get credit for their prayers from the people that hear them (the people that the prayers are actually for). These prayers are not for God, so God does not give them a reward in heaven for their windy, wordy, empty prayers.

Jesus warns us to not be like those people, who keep babbling, thinking that they will be heard because they keep on talking and talking and talking. When they do this, Jesus, implies, their words loose meaning, but they also insult God in the process; they are treating Him as if He doesn’t already know what they need! Our God knows everything! He knows what each and every one of us needs better than even we do! 

Now, back then, as I said, these people would go out to the town square to shout prayers to the Lord. Today’s equivalent might be praising the Lord in a Facebook status, or tweeting Bible verses. It all depends on the intent. If the intent is that you really truly think God is checking his newsfeed on “the Book of Faces” (as my husband so cleverly calls it), and so you want to let him know you’re a “fan” of His, then fine! But most of the time we post and tweet those things to make sure other people see them, not to make sure God sees them …. and honestly, I’m guilty of this too… so let’s all work on this one!

I remember being in a college prayer group when I first got saved. Each time we got together, we would talk about the Word and how it was working in our lives, then we would ask for prayer requests. After that, we would do what I like to call “Popcorn-Prayer” (this is the teacher side of me coming out!). One person would start praying, then after they had finished, another person with pick it up and pray as well, and then, after some silence, another person would pray… and so on and so forth until the last person prayed and we all would say, “In Jesus’ Name, Amen!”.

I would sit there with my eyes shut, not really listening to the others, but instead I would be rehearsing my prayer! I would think about what things to say and how to phrase things, and I would review the prayer request.

Now, to be honest, I don’t think I did this in order to be praised on Earth for my holiness or beautiful prayers. I think I was actually nervous about praying in front of other people because I was a new Christian, and I really didn’t know how to pray! 

Luckily Jesus actually tells us how to do that too…

He tells us to go to our room, close the door, fall to our knees, and pray in secret. This way, our prayers are only for Him and Him alone. We are not doing it for show and our reward will be saved for us in heaven rather than being wasted here on Earth with compliments from others.

So, now we have some general guidelines about how to pray, and we have Jesus’ direct words about how not to pray. What do we do now?

Practice!

  • Take instruction from Jesus and go in your room and talk to God, listen to Him too!
  • Keep a prayer journal that you can revisit throughout the day. Write about what you’re thankful for. Write about what you’re sorry for. Write about what you need or what you know others really need. Write about how incredible God is. Write about the questions you have for God.
  • Read the Word and speak the Word. God loves to hear His Word repeated back to Him, that’s why Jesus always quotes scripture. Read the Word, memorize verses, and speak them aloud in your private prayers. God will surely speak to you through them to give them new meaning and application to your own life.
  • Work to see God everywhere! When you are constantly aware of God’s presence, it’s much easier to speak to Him and listen to Him throughout the day. You won’t have to routinely rattle off a prayer during your lunch break at work just to fit your prayer time in if you are constantly communicating with God, whether silently or aloud. And remember, communication is a two-way street!

Next post, we will still be in Matthew 6, so keep that bookmark in your Bible or internet browser! We will take our prayer time to the next level with the “model prayer”

See you soon Saints!

Prayer Makeover: Part I

Recently I have been feeling… blue.

I think it’s got to do with a lot of things.

My husband’s out of town and I miss him. It’s getting darker outside faster. I’ve got a TON of work to do that keeps me busy… but kind of lonely. I’ve been tired…

But I think the real source of my certain shade of melancholy is rooted in my prayer life. Lately my prayers have felt weak, hard to muster up, and they’ve been lacking… gusto. I need to reexamine prayer.

In short, I need a prayer makeover!

For this next set of posts, I thought I’d explore the idea and practice of powerful prayer, it’s stipulations, it’s process, and it’s outcomes.

First, I want to take a close look at the stipulations or rules of prayer.

Now, before I was a true Christian, I totally still talked to God all the time. I never followed any rules about my prayer though, so all I did was talk; I didn’t listen. Communication with God is a two-way street. I didn’t realize that before I was saved. And if someone where to have told me that there were rules for prayer, I would have told them that they were “squashing my spirit” and “limiting my spirituality”… whatever that means. My problem was that I did not read the Word of God (the best place to really listen to God), and because of my lack of Christ’s actual words, I did not abide in Him (which is actually the first rule!).

The Five Rules of Prayer:

  1.  John 15:7 tells us specifically that if we want our prayers heard and answered, we must abide in Christ and Christ must abide in us. What does ‘abide’ mean? Abide means to accept or act in accordance with. So. We must accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we must act in accordance to His will and way, and in order to do that, we have to know and study His word. In short, our obedience to His word is highly important when we pray. And because of this fact, guess where we will learn about how to pray? …yep! The Word!
  2. In 1 John 5:14-15, God tells us to pray as if we have already received, which is an exercise which strengthens our faith. We need to pray, knowing that God will answer. Why would we ask for something from someone we didn’t think would answer? We need to be confident that our prayers will be answered because we know that our God is faithful.
  3. In the same verses (1 John 5:14-15), God also tells us that we must ask according to His own will. This is exactly what Jesus did when He prayed in the garden of gethsemane :  Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42. We need to be aware of the fact that God knows what is best for us, and so pray that His will be done rather than our own, which is limited by our own lack of understanding and selfish desires. (Also, if Jesus prayed that way, we probably should follow suite).
  4. James 4:3 tells us that a hindrance to answered prayer is greed. If we wish to spend what we receive on our own lusts and pleasures, God will be less likely to hear, much less answer your prayers. Psalm 66:18 explains that if we cherish iniquity in our hearts (in other words, if we have sinful intentions), then our prayers will not be lifted up. Now, sometimes we will make a mistake and pray for nasty things (revenge, excessive wealth, worldly power…). In time, God will reveal to us that our wishes are sinful and with the maturing of our faith, we will learn to pray in a selfless and grateful way.
  5. The last and most important stipulation on prayer is one that I never knew about before I became a Christian. You can find it in John 16:24: It is that we must pray in Jesus’ name. As believers in and followers of Christ, and because we belong to Him, we can ask in His authority and on His merit. Just as the Father answered Jesus’ every prayer, so He will answer us when we ask in Jesus’ name.

Now, you will notice that these rules of prayer are not my own. This is how God’s Word–The Bible– actually tells us how to pray.

To sum it up:

In order for our prayers to be heard and answered, we must abide in and accept Christ as our Savior and read his Word, show our faith through our confidence in prayer, pray for God to do His own will before our own, rid any sinfulness from our hearts and especially in the words or intensions of our prayers, and finally, we must pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior

In my future posts, I want to explore the process of prayer even further, in an attempt to strengthen my own prayers and deepen my relationships with the Lord. I also hope that you too will be strengthened and that your own prayer life will grow deeper in the love of Christ.

Jesus tells us that (after these previous stipulations), all we need to to is… “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” John 16:24

 

I’m trading my blues for the joy that is completed by answered prayer.

 

Will you join me in doing the same?