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?

Lazy Sundays are A-Okay: Mary vs Martha

Today is Sunday…

It’s a hot and steamy day and I am sleepy for no good reason other than the fact that I am being rather lazy today.

It used to be that I would begin to feel extremely guilty for even feeling tired when I “shouldn’t” be. Well, I might start to feel that way if I had a “do-nothing” attitude every day, but I aslo know myself and my tendencies to be a Martha, so I don’t feel I am in danger of this happening anytime soon.

So today I was restful, sleepy, and at peace with it. 

At the end of an hour nap after church and lunch with my husband, I walked into the living room to go read my Bible and journal, passing by our calendar on the wall. I stopped and looked at it more closely, as if I could not believe what my eyes were seeing.

I found myself staring at the reality that this was my last restful Sunday of the summer. Beginning next week my life will turn into travel, moving to Chicago for my 6-week “independent contractor” job, hitting the road to run some races and go camping with family, then packing up our life and heading out to God-only-knows to go live G0d-only-knows where.

In preparation for my crazy, fast-paced life style which will be coming up oh-so-soon, I thought it might be nice to explore my tendency to be a Martha rather than a Mary (as I referenced earlier).

Mary and Martha are the probably the most familiar pair of sisters in the Bible. Both Luke and John describe them as friends of Jesus in their Gospels, which is why I find them so fascinating. Luke writes only four verses describing the particular interaction I am referencing, yet despite its length, it has been a complex source of interpretation and debate for centuries (at least I presume so).

The Pithy Story According to Luke

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42)

So basically, Mary sat down and just hung out with Jesus, and Martha was so caught up in serving him as her guest that she didn’t even spend time with THE SON OF GOD.

You know that one friend who you always feel like you have to impress? Who, when they come over, you have to clean your whole house and make sure you buy a bottle of wine to give to them and make sure you are cooking the best meal you’ve ever made? Well, Jesus isn’t that guy. And frankly, if you have a lot of friends like that, you need new friends who are more down to earth.

You know that friend who you can just be yourself around? Who you just value time with no matter what you’re both doing?

That’s the type of guy Jesus is. 

He’s the friend who calls you up and says, “hey let’s hang out– I don’t care what we do, let’s just sit at your house and I’ll tell you stories”.  If we’re like Martha, we highly doubt that’s all Jesus really wants from us, so we take our unbelieving selves to work and end up missing all of his stories entirely.

But if we’re like Mary, we are assured that all Jesus needs is just to be in our presence and to be listened to.

In this slower time, God has been so good about keeping me like Mary; quiet, loving, content, in awe of Christ, and obedient. But I know that with the distractions of this world, I am in danger of becoming a more like Martha. I have a sneaking suspicion that many of us find it hard to live in this fast-paced world as a devoted follower of Christ, so, in light of such assumptions, I have decided to prepare us both for this challenge.

Six Warning Signs You Might Be Turning into a Martha:

Martha’s Musical

1. You are distracted by many things. Martha let herself get caught up in all her tasks and to-do lists. When we let this happen to ourselves, Jesus is usually what gets pushed off to the side. Even if we think that what we are doing is for Christ, it usually isn’t if we don’t have time to be with him. We don’t have time for him because we don’t make time for him; everything else has to get done first before we can truly devote time. This means that Jesus gets our “spare time”, if we even have it. The truth is Jesus is worth so much more than our leftovers, and if we give him our first and best, suddenly that to-do list seems way less daunting. (I speak from experience.)

2. You get upset because you feel like you are doing all the work. So Martha’s the only one in the kitchen cooking, and the house needs to get picked up too, and she knows that lazy little Mary over there is NOT getting out of her seat next to Jesus to do anything! Would you be frustrated? There are times when we are called to work and work hard with our serving, in fact, most times we are called to do that. But there is a time and place. Sometimes it just isn’t the time to do dishes. It can wait. Like I said before, God gets our first and best. Doing the dishes will be so much more enjoyable after some Jesus time. We can approach our tasks with a servant’s heart rather than with grumbling complaints.

3.  You feel like Jesus must not care about your situation. Martha straight out asked Jesus if he even cared that Mary wasn’t helping her. I know; She done got snippy with Jesus! But many times we can feel this way. We feel like God simply can’t know what it feels like to be in our shoes. We need to know that Jesus was fully human and fully God and he came down to this Earth to be tempted and to be perfect. We Christians are blessed that we have God who knows what our human experience is like, who has been tempted in the same ways we are tempted everyday and who overcame them all. Jesus not only cares about our situations, he knows them deeply and personally.

4. You are talking more than listening in your relationship with Jesus. Being a writer and a natural talker, I am guilty of this one… John tells us in another passage that when her brother dies, Jesus tells Martha that Lazarus would rise again. Martha immediately responds that she knows her brother will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. She did get her doctrine right but she didn’t really listen to what Jesus was actually saying. To some of us, myself included, the acquisition of Biblical knowledge becomes more of a goal than hearing what God is saying to us through it. If you find yourself reading God’s word without truly asking how God would have you apply it to your daily live, you might be caught in Martha’s trap. When you read the Bible or listen to some teaching, start asking yourself what does this mean for me?

5. You make rational excuses why you can’t do what Jesus asks. When Jesus tells the sisters that the stone should be rolled away from Lazarus’ tomb, Martha objects, saying, rather insightfully, that the stench would be awful. Sensible, logical, practical; that’s our Martha! But Jesus, the Savior, the Lamb of God, God himself! is telling her to do something….. shouldn’t she just do it?

The sad truth is that we often find ourselves making up even stupider excuses as to why we can’t do what God is telling us to do. Some of you may say, “Well, I really don’t know what he’s telling me to do!” Sure you do. He told you to forgive people who wrong you. But we often reason that the other person was at fault and they should be the first to ask for forgiveness. He tells you to give generously to those in need, but we quite sensibly think that some bills should be paid off first. He tells you not to worry about food and clothing but I know I myself have often laid awake at night wondering what to wear to my job interview, or in tight financial times, how we’ll get through another week without buying groceries. When Jesus says something, you don’t argue with him. Bottom line.

6. You just can’t get into worshiping; you’d rather do something “useful”. Soon after her brother was raised from the dead, Martha serves another dinner to Jesus. Hopefully this time she did it without complaining. Where is Mary during this dinner? There she is again at Jesus’ feet, this time pouring perfume on them and wiping them with her hair. Why isn’t Martha in on the worship? Jesus had already pointed out to her the importance of sitting at His feet and her brother had just been raised from the dead for heaven’s sake! She should have been falling all over Jesus… but she was too busy in the kitchen. Listen up: Don’t waste your opportunities to worship! Remember that Jesus told the disciples that the poor would always be with them when they criticized Mary for wasting her resources on worship rather than giving to the poor. Well, the household chores or business tasks will always be with us too. Prioritize them several notches below worship.

So… Why keep the Sabbath?

During the next few months, I know it will be a challenge for me to be like Mary rather than Martha. I know that despite the fact that this is my last “Lazy Sunday”, I still need to make time to keep my Sabbath and really spend time with Jesus. His desire is to be with us without distraction, worry, or chatter. But Jesus also tells us that God made that time available for us: the sabbath was created for people. So keep it yo– it’s for your own good!

Are there any other signs that Martha may be leading your mentality? How do you keep the Sabbath? What is your experience with creating time for Christ in this busy, fast-paced world? Please let me know!