Archive for Prayer

Turned Toward God

Recently this old hymn has been on my mind:

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Unuttered or expressed,
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye,
When none but God is near.
            (“Prayer Is the Soul’s Sincere Desire,” by James Montgomery, 1818)

I’ve found this description of prayer true to my own experience. Prayer is turning toward God.

My morning walks are my prayer time. For twenty-plus years I have used the Lord’s Prayer as the outline for my prayers, but even so, my daily prayers are quite varied. Some days He leads me more toward petition. Some days, praise. Sometimes I sing as much as I speak. Some days my praying involves lots of thinking and reflecting. Some days He even leads me to write as I talk to Him.

But consistently, the attitude that nurtures my heart is the attitude of the Lord’s Prayer:

Father, Your glory,
Your kingdom,
Your will.
Your bread for today,
Your forgiveness,
Your keeping.

Prayer is the single-mindedness of a heart turned toward God, desiring God, talking to God, listening to God, seeking Him alone.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Reign in Me
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Only by the Lord

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV)

My fruitfulness flows from the presence of Christ within me. I am completely dependent on His working in and through me.

That’s why my devotional life is so critical – not just in those special private times but also as I look to Him throughout the day. Such prayer keeps me in touch with Him and open to His influence. Without it, I tend to sink into preoccupation with myself and lesser concerns.

Writing teaches me this dependence more than anything else ever has. Every morning when I get up and begin, I have to face my own inability and release the work to Him: “Lord, this time is Yours. I can only work as You enable me. I look to You now and will just follow as You lead.”

This is especially necessary when the task gets difficult. When I get stuck at a spot, my first instinct is to press harder. I want to get past the frustration and finish the job. But I’m learning I have to stop and pray: “Lord, I did not choose this task, nor can I make it happen. It is Yours. I am simply available to You.”

I have to open myself to Him and wait, letting Him work in His way and time. And He does – beautifully, bringing me solutions and directions I never could have found on my own.

Frequently the wait is relatively short. Something unexplainable just happens when I release the task to Him. He works so naturally and perfectly.

Yet sometimes the wait is longer. I’m forced to live with unfinished business, and I can become anxious and discouraged. During such times, I repeatedly go to Him, intent on talking about the doing. But He wants to talk about us. He reminds me to look at Him, enjoy Him, and be at peace in Him. He invites me to just rest in His doing.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV)

Remain in him by praying to Him throughout the day. It will help keep your heart set on Him. And you will know that He, himself, is life’s sweetest gift and the source of all your fruitfulness.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: As I Pray
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Let Love Fill My Moments

O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water. 

Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you. 

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
(Psalm 63:1, 3-8, NIV)

Lord, help me spend my thought time
more wisely.
Let’s keep an open conversation
between You and me,
talking and listening,
no matter what else is going on.
As we face each other, Lord,
let Your love fill
all my spare thoughts and moments.

Make my life a constant gift of love
from You
to Your children. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Lord, May Our Thoughts Begin with You
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Speak, Lord

1 Samuel 3:1-10

Father, You speak to us when we are
too young,
too ignorant, and
too self-absorbed to know Your voice.
You come and
stand and
speak.

You speak our name.
You, the Almighty, the Transcendent, the Timeless One, speak to us
individually,
personally,
one on One.
You come to call us to Yourself,
(Why do you CARE?) and
to invite us to a personal relationship with You.
You call us into Your service
that we might play a part in Your greater work.

Thank You for the privilege
of hearing Your voice,
of knowing You personally,
of serving Your gracious purpose for all humankind.
Thank You, Father!
Speak, for Your servant is listening!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Here I Am
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Resting in You

Father, You are wisdom.
Your working is deeper,
higher, and
more far-reaching than I can imagine.

You are absolute power.
You do what pleases You.
No one challenges Your mighty arm.
Nothing stops Your purpose.

Father, You are love.
Nothing exhausts Your gentle compassion.
Nothing strains Your joyful self-giving.

So when You whisper, I will listen.
When You lead, I will follow wherever You go.
When Your will brings me
delay or
sorrow or
sacrifice,
I will love You and
trust You and
rest in the rightness of all You do.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Good Gifts
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Father, Glorify Yourself

John 11:41-42

Why were Jesus’ prayers so powerful?
Because He trusted His Father completely.
He always wanted only
to please His Father and
to glorify Him.
He only wanted what His Father wanted.

That is the key to prayer for us as well.
The focus of prayer should not be changing His will to ours
but reshaping our will to His.

The next time some problem stirs up your anxieties, pray this way:
Father, glorify Yourself through this need.
Bring your concern to Him, simply and honestly,
but make His glory the focus of your prayer.
When God is glorified—
that is, when people see how loving and wonderful He is—
the greatest good is always the result.

Dependent on Prayer

I have set the Lord always before me…
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure. (Psalm 16:8-9, NIV)

I can’t describe how exciting and satisfying it is to discover Christ as a real Being, One who is always with me and in me. He is taking a more and more active role in my daily life. The Lord is teaching me to depend on Him more constantly and more practically in all I do. I’m learning to turn my time over to Him, letting Him direct my schedule. I’m learning I can look to Him for guidance and enabling in all my responsibilities, resting in Him to accomplish through me all that needs to be accomplished.

Having started to experience this way of living and serving, I want so much to be this way only and always. It’s wonderful—more productive, more fulfilling, and more natural. God is becoming more real and dear than ever.

But I’m also finding that, accordingly, prayer is more essential. Depending on God is dependent on prayer. Prayer is the very breath of the relationship. In daily life, with so much pressing us and distracting us, prayer is necessary to keep our hearts and minds turned to Him. We must bring our needs constantly to Him, remaining open to His influence and prompting.

I’m not just talking about time alone devoted only to prayer, as important as that is. I’m finding I need a heart given to prayer on a constant basis, learning to turn to Him quickly, moment by moment, in petition and thanksgiving, looking to Him for guidance in everything I face.

As with human families and friendships, communication is a key to more satisfying relationship. To improve a relationship, we must improve the communication. We must make it more open and more constant.

To get a feeling for such openness, read about Christ in the Gospels. You get a sense of that unbroken communication between the Father and Jesus. Jesus seems to be always listening, always aware of His Father’s presence and power. You can almost feel the bond of trust between them.

That’s the kind of praying heart He wants us to have. His love wants that kind of relationship with us. And having just begun to taste such a life, that’s what I want as well.

Constant Prayer

Be joyful always;
pray continually;
give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Father, I haven’t set my mind on You enough lately, and
I’ve missed You.
Without You, I’m left with me, and
that’s not nearly good enough.

Father, I love You.
Father, I worship You.
Father, I need You.

I long to live in the privilege of constant prayer.
You offer it.
You keep calling me to it.
Lord, help me make each moment Yours.

This moment I turn my thoughts to You.
They are Yours.
Take them where You want them, Lord:
to praise;
to intercession;
to simple quietness in You.

A Living, Present Being

One of the first things we’re taught as children in Sunday School is that God is everywhere, He is always with us. I remember that thought being impressed on me by the song, “O be careful, little eyes, what you see…” But the feeling I got was, “Big Brother is watching you!” It made me afraid of God and uneasy, even when I wasn’t doing something sneaky.

Then as we get a little older, we’re hit with the unwieldy term omnipresent. But that’s what my son would call a “back-of-the-dictionary word.” I don’t remember it ever making God seem near or dear.

And as adults, most of us profess that God is everywhere, but we generally think and live as if He is not. Our attitudes clearly state what our mouths will not admit—that God is either not really here, or if He is, it is in some vague, impersonal sense. Rarely do our hearts perceive Him, and just as rarely do we personally interact with Him, or react to Him. When we react, it is usually to “the rules” rather than to Him.

Sometimes we try to recreate His image in our minds, piecing together memorized words and vague memories. But the result is unreal and fades quickly.

But over the years, God has begun to patiently impress on me that He is a real being, who is immediately and personally and constantly with me. The very breath I breathe is His life-force. His Spirit lives and speaks and works within me. Incredibly, I spend every moment of my existence enfolded in His presence and His care.

This growing awareness has brought with it some intriguing and exciting questions:

How would my thoughts, feelings, and actions change if my heart were always fully aware of His presence?

How would that affect my attitude toward sin? How would I react to Him when I do sin if I realized He is present, still loving me, longing to immediately restore our relationship?

How would I be affected in times of trouble, fatigue, or confusion if I realized I don’t have to find God or even reach out to Him—that He is already with me, and I only have to look to Him?

As a matter of fact, how would it affect my prayer life? Can I imagine the simplicity of opening my heart to One who is as close as my breath, who takes pleasure in hearing from me?

How much more flavor and spice would it add to this life, and how much would it sharpen my anticipation of the next life?

You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11, NIV)

How would our hearts and our lives change if we simply realized what is already true—that our loving God is personally, presently, unfailingly with us?

Called Aside

He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters.
(Psalm 23:2, NIV)

Jesus, I feel You calling me aside this morning.

Sometimes I sense You calling me in stressful times,
inviting me to seek and find rest in Your presence.

But sometimes, like this morning,
when I have done my normal devotional practice,
I feel You calling me aside further.
You prompt me to put away other good things and
spend more time with You.
You invite me to experience closer fellowship with You.

Jesus, I come to You now with joy.
Thank You for wanting me,
for enjoying me,
for desiring to bless me and be close to me, and
for wanting me to be close to You.
I come, Lord.

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