Tag Archives: prayer

How to Pray

This should be the motto of every follower of Jesus Christ. No matter how dark and hopeless a situation might seem, never stop praying. ~Billy Graham

“I asked them to translate the Lord’s Prayer into Chinese. I thought it might be helpful for me if I could pray a little in their language.”

“Why? It’s hard enough to pray in English.”

I was talking to an old friend, one I am sure has been praying for at least 50 years. I understood her question -praying in Chinese will be difficult to learn and it isn’t necessary -but her statement left me stunned.

Praying in English is hard.

For a nearly life-long Christian? How can this be?

In Luke 11, Jesus’s disciples ask him to teach them to pray. It was normal for a rabbi to teach their followers to pray. The disciples even comment that John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray.

Jesus gives them a simple way to approach the Father. Direct. Unassuming. Grateful. Full of forgiveness.

 He said to them, “When you pray, say:
“‘Father,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.” 

It must have left the disciples stunned. No flowery speeches? No self-effacing condemnation?

Jesus follows his sample prayer with a lesson, a little story.

You need something badly from your neighbor, so you ask. It’s not a cup of sugar on a Saturday afternoon, but some money in the middle of the night. You’re humiliated to have to ask, but you ask anyway. The neighbor loans you the money.

Jesus wants to know why you’ll ask your neighbor, but not your Father? He encourages us to ask.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” 

But we have all asked God for something and he hasn’t given it. We’ve stood at the door knocking for years. Our knees are giving out, our back is weary, and our knuckles are bloodied.

Jesus asks, how many of you would give something horrid to  your child? Would you hand him a snake or a scorpion? Of course not. And neither will God.

 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Good gifts?! Really?

Cancer sure feels like a scorpion. A prodigal child feels like a snake. The loss of a child, a job, a home, a marriage -it all feels like evil served on a platter.

This is where praying gets hard.

Do you trust Jesus? Do you believe that he and his Father have your best interest at heart?

Jesus says a strong man can protect his house until someone stronger comes along. You can’t handle the cancer alone. You can’t force the prodigal to come home. So many things you can’t replace.

But it isn’t up to you to do any of those things. God will take care of it all. He only asks that you . . . pray.


The Lord reigns forever;
    he has established his throne for judgment.
He rules the world in righteousness
    and judges the peoples with equity.
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:7-10 NIV

Six Degrees to Larry

friends-1272735__180My husband’s family was Methodist until he was about eight years old. One day his mother was collecting money in the neighborhood for the American Heart Association and she met Carol, a mother of two children the same ages as her own kids. They struck up a friendship and eventually a spiritual relationship.

Carol’s husband was the local minister at the Church of Christ, which just happened to be on the same block as my future in-law’s house. Soon the whole family was attending the church down the street.

Larry and Carol left the area several years later, but they didn’t leave my husband’s life. See, Larry and Carol are what doctor’s call “probiotics”; they’re good-for-you bugs. Larry and Carol served the homeless, the imprisoned, the hurting and helpless. They entered lives and stayed around to watch transformations occur. They encouraged the downtrodden, the immigrants, the sick. They celebrated marriages, births, and lives that passed on to reward.

And they stayed in touch. In fact, many years after they left my husband’s family they entered my life. Larry performed our wedding ceremony. We have stayed at their home on various occasions. They have offered us advice about being a “preacher’s family”. They send us Christmas cards with pictures of their grandchildren, who coincidentally are the same age as our own children.

If it weren’t for Larry and Carol, our children likely wouldn’t exist. My husband probably wouldn’t be my husband. My life would definitely be profoundly different.

Why? Because Matt has brought me closer to God. He has encouraged me to write, to speak, to serve, and to minister. His parents have helped to shape my marriage with the example they provide. His brother and sister-in-law are two of my best friends. Without Larry and Carol all of that would be different.

Today I spoke with my mother-in-law about our dear, dear friend Larry. He is in a hospital undergoing treatment for rapidly progressing mental illness: depression, paranoia, anxiety, and more. His wife went to get her oil changed at a local place yesterday and the mechanic, not a member of their church but only a community member, was tearing up to hear how Mr. Larry was suffering. It seems I am not the only one who has been so irrevocably changed because of the lives of these two saints, Larry and Carol.

There is a game in Hollywood called “Six degrees from Kevin Bacon” in which you connect actors and actresses to Kevin Bacon. I think a better game would be “Six Degrees to Larry Locke.”

So who out there has been touched by Larry? To start, if you are reading this post, YOU have. You are two degrees from Larry because of the way he has impacted my life. Please join me in praying for this sweet man who has served so diligently and faithfully. Pray for lucidity. Pray for clear-minded conversations. Pray for peace, and comfort, and the healing hand of the Father. I love you, Larry and Carol.


Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.” Psalm 107:19-21 NIV

 

An Anonymous Love Letter

sailing-ship-659758__180I once loved a sailor
once, a sailor loved me
but he was not a sailor
who sailed on the wide blue sea
he sailed in an airship
sailed like a bird on the wing
and every evening at midnight
he would come to my window and sing… George Evans and Honeyboy Shields

Satan’s demons slithered low on the cabin floor. A nightly battle raged. “Jesus lives here. Get out!” the First Mate commanded, holding the baby close.

Marked by God. Birthed as a blessing. The child had been noticed by the Rebellion. All hands were on deck, but a mightier Admiral steered the ship.

Time passed and the babe grew in stature and wisdom. “Why don’t we pray for Satan to change his ways?” Goodness asked. And so the prayers began.

But Satan fought the good intentions. He wanted his way and his alone. Though Goodness attempted a counter-attack, the demon mariners fought back. Satan’s battleship maneuvered around the obstacle to return another day.

The child grew into a man. Goodness reigned victorious in the grand battles, but smaller vessels attacked from behind. Cannons and gun fire exploded, creating cracks in the ship’s armor. Water seeped into the hull, but the Royal Navy pumped relentlessly.

The battles were tiring. Sometimes Goodness fell back, thwarted, but he never surrendered. This God-anointed seafarer would never stop, never give up in defeat.

And all of the officers of the Royal Navy saluted.


“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32

Hot Chocolate

hot chocolate“I remember the first time we met,” Greg was saying. “There was a terrible snow storm and Mom was home from work. I must have been four ‘cause it was right after we moved here. Anyway, she bundled me up like an Eskimo and shoved me out the door for some fresh air. I think she was tired of all my horsing around,” he chuckled.

            The hot steam circled slowly above the ceramic mug he had wrapped his long, slender fingers around. He held the cup near his face breathing in the sweet aroma of chocolate and marshmallow. His eyes closed gently as a smile played at the corner of his mouth.

He exhaled and started again, “I met Sarah that day, too. All of the neighbor kids were out playing; I suppose all the moms on the street were ready for a break. Sarah offered to let me ride down the hill on her sled. She showed me how to steer by pushing on the front bar with my feet. We flew down the hill twenty times at least. Sarah was bigger, of course, so she pulled the sled up the hill. She always was a trooper.”

Greg rearranged his feet on the stool and wrapped the blanket a little more snugly around his legs. “Do you need more chocolate?” he asked the man in the overstuffed armchair.

“No, I’m fine, thanks; mine’s still full. I remember that day too. Your mom invited all of the kids in for hot chocolate.”

“Yes, she did,” Greg agreed thoughtfully. “It was the first time I had met any of the kids and I think she was trying to help me fit in. You were there, too, sitting across from Jim Harvey.”

A quiet knock on the door interrupted his thoughts. Greg turned in the chair and saw Sarah peeking in, “I need to come in for a bit, sorry.”

“No, no, come on in,” Greg motioned for her to join them.

Sarah walked noiselessly into the dim room. “I smell chocolate,” she sniffed.

“Marshmallows, too,” Greg nodded. “They smell better than the flowers her office sent.”

“They’re pretty though,” Sarah said as she rearranged the long stems of pink carnations and baby’s breath. “They remind me of school dances,” she smiled.

“Hmm, my first school dance was a winter formal,” Greg reminisced. “It started snowing during the dance and really poked it down! Mom hadn’t taught me how to drive in snow yet, so when I went out to the car I was scared.” Greg sipped his cocoa and then licked marshmallow crème off his upper lip.

“I used the pay phone in the gym to call Mom so she could come get me, but she told me I had to learn sometime and no time like the present. Mrs. Harvey was driving Jim home, he wasn’t old enough yet to drive, so she told me to follow her and stay in her tracks.”

“And we had hot chocolate when you got home that time, too,” the man nodded.

“Yes, you’re right,” Greg agreed.

“Hmm?” Sarah raised her head to look at Greg.

“Hot chocolate,” he repeated. “I had hot chocolate when I got back home. Mom had it all laid out on the table. I guess she was nervous about me driving home, too.”

“You have no idea,” Sarah sighed. “She was always nervous about you driving, and then you took off for college in the mountains. She and I shared a lot of hot cocoa that first year.”

“Of college?” Greg asked.

“No,” Sarah shook her head, “the first year of this; the last year of college.”

“Right,” Greg said as he looked at the small woman wrapped in quilts lying on the metal bed by the windows. “It was good of you to watch over her while I was away. She always liked you. She’s always had a knack for knowing who the good people are.”

The room grew quiet again. Frost bit at the window panes trying to eat its way into the darkening house. The two men sipped their mugs of chocolate and watched the bony form of the woman shift under the weight of the quilts.

“I’ll stay as long as you like,” the older man said.

“I know,” Greg said looking away from the bed.

Sarah glanced at Greg and walked over to the hot pot on the sideboard. “I think I will join you for some after all,” she said as she poured a steaming mug and added three large marshmallows.

“You really load it on, huh?” Greg grinned as she sat down on the piano bench that had been pulled in for extra visitors.

“I love a good mug. Your mom taught me how to do it perfectly,” Sarah added as she inhaled the pleasant aroma. “It warms you from the heart, she always said. She was right, too,” Sarah smiled at Greg. “It’s nearly time, you know.”

“Yes, I know. I just need one more mug,” Greg whispered.

Sarah took his favorite cup and refreshed it from the pot. “Here,” she said, “One more.”

They slowly sipped the richness until every last drop was drained. The man was standing by her bedside now and he scooped her slender frame up in his arms. She barely stirred.

“I’ll join you for some more chocolate whenever you like,” the gentleman said tenderly as he turned to walk out the door.

“She’s gone,” Sarah’s voice cracked as she put the cup tenderly on the table.

“I know,” Greg said to both of them, as he began pouring another cup.

 Let my prayer be accepted as sweet-smelling incense in your presence. Let the lifting up of my hands in prayer be accepted as an evening sacrifice. Psalm 141:2

Habitual Habits

Habits. We all have them, good and bad. Some habits are innocuous, at least to the one who isn’t bothered by them. I turn the steering wheel sharply to enter the parking area of our drive. I park the car and get out. I never knew there was an underlying bad habit, until my younger son started driving.

“Why do you leave the wheel turned!?” he exclaims, exasperated. “Just straighten it back out before you turn off the van.”

Hmm. I never noticed that I do that. I never knew it mattered anyway. Obviously it matters to Amos, so I am trying to remember to straighten out the wheel. It’s a lot to remember; I have ten years of “bad” habit forming practice behind me.

This year one of my goals was to read 26 books, one every two weeks. I used to love to read, absolutely loved it, but I broke the habit. Since kids, homeschooling, work, and just plain exhaustion entered my life I have not been a voracious reader. Some, including myself, would say I was not a reader.

It is only September and I have nearly met my year-end goal already. In fact, this weekend I felt like I was craving something, after a bit I realized I needed a book to read. Yesterday morning I couldn’t take it any longer and picked up a book between classes. The habit is back.

All of us have unintentional habits: the way we park, the order we put on our shoes, the time of day we brush our teeth, even when we call our loved ones. We don’t recognize them as habits; they are just the things we do.

But those around us, like a son learning to drive, notice the habits and decide whether they want to form the habits as well.

Jesus had a habit. He prayed. He left everyone, went out at dark, early morning, even in the middle of the day, in order to be alone and pray. But even in his solitude, people noticed.

“Teach us to pray.” They watched and observed and followed. It was a good habit.

Father, my mind wanders like a goat on the hillside. It strays to this bush and that weed, but always it returns to you. It sees in your son a habit worth developing. Guide me, discipline my mind, form within me a habit that cannot be broken. Make me a person of prayer. Amen.