God’s Gift of Joy to the World

God’s Gift of Joy to the World

Joy.

(You can receive this Christmas printable when you sign up for my newsletter at cathymcintosh.com!)

It’s a term that’s nearly synonymous with Christmas. We see the 3-letter term everywhere, from giant inflatable yard decorations to miniature tree ornaments. Yes, Christmas is known as a season of joy.

Unlike the holiday joy that stems from the spirit of giving, family gatherings, uplifting music, beautiful sparkling lights, and receiving gifts of all sorts, Jesus – our Savior whose birth we celebrate at Christmas – brings the joy that lasts for eternity.

From ancient Hebrew prophecies, proclamations of the coming Messiah were rich with a message of joy. The prophet Isaiah described the coming of our Savior as a time of joy like that of harvest time, like winning a battle and dividing the spoil, or having an oppressive yoke of burden lifted. (Isaiah 9:3)

The angel who appeared to the shepherds in Luke 2:10 announced the birth of Jesus as “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

Have you ever stopped to consider:

Jesus ushers in a tangible level of joy for you and me!

While there is much evidence for God’s gift of joy through Jesus, I offer 5 points during this first week of Advent that will help turn our focus to God’s precious gift of His Son and the joy He brings.

There is fullness of joy in God’s presence.

(See Psalm 16:11). Consider the holy nature of God the Father. His holiness (sanctification, set apart from evil) dictates that He cannot dwell in the presence of sin. We all have a sinful nature. It’s only by the blood of Jesus – the one perfect sacrifice – that we are washed, removed from our sin, and able to enjoy fellowship with the Lord and find joy in His presence.

Jesus reveals God’s nature.

Only through our Savior can we fully recognize the nature and glory of the Father. (See Hebrews 1:3). God wants to be known. He says in His Word that we will find Him when we search for Him with all our heart. He draws us to Himself and has revealed Himself through the gift of His Son. There is great joy in knowing our Creator.

We’re set free from sin through Christ.

By walking in obedience to His Word, we are no longer slaves to sin but are made free (see John 8:33, 36). We find liberation by walking with Christ, escaping the control of sin, and rejecting the shame of past mistakes. In Christ we are blessed, chosen, adopted, favored, redeemed, and forgiven (Ephesians 1:3-7). What great reason for joy!

Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to be with us and live in us.

The Spirit is our counselor, guide, and His manifestation in us produces the fruit of joy. We repeatedly see in Scripture that the disciples of Jesus were (are) filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. Such joy is ours to grasp today!

The love of Jesus brings joy.

Remaining in close fellowship with Jesus (abiding) allows for His love to work in and through us. It deepens our love for Christ and enlarges our capacity to love others. Through abiding love, Jesus not only gives joy but makes our joy complete (see John 15:9-13).

When you are reminded of joy throughout the Christmas season, let it spur your remembrance that the foundational nature of our joy is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Blessings,

 

 

 

Trusting God – as Jesus Did

Trusting God – as Jesus Did

 

Have you ever wondered how to trust God, or what trusting God even looks like?

I have.

I struggle with trust – a lot. It’s hard for me to trust others. I believe this is because it’s so painfully challenging to trust myself at times. Yet the Lord continually whispers, “Trust Me.” I know I should, and I want to, but sometimes I’m not quite sure how.

As we’ve walked through the book of Luke to examine the examples Jesus gave of prayer (see additional posts here and here), we run smack into His pure, heartfelt trust of God the Father. Right there in Luke 22:39-42, as Jesus prepared to face the cross – the most gut-wrenching hours of His ministry – His prayer demonstrated whole-hearted, sold-out trust.

He went out and made His way as usual to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed Him. When He reached the place, He told them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Then He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and began to pray, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me—nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”  (Luke 22:39-42 HCSB)

Jesus was about to experience torture as He lay down His life. It was not something He looked forward to, in fact, He prayed, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me”.

Have you faced something difficult – one of those things you could see coming and knew there was no way to dodge it? I’ll bet you prayed similarly to Jesus, such as . . .

“Lord get me out of this!”

“Rescue me, Father!”

or “Please, Lord, no!”

Rarely, I’d surmise, do our honest pleas for deliverance lead into proclamations of full and total surrender.

Jesus’s did. His next words are the most profound: “nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”  Jesus trusted God, His plan, and His purpose. The Son knew the Father’s will was best and would be fulfilled. And so, Jesus surrendered His own desires to the will of the Father. What a beautiful illustration of trust.

Trust rarely happens instantly. It comes through bonding and connection. It’s something typically earned rather than granted. The trust that Jesus displayed in the Garden of Gethsemane stemmed from a close-knit relationship with His Father.

As God’s children, we can reach that level of trust too – where if He asked that we give Him everything we would comply, knowing His ways are right, true, and best. Here are 5 points that lead to trusting Him more:

How to Build Trust in God

  1. Know the Word of God. As much as possible, spend daily time in God’s Word. Become familiar with its overall context and teaching. Meet God in the pages of the Bible and learn about His character. The Bible says:
    • Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him (Proverbs 30:5, HCSB).
    • Let Your faithful love come to me, Lord, Your salvation, as You promised. Then I can answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in Your word. (Psalm 119:41-42, HCSB)

  When we know God’s Word, we naturally come to point two…

  1. Know God. As His nature and character are revealed by His Word, our eyes begin to see Him revealed in everyday life. In His Word, we discover:
    • “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9, HCSB).
    • For I know the plans I have for you,” – this is the Lord’s declaration – “plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, HCSB).
    • Those who know Your name trust in You because You have not abandoned those who seek you, Yahweh (Psalm 9:10, HCSB).
  1. Know our calling. Discovering the purpose God has for us while we are on the earth helps us adopt an eternal rather than temporal focus. Jesus said:
    • “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent me.”
    • You did not choose Me, but I chose you.I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.  This is what I command you: Love one another (John 15:16-17, HCSB).
  1. Know the Spirit. When we acknowledge Jesus as our personal Savior, the Holy Spirit immediately dwells within us. We have full access to His counsel and guidance. Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading is key to trusting God. Scripture teaches:
    • But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit – the Father will send Him in My name – will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you (John 14:26, HCSB).
    • I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
  1. Know your History. Remember trust is earned. When we look back at our lives and consider the way God has protected us and prepared us for a time such as this, our eyes are opened to His trustworthy nature. The Bible describes several occasions of remembrance, such as:
    • Go across to the ark of the Lord your God in the middle of the Jordan. Each of you lift a stone onto his shoulder, one for each of the Israelite tribes, so that this will be a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites (Joshua 4:5-7, HCSB).
    • And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me (Luke 22:19, HCSB).

Trusting God: Decide and Do

Trusting God involves practical application… deciding and doing. It is surrendering to the will God knowing that He is for you. God is your ally, your advocate, your friend. Knowing that He is intimately involved with each and every situation you face, knowing that He is fulfilling His plan and purpose for you (and your loved ones), helps us to turn our back on fear and worry and turn wholeheartedly toward God and His ways. When we can say, “Not my will, but Yours, be done,” we know we are trusting Him.

Jesus modeled it beautifully in His prayer and He lived it out with His life. As we go and do the same, we’re sure to experience His peace and joy in ways we never imagined.

Blessings,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Set Free from Shame

Set Free from Shame

 

Every one of us has an area of shame in our past.

Now I’m not one for huge generalizations, but I do believe everyone has faced a season of sin or a gut-wrenching mistake. Perhaps our shame stems from something we said… or didn’t say. Maybe it was a life-changing occurrence for which we somehow blame ourselves. It could have been a bad decision you made as far back as third grade – you know, the one “terrible” thing you did that you just can’t let go. Maybe, like me, there is more than one regret in your past that fuels your shame.

Shame is a tool of the enemy.

He uses this tool to cover us with darkness and hold us captive.

In our ongoing study, Lord Teach Us to Pray, we’re using the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer as our backdrop. In it, she says, “If I were your enemy, I’d constantly remind you of your past mistakes and poor choices. I’d want to keep you burdened by shame and guilt, in hopes that you’ll feel incapacitated by your many failings and see no point in even trying again. I’d work to convince you that you’ve had your chance and blown it – that your God may be able to forgive some people for some things, but not you… not for this.” (Priscilla Shirer, Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer, B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2015)

Another way Satan uses shame as a tool is to make us feel as if we carry our burden alone – like we’re the only one with such a dark, ugly past.

He whispers lies such as, “If you dare share the truth and try to overcome, you’ll face certain ridicule and scorn. No one will understand. You’ll be an outcast. It’s best to keep your secret to yourself.”  Perhaps you’ve heard similar whispers in your own ears.

Remember, as we’ve discussed many times: Satan is a liar. He has no authority to rob us of the finished work of the cross. We must learn to discern his lies, resist them, and walk in the light of the truth.

Releasing Shame as we Discern the Voice of Truth

When Jesus speaks, He uses words of love, endearment, encouragement, and hope (see John 17, for example). Conversely, when we hear the hiss of the snake who is Satan, we’ll hear words of condemnation, guilt, discouragement, and humiliation. While it’s tempting (yes, I said tempting), to accept the enemy’s accusations, they are contrary to God.

Here’s the danger: When we entertain thoughts that are contrary to those of the Holy One, we’ll surely work in ways that are contrary to His purpose.

I don’t want to work contrary to God, do you? I want to follow Him wholeheartedly. God gives us the ability to discern which voice is which. As we embrace that God-given ability, let’s follow God’s instruction to resist the enemy so that he flees. (James 4:7).

Following the Example of Jesus

Let’s look at the example Jesus set when it comes to shame.  Remember, our Savior is One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15). Perhaps you’ve never considered that He faced shame, but by reflecting on the following, I think you’ll agree that indeed He did:

Jesus faced the shame of rejection (Luke 4:29).

He faced the shame of abandonment (Mark 14:32-40).

Our Savior faced the shame of ridicule (Mark 15:15-32).

Jesus faced the shame of exposure (John 19:23-24).

The Lord faced the shame of torture (Matthew 27:27-30).

Christ faced the shame of my sin (and yours) as He bore each one (1 Peter 2:24).

How Did Jesus handle the shame? He endured.

Some translations say he despised it, scorned it, or disregarded it, or ignored it – by enduring the cross (see Hebrews 12:2).

Read that again: Jesus endured. He didn’t let shame keep Him from communion with the Father. Or from fulfilling His purpose. He wasn’t shaken off course of ministry. He stood firm and unwavering.  Jesus didn’t hide or shirk back from His calling.

Another cue we take from Jesus is to walk in the light (1 John 1:5-7). Hidden things fester and spoil. What’s illuminated can find healing and transformation. What Satan wishes to keep hidden, Jesus prefers to bring into the light to provide wholeness and redemption.

Consider this excerpt from Finding Joy in the Journey:

“The Lord meets us in whatever darkness is causing our shame. Regardless of the ugliness of the sin, He knows it all and chooses to love us just the shame. Christ casts out the darkness of our past just as the warm glow of a light overtakes the darkness of a closet.

Because we have Christ in us and His light overtakes the darkness of our past, He will use our mistakes as part of our testimony to share His love with others. We may consider ourselves tainted goods, but Jesus has redeemed our sins, clothed us in righteousness, and prepared us for a life of service to Him. If He can use someone like me, He can certainly use you! The Lord will cause light to shine out of the darkness through Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6) and will begin to use us to share the freedom that we find in His redeeming love.” (Cathy McIntosh, Finding Joy in the Journey: Savoring the Fruit of the Spirit, SW Publishing, Brighton, Colorado, 2012.)

Set Free From Shame

By following the example of Jesus and by walking in His strength and purpose, we can shine for Him through our shame. To shine for Christ doesn’t mean that we beautify and pretty ourselves. It means we prepare our hearts, minds, and souls by focusing intently on what He did for us and the example of His life. We accomplish that through prayer, through accepting His love and walking in obedience to Him. The goodness and mercy of our Savior become such a meaningful gift to us that we walk in remembrance and gratitude moment by moment. Our gratitude and love for Him literally begin to radiate from within us.

If our desire is to find freedom from our shame, here are some next steps:

  • First, may we remember the shame that Jesus endured and hold His sacrifice close to our hearts.
  • Then may we thank Him and meditate on the price He paid to set us free from our own shame.
  • Next, may we accept His limitless love for us.
  • And finally, may we walk in the freedom that He provides to shine for His glory.

Embracing the freedom that Christ has already provided (purchasing it through His blood on the cross) brings freedom and power. It equips us to walk in the authority that He extends to us through His Spirit. I want every bit of that, don’t you?

May you find joy in His freedom today!

Love,

 

Recap of Week 3 – Lord, Teach Us To Pray – Identity in Christ

Recap of Week 3 – Lord, Teach Us To Pray – Identity in Christ

The Lord threw me a curveball this week and s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d me way out of my comfort zone.

I say that to let you know that I, too, am choosing courage over comfort as we move through this study. Do you remember that was one of our introductory phrases?

I fear that my nerves, trepidation, uneasiness, may not translate well inside a blog post. You’ll have to trust me that my knees were quaking as I did my best to walk in obedience.

I admit I wasn’t fully on my game, but this study has never been about me. It’s about HIM and I took a deep breath and handed Him the reins last night. Yes, I try to do that each time we gather, but there was an air of unfamiliarity last night. New territory. I’m still praying that there was some benefit to those who attended and that the benefit will reach out to our online friends as well.

Enough intro – let’s dive in, shall we?

Celebrations and Challenges

We opened our evening by sharing struggles and victories that we’ve experienced since our study began. Some generalized comments follow:

  • It’s difficult to persist with all the distractions of life – alongside spiritual opposition who does not want us to engage in prayer. However, we’ve made the study a priority and are determined that we won’t let the enemy win!
  • We’ve seen specific answers to specific prayer! Praise the Lord!
  • Some of the women are participating in other Bible studies alongside this one. We spent some time marveling how God brings lessons and Scripture verses together. It seems random, but it’s too specific to be a coincidence. He is sovereign and we see His hand at work!
  • Praying out loud is a struggle and finding opportunities to practice is a challenge. One mom encouraged us to pray out loud with our kids or in the car.
  • We’re building habits and establishing routines. Some of us pray in the morning, others in the evening. Collectively, we see that we’re offering more prayer! Praise the Lord!
  • Scriptures are hitting our hearts. They are answering questions, encouraging, blessing, and strengthening us.

One of my favorite comments from last night was this:  We need prayer more than our next breath. Amen and amen!

I hope that our online group will chime in too. What challenges and successes have you experienced?

Praise and Thanks – what’s the difference?

There are no hard, fast rules here, but in general, praises involve our adoration of God for who He is – His character, His nature. We’re ascribing to Him glory and honor by way of recognizing His greatness and splendor.

Our thanks often acknowledge what He’s done, answered prayer, ways that we see Him moving in our lives.

The lines between praise and thanks often blur, however. Here’s an example:  We can praise God as our provider. Perhaps we use Philippians 4:19 in our praise: “God, I praise you as provider knowing that You supply all of our needs according to Your riches in Christ Jesus.”

It’s natural, at the same time, to thank him for answering a specific prayer for the provision of a new job. The praise portion is God is Provider. The thanks part is for a new job and answered prayer. But you can easily see how they blend together.

Don’t get hung up on trying to keep them separate. It’s more important that you’re giving praise and sharing gratitude, even if they come out in the same exact sentence. There were several mentions last evening of endless things for which to praise the Lord. There are also endless reasons to give Him praise. Just let them flow! 🙂

Why We Should Embrace Our Identity in Christ

This was the focus of our discussion, based on Strategy 3 of Fervent. First, we identified reasons why it’s important that we all have a firm grip on who we are in Christ:

 

  • Our identity gives us strength in the spiritual realm. It also gives us strength as we live out our lives.
  • When we know who we are we can better discern where we’re going.
  • Our identity provides victory.
  • Knowing who we are in Christ prevents us from believing that our identity comes from our job, our marital status, our tasks, or roles.
  • Having a firm grip on who we are in Christ keeps the emphasis off our own inadequacies and helps us focus on all He is in and through us.
  • When the enemy tries to convince us that we have no value, he’s ultimately trying to convince us that the Word of God is untrue.
  • When we agree with the enemy, when we believe that we’re ______ (fill in the blank with a negative term), we are aligning ourselves with him, which is NOT our aim.
  • Hebrews 4:16 encourages us to approach the throne of grace with bold confidence. When we’re unsure of our identity in Christ, we’re not likely to enter God’s presence with confidence.
  • Our identity helps us walk in obedience because we know our strength lies in Jesus.

There are many, many reasons why we should know our identity in Christ. Yet, when we spend time drilling down to embrace our identity, we believe we’re selfish – spending too much time on internal focus. Isn’t that just like the enemy to deceive us in that way.

It’s not selfish.

We must know our identity. There is too much at stake if we neglect to acknowledge who we are in Jesus. It’s worthy of our time, our focus, our learning the truth so we can recite it by heart. As Priscilla says, “That’s where the light comes on.”

Embracing Our Identity in Christ

After a watching a worship video that focuses on God’s love (you can watch the video here), our in-person group read Scripture verses that remind us who we are in Christ. A list of the verses is below for your reference.

Next, we spent time in quiet meditation. This is the part where the Lord stretched me. I’m thankful that He filled the room with grace and with patient sisters!

Meditation is a Biblical practice that’s far different from new-age type meditation. Instead of emptying our minds and allowing outside “forces” the ability to influence, we, as Christ Ones, fill our minds with the truth of God. We ponder His Word. We reflect on His truth. We seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit – knowing full well that nothing the Spirit offers will ever contradict the Word of God. God has provided a way of accurate discernment that goes beyond our experience. The Bible is our plumb line.

I’ve never led a group in meditation before – especially those to whom this may be a new idea. I hope and trust the Lord used this time for His glory and didn’t leave our group wondering, “What was that all about, anyway?”

Our aim through the meditation was to ask the Lord to help us understand His love for us. To climb into the lap of our Abba Father and feel His delight. Through the Scriptures we’d just shared, we asked that He help us receive His love, and then we quieted our hearts and minds to listen.  It’s not something I could explain easily or model. But I was positive the Lord prompted me to lead the activity.

My Stretch

I come from a very conservative Christian background mixed with generational exposure to (and delight in) spirit-filled living. It’s quite a mix, let me tell you. I will never apologize for something I believe the Lord prompted, but at the same time, I am often consumed with doubt wondering “Is this too weird? Will this push them (meaning all of you) away?”  Perhaps, again, this is the whisper of the enemy that I need to resist.

As I prayed throughout the afternoon in preparation for out time together, the Lord reminded me that He wants us to know Him. He desires that we understand His love. He does not set us up for failure, but encourages us to take risks for His glory. And so I pressed forward with all my might.

I had no idea how this room of diverse women would receive this exercise and placed ALL my trust in God, leaving the outcome fully in His hands. I trust that His will is, and continues to be, fully accomplished despite my shortcomings, my nerves, my lack of confidence. To Him alone be the glory.

Scriptures About Our Identity in Christ

Here it is – the list of verses that we read before our time of meditation. We read them in random order. I encourage you to visit them in your own quiet time. There are scores of other verses on the topic – this is but a tiny collection.

Isaiah 54:10
Ephesians 1:3-6
Ephesians 2:4-7
Romans 8:1
Colossians 1:22
2 Corinthians 5:17
2 Peter 1:3
1 Peter 1:3-4
Psalm 139:13-14
Psalm 139:17-18
John 3:16-17
Romans 8:16
Isaiah 41:8-10

A Final Personal Story

As we closed, I felt the Lord’s nod to share a personal story (another risk of weirdness and potential scaring away):

Over a year ago, stuck in a personal spiritual pit, I visited a church north of our community for prayer counsel. Two women led me in prayer. Before we began, they asked that I let them know when I felt the Lord’s presence, then they helped me seek the Lord for answers to specific questions.

Instructions were simple: The leader would ask me to ask God a specific question. I’d ask Him, then needed to let her know what the Holy Spirit revealed.

“Whoa, whoa, wait a minute,” I recall saying. “I don’t know if I can trust what I believe the Spirit says.” (Please know I wasn’t lacking in trust toward the Spirit, but questioning my own discernment.) The leader counseled, “Don’t think about it or try to evaluate your answers. Just share with us the first thought, vision, idea, etc. that you receive.”

The process was beautiful and as we progressed, I had no doubt of the accuracy of what I discerned.

Not long into the prayer, the leader asked that I climb up and sit on the Father’s lap. Every once in a while, she’d ask me, “Are you still in His lap?” And I’d realized I’d wriggled away. She’d encourage me to return to that position as I sought His answers. This happened several times.

I left that prayer session knowing the Lord had set me free from many things – particularly from a bondage to fear. As a side note – ever since that prayer appointment, I’ve said a hearty YES to things that scare me. Like standing on the glass floor in the Calgary Tower, like White Water Rafting (I’m on the left in the grey cap), and like leading a group of women in quiet meditation for the very first time. Maybe you’ve heard the song lyrics, “I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.” That’s my story in a nutshell.

 

Let’s fast forward now to August of this year – more than 12 months after my prayer appointment. Mike and I were out of town, headed to church and engaged in an argument (if you’re going to argue, there’s no better time than Sunday morning, right?). He said words that hit my heart like a well-placed arrow: “You need to let yourself be loved.” I knew he was right.

The worship at church that morning was profoundly Spirit-led. All the music pointed to God’s love for us. I started to tear up, then I cried, then I wept, and finally I could no longer stand and melted. Mike kept his cool, continued to worship and rubbed my back like this happens every week. 🙂

I felt the Lord whisper to my spirit, “The reason you couldn’t stay in my lap is because you haven’t received my love.” I knew, just as Mike said, I need to let myself be loved – by God.

Last night’s gathering was this weak sister encouraging all of you to let yourselves be loved. His love is great and more fully-satisfying than we can ever imagine.

Please, meditate on the Scriptures and accept them truth of a loving, Heavenly Father. It will change everything about your prayer life.

Remember, I’m praying for you through this journey.

Love,

 

Building a Prayer Strategy

Building a Prayer Strategy

 

I won’t say building a prayer strategy is easy, but it’s certainly important.

We’re learning to pray fervently, with a specific prayer strategy, using Priscilla Shirer’s book Fervent as a tool. This is all part of our in-person and online Bible study called Lord, Teach Us to Pray. If you’re just joining us, I hope you’ll review the first post in the series and subsequent articles as well.

In multiple instances in Fervent, Priscilla instructs readers to take what she’s given and use it to “build a prayer strategy.” She provides a wealth of information, yet someone new to prayer may struggle to put that information into practice. Now that I think about it, seasoned people of prayer may have never developed a specific strategy and need a little help, too.

As we continue to learn together I thought I’d provide a specific, personal example of building a prayer strategy.

 

Step 1 in Building a Prayer Strategy

Open your Bible.

One of our study participants reviewed the plethora of Scripture verses included in Fervent. I can’t find a better way to emphasize our need to soak in the God’s Word than the comment she shared:

“I am noting the disconnect in my own life where I’ve not really thought about these (Scriptures) or BELIEVED them with the current challenges in my life. There’s still a huge GAP in what the Word says and how I believe, but I’m determined to PRESS IN.”

Amen, my sister. Her statement underscores our vital need to incorporate the Word of God into our prayer life. Our aim is to eliminate any of these gaps and function in the truth of God’s Word

Step 2 in Building a Prayer Strategy

Use our Tools.

The Lord provides numerous tools, some of which fall into the category of the armor of God detailed in Ephesians 6. In this section of our reading, Priscilla emphasizes the belt of truth and the way it holds other pieces of armor in place.

Jesus said in John 17:17 (HCSB), “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.”

His Word serves as the truth – the belt (Ephesians 6:14) – the tool that holds our armor in place. It sanctifies us (John 17). It also serves as our only offensive weapon as the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).

Another tool for our use is prayer acronyms. Evidence of the acronyms (a.k.a. “steps of prayer”) is scattered throughout the Word of God, even though they aren’t found verbatim in Scripture. Earlier in our study, we covered a few useful acronyms and their benefits (to review, click here). Please understand, these acronyms are tools – not mandatory routines of prayer. We use acronyms as a learning instrument – a way to develop a rhythm as we grow in a discipline of prayer. Acronyms are useful in defining a process through which we cover key elements of strategic intercession.

When we take the Word of God and apply it to a prayer acronym, beautiful things happen.

A Personal Example of Prayer Strategy

In the example I’m about to share, I’ve utilized my newly published prayer journal, available for purchase here (Amazon) and here (my ministry e-store). PLEASE NOTE: If you are participating in our study, I have offered a time-sensitive 30% off coupon code toward the prayer journal in our Facebook Group. 🙂

I commonly struggle with my identity in Christ. The deeper I’ve moved into ministry, the bigger my struggle – for obvious reasons, wouldn’t you say? The enemy wants to keep us blinded to the truth of who God created us to be.

Using Scriptures provided in Fervent (Strategy 3, Your Identity) and incorporating them into the acronym P.O.W.E.R. (Praise, Offer Thanks, Warfare, Embracing God’s Instruction and Repent) as delineated in My Prayer Journal, I created a powerful weapon against the lies that the enemy whispers (and sometimes shouts) on a daily basis.

Here’s a picture of how I mapped out the acronym inside the prayer journal. So you don’t have to use a telescope, or zoom way in to see the words, OR try to read my handwriting, I offer it as an easier-to-read document here.

Borrowing a Prayer Strategy

One of the most intimidating aspects of prayer is sometimes finding words to express your heart. When we can’t find a way to say something, we can borrow the words – the prayer strategy – of a friend, or mentor. I don’t advocate plagiarism, but sharing words of others in prayer – as genuine expressions of our own hearts – is an acceptable practice.

Most of the words I use in my example are straight from Scripture. Some come from past experiences. Some were inspired by Priscilla Shirer in the teaching she provides in Fervent. Each word is a genuine expression of my heart.

Praying them is my way of pressing in and narrowing the gap between what God’s Word says about who I am in Christ and what I’ve allowed myself to believe. For me, believing the lies of the accuser stops here. I’m determined to not only believe in God but also believe what He says, and take Him at His Word.

Using a Prayer Strategy

It’s one thing to pray this strategy for myself, but I also find it immensely useful in praying it for those I love. I wish that they, too, would believe all the Lord says about them and find their true identity in Christ. I’ve prayed similar prayers for my children, my kids-in-law, my husband, pastors, school teachers, and others.

A New Challenge

The next strategy in Fervent pertains to our families. I challenge you to use an acronym of your choice to build a prayer strategy for your family using Strategy 4 of Fervent. You’re welcome to use the sample I’ve provided as a springboard.

As I said above, building a prayer strategy isn’t necessarily easy, but it is an essential and effective tool in our prayer arsenals. Remember, prayer isn’t a time of rest, but a time of battle. The more preparation we engage in, the more impactful our prayers become. I pray that seeing an example of building a prayer strategy will make it easier to formulate your own battle plan.

If you’re interested in the books I regularly recommend to help strengthen your prayer life, you’ll love this post!

Love,

Recap of Week 2 – Lord, Teach Us to Pray

Recap of Week 2 – Lord, Teach Us to Pray

What a blessing!

We had a very small group for our in-person study this week for Lord, Teach Us to Pray. Several ladies were traveling and a couple had to miss for work and family reasons. I fully understand that life happens, and I know that God fills a room with precisely the right audience for the purpose He has in mind. That’s why it’s always a blessing to gather together, whether we’re full to the brim or our group dwindles for a night.

For our online participants, for those who missed our study, and for those who just want to learn more about prayer,

Here’s our Week 2 Recap

The Revelation

I had an interesting revelation this week. Most of you know that I’m learning the Hebrew language. It’s a huge challenge but well worth the effort. The class takes place on Thursday mornings and on Wednesday afternoon, the day before class, I sat to complete my homework. It was so hard! Really hard. As in I couldn’t finish hard. I showed up to class with my work undone thinking, “If I’d have completed the homework on Friday instead of waiting until Wednesday, the lesson would have been fresh on my mind.” Truly, I spent some time kicking myself in the rear for procrastinating.

And then I thought about our prayer study. Often, I delay required reading for any class until just before we meet. It simply seems a more efficient use of time – plus I’ll retain the information for our discussion. Good excuses to procrastinate, right?

The truth is that when I delay my homework I forget what I learned in class and have to work extra hard to get my bearings. I also lose the opportunity to review and practice throughout the week in an effort to become more proficient.

Did you ever play sports or learn a musical instrument? I bet you practiced throughout the week, not just the day before game day or the night before a concert. Right?

Challenge #1

In light of my interesting revelation, I’d like to issue a challenge. Complete your reading assignment today. Or tomorrow at the latest. And then practice what you learn throughout the week.  Remember,  you’re part of this class to strengthen your prayer life. Let’s dominate in the area of discipline. Practicing on purpose will lead us to grow with God. Are you in?

By the way, our next reading assignment is strategies 3 and 4 of Fervent.

Challenge #2

Let’s keep practicing our out loud prayers. Every day. Find a quiet place, or maybe a very loud place, and pray to God using your voice. We’re working to develop a skill, so let’s act on our resolve.

Guess what we did last night. Every one of us. Yep. We prayed out loud. We each took a turn, even those of us who were most terrified and the one of us who had a throbbing headache. I sat like a proud momma listing to it all happen and thought my heart would burst. It was like beautiful music to my ears and I can only imagine how the Lord smiled. Last night, several women faced their fears and, as I’ve said before, no one got hurt!

Something I’ve learned about stepping out of our comfort zones: We can always step right back in. Let’s grow and stretch, then step back to catch our breath. Then, let’s grow and stretch some more.

A Few Words About Complacency

We’re too comfortable, and we like it that way. Would you agree?

It’s often comfortable to sit back and let others move to action. Even with our prayer.

Prayer is often a baton that we try to pass to someone else.  Like many of you, I sometimes find myself inundated with prayer requests from others. It is an honor – truly my privilege – to pray for others. Please don’t think for a second I’m complaining about that. Something that occasionally enters my mind, however, is the question. . . “Are you praying for this too, or simply passing the baton to me?”

In our Tuesday blog post, I shared that I joined a moms prayer group a number of years ago. One of the most convicting things they said was, “If you’re not praying for your children, who is?”

Here’s the bottom line: If something matters to you and you feel it’s worthy of prayer, no one on this earth can express it to the Lord the way you can. He wants to hear it from you. Personally. You are the one who is passionate about the situation. I am happy to join you in that prayer, but not one of the words I use will stir the Lord’s compassion more than you sharing your heartfelt concern.

It’s time to move beyond complacency and charge forward into action.

But I’m writing to the choir here. I believe that’s why you’re here.

Think through this with me.

When we watch the news and see moral decay and the unfathomable tragedies we’ve seen on television over the last month, we feel awful for those in need. Often we believe there’s nothing we can do, so we go back to our coffee shops, our jobs, our shopping habits, our binge-watching, and we try to forget the heartache.

We see our kids struggle with anxiety, bullies, loneliness, poor grades, self-condemnation, and far too much screen time, we think, “that’s just the way the world is today.” We worry and fret, thinking that’s all we can do.

When we’re concerned about a friend who seems empty and struggles to find her purpose in life, we sure hope she’ll find someone who can help her.

Sometimes, when events like these happen we think, “Well, the least I can do, I guess, is pray.” I beg to differ. Prayer is the most powerful, effective help we can give. It has a far-reaching impact on those we love, those we’ve never met, and even those who lead our communities and our country.

This is incredibly hokey, but here it is:

Don’t delay. Start to pray – today!

[I made that up myself … I think 😉 ]

As I wrap up this recap, I’ll issue a third challenge:

Challenge #3

Begin using a prayer acronym into your routine to help you find a more balanced approach.  As a reminder, a few acronyms are:

PRAY – Praise, Repent, Ask, Yes

ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication

POWER – Praise, Offer Thanks, Warfare, Embrace the Lord’s Instruction, Repent

I look forward to hearing from you. Be sure to share your comments/successes/struggles/questions in our Facebook group – or shoot me an email.

As we focus on prayer, know I’m praying for you!

Love,

 

 

 

 

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