Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Praising God in the Quiet

Recently I started a new prayer journal. I think I've tried to do a prayer journal a time or two over the years...and well....for whatever reason it just wasn't for me. It felt more like a chore...and certainly didn't add a positive note to my prayer life

Surprisingly, journaling has never been something I was big on...or consistant with in my life. I have also started regular life journals in the past, and those fizzled as well. Truth is I'm a talker more than a writer...which is why I am still shocked that I have been somewhat consistently blogging for nearly two years.

As I shared in my last post, lately I haven't been much of a talker or a writer. These past couple of months I have embraced the quiet side of me that has laid dormant for well over forty years. It's been a weird experience for both Hubby and myself...

But it's also been a good experience. One of the productive things I've chosen to do in the quiet was start a prayer journal and I have found that it's something I look forward to each day.

Last fall I agreed to do a little devotional study with a friend. We started reading daily from a book by Beth Moore called Whispers of Hope. In some ways it is a typical daily devotional book with a scripture reading and a devotional that goes along with the scripture lesson.

The part that made this book more unique is that she also included a section after each devotional where you could write out your prayers. Now I knew that in the past I had not enjoyed writing out my prayers, so I was reluctant to do that part of the daily lesson.

Reviews for the book online even complained about the prayer journaling, and my friend said she wasn't sure about doing that part of the study. But I tried it anyway. At first, I wasn't even sure how to do it. Beth had little sections for each part of praying (praise, repentance, acknowledgement, intercession, supplication for self, equipping) with a few lines for each.

How was that going to work for me? I'm a talker. I usually have a lot to say...and there just wasn't much room to write it all out. Plus, I was a busy gal with lots of things to do each day. I certainly wasn't planning on spending all kinds of time on this book.

I quickly decided instead of writing out complete sentences, that I would jot down key words as I prayed. I realized early on that I really like that method. It helped me to keep focused during prayer and remember what/who I wanted to lift up to the Lord.

Somewhere along the way, the journaling of my prayers became a beloved part of my daily study. A few months later, I completed the book, and I soon realized that I missed writing out my prayers in that format.

So off to Target I went to look for a special notebook that I could use for my prayer journal. I found a mid-size, hot pink, bound notebook that would prove to be the perfect little book to use. And to write out my prayers, I picked up a couple of my favorite hot pink ink pens. {I hope my little Rosie touch makes God smile.}

Now I was ready to start my prayer journal.

Praise
Each day I write the day and date at the top of the page, then thumb through my Bible and find a verse praising God and I copy it word for word onto the page, adding my own little praise after it.

Confess
Next, I confess sin that is bogging me down. Sometimes I focus on one specific issue, other times I might write about more than one. It doesn't seem hard to come up with something to talk over with God each day. I admit where I have messed up, I ask God to forgive me, and help me to do better in that area of my life. Believe me...it's a whole discussion usually...

Thanks
Then, I thank Him for some of the blessings of the day. I usually write several, and pray over several more. Sometimes I focus on one specific blessing, but usually I have a pretty long list to share with God. No matter what is going on in my day to day...I am clear that I have much to thank our Lord for each and every day.

Requests - Others
Finally, I get to the request part of my prayer time....first, my concerns for "others". I have an ongoing list of people that I pray for every single day. Many on that list are dealing with health issues...others are trudging through a slew of other heartaches.

I pray for these friends, family members, and even a few complete strangers as I write their names down in my little pink book. I also take some time to pray for their family and friends supporting them through their difficult times.

Honestly, some days I forget someone because the list is long. Thankfully, when I forget, God doesn't. He will bring them to mind at some point and I will add them to the list as I talk with God. This is a point where I pray for our leaders as well.

Requests - Self
Once that part is complete, I move onto my own requests for the day. In the last several months, my own prayers have pretty much been the same. I have a small list of what's really important to me at this season of my life...and I talk that over with God every day.

A couple items on that list, He has fulfilled quickly and sweetly and I am most appreciative. Our God is a God of blessings and love...and He has most certainly given our family a fair share of both. However...admittedly...as I thumb back through my daily writings and see the exact same thing on the list for months....months and months...I'm not going to lie, it can be discouraging and frustrating.

But as soon as I admit to those feelings, I know in my heart that God doesn't just give us everything we want just because we asked Him for it. That's not how this prayer thing works. Every day I ask God for something...many somethings if I'm being totally honest. And every day He answers me.

Sometimes He says yes...sometimes no. I don't know why...especially when I'm asking for something that only seems to bring honor and glory to Him (and if it makes my life easier...why not?)...but only God knows my future. I don't. He knows what is going to be best for me and my family. He knows exactly when to say no...and when to say yes.

I know this in my head...but sometimes it's a little harder to know it in my heart. Especially when I am feeling quite emotional about the request. So I'm going to keep writing those requests down day after day...and wait to see what God's answer is going to be.

Sometimes our Lord has told me to stop asking. And I have. This happened to me recently. I was praying for a specific blessing for Hubby. I wanted this for him so badly. I knew for it to happen it would only be through an act of God because we had already been told very clearly and precisely that it would not happen by any earthly means.

I could have said, "Well...we gave it a good try, but the answer is no". Except...God has wowed me with His Almighty power before and I thought it was worth asking Him to do it again. I even asked a group of girlfriends to pray with me.

Many of them agreed even though they had no idea what the blessing was or why I was asking this of God. I truly have the sweetest praying friends. I was blessed by that even before God revealed the answer to us.

We all began praying, and then very quickly into the process, I received a very clear message from God for me to quit praying over it. He told me "I've got this. Leave it alone." Well...that truly filled me with both heartache and hope. I didn't want to stop praying. I wanted to continue to pray about it until the answer came...but then again...I did have hope that God was taking care of it...and that maybe He was going to grant this request.

So I quit praying about it, and I felt comforted that I had friends that were praying in my place. And then we heard heartbreaking news from dear friends that their young son was very ill and fighting for his life. I immediately went back to my group of friends, and asked them to pray for him and his family instead of my request. I knew without a doubt that was what God wanted me to do.

So once again, my sweet friends responded with love and prayers...this time for a family most of them didn't even know. And again I was greatly blessed by this even though I still didn't know how God was going to handle the original request.

A short time later, the answer came. It was a no. I was disappointed, but my prayers were now focused on what our friends were going through. Again, I went back to my little prayer group of friends, shared the answer, and then asked them to continue to pray for our friends going through such a difficult time.

Weeks went by....Hubby and I had accepted God's answer...and had moved on to other important items that were prominent in our lives at the time. We continued to focus much prayer on our friends and their son.

Then...out of the blue...in a surprising Only-God like twist...God granted my request and blessed Hubby in a way that we knew was without a doubt from Him. And as I write this, I continue to give God full credit and glory for a blessing that will stay with Hubby for the rest of his life.

It's truly humbling every single time I think about it. What a God moment.

So in the days when I struggle with God's perfect timing...and I wish He would answer me already...I only have to look at my children or my husband to be reminded of the many many great blessings He has bestowed upon our family.

Seriously...enough for a lifetime...already.

I am ever so grateful. And yet...like any other child...it doesn't stop me for asking for more. And God loves that we ask Him. He wants us to come to Him with our requests. The apostle Paul writes this in his letter to the people of Philippi in Philippians 4:4-6:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 

My prayer journal has become a very important part of this Celebrating the Quiet time. I took the concept that Beth Moore offered in her book, and I made it my own. I choose to end each of my daily entries the same way I begin them...with praise.

Praise
At the bottom of each page, I think of one very special thing that I praise God for at that moment and I write it down. It might be the beautiful day...or something someone said or did...or time spent with family...any number of wonderful blessings from God. It's really helped me to focus my prayer time on praising God during this time of Quiet.

Paul goes on to say in Philippians 4:7:
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It really does. He really does. Especially in the Quiet.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

September: Celebrating The Quiet

Well here we are over halfway through the month and I am finally writing my first post of September. I've really struggled with writing this summer and as we ease into fall...I'm still struggling with what to say to y'all.

If you know me in real life, then you know that me not knowing what to say is somewhat strange. I don't deny it. It is. And honestly...it's strange for me too. I just don't feel much like talking or writing these days. I think it's truly because I just don't know what to say.

As you know, we are in a transition period of our lives. One we did not expect to be in at this time and it has left us a little out of our element. Everything in our lives has once again changed and we are working daily to figure out the next step. And we are finding out it isn't as easy as it might seem.

Clearly being in this new season of our lives with no clear direction is a bit baffling at this stage (and age) for us. So...I'm a little quieter than I usually am.

Maybe I am finally learning what that verse from Psalm 46:10 actually means. It says:

“Be still, and know that I am God."
    
I know it doesn't sound very Christian of me...but I've never really cared for this verse. It kind of goes against everything that is in me. Do I really have to be still to know God? I have fought that idea for pretty much my entire 45 years.

But something about this season has flipped a switch in my usual busy, talkative self and I am learning to embrace this be still time. This month I have spent a great deal of time "being still" through prayer and Bible reading.
The pups enjoy The Quiet with me.

I have been working on two projects which both require a significant amount of time reading and searching the Bible. Much of this time, I sit quietly reading and writing out Bible verses. And while these projects aren't for just me personally, I have gained so much as I discover verse after verse pertaining to where I am right now.

In the quiet, I also talk with God about so many dear people who are going through incredibly difficult issues right now. I have friends fighting cancer or overseeing their child's cancer battle and/or several other critical health issues. Friends and relatives of ours are dealing with divorce, separation, severe health issues, a struggling child, family strife, military deployment, financial troubles, marital wounds, heartache, unemployment, and major disappointment.

While I'm being still, these people that we dearly care about come to mind.

The list seems long and heavy. There are so many loved ones that are carrying very real burdens. And these are just the ones I personally know about. I am sure there are plenty more out there feeling quiet and just don't have the words to share the load that is bogging them down right now. Not knowing what else to do (or say)...I pray...often writing them down in a little prayer journal I have started.

So this month I'm celebrating The Quiet. It's been a tremendous time of being still and I do know without a doubt that God is God.

*Update*
Here is my other September Celebrating the Quiet post:
Praising God in the Quiet