The meat and potatoes of this post is completely inspired by 1- the Holy Spirit and 2- my rockin pastor Steve Hayes of Grace Community Church here in Corsicana, TX. What is about to unfold is the result of a week of marinating on what was said through Steve. I must give credit where credit is due. To Him and to him. Wanna hear more from Steve? Click here to hear some of his past sermons or find out more about visiting my church home.
As a born and raised Presbyterian, I am no stranger to this act.
Prayer just something I learned how to do as a child, like tying my shoes and riding a bike.
In my family, prayer came before dinner, before bed, before whopper life events like exams and championship football games.
It’s just part of daily life.
Wake up. Eat. Pray. Sleep.
And, naturally, my understanding as a child was that prayer should be done with eyes tightly closed (peaking naturally resulted in your prayers being disqualified or so I thought) and heads bowed and hands pressed together.
Then you ask God for things and thank Him for things and you hope He’s listening but you never actually get to hear a response.
As a wee Presbyterian lassie, I always knew God could hear me, but I never really knew if He was going to answer me…I was confounded that Santa could take the time to leave me a brief reply to my cookies and milk but God himself couldn’t take the time to jot down a few words on paper for me.
That’s kid logic, huh?
While my understanding of prayer has vastly matured over the years, there are times, I must admit, when my persistently unanswered prayers seem like they're for nothing.
But this past week I was reminded that just because I ask God for X (a new home, a child, a new job) and do not receive it doesn’t mean He isn’t listening.
In fact, often He not only listens but answers in a way my foolish, self-absorbed human self may not even realize.
So before you write off God as being distracted or distant or detached from your prayer life, let’s take a little closer look at our lives and what He is doing in them. We might just be surprised the way in which God is answering our prayers, sometimes even responding to needs in our lives we weren’t even aware of.
Y’all, He’s always listening. The real question is, are you?
Since 2nd grade, I have been a writer.
From rhyming poems on Mother’s Day cards to winning story-writing contests in elementary school (nerd alert!) to earning a Master’s degree in Literacy, writing is part of who I am. And I love it.
So it makes perfect sense to me that my prayer life revolves around writing.
Almost every morning, I journal my praises, coming to the Father with thanksgiving, praising Him for answered prayers and blessings He is sharing in my life. Whether as seemingly minute as the crispness in the morning air to the monumental as a friend’s healthy delivery of her son, I put it on the page.
From there, I read a devotional such as Jesus Always by Sarah Young or Live These Words by Loucinda McDowell (I’ll link at the end if you wanna check them out) and scripture, allowing them to speak to my heart and guide what words I put on the page next. Finally, I act as the needy child that I am, bringing my concerns, requests, fears, and worries to Him.
Y’all, I have at least one item in that latter category that has been there for nearly a decade.
While this is not the time or place for me to get into the details of that specific request, know that it is one that continues to break my heart and reminds me of the debilitating darkness of the enemy that prowls amongst us.
Do I just give up on this request? Do I just let it go and wash my hands of it? Do I lose hope?
In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus explains we are to ask, to seek, and to knock at the Father’s door. He clearly states that in doing so, we will receive an answer, and we will find, and we will have a door opened.
But it may not be the door we anticipated.
It reminds me of waiting for an elevator in a hotel…you press the button and stand in front of one of the twelve doors like a pack mule- with your eight bags and totes and coolers (maybe that last part is just me) and infant strapped to your chest- anticipating the door you have selected will whoosh open at any moment and allow you to be transported to the haven of your hotel room.
But isn’t it just a fact of life that the door the farthest from you always seems to be the one that ends up opening?
Sometimes, that’s how God answered our prayers.
We ask God for something…a raise at work, a healed relationship, a fertile womb…and we don’t always get the answer we expected. Or, if we are too caught up in ourselves, we miss His answer altogether.
Going back to the elevators…you are waiting for a door at one end of the hall and are too busy watching a puppy video on your phone to even notice the one silently open, wait for you, and then silently close a few yards away.
So then we move to the seeking. We actively go after something we want, rearranging our lives in order to make it happen.
I think back to nearly two years ago when I was trying to get pregnant…I started adding maca powder into my smoothies, cut back on alcohol and caffeine, sipped on raspberry leaf tea religiously, and slathered on rose hip oil every night (which smells nothing of roses FYI).
I tried to take it into my own hands and got NO WHERE. If it’s not in God’s will, we can’t do anything about it. I sure hope that lesson will sink in one of these days...
Turns out, He was trying to tell me all along that my problem had nothing to do with supplements and teas and funky oils and everything to do with my mindset and stress level…I was too distracted by my powders and hippy potions and “I’m taking this into my own hands” mentality to hear Him.
And like all impatient children, we ask and then we seek and then we knock.
Loudly. Obnoxiously. Desperately.
In typical kid fashion.
While most parents behind that locked door remain silent in hopes that the kiddos will either 1- think they’re not there or 2- go away.
That’s not how our Father operates.
He’s behind the door. And when it’s the right time He will open it. In the meantime, He has a solid reason why He’s not opening that door.
Returning to the elevators, you now have started pressing the elevator button repetitively, because that always makes them move faster... Turns out, the elevator is out of order and God wants you to get in better shape and take the stairs instead.
You see what I mean jelly beans?
Going back to the request I’ve been asking Him for years, I know He has a reason for not answering it in the way I would prefer; I know that this persistence and perseverance in my prayer life is teaching me of His faithfulness and His ultimate plans for my life and the lives of those around me, including the dear one that is so desperately lost.
He’s a good father. He wants to give us what is good, even if we can’t recognize the goodness of His gifts right here and now.
When we start to doubt the power of our prayer, doubting whether He’s actually listening, that skepticism stems from our fears as well as our impatience.
We can count on His heart. He is good. He is faithful. He knows what’s best for us, even when we can’t recognize it.
Go to your Father. Pray. Be in a relationship, in communication with Him.
When we do so, when we seek His presence and knock at His door, He is better able to equip us with the hope or patience or peace or joy we need at that moment to keep on truckin.
And in doing so, we, as His children, are better able to serve Him, to reflect His glory. When we focus on His presence and His word and His goodness, we grow in grace and can better discern His will.
Our souls are nourished. And we are able to continue on in His strength, enabling us to become the strength and encouragement and light to those around us that so desperately need it.
Today, I challenge y’all to start putting your prayers on paper, dating them. It doesn’t have to be anything remarkable or in your best handwriting; but it is such a testament to His faithfulness and His awesome will when we can tangibly look back on how and when He answers prayers.
Ask. Seek. Knock. And take the time to listen.
I bet you’ll be delighted by the response you receive.
Today’s Challenge: Take 5 minutes RIGHT NOW (hold off on fixing your breakfast or checking your email or whatever it is you’re about to do) and jot down on a sticky note or on a legal pad or in a notebook today’s date and 5 praises to our Father and 5 requests to our Father. Go in to as much or as little detail on paper as you wish- He knows your heart. Continue this all week. See what He reveals to you by this persistent, daily prayer.
Be warned. The enemy is sooooo good at distracting you from this practice and will work VERY hard to deter you from this time with your Savior.
Today’s Prayer: Father, we thank You for teaching us to ask, to seek, to knock. Let us see Your character, Your goodness through our prayers. Thank you Lord for reminding us of Your kindness and grace. Teach us to continue to seek You. Grow us in grace and patience and persistence so our trust and faith may be strengthened. Teach us to pray more fully and persistently, quieting the noise around us so we can fully focus on You. Grow us. Use us. Shine through us. We’re Yours, and You are Ours. Amen.
Healthy Happy Texan
I'm a Foodie, Fitness Instructor, and Follower of Christ. Add a passion for teaching others, dark chocolate, bacon, and dogs -- and that's me in a box.
Come on, let's live a little!