Have you ever thought about the incredible creativity of Jesus? Only very few of His teachings are not accompanied by an illustrative story, analogy or a metaphor each of which is so fitting and relevant. He was able to capture people’s attention, captivate them, interrupt their lives and point to a better alternative they can have in God. He offered tangible and familiar pictures to help people understand the Kingdom.
In our busy lives, surrounded by technology and unceasingly working on our tasks, there is no time to observe wild flowers and birds so no wonder we cannot use them as an analogy! We do not stop and contemplate on how people work; Jesus did and it enabled him to see the parallel between a sower and God which later helped people understand the Kingdom of God.
Taking time to notice our surroundings and reflect on it is crucial for our personal life and ministry alike. If we want our words to be relatable for people who do nott know Jesus, if we want to be quick to hear God’s voice and notice his work in this world, we must take time to to see these things first.
It is alright to slow down. Take time to appreciate the little things and bring them to God – ask Him what they speak about Him. Put your phone away for a few minutes and look around; find one thing that catches your attention: a huge tree, a homeless man, an unfamiliar smell, warm wind or the sound of the crowd. Slow down and really see it, feel it, hear it – be really present with all your senses and then think, what is God saying to you through it? You won’t believe what amazing things He will reveal to you! He has so many things to show us and to get excited about with us if we just give him the attention.
Slow down, observe, contemplate and talk to God. It is that simple. Be truly present in everything you do and expect God to speak to you because there is nothing better in this world than seeing the world through our Father’s eyes.
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV)
Growing up in the church, you would find 5-year-old me standing with my hands raised at church singing one of my favorite songs, “The Heart of Worship.”
“And it’s all about you, it’s all about you, Jesus,” I would sing with a large smile on my face.
Worship was always my favorite, but somewhere along my journey with Christianity, I complicated the once so simple act of praise and worship.
This year, prayer became a big part of my life, and it transformed my life in more than one way. One thing God placed on my heart to pray with expectation for was my fertility, and boy did he show up. I am currently expecting a sweet baby boy in February 2020.
The week following my positive pregnancy test, the only words I could utter were “God, you are so good.”
I found myself always praising His mighty name for the miracle He worked in my life, the promise He had brought to pass. I felt like I had “A Heart of Worship.”
However, a few weeks later something changed. I am not sure whether it was pregnancy hormones or just a rut, but I became emotionally numb. I tried to read and would not comprehend a single word. I would pray and easily get side tracked before completing a sentence. I would put worship music on and felt absolutely nothing.
Here I was with the ideal circumstances, and I could not find the heart to worship the one who controlled those circumstances. I felt immediate guilt. I had been so adamant in pursuing God while praying for my blessings. Now that I had my blessings, it seemed the passionate flame in my heart had been stifled. So there I was, numb and guilty.
The devil came at me saying God was going to take my child from my ungrateful heart and that I had earned my blessings only to lose them.
Thankfully, God’s blessings are not dependent on our actions because then none of us would receive them. His blessings are a gift that comes from being in God’s will and trusting His hand (but that is a whole other topic).
My guilt made it difficult to worship because it put the focus on ME, my actions and my worth. I had forgotten about 5-year-old me at church singing, “It is all about you, Jesus.”
Worship and praise focuses not on our abilities, our emotions or even our circumstances. It focuses on the one who created every one of those and remains good until the end.
Psalms 136:1 (NLT) says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.”
The psalmist continues to repeat the last phrase a couple dozen times in that single chapter. His worship focused solely on who God is.
When my emotions go numb, God’s love and goodness still endures. Whether my circumstances are good or bad, His love and goodness endures.
In my recent devotional on the She Reads Truth App, the writer made a statement that hit me hard.
“In corporate worship, in private prayer, in the smallest moments, and in the most earth-shattering ones, we always have reason to thank God for what He has done and what we know He will do. Whether or not we feel grateful or not, whether or not we feel worshipful, there is always a reason to worship in gratitude: because His faithful love endures forever.”
The Heart of Worship is not about the emotions we feel in our heart. It is about choosing in our hearts to recognize who God is and what He is capable of.
We can choose to worship our circumstances and live according to our current state of emotions, or choose to worship the God who is more constant than our ever changing emotions and circumstances.
“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15(NIV)
Worship is not a feeling that comes when the music reaches a crescendo, or the amount of tears we shed as we do it. It is not about how high we raise our hands, how loud our voices echo or how much we dance. Worship is simply a heart that recognizes the goodness and love of God.
Let us make it all about Jesus. Because, “His Faithful Love Endures Forever.”
This was my first encounter with prayer. When I was a little girl, my aunt bought me a stuffed animal that had a recording of this prayer in it when you pressed its paw.
Every night I would hop into bed, tuck my head underneath my covers and whisper this prayer to God. God was not someone I really knew or even knew much about, but I believed. I believed He existed, and I really enjoyed saying this prayer to Him each night.
Years went on, and I slowly forgot about my stuffed animal and the little prayer I said to God each night. As I approached teenage years, my prayers were as if I was wishing at a wishing well, rather than having an intimate conversation with my Heavenly Father.
This all changed when I was confronted with my sin and the love of Jesus Christ at a summer camp at the age of 15. I opened up and told God the whole truth – how I had sinned and how I was so in need of a redeemer like Him. He was gracious and gladly welcomed me into a relationship with Him as He does for all of His wayward children. I dove deep into His word and deep into conversation with Him.
But over the years, I would go through highs, lows, and even lulls in my prayer life with God.
In 2018, I found that I was fed up with the highs and lows of my prayer life and dove into simply asking God, “what is prayer?”
Webster defines it as, “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.”
As you can imagine, this definition did not help me much. I was looking for a Holy Ghost answer, something that would knock me over and leave my prayer life never the same.
To my surprise, God showed me what prayer is not.
Firstly, Prayer is not regurgitation.
We learn this from Jesus himself in Matthew 6:7-8 (NLT)
7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.
8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!
Secondly, I learned that Prayer cannot be paired with unbelief,
“I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.” Matthew 11:24-24 (NLT)
Lastly, I learned that Prayer is not for show,
“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” Matthew 6:5-6 (NLT)
After the Holy Spirit showed me what prayer is not, He compared a believer’s prayer life to intimacy within a marriage. He showed me that just like a marriage cannot thrive or be sustained without intimacy, neither can a Christian’s life/walk with God thrive or be sustained with the absence of prayer.
We are already one with God, but prayer is the continuation and sustainability of our marriage with God. I do not know about you, but I would not want to be in a relationship or marriage with a man who does not talk to me.
Just like intimacy in marriage must be paired with vulnerability and exposure, so should our prayer life be with God. We must learn to get naked before the Lord. Take off the masks, the church lingo, religious speech, and lies before Him.
Our Heavenly Father sees all things and knows all things. We do not have to cover up our heart, our hurts, questions, or disappointments when we come to talk to Him. He actually welcomes all of our concerns and longs to change our way of thinking, our hearts, and our circumstances.
Maybe you find that your prayer life is in one of the three categories I mentioned above. Trust me; I have been there. However, this is not where your conversation with God has to stay.
Today, I want to encourage you to just get real with God about everything. Do not be afraid or allow the enemy to tell you that God does not care about your situation. Your Heavenly Father longs for intimacy and closeness with you. He is not looking for you to have the right things to say, but for you to leave nothing unexposed before Him.
“The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalms 145:18 (NLT)
But today, my eyes look much higher to see the face of the great I am…”
I love that song. As I sing those words, I often imagine myself as the woman with the issue of blood in the Bible.
Just like the woman with the issue of blood, we all have an issue, a dream, or a desperation to see Jesus show up, heal, and change our circumstance.
That issue may be for healing from an illness, conceiving a child after years spent battling infertility, the salvation of a child or spouse, or maybe freedom from repetitive bondage in life.
My issue is not something life altering or something I cannot live without, but a deferred promise. This promise God spoke to me when I was just 17-years old, the promise of marriage. My circumstance is much different from an unexplained issue of blood, but it’s still my circumstance.
It is the one thing in my life that I have often shied away from. Shied away from talking about. Shied away from writing about. And shied away from praying about. My issue, if you’d call it that, has oftentimes been something that embarrassed me rather than brought me into a place of desperation for Jesus to heal me.
Luke 8:43-48 TPT says:
43 In the crowd that day was a woman who had suffered greatly for twelve years from slow bleeding. Even though she had spent all that she had on healers, she was still suffering.
44 Pressing in through the crowd, she came up behind Jesus and touched the tassel of his prayer shawl. Instantly her bleeding stopped and she was healed. 45 Jesus suddenly stopped and said to his disciples, “Someone touched me. Who is it?” While they all denied it, Peter pointed out, “Master, everyone is touching you, trying to get close to you. The crowds are so thick we can’t walk through all these people without being jostled.” 46 Jesus replied, “Yes, but I felt power surge through me. Someone touched me to be healed, and they received their healing.” 47 When the woman realized she couldn’t hide any longer, she came and fell trembling at Jesus’ feet. Before the entire crowd she declared, “I was desperate to touch you, Jesus, for I knew if I could just touch even the fringe of your robe I would be healed.” 48 Jesus responded, “Beloved daughter, your faith in me has released your healing. You may go with my peace.”
Recently, I turned 26-years-old, just five days after Valentine’s Day. I have never noticed or cared about my birthday’s proximity to this love holiday, until this year.
This was the first year, ever… that I thought, “I wish I had a valentine”.
I quickly shrugged off those feelings, but could sense through the busyness of life that I was a bit disheartened by this. And that I had actually been hiding these feelings for years.
I did not want to tell Jesus how I felt. I knew my singleness wasn’t His fault. I knew that I could trust Him at His word. I knew He was a promise-keeper. Yet, I was still sad, but I didn’t want to admit that to God. I felt it would be ungrateful to do so.
That is when the Holy Spirit whispered into my heart, “tell me how you feel. Whether you think your feelings are just or not, tell me. I want to heal every part of your heart.”
Just like God cared about the woman with the issue of blood and longed to heal her from illness, He also longed to heal my aching heart. He wanted me to stop hiding in the crowd pretending like singleness did not make me sad.
He wanted me to press through the crowd and say, “Jesus, I have a problem, and I know that you are the solution.”
When healing takes longer than expected or when hope has been deferred, it can sometimes feel easier not to pray about a situation anymore. The women with the issue of blood however, did not lose hope. She held unto the promise of God’s healing, and she knew He would touch her situation.
God longed for me to get real about my issue and get desperate for the healing He desired to do in my heart. He wanted me to be desperate enough to touch the hem of His garment just as the woman with the issue of blood did.
Maybe you have been battling something for years. And year after year, you have seen no avail to your circumstance. I want to encourage you to be persistent and unembarrassed by your circumstance. Will you still run after Him when that healing takes longer than expected? Will you still hope when hope is deferred? Will you touch the hem of His garment because you know He has the power and desire to change your situation?
I leave you with these verses. These verses remind me of the faithfulness of God and display the very character of who He is.
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NLT
“Nevertheless, the time will come when I will heal Jerusalem’s wounds and give it prosperity and true peace.” Jeremiah 33:6 NLT
“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NLT
“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 NLT
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” Psalms 37:4 NLT
Throughout my life, I have come against some mighty adversities. I have learned that no matter the battle, the outcome is determined by fighting on my knees in prayer. When I began to come before the Lord with boldness and confidence in prayer, I saw mighty things changing in my life.
As Christians, I think we sometimes take prayer for granted. It is something we do from the moment we are saved, but sometimes it so easily becomes a chore. We begin to recite typical Christian phrases to sound “holy” in our prayers and feel good about our prayer quality. It can so easily become a rehearsed speech rather than a conversation with our loving father.
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Matthew 6:7
As a young child, I would pray fervently – believing all my prayers would come to pass. However, as some prayers over the years went unanswered, I began to doubt the importance of my prayers. Instead of believing what I was praying, I slipped into a routine of praying passively. I would only pray for the things that seemed attainable – mostly things that I could control the outcome of.
Although I did not suffer from deferred hope with this method of prayer, I also did not see the hand of God in my life. It was not until into my early marriage that I truly began to see the power of my prayers. I am sure you’re thinking my mind was changed when God miraculously answered one of my prayers. Actually, no. I realized the power of my prayers when I saw that the devil was threatened by them.
Early in my marriage, God placed on my heart to pray for my husband and our marriage. At first, I did not understand why. We had no specific marital problems and were still basically in that newlywed stage. Nonetheless, I listened to the leading of the Holy Spirit and prayed over my marriage and truly believed every word I spoke over my husband and I.
Later that evening, something broke loose between the two of us. I do not remember the exact circumstances, but both of us became edgy with one another. Sitting up that night, frustrated at my husband, God revealed to me that this very thing happened because of my prayers.
The devil, seeing how powerful my faith was during that prayer time earlier that morning, decided to shake my faith and put a stop to my prayers.
If the devil becomes threatened by your faith, he will do everything in his power to remove the source of your faith. He wants to leave you hopeless. Your faith and your prayers will stop him right in his tracks and leave him powerless.
Once I realized this, I knew the devil, not my husband, was the real enemy. In that moment, I rebuked the devil and began to pray even harder. If my one little prayer that morning intimidated him, I would pray several more times a day until he was powerless. Never had my faith in prayer been stronger.
Today, not only have I seen the benefits of praying for my marriage, but as well as other areas of my life. When I turned my prayers from praying passively to praying with boldness and confidence that God can accomplish the impossible, I began to see chains break and things restored.
“…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” James 5:16
At the head of 2019, I am proclaiming this the “year of prayer”. I encourage you to join me in praying with boldness and faith as we see strongholds break and lives made new this year. I pray over each of you proclaiming freedom, peace, abundance, joy, success, and unending love.
“Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.’ If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.’’ Matthew 21:21-22
Marriage is one of those things that’s beautiful and ugly all in one. It has a way of exposing your true character and teaching you lessons you never realized you needed. Marriage is a representation of the covenant we share with God and just about every struggle and every victory can be related back to our walk with God.
This is something I have found true in my own marriage.
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only wife who has been guilty of being upset because their husband was not listening to them or was not taking part in conversation.
Our minds are wired to relate intimacy to the emotional connections that happen through conversation. We want our husband to listen to our long story or allow us to vent about our days while responding in a way that shows he is genuinely interested. Words are our intimacy, and when we do not get it, we feel alone and less than as if we are no longer interesting to our husband.
How does this relate to our relationship with Jesus? EVERYTHING!
As I was upset over this very thing one day, God showed me this is exactly how I treat Him. When I neglect to talk with Him and listen to what He is trying to say to me, He feels neglected. It causes my relationship with Him to become disconnected.
A relationship with both man and God requires spiritual and emotional intimacy. This is why prayer life is so important.
Matthew 7:22-23 says “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
In our marriage, it takes work and intimacy to know one another. Saying you are married is one thing and knowing your spouse is another. Have you ever told your husband, “Do you even know me anymore?”
As I sat sulking to myself over this very question, God reached down to me and said “Do you even know ME?”
Sadly, my answer was not one to be proud of.
You see, God doesn’t want us to just claim to be a Christian, but wants us to pursue an intimate relationship with Him.
God is begging for your attention and wants you to seek intimacy with him through your prayer life. Just as you desire that intimacy with your husband.
Think back to when you and your husband or significant other had first met. All you both wanted to do was get to know one another. Me and my husband spent hours on the phone talking about anything and everything.
The same thing happens when we first become saved. But just as a romantic relationship requires us to continue to work at communicating and igniting that spark, our relationship with God must be pursued daily.
I challenge you to dig deeper into a relationship with God and truly desire to know Him and his love in a fuller capacity.
“I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the Lord.” Hosea 2:19-20