Prayer – At What Cost?

Today I learned of a Christian ministry that expects each employee to spend 10% of their time in prayer.  In fact, they offer three corporate prayer times throughout the week because they put such a high value on prayer.

I was intrigued by this, particularly because it brought to mind another organization, one Jerry and I worked for many years ago.  When the job offers were made to us we were told that one of the reasons we were hired was because they realized they had strayed from their Christian roots and thought we could help them return.

Many Christians served in leadership and on the staff at this company, though not all employees were Christian.  Soon after employment, we asked the Executive Director praying-614374_1280about starting an optional prayer time for staff.  Those who wanted to pray together could join us on their lunch hour. The idea was approved. We were encouraged as the size of the group grew along with the intensity of the prayers.  We were seeing God answer some of our requests, which fueled the desire to continue praying together.

Several weeks into this journey we were told by the Executive Director that the prayer time had to stop.  When asked why, the response was, “it is costing us too much money.”  He was referring to wages of those who prayed when they could have been working.

Sadly our group disbanded, and it wasn’t long until we left that organization.

Isn’t it interesting to consider one company who finds it is too costly to pray, and another who finds it too costly not to pray?

The cost or value of prayer cannot be measured simply in dollars and cents.  How do I know?  Because too often I think I am just too busy to pray. How ridiculous is that to believe my plans are so much more important than talking and listening to my Creator, Lord and King?

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I am not at the place Martin Luther was when he said, “I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.”  I am slowly learning that when my schedule, “to do list,” and my heart are packed full it will be too costly not to pray.

feedback.jpgYOUR TURN:  What is something you do when you are trying to grow your prayer life?  When you are busy how do you make prayer a part of your day?

On a Cough and a Prayer

It’s been a rough winter in our household; but hard times keep me on the look out for God at work.

This week Jerry and I have been battling some infections.  The worst time is at night when a relentless hacking cough causes every muscle in my upper coughbody to join in a chorus of rebellious spasms. After enduring hours of the battle between sleep, muscles and coughing  I turned to Jerry and said through tears, ‘If only this cough was not so ineffectual, I could cope.”

I rolled over and thought “ineffectual? Where did that come from?” According to Jerry the only sensible words I have said at night are ‘I refuse to have a parrot as my only pet’; but that’s another story. . .

Then God brought James 5:16 (KJV) to mind.  “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (Italics and underline added).

Still hoping for sleep I pondered . . . .

My ineffectual cough lacked sufficient air to boost the cough action.  While it is no fun in my body, I want even less for my prayers to be ineffectual.

Following that thought, effectual prayer needs the air, the dove-308571_1280force, the wind of the Spirit (who Scripture also tells us makes intercession to the Father for us) as the power behind the words.

Thank you God for this late night object lesson, and for all those verses I memorized in King James as a kid!

feedback.jpgYour turn now – what is an object lesson God has given to you recently?  Or what verse has impacted you in a new way this week?  I can’t wait to learn from you!

 

 

Crowding Out Jesus

I see it so much clearer now.  I have heard countless messages and read scores of devotionals about keeping Jesus first in our lives.  It wasn’t until i sat down to my Breakfast with Jesus that I saw how subtlety I displace Him.

The morning started as each day does.  I gathered my breakfast, Bible and journal while taking my seat at one end of the table.  Then I looked to the place setting at the opposite end of the table and began to talk to Jesus.  As I did, this was what I saw:

Overcrowding Jesus

I apologized to Jesus for the stuff that was filling up His place.  Even as I spoke those words to Him, I knew His response.

“This is just a picture of what it is like for me in your life, Joan.”  He reminded me that sometimes the crowding can come from things that are good for me (like the fruit) – helping others, supporting my husband, loving our family, etc.  But if those actions replace Jesus, they need to change.

He went on to point out some of the rubbish that crowds Him out. (Please no calls from the Domino’s people – I am not saying their pizza is trash, it was just an empty box that needed to be thrown away.)  My garbage may be too much time on social media, finding my satisfaction in anything other than Jesus, ignoring a call I know He gave me, giving into fear and lies from the enemy, and on and on.

Yes, I know I can still have breakfast with Jesus when there are things at His place on the table, but it feels awkward and uncomfortable.  Having that tangible spot has provided a visual check when I set something down there to consider how I am doing keeping His place inside my life clear and focused.

 

 

 

Guilt, Need and Call

Note from Joan:  I will be “off the grid” for a short time while Jerry and I take a much needed trip to soak up some sun.  In my absence I’ll be reposting some of my favorite posts from the past.  Look for a return of new material in mid February and with it an exciting announcement about what God has led us to in this next phase of our journey!  Bon Voyage!

Recently I’ve been struggling with guilt.  Not over something I have done, but more about what I have not.  It comes from posts on social media, stories on the news, headlines in the paper and songs that say, “if not you, then who?”  I am admonished by these reports to pray more, step up and act, sign a petition or tell others and together we can combat sex trafficking, ISIS, bring imprisoned and persecuted Christians home, feed those who are starving, and provide a fair wage and working conditions for the many women and children forced in slave labor, among other horrendous needs both in this country and around the world.

There is no doubt that we live in a fallen world that seems to fall more every day.  There is also no doubt that God wants His people to “act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.”  (Micah 6:8)  I care about the people caught in these issues and want to see justice prevail in each of these situations.  But sometimes I feel guilty that I am not doing enough.

Then I think about my work and life; maybe not daily but at least several times each week I hear stories of someone’s accident or illness that left them or a loved one disabled, the challenges of living with disability in a world that doesn’t always get it, or even worse the hurt and pain that comes from someone in the local church responding to someone with a disability in a way that doesn’t represent God’s heart, or the trauma in a family when  disability takes time way from others.  I could go on and on with examples.  Sometimes these stories come from our neighborhood, sometimes from our region, and even from around the world (yes, the photo here came to our attention at the office this week when someone sent it asking us to pray and help as able).

But I, and those I have the privilege of working with, don’t just listen to those stories.  We pray with the person, share a word of hope that is found in Jesus.  We strategize and work toward moving people affected by disability from the margins of our society to the mainstream of Church and community life.

Then I come home and read the headlines and stories referenced earlier and feel overwhelmed.  “Lord, what I read/see is horrendous; how it must grieve Your heart.”   I wonder how I can do anything more and God gently reminds me that a need is not a call.  There are many needs that exist out there (even some in the world of disability) that I am not called to meet or respond to.  I need to be open and listen to God’s direction for me, but when He doesn’t call me to meet a need I can continue to pray for those He does.

As I release my false guilt, I’ll lift you up in prayer for the needs God calls you to meet; will you do the same for me?

Behind the Scenes

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Sometimes I feel like this is all I see of God’s picture for my life.

I have a friend “Renee” who has a very real need in her life and the deadline to have this need met is rapidly approaching.  She is anxious about when and how God will answer.  Many of us are praying with her and trying to help her find leads.

At church another friend “Belinda” mentioned a situation she needs to find a resolution to very soon.  As I drove home from church I thought, it may just be possible that the answer to Belinda’s dilemna could also be the answer to Renee’s need.  So I floated the idea by Belinda.  She is interested and agreed to pray about it before we approach Renee.

I wish I could tell Renee right now that there may be an answer on the horizon.  But I can’t; I want to honor Belinda’s request to wait and also don’t want Renee to get excited about something that is so preliminary right now (leads have often not panned out).

All of a sudden it struck me!  This is just a small picture of  God and me.  He rarely tells me what He is up to – even when I beg for an answer because time is growing short.  I tend to think God must have forgotten about me and my situation and begin to  take things into my own hands.  When I finally realize that’s what I am doing and I get myself back to actively waiting for God’s answer it really is a much greater answer than I could have ever dreamed up.

As I pray for both the needs of Renee and Belinda to be met (whether together or separately) I am also grateful that God gave me this opportunity to view things from the other side for a few moments.  I am reminded that even when I think He is silent or has forgotten my need He is still at work in ways I may not yet see (and perhaps never will).  If I wait upon Him I am usually blown away by the way He responds.

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As I wait for His time and plan the details fill in. Surprise (ha!) He had a plan all along.

Ivan the Great

I was hosting a table to recruit volunteers at church this morning when an older gentleman I don’t recall seeing before walked up holding a coffee cup.  I asked if he was interested in learning about our event.  He asked if the computers I had at my table could get to the internet.  I told him they did, but all sites other than the church’s webpage were blocked.  I suggested some other ways he could get online if it was necessary.

He replied, “No, I am just upset, I have to calm myself down.”  Then he snickered and pointed at his cup of coffee and said, “the caffeine should help right?”  He went on to tell me that he just found out his car did not pass the emission test.  He appeared very shaken by this revelation and then walked away.

A few minutes later he came back by and said, “you better pray for me.  I need the weather to stay nice today because they tell me I have to put a thermostat on my car to pass emissions.  I’ve never done this before.”  photo_1832_20060728

I assured him I would pray for him and as he walked away again I asked for his first name.  He replied (with gusto), “Ivan the Great!”  I responded with “Nice to meet you Ivan the Great and I will be praying for you.”

Ivan took a few more steps away from my table toward the auditorium (as I was silently praying for him) and turned around and laughed, and said, “oh never mind, you won’t pray.”  I assured him I had already begun praying for him and invited him to come back to my table so I could pray with him directly.  He continued to snicker and walked in to the service.

At the end of the service Ivan came back by the table again.  He told me he looked outside and thought I was doing a good job praying because it hadn’t rained yet.

I don’t know if Ivan the Great got his thermostat in today.  I hope I recognize him again at church so I can ask him.  But I do know the God who is pleased when His children reach out and share their needs with one another and then with Him.

The funny thing is – I wasn’t even supposed to be at that table today.  In fact, we were not going to start hosting the table until next week.  But I got mixed up and set it up a week early.  Perhaps God wanted that all along so Ivan the Great could find out that someone cares for him.  Or perhaps God put Ivan in my path today to remind me that it is more important to be “present over perfect” (thanks to Shauna Niequist for her book of that title that is messing with my heart and soul).

 

My Summer Community

It’s funny what happens when one says “yes” to God!

A couple days ago I came home from the pool and mentioned to Jerry that I had overlooked the community that exists there.  There are groups who meet to walk the pool together, or share a lane for laps.   Most of all of us sit in the same area of the deck each day.  While I  typically nod a pleasant hello at those I pass by I tend to choose a chair or bench by myself where I immediately bury my nose in a book or my phone then swim my laps, dry off and head home.  I hear the conversations around me, but don’t engage.  When I see people I know I chat a few minutes, then quickly reenter my world!

I think the idea of community struck home when I asked the pool manager about a man (whose name I never knew) I have not seen at the pool this year (and he was ALWAYS there in the past).  She told me that he had passed away.  It struck me that he was  a “regular” of sorts in my life and I knew nothing about him.

I told God that if He opened doors I would engage with “my summer peeps.”

Today a man I have seen for several years at the pool commented about how he didn’t spend very long in the pool doing laps today.  I replied that I did a few less laps today also, after all, it’s Sunday and a day of rest.

That one comment opened the door!  He sat down and one comment led to another and soon we were talking about church, and some challenges he is facing.  We discovered we had some commonality in our church history (funny, because over the years I was pretty convinced that he would be one person at the pool who had no interest in faith or related topics; boy was I wrong!)

As we continued to talk he asked if my husband and I had ever considered missions work.  I told him we have, and asked if he ever heard of Joni Eareckson Tada.  His jaw dropped as he told me all the ways Joni’s radio programs have encouraged him over the years.  He was not aware of our local ministry.

When I came home and told Jerry it’s amazing what happens when you say yes to God, he asked me , “who is coming to dinner?”  Well, no one yet . . .  but as we were reminded in church this morning that we are to BLESS:                                                                                     Begin with prayer
Listen to the stories of others
Eat with others
Serve
Share an appropriate part of your story

I think this summer community is ripe for blessing!