Tag: prayer

When All You Can Do Is Pray

Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you…(1 Samuel 12:23).

Have you ever told a friend in need, “All I can do is pray”, as if it would really be better if you could perform some action rather than JUST pray? Sometimes if you are near the loved one, it is possible to help in tangible ways – shopping, cooking a meal, picking up children from school, babysitting, cleaning their house, etc. Often prayer becomes an addendum to what we can DO. It is when we are not near the one we are concerned about, we might say, “All I can do is pray.”

Lest you think that praying is secondary or not enough, hear the testimonies of these men of God.

George Mueller

George Mueller, a 19th century English evangelist and founder of orphanages, was known to have kept a detailed journal of his prayers. One page was devoted to his prayer and another to the answer. Over his lifetime, he calculated that fifty thousand of his requests had been answered.

R.T. Kendall

I have been conscious of many people praying for me over those twenty-five years. One gets a sense of being borne “on eagle’s wings.” All over Britain, I had total strangers say to me, “I pray for you every day,” or “I pray for you every Saturday evening – or Sunday morning.” This was almost overwhelming. I sensed a sovereign overruling of grace and prayer more times than I can count, which enabled me to prepare and preach sermons. I attribute this to the prayers of God’s people.

Notice that R.T. Kendall (who served as pastor of the great Westminster Chapel for twenty-five years) did what he could to prepare his sermons and followed through with his commitment to preach them. It was the prayers of others that gave him the sense of being borne “on eagle’s wings.”

Bill Gaither

 When we’re on the road we usually have about fifteen people on stage with us. I’m sure they get tired of my calling them all around before the concert every night and hearing me say, “Focus, focus. Why are we doing this? Let’s remind ourselves again why we do this.”…. One night I simply said, “Let’s pray,” and didn’t close until the usually vocal ones had finished praying and there had been enough awkward silence to start bringing out some of the others.

When you wait, you are often rewarded. From here and there came heartfelt prayers from some who had always let someone else do the praying in the past. And the longer I waited, the more open and sincere and vulnerable the prayers became. Soon people were confessing bad attitudes, frustration, impatience, homesickness. Something was happening. We were getting our eyes on Jesus, and God was pointing out our failures. We were drawn close in a special way, and the concert that night was one of the best we’d had in a long time. How much better that is than a hastily called minute of prayer where somebody thanks God for the opportunity and asks Him to bless us. That’s okay, but it’s not enough. We have to be broken before Him and focused on our purpose.

Bill Gaither and his team had prepared for their performance. They had written the music, rehearsed it and done all they could do to honor the Lord with their talents. It was their time in real prayer that brought a freshness to that’s night’s performance and a new closeness to each other.

Wesley Duewel

Dr. Duewel, missionary to India for nearly twenty-five years and the author of numerous books on prayer and missions, states:

Your prayer for world harvest can be more effective today because God in His sovereignty is coordinating world trends to make rapid fruitfulness available to His children. If we will put priority on prayer and obedience, this can be earth’s greatest harvest time. Not every Christian is called to go. Not every Christian is able to make a substantial financial contribution to the work of Christ’s kingdom. But there is no limit to what any Christian may accomplish through prayer!

Oswald Chambers

Consider, with Oswald Chambers, the importance that Christ places on prayer.

It is Christ . . . who also maketh intercession for us . . . . The Spirit . . . maketh intercession for the saints. Romans 8:34, 27. Do we need any more argument than this to become intercessors— that Christ “ever liveth to make intercession”; that the Holy Spirit “maketh intercession for the saints”? Are we living in such vital relationship to our fellow men that we do the work of intercession as the Spirit-taught children of God?

John Bunyan

Both John Bunyan and A. J. Gordon have been credited with saying, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.”

The Apostle Paul

 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

God is the only One who can accomplish what is really needed. The best thing you can do is pray.

© Stephanie B. Blake

February 2015

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Some Great Quotes on Prayer

I am a collector of quotes. Recently I came across some new (for me) quotes from some strong men of prayer.

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“Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God; not only by unbelief, but by thinking that you know what he can do. Expect unexpected things ‘above all that we ask or think.'” – Andrew Murray

“Since the days of Pentecost, has the whole church ever put aside every other work and waited upon him for ten days, that the Spirit’s power might be manifested? We give too much attention to method and machinery and resources, and too little to the source of power.” – J. Hudson Taylor

“The battle of prayer is against two things – wandering thoughts and lack of intimacy with God’s character as revealed in his Word. Neither can be cured at once, but both can be cured by discipline.” – Oswald Chambers

“Time spent alone with God is not wasted. It changes us; it changes our surroundings; and every Christian who would live the life that counts and have power for service must take time to pray.” – M.E. Andross

“Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of his willingness.” – Martin Luther

“I look at a stonecutter hammering away at a rock 100 times without so much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the 101st blow it splits in two. It was not the one blow that did it, but all that had gone before. So it is with persevering prayer.” – George Muller

“…True prayer is measured by weight, not by length. A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer in it than a fine oration of great length.” – C. H. Spurgeon

“Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.” – John Bunyan

“If man is man and God is God, to live without prayer is not merely an awful thing; it is an infinitely foolish thing.” – Philip Brooks

“You can read all the manuals on prayer and listen to other people pray, but until you begin to pray yourself you will never understand prayer. It’s like riding a bicycle or swimming: you learn by doing.: – Luis Palau

My life verse reminds me to pray at all times in all situations giving every care to God. If it concerns me, it concerns Him. He is my heavenly Father.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Beloved Benediction

The apostle Paul included many prayers in the letters that he wrote to churches and fellow disciples. Among those prayers were at least sixteen prayers that we might categorize as benedictory prayers.

Perhaps the most loved of all the benedictions is the one Paul prayed for the Ephesian church:

  • Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 20-21).

This benediction is in the middle of Paul’s letter to that church, but it concludes his incredible prayer for them (Ephesians 3:14-19). The prayer and the benediction include some of the most majestic descriptions of the riches of God’s glory imparted to His children.

  • Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly above all that we ask or think …

No matter how big our prayers, God’s supply is bigger still.  – For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). – His thoughts are much, much higher. He is not only able to, but does do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.

God, our Heavenly Father who loves to dote on His children, gives us more than we can ever request. It is true on earth, and it will be true in Heaven.  – Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9). – Just as an earthly father watches with glee as his child opens a gift to discover that it was bigger and better than anything he had hoped for, God surprises us time and again with incredible blessings beyond our imaginations.

Psalm 105:1-2 tells us to … Make known His deeds among the peoples … Talk of all His wondrous works! Our conversations with others can be filled with examples of how good God is to us and how He has answered our prayers. Especially those in the church understand when we share our stories, as they can also cite instances of God’s abundant grace in their own lives.

  • according to the power that works in us

Many times our examples have to do with God getting us through what appears to be an impossible situation. In Christ, we have all the resources of the Godhead to accomplish anything He asks us to do. An old hymn reminds us to “trust and obey.” That is our part. God’s part is to do all the work! Isaiah 26:12 says, Lord, You have also done all our works in us.

  • … to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.

Many things in this world do not last. Flowers fade; grass withers; wood decays, etc. Anything done by God’s power in God’s church (His body) for His glory will last forever.

  • Amen.

So be it!

© Stephanie B. Blake

June 2014

This devotional is adapted from my book, The Prayer Driven Life

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Elements of Powerful Praying: The Person, the Prayer, the Power

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results (James 5:16 NLT).

THE PERSON

The best definition of prayer is conversation with God. The person talking with God and God Himself are participants in the conversation — the prayer.

What kind of person has such access to God that he feels at ease talking with Him at any time, in any place and about anything?  According to Scripture, a righteous person has such access.

What makes a person righteous?  There is no natural righteousness in man (Isaiah 64:6, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Romans 3:23).  The righteous man is righteous only because Christ’s righteousness has been transferred to him through faith (Isaiah 53:11, 1 Peter 3:18).

David said the person with clean hands and a pure heart is allowed to stand in God’s holy place (Psalm 24:3-4). The writer of Hebrews tells us that we can enter God’s holy place with confidence by the blood of Jesus (10:19).

Once a person is washed clean, however, access to God is unlimited.  Abraham, who walked and talked with God, was considered righteous because of his faith (Romans 4). God called Abraham His friend (James 2:23).  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers. . .(1 Peter 3:12).

Recently on a beautiful bright sunny day, my husband and I were out for a walk. I observed a driver round a corner in front of us very slowly.  She was driving through a deep puddle left from a heavy rain the day before.  Her van was spotlessly clean.  It was obvious to me that she was trying to keep it that way, so she was taking much care to keep dirt off her clean vehicle.

Christians need to take that same care with their spiritual lives.  Although it is true that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7), as long as we are on earth, there is the need for constant cleansing. There are spiritual mud puddles all around us.  It takes work to go around them and stay clean.  When, not if (1 John 1:8-10), we do get dirty again, we must go back to the wash and remove the road dirt. Satan loves to put obstacles in our path and get us dirty and distracted.  He knows that the dirt can obscure our spiritual vision. Sometimes we are so lazy that we do not want to take the time to clean up.  Our communication with God can be interrupted during those times.

Jesus promised that He and the Father would make their home with the one who loves Him and keeps His word (John 14:23).  In the discourse about the true vine, He put home in terms of abiding with one another (John 15:4).  The righteous person who abides in Jesus is a person of prayer who pleases God. The person of faith who seeks God is rewarded (Hebrews 11:6).

The righteous person lives by faith (Romans 1:7, Galatians 3:11). That person of faith is rewarded and pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). An essential element of a powerful prayer is the person: a righteous person.

THE PRAYER

What is an earnest prayer?  For the answer, let’s look at the what, where, when, why and how of prayer itself.  Using James 5:16 as our guide, note “the earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (NLT).

WHAT

An earnest prayer is one in which the person praying is serious about his prayer.  He is not flippant.  He doesn’t pray just to say he prayed.  He doesn’t pray to appear to be righteous.  He prays because he is righteous.  However, he is only righteous through a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ.

Earnest praying comes from the heart. The person praying honestly wants to hear from God.  He wants God’s will to be done. He wants God to be glorified in his life.

WHERE

A relationship with God is unlike any other relationship.  He is always with you.  An earnest prayer can be made anywhere.  It is good to have a prayer closet, but a certain location is not necessary in order to pray.  Even if you have a special place of prayer, when you leave that place, your prayer life should go with you.

WHEN

You can talk to God at any time: upon rising in the morning, driving, cooking a meal, before making an important decision at work, and at home. His word tells us to be in an attitude of prayer at all times. He is always ready to listen and respond.

WHY

Prayer is not necessary to tell God anything He does not already know.  He knows who you are and what you need. Prayer is the opportunity to get to know God better.  You need God: His salvation, His forgiveness, His guidance, His comfort, His healing, His strength, His Spirit in your life.  You get to know God better through earnest prayer.

HOW

There are three types of prayers.  Since God can hear your thoughts, you can talk to Him in your mind: silent prayer. It is possible to have a conversation with God at any time and in any place because He is always listening.

Spoken prayer is out loud: during a worship service, a fellowship meeting, before meals, etc. Voiced prayers can be either individual or group prayers. When you pray in public, it is possible for others to join you silently as well.

Written prayers of Scripture contain a treasure trove of information about God and His relationship to His children. Examine the prayers of David, Abraham and Paul.  Many other faithful men and women of the ages have recorded their prayers.

Using a prayer journal has made a big difference in my own prayer life.  Recording my prayers helps me see God’s hand in the details of my life. Sometimes God said no to something that I did not need or that would not have been good for me.  Many times I have recorded a request, but been guilty of forgetting to say “thank you” for the answer. Having a journal helps remedy that neglect.

An essential element of a powerful prayer is the prayer itself: an earnest prayer.

The Power

There is energy in the prayer of a righteous person.  It is powerful, not because of the person praying, but because of the relationship he has with the Father through the Son.  Family members who live (abide) together and have a good relationship with each other, are comfortable when they are home together.  What an incredible thought that Jesus said He and the Father would make their home with us! The opportunities for conversation (prayer) are unlimited because we live together. At any time, day or night, a child of God has access to the Father, even calling him “Abba,” the equivalent of our “Daddy.” The Christian who stays clean knows that his prayers will not be hindered by sin in his life.  If our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God (1 John 3:21).  It is with this confidence that a righteous man can approach God with his fervent request. That prayer will be powerful and effective (1 John 3:22). Jesus reminded those with an earnest request to never give up (Matthew 7:7, Luke 18:3-5).

The New Century Version renders James 5:16 this way: When a believing person prays, great things happen. 

For further study, examine the following: 2 Chronicles 7:12-15; Psalm 62:5, 109:4; Proverbs 15:8; Matthew 21:22; Acts 6:4; Philippians 4:6

© Stephanie B. Blake

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The Disciple’s Prayers

The Disciple’s Prayers (Psalm 119)

Throughout his prayer in verses 5 through 176, the psalmist comes to God without reservation. He holds nothing back. He realizes God knows him completely but that it is his responsibility to acknowledge His hand in his life.

In the personal relationship he has with God, he recognizes God’s sovereignty, knows his place, uses His words as a guide, asks God to teach him, pleads for His mercy, recognizes the need for revival, seeks understanding, wants to be free from sin, desires God’s comfort and constant presence. As we look at these elements of prayer, we can identify with them. The heart’s desire of the psalmist is captured in verse 133: “Direct my steps by Your word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me.” May our desire be the same.

I Recognize Your Sovereignty

“You established the earth, and it abides” (verse 90). 

Over 200 times the psalmist asserts God’s ownership by using the word “Your” – Your precepts, statutes, commandments, righteous judgments, words, mouth, testimonies, ways, servant, law, wonderful works, mercies, salvation, ordinances, name, favor, merciful kindness, faithfulness, custom, face, lovingkindness, justice, hand. It bears repeating that God is sovereign, in charge and in control. We need Him.

I Know My Place

“Establish Your word to Your servant, who is devoted to fearing You” (verse 38).

  • With my whole heart I have sought You (verse 10).
  • I am a stranger in the earth (verse 19) “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2: 11-12).
  • My soul clings to the dust (verse 25).
  • I have declared my ways, and You answered me (verse 26).
  • My soul melts from heaviness (verse 28).
  • I long for Your precepts (verse 40).
  • I have hoped in Your ordinances (verse 43).
  • I believe Your commandments (verse 66).
  • Your hands have made me and fashioned me (verse 73).
  • Your law is my delight (verse 77).
  • I am Yours (verse 94).
  • I am Your servant (verse 125).
  • I cry out with my whole heart (verse 145).
  • I cry out to You (verse 146).
  • I do not forget Your law (verse 153).
  • Consider how I love Your precepts (verse 159).
  • I have chosen Your precepts (verse 173).
  • I have gone astray like a lost sheep — for I do not forget Your commandments (verse 176).

Your Words Are My Guide

“Remember the word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope” (verse 49).

The psalmist declares God’s sovereignty (“Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven” -verse 89), knows his rightful place and recognizes the trustworthiness of God’s word (“The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever” – verse 160).

Therefore, he has decided to use God’s words as his guide.

He will:

  • heed God’s word (verse 9)
  • hide God’s word in his heart (verse 11)
  • rejoice in HIs testimonies (verses 14, 111)
  • meditate on God’s precepts, wonderful works and His ways (verses 15, 27, 48, 99, 148)
  • delight himself in God’s statutes and testimonies (verse 16, 24)
  • not forget God’s word (verses 16, 93, 109, 141, 153, 176)
  • keep God’s word (verses 17, 33, 34, 44, 57, 63, 67, 69, 88, 100, 106, 115, 129, 134, 145, 146, 167, 168)
  • be strengthened by God’s word (verse 28)
  • chosen the way of truth, laying God’s judgments before him (verse 30)
  • delight in His commandments (verse 35)
  • long for His precepts (verse 40)
  • be saved according to God’s word (verse 41)
  • trust in God’s word (verse 42)
  • hope in God’s ordinances and His word (verses 43, 74, 81, 114, 147)
  • seek God’s precepts (verse 45)
  • obtain life through God’s word (verse 50)
  • believe His commandments (verse 66)
  • hope in God’s word (verses 74, 81, 114, 147)
  • search God’s word (verse 82)
  • consider God’s testimonies (verse 95)
  • restrain his feet from evil in order to keep God’s word (verse 101)
  • make God’s words a lamp to his feet and a light to his path (verses 105, 130)
  • love God’s word (verses 113, 140, 119, 159, 163)
  • observe God’s statutes (verse 117)
  • long for God’s commandments (verse 131)
  • stay awake to meditate on God’s word (verse 148)
  • stand in awe of God’s word (verse 161)
  • rejoice in God’s word as one who finds great treasure (verse 162)
  • speak of God’s word (verse 172)

His determination to listen to and follow God was answered with God’s blessing on his life. “You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your word” (verse 65).

Teach Me 

“Accept, I pray, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me Your judgments” (verse 108).

Nine times he asked the Lord to “teach me…Your statutes, judgments, good judgment and knowledge” (verses 12, 26, 33, 64, 66, 68, 108, 124, 135).

He acknowledged God’s answer to that prayer in verses 71, 102 and 171:

  • “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.”
  • “I have not departed from Your judgments for You Yourself have taught me.”
  • “My lips shall utter praise, for You teach me Your statutes.”

Be Merciful to Me 

“Let Your tender mercies come to me, that I may live; for Your law is my delight (verse 77).

Six times he appealed to the mercy and lovingkindness of the Lord (verses 41, 76, 77, 88, 124,132, 149).

God is sovereign and in control, but the psalmist knows Him as loving and merciful. He is Almighty God, but He relates personally to us through His Son Jesus Christ. “Great are Your tender mercies, O Lord; revive me according to Your judgments” (verse 156).

Revive Me 

“Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, so that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth” (verse 88).

Nine times he asked the Lord to “revive me” (verses 25, 37, 40, 88, 107, 149, 154, 156, 159). Like this psalmist, we are in constant need of revival. That request is answered in a daily walk with the Lord.

Give Me Understanding

“Your hands have made me and fashioned me; give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments” (verse 73).

Six times he asked the Lord to “give me understanding” or “make me understand” (verses 27, 34, 73, 125, 144, 169).

God granted his request:

  • “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation (verse 99).
  • “I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts” (verse 100).
  • “Through Your precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way” (verse 104).
  • “The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (verse 130).

The psalmist recognizes that understanding is a continual process. He asked before and after he says he has understanding.

Keep Me from Sinning

“I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments” (verse 176).

Five times he recognizes sin in his life (verses 10, 29, 37, 67, 176). In the very last statement this psalmist makes in this particular psalm, he recognizes the constant temptation to go astray. He appeals to God to seek him out because he belongs to Him.

God gives a believer the ability to withstand temptation. “Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble” (verse 165). Paul says in 1 Corinthian 10:13 that God will always provide a way out. This psalmist knows the way out and peace are obtained by obeying God.

Comfort Me 

“Let, I Pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to Your word to Your servant” (verse 76).

The psalmist needed and wanted comfort in his relationship with God (50,52 and 76, 82).  He needed comfort in his affliction and he found it in God’s word. He was afflicted, but recognized God’s hand in permitting it (verses 67, 71, 75, 92, 107, 153).

Jesus promised and sent His Spirit to guide and comfort His followers. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). “But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you (The Amplified).

Be With Me, Lord, At All Times

Interspersed throughout this prayer are the psalmist’s constant awareness of his need for God.

Deal bountifully with Your servant (17), strengthen me according to Your word (28), make me walk in the path of Your commandments (35), Incline my heart to Your testimonies (36), establish Your word to Your servant (38, let my heart be blameless regarding Your statutes (80), accept, I pray the freewill offerings of my mouth (108), hold me up (117), be surety for Your servant for good (122), redeem me from the oppression of man (134), Make Your face shine upon Your servant (135), Let my cry come before You, O Lord (156), Let my supplication come before You (170), let Your hand become my help (173) let my soul live (175), seek Your servant (176).

God is faithful and true. The psalmist has confidence to ask the Lord to deal with him “according to Your word” eleven times (verses 25, 28, 41, 58, 76, 88, 107, 116, 154, 169, 170), according to Your mercy (verse 124), according to Your lovingkindness  (verse 149, 159) according to Your justice (verse 149), according to Your judgments (verse 156).

“Look upon me and be merciful to me as Your custom is toward those who love Your name”(verse 132).

A child might ask something of his father and remind him, “Dad, you promised!” That is how intimate a child of God’s relationship is with the Father. God delights in blessing His children and He is merciful to those who love Him.

Personal Reflection

What have you learned from Psalm 119 and the relationship that the psalmist had with his God?

Were you encouraged to pray for guidance or for God to teach you more about Him?

Do you feel the need for His mercy? Have you been discouraged? Do you need a revival in your spirit?

Has God revealed things to you that the world cannot understand? Do you long for more understanding of His word and His will in your life?

Do you feel the need to continually ask Him to keep you from sinning? Have you felt the comfort of His Holy Spirit?

Do you feel the blessing of God on your life and your ministry?

© Stephanie B. Blake

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Poisonous Plants, Protection and Prayer

800px-Red_Raspberry_5_leavesLike a lot of other people, I am extremely allergic to poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. I have done a lot of research on how to recognize these lovely plants. That is actually harder than it seems. Sometimes the recognition comes when I am in the midst of a patch of it (or after I have swung on the vine). Working in it sometimes cannot be avoided. What I try to avoid is the terrible consequences of not working wisely in it. Forewarned is forearmed.

There are certain types of ivy I would like to cultivate. Although some consider English ivy a noxious plant, overtaking everything, I do like the fact that it looks good, seems to like the shade and will not create a rash like its poisonous cousin.

One of the disturbing things about the poisonous varieties is that they imitate the plants around them – making me a little nervous about every plant I come in contact with. The leaves of three – leave them be rule does help, but the leaves may be pointed, oblong or round. Sumac does not follow the leaves of three rule. I must remember to watch out for a single leaf at the end of a long row of innocent looking leaves on a branch. And there is always the possibility that one of the leaves in the configuration has fallen off – so there might be two leaves in the cluster of three or the single leaf at the end of the sumac branch has disappeared. So, my answer is to always be cautious and protect myself as much as possible.

Protection involves extra clothing – 2 layers of long sleeves and 2 layers of long trousers. I also put on two sets of gloves just to be sure. I lather up with Ivy Block, which is supposed to prevent oils from getting on to my skin. When I finish, I use something to wash off any oils that might have come through the two layers of clothing and the Ivy Block. Somehow, even after all these precautions, I still get the rash and have to wait out the two to three weeks for it to dry up and disappear.

The offending oil on the poisonous plants is not obvious. The leaves don’t always shine. The experts say the oil is still there even after the plant is dead. Working in an area where poison ivy is plentiful takes all the courage I can muster, but most of the time I think the results are worth the effort.

Working around these poisonous plants make me think of life as a Christian in a worldly society. If the Christian’s life is to have any influence on the world, he must be willing to work in the midst of some fairly unpleasant circumstances. Even when one’s standards are according to God’s word, just setting out in business, or shopping or traveling or any contact with others opens the possibility of being exposed to some poisonous influences. Just as the English ivy might grow next to the poison ivy or the poison sumac resembles a harmless tree, it is not always possible to prevent all negative influences from coming into your life.

Living life as a Christian hermit is not the answer. Fighting against those negative influences is the answer: by prevention (being so close to God you learn to recognize the evil), by protection (arming yourself with the resources the Holy Spirit has made available) and prayer (asking God to help you through the forest of good and bad). Living the Christian life is hard, but it is worth the effort.

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world…I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one (John 16:33, 17:14-15).

A Personal Prayer Pilgrimage

My own personal prayer pilgrimage began fifty years ago when I told the Lord, “Yes, I do believe.” Having been clearly presented with the love of Christ and His sacrifice on my behalf, that first prayer sprang forth straight from my heart. I am not sure I knew it was a prayer. I just knew I was speaking to God. I needed Him and I told Him so.

Since then, especially in the last few years, I have been on a quest to know more about prayer. I have prayed about prayer, asking God exactly what prayer is and how He wants me to pray. I have studied the subject of prayer in the Bible, even writing a book about the prayers of the apostle Paul. I have read everything I can find written on the subject of prayer. I collect quotes on prayer. I read autobiographies of great prayer warriors. I continue to search the Bible for every clue about the wonderful, mysterious gift of prayer.

Here are some things about prayer I know to be true.

  • Authentic prayer is not complicated. It is a two-way conversation between God and His people. He speaks and I listen. I talk to Him and He hears me.
  • Unless prayer is rooted in a relationship with God through His Son Christ Jesus, it is not true prayer. It is pretense.
  • As my Creator, God already knows everything there is to know about me. He designed prayer as a means for me to get to know Him.
  • Since God is not limited by time or space, He is always accessible. I can talk to Him any time, anywhere in any circumstance.
  • I don’t have to say anything. I can pray silently in my mind, out loud or even in writing. That’s why we have the prayers of the great men of faith in the Bible. God, by whatever means He communicated with them, told them to write their prayers down.
  • Prayer is easier when my focus is on God. Whenever I catch myself thinking, “I wish I had prayed about that,” I realize I have taken my focus off of Him.
  • I have a hard time hearing Him speak when I am disobedient or stubbornly resisting His will. Recognizing His sovereignty is a prerequisite to being able to hear Him when He speaks. Jesus called this having ears to hear.
  • Prayer should be the first thing I do, not the last.
  • When I try to do something by myself, in my own strength, He lets me do it, but I often regret it. The best way to live my life is to talk to Him about everything.
  •  If there is ever a temporary loss of communication, it is not on His part. It is on mine.
  • Jesus taught us to pray to our Father. It helps me to know that He is my Father and there is nothing too small or too big to talk to Him about. I am His child. If it concerns me, it concerns Him.
  • Taking part in corporate prayer – prayer with others – is a privilege and honors God. He calls the place where His people gather a house of prayer.
  • Most of my prayer life is extremely personal. There is no need for pretense with God and no excuse for ignoring Him. I can disappoint Him, but I can never surprise Him. He knows me too well.
  • He delights in hearing from me, just as He does each one of His children.

God can do anything and does what is necessary to bring glory to Himself, but inexplicably (this is part of the mystery), He often choses to act on the prayers of His people. More than once, He said He searched for someone to pray for others – to stand in the gap – and found no one. He wants us to pray not only for ourselves, but for others as well.

He proved that He would listen to His people who did stand in the gap – who pled with Him on the behalf of others: Abraham for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, Moses for the sins of the Israelites, Stephen for those who were stoning him, Paul who prayed specific prayers for the churches and people he knew and loved. God justly punishes those who do not trust Him, but He allows His children to stand in the gap for those who have yet to do so and to stand in the gap for brothers and sisters who are disobedient.

As I pray, I continue to discover new truths about God. I often wish I could hear Him speak clearly and instantly about a certain matter, but know that if there is a delay in an answer, He has a good reason. He sees things from an eternal perspective. Often the delay is a timing issue concerning other people or circumstances.

Some prayers do have immediate answers. I pray about a range of small things during the day and see Him directing as I face the day, look for a bargain while shopping, protection while I run errands, write a blog post, prepare a meal, make or receive a telephone call, write a letter or answer an email.

While I am waiting for specific direction about a very important decision – sometimes life changing ones – these are the things I can count on.

  • I can trust Him. He knows best and if I am truly seeking His will, He will not let me stumble.
  • This life is not all there is. What I am asking for may not be the best thing ultimately for me or for my family. I can’t see what God can see. I don’t know what He knows.
  • His plan is best. It may differ from my idea, but He will change my desires if what I want is not best.
  • God and I have a relationship – a history. When I am faced with a major decision, I reflect on what He has done in the past and thank Him for His gentle direction.

In my own personal prayer pilgrimage, I have discovered that the closer I get to God – the better I know Him – the less formal my prayers are. With utmost respect, I talk to Him like I would my daddy. I find myself saying “thank you” all day long for things I did not even know to pray about. He was looking out for me all along.

God knows me so well that the life verse He gave me helps still my nerves and stop my panic while I am waiting for His answer and watching Him work. I need Him. I tell Him so.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

© Stephanie B. Blake

March 2013

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No Prayer Too Small

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1 NKJV).

Recently I read 100 Amazing Answers to Prayer by William J. Peterson and Randy Peterson.  In a story about George Müller, the authors stated:

Müller kept careful records of everything, including his prayer requests. His prayer notebook had two page entries, one page for requests and the opposite page for God’s answer.  He dated every entry, so no one would question that God had answered.  Müller calculated that during his lifetime fifty thousand of his requests were answered.

George MüIler was a 19th century English evangelist and director of orphanages in Bristol, England. He cared for over 10,000 orphans in his life. He never requested financial support for his work, nor did he ever go into debt.  His ministry of caring for orphans and Bible distribution was solely funded through prayer. Many times God provided the food for the children just as mealtime was approaching. If you have not already done so, I would recommend reading one of the books about his life and dependency upon God.

In The Prayer Driven Life, I mention my own prayer journal.  In 2001 I began keeping a record of some amazing events that God brought about in our family.  Over time it morphed into a prayer journal.  In 2008 my prayer journal became a praise journal where I record praises and thanks to God for His provision and answers to prayer. Although I do not journal every day, I often record His continued involvement in everyday affairs so I will not forget how He has been working.  Reading back through my prayer journal always gives me encouragement.

One very comforting thing is that there is no prayer too small to bring to my Heavenly Father. He cares about everything.  He never says, “I’m too busy. Don’t bother me with those little details.” Just as an earthly father delights when his child tells him everything, God the Father wants to hear from us about anything that concerns us. Although there are still occasions I look back on a situation and say, “I wish I had prayed about that,” I am working to eliminate those times. I take Him literally when He says . . . in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).

In this Reflective Focus, I am sharing from my personal journal and experience a few of the little things that God took care of.  Reading back in my journal made me realize how many times I pray about driving through the rain!  Only two of those instances are recorded here. My prayers are in italics. Regular journal entries are not.

Mission Trip in Austria

Thank You, Lord, for a special treat today.  On the way home from an outing, Rick found a 5€ bill on the sidewalk right in front of him.  We went straight to the Turkish market and bought lunch for 5€.  I laughingly said, “Anyone who said there is no free lunch doesn’t know God!”

You are so good to us, Lord.  Each day there are more opportunities to watch how You provide.  The apartment didn’t have a coffeepot or ice trays.  Tom and Barbara are bringing some over in a few minutes.  Thank You again for Your gracious love!

On a Road Trip in Texas

Tire separation after praying for protection during rain, had a place to pull off, insurance paid for the repair (there was already something that needed to be fixed on that side) and Michelin tire paid for another tire and 75% off another 3 so we have four new tires for about the price of one ($226).  Praise God!

By Myself in Germany

Father, there were other things I wanted to accomplish while I was here alone and You helped me with those. I have found my way to Praktiker and Walmart and IBC Weisbaden.  The day I went to speak to the women, I got turned around and it was REALLY raining but You got me through.  I even thought it was kind of comical.  I asked You to keep the rain away and You wanted me to drive in the rain.  I didn’t want to get lost and I did but You directed me back and I greeted Ilsemarie @exactly 11:30!!

 (I remember praying that I would not be late to the event).

Thank You for reminding me to speak slowly and explain things people might not understand.  And thank You for the flowers and the $75.  I also laughed to myself when they packed my food up in aluminum containers that I can use to bake bread in.  I didn’t want to ask Rick to bring bread pans or buy any and You provided these. 

I am so aware, Father, that You cover me with abundance and frugal luxuries.  The table by my bedside was exactly what I wanted (not needed) and You had it sitting there in the junk shop waiting for me.

Please help us not to have such a bad time with jetlag this time.  Thank You!!

Trip across the Ocean

Again, Lord, as I read over these requests, I am in awe of how You answer prayer!  Rick and I had virtually no problem with jetlag this time.  Thank You!

Preparing for another trip

Help us as we get ready to go to Berlin and Vienna.  If may not seem like a big thing, but I need help packing!  Help me to know what to leave and what to take since the allowance on Air Berlin is so small.  I pray that we will not have to pay any extra.

Note on above request: I did not record the answer, but we didn’t have to pay extra for the luggage.

Mission Trip to Ukraine

In the apartment where we are staying, there are many books.  The missionary who rents this apartment has many books that we have and others of interest.  She had a book, Secrets of the Vine, that helped me prepare for the upcoming brunch at ICF Oberursel.  Only God could have placed that book here for me!

Alone Again in Germany

I spent yesterday working on the prayers of Paul and today working on laundry and some financial things as well as online research.  Before I forgot a couple of special prayers that God answered before and during the conference, I wanted to record them.

Before leaving for the conference, I took Rick to the airport and parked in the 15 minute parking spot.  I found him the first time I came in the airport, but went and fed the meter four more times and never found him again.  He had a terrible experience in the airport and the airplane, but thank You, Lord, he made it home safely. However, all the running back and forth put terrible blisters on my feet. I had worn shoes without socks and rubbed my feet raw.  The blisters were still not healed before the conference.  So the day before I left for Dubai, I went shopping to pick up a few things and just asked the Lord that if it were possible for me to find a pair of shoes that would match the clothes I had planned to take, that would be great.  Wonder of all wonders, in a discount store, the Lidl, which just has odds and ends of anything other than groceries, had the same color shoes I needed in my size that had no heel in the back!! I wore them and was comfortable the whole time.  Thank You, Lord, for taking care of small details.

The other prayer answered was indeed for a very small request, but very significant because of how it happened.  My roommate in Dubai tied her necklace in knots and could not get it undone. She had been working on it for a long time before I volunteered to help.  However, I could not get it either.  It was very tight and I could not see it.  She took it over again and then finally said, “I guess I will just cut out the knot.”  I told her to let me try one more time.  I struggled with it for a few more minutes, then said out loud, “I know this is a little thing, Lord, but I could use some help here.”  IMMEDIATELY, the knot loosened up and I was able to remove the necklace for her.  I used this as an illustration in my next seminar as to how God is concerned about the little thing that concerns us.  Praise Him for being a God who cares so much!

During a Visit to My In-Laws

When we arrived at my father-in-law’s home, he was distressed because he had lost his hearing aid.  There were quite a few family members in his home and he couldn’t hear what people were saying.  I then said out loud, “Lord, he really needs his hearing aid.  Where could it be?”  My sister-in-law, who heard me gasped when I bent down, lifted a throw rug and picked up the hearing aid handing it to my father-in-law. I said, “Did you see that?  Isn’t God good?”

Two Bars of Soap

While preparing for a trip to Cuba, the last thing I did before closing my suitcase was to ask God, “Is there anything else I need to put in there?”   The answer was “two bars of soap.” During the trip, we discovered a family who had been without soap in their home for a few days.  Then I knew why God had said “two bars of soap.”  I gave them to my friend and told her how God spoke to me in TX about her need in Cuba.

This has just been a glimpse into how I am assured God is concerned about the smallest details of my life.  The same is true for you. Nothing concerning you is inconsequential to God. My prayer is that you have been encouraged to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

© Stephanie B. Blake

October 2009

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Driven by Prayer

My book, The Prayer Driven Life,  examines basic questions we all have about prayer. What is prayer? How do we pray? Why do we pray? What difference does it make? By examining the prayer life of the great apostle Paul, you and I discover some great truths about how to relate to God through prayer.

I chose The Prayer Driven Life for the name of the book for several reasons. Paul’s life was driven by his relationship to God and their conversations. Also, I knew that if we followed his example, it would be possible for us to have that same kind of relationship. When a life is truly driven by prayer, the promise of Proverbs 3:5-6 becomes a reality. God wants to direct our paths.

I also want my life to be prayer driven. As much as I wish I could say that everything I do is bathed in prayer, I must admit that it is not always. However, I know that everything should be bathed in prayer. The more my life is prayer driven, the closer I get to God. As I journey through life, I am learning just how important prayer is and what a wonderful privilege it is to be able to speak to Him and to hear His replies.

I can testify that when I have made prayer a priority in my life, God’s presence has been more real and His answers have sustained me.  Space would not permit me to include all the ways He has answered prayers for me and my family: my beloved father, my best friend and husband, my two sons, their wives and my incredible three grandsons. However, I would like to give you one example.

When my sons were toddlers, I started praying for the women that they would marry.  I figured it was never too soon for that request!  Now they are married and have sons of their own.  I can see the hand of God on their lives every step of the way, but especially in their choice of godly women who love them and their sons.

One daughter-in-law was being prepared for us right in front of our eyes.  She and my son played together as children in our church daycare.  We have pictures of them as they celebrated second and third birthdays together. When they were both three years old, we moved away.  In the providence of God, however, our families lived in the same city again when they were teenagers.  They were part of a wonderful group of young people at a church where my husband was pastor.  It was not until they were ready to graduate from college, though, that our son told us that he was going to ask her to marry him.  The joy that filled our hearts (my husband, me and our youngest son) was nearly tangible!

Our other daughter-in-law came to our family after our son was already in the Air Force.  He had also been praying for a godly wife.  At a singles class in church, he met a girl that he was immediately drawn to.  He was impressed not only with her physical beauty, but her inner spiritual strength. The deep friendship that was formed at first eventually developed into a romance. You can imagine the rest.  I thank God every day for how He answered those prayers.

I have observed that in the big and little issues of life (and everything in between), God is pleased when we talk to Him.  As our loving Father, He responds with the answer that is best for us and for His perfect plan for our lives.

My hope is that you, too, want to know God better through a special relationship with Him which includes prayer.  The apostle Paul said that we should rejoice always; pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJV).  If you and I would follow his suggestion, that would make every day a wonderful prayer walk with our gracious God.

© Stephanie B. Blake

March 2009

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