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Category: Prayer

5 Things that Reconnect Me to God

There are reminders of God everywhere. Around any corner, in any conversation, bursting from any thought. These reminders can reconnect us to God at any moment, if we notice them. To find out where to look, and what some of these reminders are for me, keep reading!

Knowing Where to Look

As I read the Bible, sometimes I look for ‘pictures’ of what I am learning. Often, they are obvious in the story, but sometimes I pick something random for myself. It looks a little different each time I do it, but the point is to pick a cue. Then, at any point when I see that cue, I am reminded about God and start a conversation with Him. The cue instigates, and we reconnect.

Tents

Recently I read Psalm 15:1 which says “O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?” I wrote in my journal about how living just in a tent with God was much more desirable than living in any castle. The truth for that day was about how near and present God is. And so I decided tents would remind me of God’s nearness, and how much better it is to ‘rough it’ with God than to ‘live it up’ on my own.

It’s been three weeks, and I still haven’t seen a tent, but I’m on high alert. And as long as I’m on the lookout, I don’t actually need to see the tent to remember how close God is. Any reminder will do, and suddenly I’m thinking about God’s nearness again.

Other Reminders to Reconnect

I don’t do this every time I read the Bible. (That would be a bit too much for me to keep track of!) It would be too hard to retain each one. But every few months something new sticks out.

Over the years, different visuals have drawn my attention back to God in different ways.

  • Nebula. Pictures of galaxies and nebula have become a reminder that God’s got this. No matter how big my problem is, God can handle it. If he can handle these giant things in the universe, he can surely handle my day to day problems. [ Related Post: Nebulae]
  • Storms are a reminder of how intensely God fights to defend me from sin (which is my enemy) when I call on him. Fiercely, intentionally, successfully.
  • The sun reminds me of how radiantly glorious God is, so radiant I can hardly look at him.
  • The wind reminds me of God’s nearness and power in the Spirit.

Eyes Open

The trick, for me, has been twofold: remembering to read the Bible with my eyes open, and remembering to go through my day with my eyes open. It’s easy to get into the habit of reading the Bible where we aren’t really paying attention, and it’s just as easy to get caught up in the routine of our days. But if we’re going to notice God and reconnect with him daily, then we’re going to need to pay attention. 

So now I’m curious! What are some everyday things that remind you about God? How did that come about?

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The Day I Stopped Journaling My Prayers

I used to journal my prayers. I had a nice composition book, a great pen, and I was ready to go. And for a season, it worked.

What’s great about journaling prayers is that it gave me accountability. I could always go back and see which days I’d prayed as part of my quiet time, and even see what I’d been praying about.

It was also helpful to have a record of what I prayed for, something tangable to look back at and see how God had answered.

The Journaling Got in the Way

Pretty soon, the writer in me took over. I stopped praying from my heart because I knew I’d look back at what I’d written.

I slowed down my scribbles to make them more readable in the future, and kept losing my train of thought.

While my pen went forward with the prayer, my eyes scanned what I’d already written- was there a better word choice? Could I arrange that sentence better? Does that order make sense? I was editing my prayers, and no longer really praying. The habit was getting in the way of the relationship.

Oh, I’m sure God heard my prayers. And I know he met me where I was and goodness he answered so many of those prayers. But there came a day where I had to stop journaling if my relationship with God was going to move forward.

So I Stopped Journaling

I stopped recording my words so I could relax and be genuine. And when I stopped journaling, I felt closer to God. There was now no longer paper and pen between us, no formality or ritual. It was just Jesus and me, talking. And it was beautiful.

These days, I do a little bit of both. To an extent, writing while praying keeps me focused. I just have to keep an eye on myself to notice when it’s becoming a distraction rather than a help. Tools are great so long as they are helpful. The second they get in the way, throw them out. So, some days I journal. Some days I write bullet points. And some days I forgo pen and paper entirely.

 

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God wants these three things for you

Sometimes, figuring out God’s will seems daunting and complicated. But don’t worry– He was pretty clear in the Bible about many things He wants for everyone. He comes right out and tells us His will. Now, that doesn’t make them ‘easy’, or simple.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is such an example. These three lifestyle changes are dramatic.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

It’s a tall order, but it’s God’s will.

What not to do

Generally, when I read verses like these, I get pretty hard on myself. I zoom my thoughts in on everything I’m doing wrong, or sub par, and chide myself.

The point isn’t to bemoan how poorly we may practice them right now, but to aim for them. Shoot for progress. Now, it is important to notice I’m not hitting the mark, but if I stop there I’ve got my back to the gospel!

The whole reason God cooked up this plan for our salvation was because we couldn’t ‘hit the mark’. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s forgiveness of our sins, we are made right with God (Romans 10:4). And now the process has started (Philippians 1:6). We are a new creation(1 Corinthians 5:17), and we are becoming more Christlike (Ephesians 4:15).

What God wants

I looked at this verse carefully and thought about why God might want each of these things for us. Why would He want us to rejoice always? Why would He want us to pray continually? Or to give thanks in all circumstances?

Perhaps, in “rejoicing always”, we have a better attitude. If, no matter what, I rejoice, I must be looking at something beyond what’s going on in our world and in my life at the surface level. The Bible tells us to rejoicepraygivethanksbe ready to give a reason for the hope that we have– maybe this hope in Jesus results in rejoicing?

Then there’s “pray continually.” To pray all the time means God has my attention all the time. That neither the good, the bad, the boring, nor the exciting things in life draw my attention away from God. Since prayer is not made up of only talking to God, the continual prayer probably consists of a lot of listening.

And finally, “give thanks in all circumstances”.  Not necessarily for everything that happens, but, for sure, in the midst of it. Am I able to find something to thank God for, no matter how good or how bad my situation seems? Sometimes, your thanksgivings might be limited to how you have seen God move in the past, or to His character as revealed in the Bible. It is enough.

Today

The words ‘always’, ‘continually’, and ‘in all circumstances’ make these daunting. But God’s will is good, and progress toward it is beautiful. Today, I will not focus only on where I’m failing. Today, I will ask God to help me. Maybe I’ll rejoice more often today, or pray through more situations, or thank God one or two times more than I did yesterday.

It is progress.

I won’t give up. When it gets hard, I’ll turn back to God and ask Him for help (again).

And then I will make more progress.

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Ask God, so He can answer (A lesson from Narnia)

I sometimes wonder why I have to ask God for the things He wants to give me. It seems roundabout and backwards and counter-productive. Why in the world doesn’t He just give and provide as He so badly craves to, rather than waiting for me to ask? It could—and does—take me a tragically long time to come around to actually asking.

He waits to be asked

In the book The Magician’s Nephew, part of C.S. Lewis’ world of Narnia, there comes a time when Digory and Polly are hungry. They’re off on a quest in the mountains with Fledge, and it’s evening and they have no food. Fledge, being a horse, is munching on freshly created grass, but the kids’ stomachs are growling. This is their conversation:

““Well I do think someone might have arranged about our meals,” said Digory.

“I’m sure Aslan would have, if you’d asked him,” said Fledge.

“Wouldn’t he know without being asked?” said Polly.

“I’ve no doubt he would,” said the Horse (still with his mouth full). “But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked.”” (Chapter 12)

It’s an interesting thought. Samuel Chadwick says something similar in “The Path of Prayer”.

“Why pray if He knows? Because asking is something different from giving information. God waits to be asked before He gives the gifts that supply man’s deepest needs.” (p.95)

When I first read “The Path of Prayer” I remember stopping when I came to the line “asking is something different from giving information.” And when I read the book again this summer, that line, again, stopped me in my tracks. Quite a different perspective on asking!

Will you ask?askingisdifferent

God knows what’s going on, and He knows what I need. I tend to doubt that, putting on my blinders when things start to go askew, but I shouldn’t. Never, ever doubt that. God has the information, but does He have my permission? Will I humble myself and ask for what my God has to give me and wants to give me?

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When you have zero desire to read the Bible

There are many reasons you may not want to read the Bible. In the past, for me, the reasons ranged from laziness to shame to fear. Maybe it’s been a while since you learned something while you read– the Bible seems trite and familiar. Or you just haven’t felt connected to God, and because of the absence of an emotional high, the practice grew tiresome and you gave it up. Perhapse you got busy and, quite accidentally, stopped reading. Life moved on and you never got around to picking the habit back up.

You and I are not alone. Do not despair, do not be ashamed, and do not give up.

Now, here’s the surprising part:

You want to want to read the Bible. Why else are you reading this? You just don’t want it enough to act on it yet. Maybe you’re nervous that God wont show up when you finally do. Believe me, I’ve put off reading my Bible for weeks for that very reason. Yet, somewhow, I still crave the desire to read God’s word.

How to build your desire to pray

And this is what I have larned: I need to stop thinking about it, and go pull out my Bible. But before I crack open a page, I pause. I pray, asking God to meet me, asking Him to build in me the desire to read. And then, as I find where I left off, I make myself expect to actually encounter God in those pages. Then I read slowly, taking it all in. These people lived and made these choices and God thought it important to tell us about it.

Then, the tricky part. Don’t focus on the results, focus on the process. The results will follow. The trick to keeping it from turning into a dead, meaningless act lies in the praying, in trusting God to really actually meet with you. Day in, and day out.

Dont give up. Start with prayer. Expect to meet with God. Your desire will grow, and it will come and it will go. Don’t let that keep you from reading what He has said. (If you don’t know what to read, check out this post where I offer 7 suggestions.)

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What they never told me about prayer (and I had to learn on my own)

I remember praying one day, a couple years ago, and I realized I wasn’t actually praying– just spewing wish-lists into thin air instead of meeting with God and talking with Him. I was angry at myself—I was doing something wrong, again!  How long has this been going on, I wondered. I panicked, realizing I didn’t feel God’s presence. How long have I been intending to meet with Him, but proceeded to ignore Him? Had I ever really prayed? IMG_1342

In the midst of this mental chaos I remembered how it used to be. I remembered taking my striped orange notebook to record my thoughts and keep track of my prayer requests and how God was working. I remembered feeling close to God, I remembered lists of answered prayer, I remembered the peaceful smile I couldn’t wipe off my face.

And now it was all gone. How in the world had I wandered so far? When did I make it about my lists and not about my God? I wanted to go back to how it was before, hop in a time machine and live in the past where everything was good and right and hadn’t yet been broken.

Trying to fix it

Obviously I nixed that idea (The Doctor doesn’t seem to come to America much, does he…). Instead, I tried to recreate how it used to be. But I had changed and grown and living at home is different from living on a college campus a three-minute walk from the prayer chapel. I finally realized I’d have to start again, move forward, and trust God. As I went on, the most important lesson I learned, I think, is to keep my eyes on Jesus.

I also tried not to hold a grudge against all the Christians I knew who hadn’t warned me about this, who didn’t caution me that it’s easy to stop actually meeting with God, and that the way I’d pray would change over the years, and that making prayer a habit is actually a good thing.

So, I made myself a list—all the things I did learn through experience, the things I wanted to make sure I didn’t hide from anyone. This list has grown and changed since then, but I want to share the current form with you. A few are listed below– if you want the complete list (12 instead of just 5), click the button at the end of the post to download the free PDF.

What they never told me, but I did learn

-Don’t focus on learning to pray; focus on praying. Learn methods and schedule your prayer, sure, but stay dead focused on your relationship with God.

-Pre-written prayers have a place. Use them. But know that your own prayers are vital to your relationship with God.

-A prayer doesn’t have to be spoken.

-The more you pray out loud, the more comfortable it is.

-Prayer becomes more comfortable the more you do it. Some days it’s hard, and some days it’s easy.

 

If you’d like to download this list of truths about prayer, to have as a reminder, you can do so by clicking here:
Don’t stay stuck. Download the 12 things I learned about prayer!

 

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When all seems lost, remember God’s character

We treat our identity in Christ as if it is the silver bullet to sin and overcoming life’s hardships and tragedies. While I agree that being confident in what God says about me is important, it is by no means the solution to all problems. When I’m drowning in a spiritual trial, wouldn’t it be better to focus on God’s character– His determined love, His strength, or even His wisdom? After all, He’s the only one who can actually get me out.

Know God’s Character

There is a time to remember the truth about me, and there is a time to remember the truth about God. When life is not what you expected, when you are surrounded by turmoil and pain, that is a time to remember who God is– what God’s character is. Remember all you have seen God do. Remember the truth about God with gritted teeth and white knuckles and don’t let go.

When you remember what God has done, it inspires a hope, a confidence, a certainty that you can trust Him yet again.

Because Life Stinks

It may seem as if everything is swarming around you and spiraling out of control. Maybe it seems that every time you get your head above the waves something grabs you and drags you under again. David knew this feeling too. He says,

“the waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me (2 Samuel 22:5-6).”

David knew he couldn’t survive on his own so he called out to God, and boy did God move.

God Cares

David proceeds to use the imagery of a thunderstorm to capture the intense ferocity of God fighting against enemies.

“In my distress I called upon the Lordto my God I called. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry came to his ears. . . The Lord thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered his voice. And he sent out arrows and scattered them; lightning, and routed them. (2 Samuel 22:7, 14-15).”

Contrast this aggression with the interaction between God and David:

“He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me (2 Samuel 22:17-20).”

 

See the gentleness, see the care, and know God treats you the same way. Cling to that knowledge like its the only way to survive this stormy ocean of life– because it is.

So will you call upon the Lord? Will you count on Him to save you, even if it seems all is lost?

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