devotional, encouragement, midlife faith

The Patterns of Prayer

It’s easy to realize we need to pray more, but how often do you find yourself kneeling beside your bed, hands folded … and nothing comes out of your mouth? Or do you just spout off items like you’re reading a grocery list? We’ve heard that we can just talk to God like we’re talking with a friend, but that can seem irreverent. Is there a special formula?

The good news is that there’s no special formula you have to use for God to hear your prayers. But here are a few patterns you can use to help you begin.

The A.C.T.S. of Prayer

·         Adoration  – Put praise before victory: “When he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever” (2 Chronicles 20:21).
·         Confession – Repent from letting fear rule our minds. “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
·         Thanksgiving – Give thanks in all things: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
·         Supplication (requests) – Notice that making our requests should be last when we come before God in prayer. If we start with our laundry list, often we’re tempted to stop there. But when we first adore God for who He is, confess our sins to open the communication lines between us, give thanks for what God has already done in our lives, and THEN bring our requests before Him, we’ll find that our wants are more aligned with His will. James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask.”

Here’s an example of how to use the A.C.T.S. acronym to help you pray:

Heavenly Father, You are omniscient. You know what my future holds. I confess that I am letting worry overrule the knowledge of your faithfulness in this trying situation. Thank You for delivering me from fear and always providing for me. I ask that You calm my anxious mind and make a way for me to be able to make it through this week.

(The ACTS of Prayer courtesy of my friend and coworker Billie Jo.)

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Matthew 6:9-13

Within this familiar prayer are all the elements we need to approach God confidently and release all the blessings He wants to give us. We start with recognizing God in proper reverence, but also identifying our relationship with Him. We move on to reverencing His holiness. Prayer is about changing our hearts and attitudes to prepare for God’s perfect plans for our lives. We can then concede that we trust His character and His knowledge of the future. Resting in God’s plans instead of striving for our own will bring the peace that we crave.

After we pray these things, then we are ready to request what we need – for ourselves and our loved ones. We must also make sure to request forgiveness for our sins and ensure that we aren’t withholding forgiveness from others. We need to learn to embrace God’s grace and to extend grace to others. By requesting deliverance from temptation and the evil one, we’re asking God to protect us from all harm, something that often worries us. After dwelling on earthly things, finish by refocusing on heavenly things.

Pray the Psalms

So many times in Scripture we read about David being afraid and exhausted, and he expressed his fears and disappointments with great depth and feeling. To make these prayers your own, just add in your name or your loved one’s name.

Here are some helpful Psalms to pray through when you’re anxious and worried:

·         Psalms 3 and 10 – prayer for deliverance from enemies and tough situations.
·         Psalm 17 – prayer vindication when you’ve been wronged.
·         Psalm 23 – prayer for comfort when you’re exhausted and distressed.
·         Psalm 57 – prayer for God’s favor and mercy.
·         Psalm 61 and 91 – prayer for protection in dangerous situations.
·         Psalm 121 – prayer help and guidance when you don’t know what to do.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4:8

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.

Psalm 107:6

The Name of Jesus

Just say the name of Jesus. When you can’t form the words to say anything more, just speak the name of Jesus. He is enough. At the name of Jesus, darkness fades and demons flee! Amen!

When fear steals your words, the Holy Spirit will pray for you: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26 ESV).

Powerful Prayers

Pray for others as God brings them to mind; you can even set a reminder to pray on your phone. Pray for others as soon as they ask for prayer. That’s the best, most important thing we can do for others who find themselves overwhelmed by fear.

If you journal your prayer requests, prayers, and answers (with dates), your faith will increase as you can look back and see God’s answers.

I hope these ideas help you turn your words into powerful prayers for yourself and others in times of fear. Keep praying and keep believing. God will answer your prayers!

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

1 John 5:14-15 ESV
devotional, encouragement, healing

The Purpose of Prayer

We know that prayer is an edict, an expression, and an exchange, now let’s look at what it accomplishes.

Prayer transports us into the presence of God. What we need more than anything else – more than money, a new job, or healing – is God Himself. If I have Jesus, I have all I need for peace, joy, and rest. Remember that old song “Give Me Jesus”? Let that be our song and prayer today.

Prayer takes our eyes off ourselves and puts them on Jesus – the one who will calm our storms. Remember when the disciples and Jesus were in a boat crossing to the other side of the lake and a storm kicked up? While the disciples were panicking, Jesus was sleeping. But when they woke Him up, all He had to do was command the wind and the sea, “Peace, be still! And the wind ceased and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39).

Notice that Jesus didn’t magically transport them away from the storm. Nor did He leave them alone in the storm. He simply spoke, and the storm stopped. Now, Jesus might not speak to the storms you’re facing, but He will speak to you, “Peace, be still!” And in His presence, you will find that your soul can be calm even amid chaos.

As Paul reminds us, the peace of God will calm our minds when we submit our requests to God through prayer:

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

In the Old Testament as well, the prophet Isaiah points out, “You [God] will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You” (26:3).

When we learn how to rest in God’s presence, our minds will be transformed from a muddled mess to a certainty of peace:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2 ESV

Come to God expectantly. What did you receive? Let me know in the comments!

devotional, midlife faith

The Power of Prayer

Photo by Tara Winstead on Pexels.com

How often have we heard (or said), “I’ll pray; I’m sorry I can’t do more”? Here’s the thing, though, prayer is the single most important thing we can do to combat worry – in our own lives and the lives of others.

Prayer is foundational to the Christian life, yet many people don’t know its true purpose and often feel like they don’t know how to pray. It’s not like sharing your troubles with a friend over a cup of tea.

First, prayer is a privilege as well as a command: Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12 ESV).

Second, prayer, in its very essence, is communicating with our loving, Heavenly Father. It’s fellowship with the God of the universe. He is waiting for us to approach Him: And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). It’s meant to be a two-way conversation, so we need to make sure to listen to God’s response through meditating on Scripture.

Third, prayer is giving our troubles to our Creator and the perfect Lover of our Soul, so we don’t have to carry their weight: “Cast[ing] all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7 ESV). The idea here of “casting” is throwing or placing upon, so we’re giving up the responsibility for our problems. Hallelujah!

Prayer is an exchange. We leave our burdens, worries, and sin in the hands of God. We come away with oil of joy and the garment of praise.

F.B. Meyer

Jesus invites us to exchange our burdens for His:   Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Sometimes it seems as if our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling, and we wonder whether prayer really works. The resounding answer is yes! “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). The answer may not be what we want or when we want it, but God always hears and answers our prayers: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14 ESV).

Book Reviews

The Most Misunderstood Women in the Bible

Mary DeMuth did it again! Her superb storytelling skills brought real women from the Bible to life in a fresh way. Women are vital to God’s story of redemption woven through the entire Bible, yet many of them were mistreated and misunderstood. I mean, I’m not sure I’d want to be known as Rahab the harlot forever! After all, “No matter what your past, your present and future have a purpose, thanks to Jesus.” Thank you, Jesus!

I love the way Mary was able to connect the issues these women faced to issues that I face today. I gained a new appreciation for Eve and Bathsheba especially as I have tended to see them in a negative light. And I’m not so intimidated by the Proverbs 31 woman anymore. You’ll love seeing how your life intersects with these 10 biblical women too.