Tag Archives: prayer

midnight prayer

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Jesus

There’s no real place to begin. You are great. Thank you for reminding me of your unfailing love; love this isn’t determined by my performance, or even my attitude in approaching or obeying. I feel so inadequate, but I know that’s a lie. I am inadequate, but I’m also dead. You are the One alive in me; I have been crucified and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. You have blessed me with every spiritual blessing, including the strength to obey when I’m out of my league (because you are never out of Yours), and the Spirit to align my heart with yours. Holy Spirit, please do so. In my innermost being I long to worship Jesus in Spirit and Truth. Pierce through the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow; discern the thoughts and intentions of my heart. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! O God, how I need you. I need you for survival. I need you for satisfaction. I have tasted and seen, and now where else can I go? Thank you for never giving up on me, for never relenting in your pursuit of my heart. You have captured me, and your fetters of love will never let me go, no matter how hard I fight against and no matter how passive I become. You are the one who is holding me. It’s amazing. It’s my only hope. And, because of this, I will be singing of You forever. Forever.

I lay my prideful obsession with others’ approval at your feet. It’s all the same war, which you have already won, and yet I still try to pick up my wooden sword and flirt with the sin that only has my death intended. Help me to remember that amplification of myself is only resulting in death. Give me spiritual discipline and endurance to fight against this body of death and walk in newness of life, in step with Your Spirit.

I trust you have gone before me and I know you go with me.

Heart Condition – a prayer –

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Father,

I’m at a loss. This is such a new thing for me. I can’t remember ever being so cranky and easily frustrated as my baseline. What is this?!? It’s been at least 8 days of constantly feeling put out by whatever happens. All sorts of questions have come up in my mind as to where this is coming from, and so far, no answers. Why am I acting on such a short fuse???? I’ve tried to fix it by purposefully serving, hoping my heart will match up. But it’s not.

But, finally, today I think I heard the Holy Spirit’s soft whisper: maybe this is the end of my honeymoon phase. Maybe the “new and shiny” of my life here in Ohio is starting to wear off. Just look at how I approach my days, just desperate things to fill time. I get my homework done, and then I’m at a loss for what to do. Sometimes I try to distract myself with my favorite drug: social interaction. Or I work on one of the dozen projects we have available in our new place. But, not even a month into this behavior, and I’m already coming up dry. There’s nothing in those wells. They’ve been emptied for me. The places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I’ve learned…. And now I’m wondering if this heart condition is so much more multifaceted than I’d initially bargained for.

What if I’m desperate for my home, for my friends, for my real family, and I’m not letting myself feel that hole? Why if my conscious attempts at filling the void are failing, so I’m always angry? And what if I’m acting out on that anger with Lauren because she’s the only one here who really knows me, so I trust her? What if this transition isn’t going as smoothly as I’d thought? What if I’m afraid of letting myself hurt? What if I’m afraid of being vulnerable with You? What if I don’t trust that You’re safe enough to carry my weighty pain?

The only thing I do know is that Jesus is enough. Jesus is enough. And you promise that I will bear the right fruit if I abide in you.

I’m sick of this nastiness. I’m sick of the fruit of “out of the heart the mouth speaks”. My own heart tastes filthy inside me. I am not at peace here.

Jesus, heal me. But please use this heart condition as a call to you, not just as a new means of symptom relief. Help me, guide me to the still waters where I can rest in safety under your shadow.

Oh I need You. So deeply. So fully. So complexly.

prayer

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Lord, I believe you love me. Not because I am lovable; your love for me is the overflow of your nature. You are pure, holy, self-giving love.

Lord, you understand me perfectly. You know my needs, my problems, my potential. You see my circumstances; where I am right now, where I’ve come from, my past and my heritage. You understand my mind, how I think and why I think as I do; the lens and filter through which I interpret reality.

You know the things that are too painful or frightening for me to even consider.

You know my body, my temperament, my hopes, my dreams, my longings, fears and regrets, the constellations of my relationships, past and present. Lord, you understand all these things in perfect, loving clarity.

You see the secrets of my heart, things no one else knows about me. Things I do not even know about myself. All this is uniquely me; you know perfectly and understand completely and lovingly.

But, Lord, your love is not sentimental. It is intentional. You see not only what I am, you see what I could be. You see what I will become without you. You love me too much to leave me on my own.

Lord, you also see the things you want me to do, the people you want me to touch. Left as I am, I could never be an instrument of your grace to others. Left as I am I will be an impending stumbling block. You loved the world too much to leave me as I am.

Lord, you are helping me see why and how you want to work in my life. I need your truth, and your love. I need to know my true condition, and your true character. Your purposes and your provision.

I also need to know, and feel, your steadfast love. Without the assurance of your love, I know I could never face the truth about me. Together, your truth and love prepare me to get honest with myself, and serious with you, so I can start cooperating with your design for my transformation.

Lord, it seems foolish, but I often need to remind myself that you are competent. You really are able to accomplish all you intend for me, and for your whole creation. There is no limit to your wisdom, your strength, or your ability to act. In any context, at any time. You created all this; how can I affirm you as Creator, yet doubt you as Redeemer?

You have already given me everything I need for life and godliness. You are able to save, to the utmost.

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(This prayer was read at the end of a sermon I just listened to. The Pastor referenced that it was from a book, but didn’t say which one, so the author is unknown.)

Anticipation: Day 5, Lifting Up

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Today’s verses are one of my favorite passages in Isaiah. Every time I read them, I get goosebumps as I hear Jesus speaking these very words in a synagogue in Nazareth hundreds of years after they were first proclaimed:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.”                Isaiah 61:1-3

My God, I will never get tired of hearing these words, for they are truth! You have brought good news to us, those poor in spirit. Jesus, You are the One whom God set apart, anointed, from before the beginning of time. I praise You that are both the bringer of good news and the actual good news itself. Your humility amazes me, and I’m in tears because of your ceaseless tenderness toward me. You have comforted me when I’m brokenhearted; you have released me from my captivity and keep freeing me when I let myself become imprisoned in sin. Your favor is what brings me out of mourning. My hope is in You; your promise of redemption is a crown of beauty rising from the ashes in my life, a joyous blessing, and I will always respond in festive praise. My I grow in righteousness, watered by Your Spirit as we walk together, into a great oak, planted as a monument to Your glory.

I want, even though I don’t want to

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Tonight I’m frustrated with myself.  In a relationship-hyper-focused culture like ours, being single can make one feel awkward at times to say the least. As one of the only 20-something single gals among my local circle of late-20’s-married-with-kids friends, I often find myself in the middle of conversations about marriage, child bearing and parenting. And, for the most part, I really don’t mind; often I rather enjoy not only the company, but the opportunity to contemplate and discuss things I wouldn’t normally be inclined to ponder. All in all, I’ve got the “single-and-happy-to-be” role down pat. But, believe me, there are times, more than I want to admit, where I’m not content with where God has me, and I’d much rather fill my need for acceptance and comfort with some guy (real or imaginary) than allow myself to be raw and patient before my Father.  I know that this compromise is ultimately dissatisfying, but sometimes I’m tired of fighting, tired of holding every thought captive, and I’d much rather sink into the mud of what’s “easiest”.

My best friend (who, ironically enough, has just recently gotten engaged) and I have been praying about this nagging thought pattern this summer. And, by God’s grace, I’ve starting seeing remarkable changes; I think I’m starting to really actualize the gifts and potential in being single. Even better, contentment has started forming in my heart and mind. But this evening, as I was driving home, I realized with annoying clarity, that though I may be making progress, I am by no means finished with this war for contentment. The Holy Spirit brought to memory the motivations behind certain actions and desires I have had lately, all pointing back to my deep-rooted need for attention, affection and, ultimately, acceptance, and how I’ve been wanting a guy to give that to me. Recognizing these desires for what they are, and realizing my sin in seeking satisfaction in areas and persons other than their Creator, I, once again, brought them before my Father, thanking Him for giving me so much grace as I continue to make the same mistakes as I grow. Asking Him to change my heart and mind so I don’t try to stuff these deep desires away, or excuse them as trivial and/or inconsequential, but instead allow Him to be “The Life” I so desperately need (just like Justin spoke about this morning in John 11).

I just recently discovered this song, and I love it because it voices the desires of my heart in this season so simply. I keep seeing the same hang ups in my life, the same misappropriated wants within me,  and my deepest desire is to allow Jesus to be the fulfillment of those desires. Only by tasting His goodness will I no longer want.

From the love of my own comfort
From the fear of having nothing 
From a life of worldly passions
Deliver me, oh God
From the need to be understood
From the need to be accepted
From fear of being lonely
Deliver me, oh God
And I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

Vulnerable

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I learned something today. You know how people always say that your perception of God often times is based on your perception of your parents (often, your father)? I never really believed that. I’ve had a pretty broken relationship with both of my parents for most of my life, but my walk with God has grown steadily stronger and stronger. I always figured I was the weird exception to this rule; maybe because I’ve been a believer since I was 6 years old. Maybe because I’ve been walking God for quite some time… But, through that intimacy, God showed me that I am not the exception.

For the past 6 months I’ve been helping with my church’s youth sunday school, which pretty much means sitting in with them and trying to facilitate discussion. And, of course, I’ve been learning like crazy during this “teaching” experience; every week, God convicts/encourages me somehow through our lesson. Recently, we’ve been going through Francis Chan’s “Surrender” series, in which students are challenged to surrender every aspect of their lives to God. This week we watched the last video: Surrender Self. As the video was ending, the narrator asked us a very simple question: What areas of your life are you clinging to? In what aspects of your life are you resisting surrender? Nothing immediately came to mind, and so I prayed that simple sentence: God, where am I not surrendered to you? Is there anything I’m clinging to, any place I’m resisting you? And He answered me. It was a beautiful moment; only a few times in my life have I “heard” God’s voice so clearly. I can’t really describe it, other than to say that if it were any more obvious, I would have heard a spoken voice. Almost instantly after praying that simple prayer, a thought popped into my head, and I knew it was from God. It was so unexpected, so out-of-nowhere, I knew it couldn’t have come from me.

My mind flashed back to multiple experiences these past few weeks, all with the same thought-process. Those spare evenings or spaces of time I’ve had recently, times I knew I spend with God, but chose not to. “I don’t have enough energy,” I’d tell myself. “I just need some down-time. I’ve been going and going and going.” And that may be true; everyone needs down-time, especially over-doers like me. But this morning, the Holy Spirit gave me some insight, His perspective on this situations; that soft, clear voice whispered in my head: Jessi, you aren’t vulnerable with me.

Lightbulb. And then I got it. This is one area where my childhood is affecting my walk with Jesus: vulnerability. I did not grow up in an emotionally safe environment, so I developed a “survival mode” in which I lived for many years: ignore the feelings of injustice, anger and pain I have inside me, and dismiss them by telling myself, “You’re over-reacting”, “This won’t help anything”, or “You need to respect your parents”. Throughout this year, I’ve started to realize that even though I may think I’m not angry anymore, simply dissmissing my hurt feelings does not make the pain, or the root issue, dissappear. The healthy way of dealing with those feelings is to face them, not hide from them. I don’t have to hide anymore. In the past, I suppressed those feelings for fear of them overwhelming me; the situations causing those feelings weren’t bound to change, so I was afraid that if I acknowledged those feelings, I’d be stuck in them, just like I was stuck in my situation. But things are different now, and it’s time to start peeling off that “survival mode”. With the Holy Spirit’s empowering, I’m gonna start cutting those strings and leave the old habits behind.

God showed me my own reasoning in those moments these past few weeks. “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Hebrews 4:12.  My “I don’t have enough energy” was really “I don’t want to put the effort in to fight my natural inclinations and be real with God. I don’t want to take the time and energy to present what’s really worrying me to Him and actually leave it at His feet. I’d much rather continue in my ‘survival mode’ and try to distract myself.” And that dissatisfied feeling I”d have after spending that hour “relaxing” I’d just dismiss by telling myself that I must be tired from working so hard. I now see that I was dissatisfied because I was choosing the easy route instead of the challenging, fullfilling route.

One of my favorite bands, Tenth Avenue North, wrote a song about this same issue:

 

Father, help me to be vulnerable with You. Help me to fight the good fight, to war with my normal and choose to surrender myself to You. Help me to be honest with You and myself, knowing that You long for me to be real with You. Thank You for speaking with me so clearly. Thank You for calling me deeper into relationship with You. Keep calling me, Lord.

(for the music video, check out The Song in My Head…)

Paralyzed in Perfectionism

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Sometimes my homework involves a “short answer” (which really is never short; it’s just not long enough to be considered an essay), often based on a specific passage of Scripture. And God used the short answer I just wrote to confirm within me the conviction He’s been growing over the past few days. So without further a due…

Question:  How do you struggle with apathy or lack of motivation in your relationship with God? What are the things that are the biggest distractions in your walk with God? Read the book of Haggai and see if you can see some traps that we need to look out for. Also are there any solutions to dealing with these problems?

Within the past few weeks, my biggest area of apathy in my relationship with God has been purposefully setting aside time to read His Word and pray. And it’s kind of funny how it’s manifested itself. As the first semester progressed, the concept of having a “holy relationship” with God (meaning one that is unique from any other relationship in my life) began to really resonate within me. This was something I wanted, something I could work towards. So I decided that I would set aside a specific time for prayer each day , to pray through whatever happened that day, as well as the specific things God have given me to pray over daily.  As an added bonus, what better time to read my Bible, since I’m already “in the mode”? After looking over my schedule, I saw that 9 pm each night was consistently open, and my “call to prayer” became a nightly alarm on my phone.  And I was faithful to it, for about 2 ½ weeks.  And then the semester started to end, and everything got especially busy.

Now, fast forward to this semester.   It’s come to the point where I’m hesitant to even get started with this whole prayer-time thing; I have so much to say, so much on my mind, so much to process. Really, when it comes down to it, I’m just plain not willing to put the time necessary into fully devoting myself to this. I would much rather do my own thing. And I’m such a go hard or go home person that I’ve decided that it’s better not to try at all then to simply go “half way”. Great reasoning.

So now I’m at the point where I definitely know what I should do, but I’m not doing it. And now we come to Haggai. In the first chapter, God is calling Israel into account because, like me, they simply aren’t making Him the priority in their lives. “This people says, “The time has not come, even the time for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt”. Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?” Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider you ways!” Haggai 1:2-5. It’s as if God is saying, “So… how’s this working for you, Israel?” And let me tell you, walking in guilt, fully knowing why = not so hot.

But go down a few verses, and “the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God… and the people showed reverence for the LORD.” They realized something big. First, that their priorities were majorly out of whack. And second, that action was required. The temple was super-shabby, and the people in charge of tending to it were so frustrated at its state that they had paralyzed themselves. “There’s no way to do this right, I’m just so busy. I’ve got so much on my plate, I just can’t do this right now. Surely, this just isn’t the right timing.” God had to wake them up, make them realize that they may not do it perfectly, but it’s time they actually do something. They may have to start with simple wood from the mountains (Haggai 1:8), but if they actually make God the priority and obey Him, He will partner with them and be glorified through their actions. So here I stand. Will I stay paralyzed, or will I swallow my perfectionism and do what I can?