"Things are good."
"Fine, how about you?"
"We're taking it a day a time."
"We've got a good set of doctors"
"It's a tough job market, but we'll make it through"
I could go on with the list. I have been broke, unemployed, had brain surgery, had a heart attack, trouble with having children, a divorce, lost my identical twin brother to cancer…Oh, I'm sure I'm missing some piece of baggage. This is my baggage. These were serious problems; I'm not mocking them. They were hard. There will be more to come. You have baggage. Who doesn’t? Who hasn't had tragedy and struggles in their life?
Maybe you are like me, when there is a problem,problem; I do everything I can first. The doctors, the finances, the tools, the resumes, and contacts and all of the obvious things that I can think of to do. I am meticulous. I'm kind of proud of that. I make thorough lists. I do what I say I am going to do on those lists. I am disciplined, another quality on which I pride myself..
I don't like telling a lot of people, especially early in a crisis, because I don't like getting people all riled up and gossiping . You know how it is. Every time you see them, they ask about whatever the crisis is, and then they tell you, "I'm praying for you." No sense in getting everybody all worked up when I have a plan, right? My attitude is, “I’ll work my plan and I'll pray. It will probably work out. If it gets really bad, I’ll ask for help from other people and their prayers.”
The prayers that I make are actually easy. "Please God, fix this. Make this next part of my plan work, or whatever else your will is." It actually took most of my life to understand that I was managing God and then giving Him an out if He couldn't get things done my way. I'm a lot like this. This is a big challenge for me.
Challenge: I start with what I think I can do and end with what I think God can do.
One of God's miracles happened for my wife and me when we stopped lying to ourselves. Lying is too strong a term, we were telling ourselves a half-truth. The miracle happened when we changed what we were praying for (Romans 8:26). We had prayed, we had asked others to pray. But had we really put ourselves before Christ and surrendered? Here's what happened.
I suffer from epilepsy and have for 20 years. It was getting worse even though we were getting strong treatment from great doctors to improve. It had been, off and on, an increasing problem over the last two years. [ES5] [TS6] Jen, my wife, had been so strong, taking care of everything. She is always cheerful, hopeful, and nurturing. She made two years of that unconditional support look easy. For my part, I did what the doctors said. We prayed each day, for each appointment, for the medications to work. Even so, I would have tougher periods. I would be put on more medication or a different mediation and those changes would make my symptoms worse for a while before they would get better. There was a particularly rough period of two weeks after these couple of years that I was going through a very strong bout, 4-8 seizures per day.
One day, Jen stopped in the middle of the day and cried. She said, "I don't know if I can take it." Jen is not a crier, complainer, or even someone who asks for help. She scared me. We both cried. We were broken.
I called our pastor to come pray with us for 15 minutes on his way home. I did not want to be a burden so I turned it into a "drive-by-praying" event. However, within a few minutes, he and his father, also a pastor, were at our door. Jen and I kneeled, they prayed over us. We prayed and we cried and confessed our pride (James 5:16). Jen and I turned my healing over to God and told Him we could not go on without Him. In our hearts, we knew that we had been truly broken. Before that day, our prayers had been a part of a treatment plan of our design. We had not given our pain and needs to God. Not really anyway. We were working our plan and God had been given a role. Now we knew that our plan was not the answer, God was the only answer for us.
Our pastor anointed us with oil. All four of us finished praying and they left. Jen and I were emotionally and physically exhausted. We needed to rest, to have hope, to pray and re-connect with God. God did not fail us. From the moment of that prayer and for the next 90 days, I did not have a single seizure.
I believe most of us start first with our own resources, plans, and efforts. The true lie is that we can accomplish the challenges of life, big or small, without God. We are blessed with talents and good fortune that often creates a belief in our own capabilities. It's a habit that becomes a lie. Many people who have been damaged by the world have misplaced trust or only trust themselves. In either case, God is pushed from the equation in overcoming our obstacles. For me, I forget the promise of Jesus; the promise that Jesus makes to us is that all things are possible through Him if we only ask (Matthew 7:7).
Even as I sit down to the keyboard this morning, I started to write before I started to pray. I guess that even now, I think that I have a better way to tell a piece of God's story in our lives than He does. <Sigh> It hurts to realize that I stink at this "God first" part of the journey. I am so grateful that God knows that about me and loves me anyway. I'm glad that He gave His son to sacrifice not only for all the sins that were committed before He came, but all the sins that would come afterwards. I am REALLY glad to have the Holy Spirit to nudge me and say, "Don't you think that you should start your writing today with prayer?"
I'm going to try an authenticate prayer right now about this writing-
Thanks for the time to sit at this keyboard and think of you. Praying to you eludes me sometimes. You have all of the power in the universe. It's big. I get these pictures from outer space and they are beyond what I can comprehend and you are the creator of all of it. I am trying to make it accessible for me and others like me who just want to get closer to you. It's too big. The bible is too hard. Life is confusing. The Holy Spirit is great, but he's not very loud. He just whispers. Please give me better ears to hear and to write so that all I do brings glory to you and clearer understanding to the people like me who are working their ways through life with questions, doubts and faith.
I love you,
I did not edit this. I read it again and I want to edit it. It is just a prayer of stuff. I do not know why I think that I need it to be eloquent. God already knows my heart, my head, my needs, and my fears. I figure that praying is about declaring what I understand and submit to God. My prayers are the submission of what I do not have covered. That would be about, uh….everything. In the time of Jesus, I would probably drop to my knees and start calling out, or wait at the city gates, or healing pools. I just am not there yet. Admit, Submit, Thank, Request, Celebrate, and Praise.
• Admit- God is God, Jesus is Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit. I did not do that in my prayer because I am human and I do not always fully engage myself.
• Submit- I am not God. It is all too big for me. Only God can make a difference in the world and in my life as well as the lives of those around me.
• Thank- Acknowledge all that God provides the requests that I have made, those I have not made, and is the provider.
• Request- Place before God what it is that you need God's power to accomplish.
• Celebrate- You have been saved at a huge price that gives eternal salvation. This is the ultimate miracle. This is worthy of celebration beyond thanks.
• Praise- The admission that your prayer is something that will happen again and again because God's love happens again and again.
With this great model of a prayer you can review my prayer and see that it is miserable if reviewed as a checklist. If I prayed only once a day, it probably would always be miserable. If I pray often, with the intention of truly communicating with God, then, I pray more intentionally. Think of it this way, when you talk to the people you love and to whom you are closest, you have a series of conversations, not just one. Those conversations are long and short. The conversations cover some things, but not everything there is to talk about. Often there is only time for a short conversation. Sometimes you talk about things that are not very deep. Other times, the topics are tough. The more often you pray, the more of your life, love, and praise you share. Most of us pray a little heavy on the request section part of my list. The other sections are worthy of much more spiritual attention.