Dandelion Prayer

Dandelions—the bane of many homeowners who strive for manicured lawns. Adults see them as an irritation. A nuisance.

But children see dandelions as a source of unlimited potential. Wishes, hopes, and dreams wrapped up in the seeds of a wild flower.

When you were a child, did you ever pluck a dandelion puff to make a wish? Carefully, of course, because you didn’t want to waste even one feathery seed. After all, the one seed that dropped prematurely might have been the one to carry your wish to heaven.

Then we grow up and face reality…or do we?

dandelion prayerHow often do we, as adults, view prayer the way children view dandelion puffs? We close our eyes tight, carefully pick the “right” words, and fling them to heaven, wishing and hoping God will say yes to our request.

Is that how prayer works?

Not according to the Bible.

Most of us have grown up with a definition of prayer that is incomplete. How many times have we defined prayer as “talking to God”? But prayer is more than just presenting our requests and wishes to God. We don’t just talk to Him, we have conversation with Him.

This means we talk…and we listen. We listen as God speaks to us through His Word. We listen as the Holy Spirit prompts us to act according to His leading.

Prayer is more than just presenting our desires to God. It’s about aligning our thoughts with His thoughts. Our heart with His heart. Our will with His will.

The ultimate goal is not to change God’s mind, but to change ours.

So as summer moves into fall, are you watching the wishes, hopes, and dreams of the summer drift away on passing autumn breezes? Does it seem as if the heavens are made of brass, causing your prayers to hit the ceiling and drop back to earth in mockery of your desires?

Biblical guidance for prayer

Unlike dandelion puffs which depend on the whims of the wind, prayer is never futile. But God does give us some guidance for effective prayer…

A – Jesus tells us to abide in Him and have His words abide in us (John 15:7).

B – Believe when we pray (Mark 11:24).

C – Come with confidence (Hebrews 4:16).

D – Don’t doubt (James 1:6).

E – Don’t use empty phrases (Matthew 6:7).

F – Focus on who God is, not on your circumstances (Isaiah 26:3).

G – Expect God to show you great things (Jeremiah 33:3).

H – Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in your prayer (Jude 1:20).

I – Intercede for others (I Timothy 2:1-2).

J – Ask in Jesus’ name—would Jesus ask for what you’re asking for? (John 14:13).

K – If possible, kneel, letting your physical position reflect your heart (Ephesians 3:14).

L – Listen for the Lord’s call (I Samuel 3:4).

M – Ask with right motives (James 4:3).

N – Know that the Lord is near to all who call on Him in truth (Psalm 145:18).

O – Before we pray, are we obeying what we already know? (I John 3:22).

P – Persevere in prayer (Luke 18:1-8).

Q – Pray without quarreling with brothers in Christ (1 Timothy 2:8).

R – Rejoice regardless of our circumstances (I Thess. 5:16).

S – Seek His presence (I Chronicles 16:11).

T – Pray with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6-7).

U – Pray in unity with other believers (Acts 1:14).

V – ?

W – Know where your help comes from (Psalm 121:1).

X – EXamine your heart (Psalm 66:18).

Y – ?

Z – ?

Which of these verses is God speaking to your heart about today?

Here’s a challenge for you…
Can you find a relevant verse for the letters V, Y, and Z?  😊

Answered Prayer vs. Expectations

Answered Prayer

It’s really difficult to pray without having expectations. Lots of expectations. I should know—we recently came through months of prayer for healing for my husband’s cancer.

Those expectations create a disconnect when God’s answer does not match our prayer.

Even when the answered prayer partially grants our request, we’re often still not satisfied. It’s human nature to focus, not on what we have, but on what we want.

From the first days of hubby’s diagnosis, I threw myself into prayer. Looking for answers. Pleading for healing. Hoping for the best. Preparing for the worst.

However, in those early days, my perspective underwent a significant change. My request morphed into seeking God’s heart instead of His hand. As His child, I knew nothing happens to us by chance. He is always at work for the ultimate good of His children and for His eternal glory.

But there’s a significant difference between knowing something intellectually and living it out. It’s much easier to quote biblical truth when it’s someone else’s problem.

So I prayed, not just for healing, but for God to use this experience in our life and marriage to help transform us into all the Lord intended for us to be. A light in a dark world. More like Christ. Less self-centered. More of an encouragement to others. Less self-pity.

No, it was not easy. Let me rephrase that. It is not easy. For this is an ongoing process, not a done deal.

We received our answer this week. And the answer was what we prayed for: cancer-free. As I shared the good news, hundreds of people rejoiced with us. God is so good!

Still, even if we did not receive the gift of healing from this cancer, God would still be good. He would still be at work, accomplishing His purposes for our good and His glory. And I’m glad we both reached that point before the answer came. Because spiritual growth is not about receiving from God’s hand. It’s about maintaining intimacy with our heavenly Father when His hand is hidden. When we seek His face and His heart instead.

Contentment is not easy. Even the apostle Paul had to learn it, as we read:

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11 NIV).

And the prophet Habakkuk showed us what contentment looks like when he wrote:

“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

We can release our expectations and be content in whatever the Lord allows because, as a wise person once said:

“We don’t know the future, but we belong to the One who is already there!

What troubling circumstance are you facing today?
What are you praying for—even pleading for?
If God reserves His hand, but reveals His heart, will that be enough?

The Prayer of Jabez and Me

Do you remember hearing about the prayer of Jabez?

When Bruce Wilkinson’s book, The Prayer of Jabez, was published 17 years ago, it took the Christian community by storm. Quickly propelled to the bestseller lists, it encouraged Christians to daily pray the prayer of an obscure man found in I Chronicles 4:9-10. In fact, that’s the only place in the Bible where this man—or his prayer—is mentioned:

“Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’ Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, ‘Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!’ And God granted what he asked” (ESV).

I’ve been praying my version of this prayer daily since I first learned of it by personalizing Jabez’s words. Here’s what I ask my heavenly Father for each day:

Your blessing as You define it…

Some Christians today limit focus their definition of blessing on material provisions. I hear Christians say things such as:

  • The Bible says God wants us to prosper (III John 1:2).
  • God wants His children to have an abundant life (John 10:10). He doesn’t want His children to be poor.”
  • “Though He was rich He became poor so that we might become rich” (II Corinthians 8:9).

Of course, God is not against wealth. But nowhere in the Bible is material wealth His priority for His children. If anything, material comforts often get in the way of His process to conform us to the image of Christ. God is more concerned with wealth that will last for eternity. Spiritual growth. The fruit of the Spirit. And the most valuable provision He has already given us is the gift of salvation—a restored relationship with Him.

So when it comes to asking for blessing, I’d rather leave the definition to Him.

Your use as You decide it…

Jabez prayed for victory to expand his territory. I don’t know what territory God has for me. Is it to be a greater influence in my family, church, or social circles? Is it to teach His Word? To publish books?

Of course, I have hopes and dreams regarding how God might use me in the future. But I never want those desires to prevent me from recognizing how God wants to use me today. Whatever He decides is fine by me!

Your leading as You provide it…

Over the years, I’ve watched many Christian leaders shipwreck themselves on the rocks of their own grand plans for larger ministries and media empires. God’s plan for them might have been to toil in obscurity, but that wasn’t their plan for themselves.

I can strategize and I can plan. But without the Lord’s leading, my ideas may not be His plans for me. I need to trust Him to direct me onto a straight path (Proverbs 3:6). The Bible often speaks of our “walk” with God. Walking with someone requires that we move in the same direction and at the same pace. I don’t ever want to run ahead of God or lag behind Him!

And that You would keep me from both giving and receiving pain.

Jabez prayed for protection from harm and pain. Some scholars believe this verse can also be translated to mean that he was asking to be kept from giving pain to others.

I know, from experience, the pain caused by other people. Betrayal. Insensitivity. Negligence. Temptation. But I also know that I’ve caused pain, too. How can I pray for protection from pain if I’m not willing to pray that God would keep me from causing it?

So, my personalized prayer of Jabez is:

Heavenly Father, I ask for today:
Your blessing as You define it,
Your use as You decide it,
Your leading as You provide it,
And that You would keep me from both giving and receiving pain, harm, and temptation.

The results have been amazing as I “lean not on my own understanding” but instead acknowledge the Lord’s sovereignty in every area of life!

What are your thoughts about the prayer of Jabez?

Another Summer Prayer Request

She did it again.

Last summer, I blogged about a friend whose prayer request resonated with me. She wanted to use her summer break to “Love Deeply, Care Openly, Share Boldly”—a request that became my own that summer, too.

Her request this year also touched me. She asked for prayer to organize a Bible study this summer to “bring joy, change lives, and spread hope.”Her request made me think. My goals this summer were to prepare for the study I’ll teach in September and to complete a writing project or two. And of course, to support my hubby as he completes his chemotherapy.

Of those three goals, only one of them is people-oriented.

It’s so much easier for me to think and plan in terms of projects. The boundaries of my comfort zone are lined with to-do lists. And I receive an excessive amount of satisfaction in crossing off every item by the end of the day.

Today I’ve revised my summer goals…thanks to my friend’s prayer request:

Bring joy:

Joy was my “one word” for 2016. I confess, joy hasn’t been something I’ve been intentional about focusing on the past few months. My new word for 2017, hope, has been the target of my all-consuming focus. Hope that that my husband’s treatments will be effective. Hope that words like cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation won’t follow us into 2018.

But I can’t bring joy if I’m not experiencing joy. And if I truly believe my source of joy is my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, then circumstances—even cancer—will not be able to steal that joy. So I’m thankful for this reminder to be more intentional about finding joy in each moment. I don’t want to take those moments for granted, for none of us know how many moments we have.

Change lives:

I don’t have the power to change someone else’s life. But I know the One who does. Because I belong to Him, I can share what I know about who Jesus Christ is. And I can live in the reality of that relationship. As others see His power changing me, my prayer is that they will see He has the power to change their life, too.

Spread hope:

Hope…my “one word” for 2017. I’ve written about my need for hope in this post.

But now I need to look beyond myself and my family and spread that hope. Since I have hope—something everyone needs—it’s time to communicate it in both words and deeds. Hope is contagious and I want to be a carrier who infects everyone around her!

So those are my new summer goals, starting today!

September will roll around before we know it. What are your summer goals?

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