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Prayer

My 2020 word of the year: Prayer. Why do i have a word of the year? Because i want to give a greater focus to an area God reveals to me, to devote more time to it, or to redefine whatever it is that i am focusing on. Choosing a word to focus on for an entire year will lead to new discoveries in that area, finding strengths and weaknesses, and new ways to apply it to my walk with God.

On New Year’s Eve i was visiting a church in Hopelchen, Campeche, and part of what they were doing was letting people pick up a slip of paper with a verse on it featuring a promise from God. My verse ended up being 1 Peter 3:12: For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their prayer… This isn’t telling me that God will answer all of my prayers in 2020, but rather that He is attentive to them; He hears them and pays attention. What a delight that is, to know that God sees tiny little me on this tiny little earth and hears my prayers, even the ones i barely whisper in my mind. He pays attention to that! Isn’t that wonderful?

This verse didn’t immediately lead me to choosing Prayer as my word of the year. i prayed about it some more, and eventually it just clicked into place. This was it. My prayer life isn’t very strong at this moment, my belief in the power of prayer is on shaky ground, and God often changes the one doing the praying more than the one being prayed for. i know this will challenge me if i surrender this part of my life to God’s control, and growing pains are inevitable. But as with anything in God’s control, it will lead to a better place and changes for the better.

i am currently a student at a Bible school in Mexico and they’ve got us involved in a few prayer programs. One of them is prayer groups for the whole semester (3 months). There’s 6 of us in my group and we meet once a week. We are to pray for each other, get to know each other, and just be there for other during this time. i am looking forward to getting to know these ladies better and learning how to be sincere and intentional in my prayers with them. Another program they have is prayer partners. Every two weeks we draw a random name and pray for that person for the whole 2 weeks. And we can do it anonymously, in person, through notes, however we feel led to pray for that person. On top of that, i have some wonderful ladies around me here who deeply believe in the power of prayer. i hope to learn much from them, to be more open to pray out loud and often, and to believe that prayer matters.

Let’s take a moment to see what Scripture says about prayer. This is what ultimately matters and is truth, not my current feelings on the matter. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 makes a powerful start with this, “Pray without ceasing.” Don’t give up when your prayers are not answered, keep at it! And don’t give up when they are. Pray in praise and thanksgiving for what God has done. Then, in James 5:16 it says “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” We should pray for each other, and not just in the privacy of our hearts. Pray OUT LOUD. We should be talking to each other about our areas of struggle and then praying for one another in that moment. Because let’s face it, so often when we say “I’ll pray for you” we end up forgetting about it and then just don’t. So pray right away, out loud, and without ceasing.

This is something i want to change about my prayer life this year. To pray out loud and to pray often. To pray out loud even when it’s just God and me, not to always keep it in my heart. i would liken only ever praying in silence (which by itself, isn’t bad. But let’s not just leave it there) to only ever texting a friend. Yes, you still communicate but how much more personal and effective isn’t a phone call? It establishes a deeper connection, emotions come into the voice, and even physical emotions like hand gestures or smiles and laughter.

i’m getting excited just thinking about all the possibilities and opportunities for this. And let’s face it, Bible school life is so busy and fast paced that one has to intentionally set time aside to have one-on-one time with God. A friend’s sister had told her before she left, “Don’t forget about Jesus while you’re at Bible school.” That’s something i am trying to take to heart for myself. Because doing spiritual schoolwork isn’t that same as spending time with God.

Word of the year or not, our prayer life is something we should always be working on. It is our way of communicating with God, it lays our heart open before Him, it’s an encouragement to those we pray for and with, and it releases what we’ve been holding in during the day/week/month. It draws us nearer and deeper.

Let us pray.

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Let’s Make it Personal

Early on in my Christian walk i struggled in many ways to become a better Christian. i bought devotionals and tried to read the Bible through (still haven’t read it completely, by the way), i was desperate to grow closer with God. Only problem was i had no idea what that looked like. The idea of a personal relationship with God, of seeing actual growth or the lack of it in my life seemed outlandish. i thought that was only for the select few, the ones that were “obsessed” with God and the Bible. So i tried to find my own version of that. i think deep down my intentions were good – i wanted that relationship – but i was missing a key point: i wasn’t making it personal.

i thought the right formula of repentance, praying, study books, and church would get me where i needed to go. And when i didn’t get results, i concluded i had missed a step or just not applied myself enough. It was because of this seeking that i started attending a Bible study in January 2018. i hoped that spending an evening a week with fellow believers and intentionally studying God’s Word would give me knowledge and tools i was missing. i still remember a conversation that clearly revealed one of my misconceptions. i said something along these lines: if i wasn’t consistent with my Bible readings, God wasn’t close to me. Anyone else ever feel or still feel this way? That if you don’t do certain things (read, pray, go to church, etc.) God will not be close to you, that He’ll pull away and you’ll have to run after Him again?

i don’t remember the exact moment when the scales fell from my eyes and i saw things clearly; it was a gradual realization and happened over several months. But i got a reaction when i said that; my teacher challenged that statement and i took that home with me. It resonated within my heart and began to challenge what i believed about my walk with God. Studying the Bible changed for me. It was no longer a search for that mystical moment where i would just discover the answer and suddenly i’d be filled with love for God and knowledge about Him. It became, along with prayer, a source of communication and communion with God. It was no longer about getting Him to love me, it was about getting me to love Him.

1 John 4:10 says, “Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loves us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” There’s a lot to unpack in this and the surrounding verses, but for the topic of this post we’re going to be focusing on the first half. “Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loves us…” Our relationship with God isn’t about getting Him to love us or accept us or welcome us; He already does, so much more than we can ever fully comprehend. Rather, it’s about how much we can love Him. How much of ourselves are we willing to give to Him, how much are we willing to surrender? Our job isn’t trying to earn His love and grace; we already have that in abundance. Our job is to seek Him with our whole heart, to desire – earnestly – to know Him personally and intimately.

And the best way to do that is to spend one-on-one time with Him. Just you and God. Take time with God outside of your church, family, friends, or spouse. Because if we want a relationship with Him instead of just knowledge of Him, we need that time. And because of the Holy Spirit living within us, we have access to deeper knowledge and understanding of God, without someone else to walk us through it. Don’t misunderstand, teachers and mentors are very important to our walk, but they should not be our source. Go straight to the Word, by yourself!

Let’s look at another verse. “As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie; just as it has taught you, remain in Him.” 1 John 2:27. God will reveal Himself to us, and He is a very capable teacher. When we open ourselves up to Him and truly dive into the Word, His Spirit will reveal the truth to us. 1 Timothy 2:3 assures us of this, God desires for everyone to be saved and to know His truth. Not just those who have achieved a certain level of devotion, but everyone.

That means you now, not the you that reads their Bible twice a day every day, not the you that always has a burning desire to pray and talk to God. We’re human, even the most devout among us struggles in their relationship with God. Don’t wait until you achieve the rank of “Devout Christian.” Because you won’t achieve that without making it personal first, without the halting steps and stumbles of a newborn baby. That’s okay, everyone was there at one point in their walk. We get past this stage by continuously returning in all our brokenness and failures, by showing up to that time with God, no matter how many times we feel like we’re starting at Square 1. Because each time you do show up, you’re taking another step. And in time, you’ll be looking back and marveling at the things God has taught you.