5 Tips for Amateur Prayers Like Me

prayer

Lord, teach us to pray…

(Luke 11:1)

I don’t know about you, but I feel like the disciples. I am still learning to pray. The fact is I have more knowledge of prayer than I have substance and practice of prayer.

Just being honest.

Here are 5 suggestions for amateur prayers…like me:

Be respectful – You’re talking to the Creator God. He is worthy of all our praise. He’s the Holy Father. He puts stars in the sky. At the same time, He paints the belly of a Lady Bug. Never take for granted the privilege of prayer.

Be yourself – Along with being respectful, it is important to be who you are. Don’t attempt to make your words pretty as much as you attempt to make your heart pure. Just as you want your children to be respectful, yet still be themselves, I am convinced God wants that for His children. We are told to call Him “Daddy” (Abba). He wants us to fall in the comfy chair of home in His presence.

Be honest – God knows already, yet He loves to hear His children talk. Just like we do as parents. He wants to know what’s on our mind. We can tell Him if we are angry and still be respectful. Speak truthful when talking to God.

Be open to His voice – Spend intentional time listening, with your Bible open. God most often speaks through the already written Word. But He also speaks through the still small voice like the gentle breeze. Over time…and with lots of practice…you’ll begin to know and hear His voice.

Be consistent – Pray as much as you want and need God’s involvement in your life. How much is that? For me, that’s fairly constant. I pray far less than the need I have for Him. Have a daily routine. Start a prayer list. Do it daily. But mostly, do it as a part of lifestyle more than a part of routine. It’s a relationship. And He’s always with you, so take advantage of the closeness you can have through Christ. If you’re sitting at a stop light…pray. If you think of a friend…pray. If you begin to worry…pray. It can be a paragraph, sentence or a couple words. (I’ve prayed “Help me God!” many times.) Don’t overcomplicate it. Just pray. Talk to God. What a privilege that I can encourage you in this way. (Hebrews 4:16)

Of course, all this begins with a simple belief in Christ as your Savior. That is what makes you His child. If you’ve never believed in the One whom lived, died and rose again three days later…begin there.

What tips do you have for us amateur prayers?

The Elasticity of the Heart

Be aware of the elasticity of your heart.

I’ve learned through hard lessons that a stretched heart never returns exactly the same.

The Bible says, “Above all else, guard your heart.” I think part of the reason is that once the heart stretches, it’s changed. Forever.

Let’s say you had a dream. You pursued it with passion. It didn’t work out. You failed. But, in the process you stretched your heart for something new. You’ll have to find yet another dream to fill the void you created by stretching.

You thought you had the job. You were beginning to get excited about it. You even looked at houses in the area. You didn’t get the job. Your heart stretched. You will have to refuel your passion where you are now or you’ll be miserable. Your heart was stretched.

You felt a call to ministry at some point in your life, but you ignored it. Or something happened. You’re not serving right now and your heart is empty. Your stretched heart has never been the same.

And, it works in other ways too. You looked at things online you shouldn’t have seen. Now you want more. And more. You can’t seem to find satisfaction. You stretched your heart.

Be aware of the elasticity of your heart.

My advice is to find something to fill the new space you have created. You can’t just “get over it”.

You have to fill the void left behind because of the stretching. That may require prayer, discipline, accountability, practice or even counseling. Maybe all of them.

But your stretched heart is too important to ignore.

Above all else…guard your heart“. (Proverbs 4:23)

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

I’ve been listening to Jadon Lavik’s version of the song below a lot lately. It’s speaking to me. What insight a pastor from 1757 who penned this hymn had even today into my heart.

I’ve made bold the parts which speak to me most (and made super bold the line which rocks my world).

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy unchanging love

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Here there by Thy great help I’ve come
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God

He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be

Let that grace now, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy unchanging love

Which phrases speak to you most?

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Go to Bed Tonight

father-daughter

Did I begin today in prayer?

Have I read my Bible today?

Did I give today my best efforts?

Did I make someone’s life a little better today?

Did I take steps towards the dreams I have and God has for my life today?

How did I add value to the world around me today?

Was my attitude ever in the way of me or others having a productive, happy day?

Can I put today behind me, go to sleep, and give tomorrow another chance?

How can I improve my answers tomorrow night?

Am I ending today in prayer?

What My Ants Taught Me About Following God

We Are The Ants. ant tales

My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore your words. Psalm 119:139

The Psalmist who wrote this verse was excited about God! So excited, in fact, that he apparently wore himself out with service! There were so many enemies of God, that kept the Psalmist so busy! Oh that we would be found so faithful!

That reminds me…

I am marveled by ants. I know what you may be thinking, “What an awkward transition and how can anyone make a Biblical illustration with a bunch of ants?” Bear with me. Ants are fascinating.

Several years ago, when we still lived in the house where we raised our boys, if the weather was nice, I would sit on my back patio, drink my coffee, and read my Bible in the morning. For a period of months, I was captivated with a trail of ants that began on one side of my patio, and ended on the other side…a distance of about 30 feet. The ants marched in a straight line, two ants going one direction, two going the opposite direction. They were spaced no more than an ant’s distance apart from each other. All total, there were hundreds of ants on my patio at any given time.

Now, I have to be honest. When I first discovered there were ants on my patio each morning, I was not very excited. I tried spraying them with ant killer. I tried washing them away with the garden hose. I tried stomping on them. I even got creative by trying to place obstacles in their way. (Perhaps you can tell I was starting to have fun with this project.)

My attempt to rid the patio of ants went on for over a week. Guess what? THE ANTS WERE STILL THERE! Oh, they would disappear for awhile. I was very good at getting rid of them temporarily. I felt successful everytime I tried, but before I knew it, the line of ants was back again…bigger, stronger, more determined than ever. I actually decided I kinda liked those ants. They became my ants!

As I have watched the life of an ant, and spent time in my morning devotion, it occurred to me that just as they are diligent in their labor, so should I be in mine. Just as the Psalmist was diligent in serving God, I should be in my work. He pursued God’s enemies as the ants pursued my patio, as I should pursue God’s call on my life.

If I am called to serve a mighty God, I should serve Him mightily!

Even when I’m distracted.

Even when obstacles get in the way.

Even when the work is harder than I think I can do.

If I am asked to work for a God who is steadfast in His love for me, then I should work for Him steadfastly!

My ants taught me a lot about following God.

What are you learning about God these days?

Do All Dogs Go To Heaven?

Naje.couch

Do all dogs go to Heaven?

It took me a while to write this post. We lost our sweet NaJe…our Yorkie…our overweight, 12 and a half year Yorkie…last summer. She was doing great, although she had slowed somewhat in the later years. We had just moved to our new city, and she loved it for the walking. One morning I was at work and Cheryl went to lunch. When Cheryl came home NaJe was not the same. She became paralyzed immediately…within the hour Cheryl was gone to lunch. We took her to the veterinarian as soon as we could. The Vet said it was a brain tumor. There was nothing we could do for her. It was one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever made and being with her at the end one of the hardest things I’ve personally ever done.

I know…it’s a dog, right? But she was our dog. She was part of the family. She was named for our two boys…Na…Nathaniel…Je…Jeremy. (Jeremy is the oldest, but NaJe sounded better to us than JeNa.)

So the question…

Do all dogs go to Heaven?

Believe it or not, I get asked that question. Very seriously. And, I understand.

Unfortunately, the answer is one that I can’t solve that for you. Not definitively.

I wish I could, but I am a Bible teacher. I read and believe the Bible as truth. I can’t make it fit my needs or desires. I have to take it for what it says. I can’t add to or take away from it. I know mankind is His highest creation. The Bible makes clear provision for mankind and Heaven. (If you confess with your mouth and believe in your hear that God raised Jesus from the dead you shall be saved.)

The problem is, I can’t definitively assure myself of any eternity for my dog or any dog. Or cat. Or hamster. Although I would think my dog would likely to get in if any animal did :).

I know this though. My viewpoint has changed in light of NaJe. I now recognize I can’t say dogs “don’t” go to Heaven. Can you?

All creation waits. “All creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” The Bible says that. Revelation also says “every creature” pays reverence to the glory of God. Every creature. But, is that creatures created now or then. I can’t say. Will there be dogs in Heaven. I don’t know? For sure.

But, I do know NaJe was God’s creation. She did exactly what she was created to do while she was alive on earth. Everything. She loved. She loved greatly. She loved passionately. She was a most loyal man’s best friend. I can’t imagine God wasn’t pleased with the example of unconditional love NaJe proved to be.

If any dogs went to Heaven…NaJe would be one. Probably you feel that way about yours too.

And, though I can’t solve the question for you, not definitively, I can’t imagine a perfect place without a dog like NaJe. But, then no eye has seen or imagined what God has created for us. Heaven will be perfect. I’m not sure I have really ever seen perfect as God intended perfect to be. Some day I will.

I also know this, as much as I entertain this question, I’m most concerned about your eternity. I am confident God will take care of His creation, but He’s given you and me the option to choose to be obedient or to rebel. Will you be in Heaven? Have you surrendered your life to Christ’s life? Do you believe that Jesus died on a cross, rose from the grave, and that by your faith in Him you shall be saved?

What do you think? Do all dogs go to Heaven?

(Opinions are welcome…I honestly don’t believe we know definitively, but please don’t write me your “theological” understanding based on what you “think”.).