When I started this blog in March 2014, I really felt the Lord impress on my heart that I was only to write what He was teaching me, nothing more nothing less. Not compelled to meet any deadline or any quota, but to listen to what the Spirit was saying and to respond by writing it. I have felt like He was teaching me so much in November and December that I could not boil it all down to 1 subject. Then there were days that I felt so dry that nothing was coming, even when I read His word or attempted to journal. I love how we go through seasons with the Lord, and in each one, though some are hard and some are sweet…He never changes. He is always good.
Speaking of His goodness, for the past 5 years the Lord has done something really astounding for me on or around January 1st. He has either given me a specific scripture or a word for the upcoming year. Last year was John 4:23 and teaching me to become a true worshipper. Throughout the entire year I was able to hold on to that word, and view my circumstances through the lens of Him lovingly leading me to worship Him in spirit and in truth as John 4:23 says. On January 1st of 2013, I woke up with the words to a Kari Jobe song ringing in my head over and over and over, “Nothing is impossible with You” followed by the words, “With You all things are possible.” And that was my Word for 2013. 2012 had to do with radical giving, etc…you probably get the idea. And His Word for 2015 I received yesterday – “Do not let 2015 be the year where you do not have because you do not ask.” In other words, I feel Him pressing in on my prayer life, pressing in for intimacy that I’ve never had before, pressing in to spark something in my spirit that He really did mean what He said in James 4 and Matthew 7 about asking Him.
I want to dive into those passages and some others on prayer in the coming weeks here on Living Amplified, but today I want to share an experience I have had with God. I want to testify of His Goodness. And first, I want to ask you – where are you in your prayer life? Are you dry? Are you lacking something? Well, you are certainly not alone!
Prayer seems elusive to me at times. I get in ruts of praying certain things, and asking Him for much, much less than He is able to do. At the same time, I feel strongly that I have the freedom to ask Him anything, and confident that He is good and nothing is impossible with Him – and yet I know I hold back sometimes. Maybe it is because I’m afraid He’ll say no, maybe it’s because I don’t want to admit my need in a certain area, and maybe it is because I have never seen what I am asking for (especially in the realm of massive culture-changing revival). Lord, help to to believe even if I do not see! But, often I know it is because I get lazy. Like this spirit of laziness comes over me and I begin to believe the lie that I am just staying silent on an issue because “He knows anyway.” And He does know. And He still wants me to engage in prayer.
It astounds me that Jesus is interceding and so is the Spirit, and what really drives my heart is that I want to know Him well enough that I can come praying what He is praying. But, to pray believing and to pray in His will is to know Him through His Word and through experience. It takes time to develop that kind of closeness with the Lord, and there is no better time than now to press in to Him!
Good. Night. This is so huge!!!
If you and I do not open our mouths and talk things out with Him, or write them out in a prayer journal (or the note section on your phone if necessary) – I am convinced that we will miss His clarity and vision and answers in many ways. He is a personal God. There is so much we need to receive and so much that He wants to give! He see us, and He hears us, and He knows us…
Why, then, are we content to stay silent with Him?
And believe me – I know there are times to be silent in His presence so that we can hear Him speak to our hearts…but too often I know we stay silent for the wrong reasons.
Prayer is our submission to Him, it’s our admission that we are in such desperate need of Him to come through for us. It’s a meeting with Him constantly throughout the day – constantly seeking – constantly asking – constantly worshiping – constantly trusting and communing – constantly desiring to be aware of His presence no matter how we feel – no matter what our circumstances.
Matthew 7:7-9 is Jesus talking directly to us about prayer:
7 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.
I have been reading a new book on prayer by Timothy Keller. I first heard about it on John Piper’s blog www.DesiringGod.org. I love so many quotes from this book already. It is called Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. The truth of his words echoed in my ears because it juxtaposed what God was calling me to do last year (worship Him) and this year (ask Him):
“Seasons of dryness can return for a variety of causes. We don’t spend a discrete amount of time in dryness until we break through permanently into joy and feeling. Instead, the vivid reorientation of mind, and the overall sense of God on the heart, comes more frequently and sometimes in startling ways—interspersed with times of struggle and even absence. Nevertheless, the pursuit of God in prayer eventually bears fruit, because God seeks for us to worship him (John 4:23) and because prayer is so infinitely rich and wondrous.”
Excerpt From: Timothy Keller. “Prayer.”
You might need to read that again. I’ve read it no less than 20 times in the past couple days and I keep mining gems out of that collaboration of words.
On New Year’s Eve, my best friend, Julia and I experienced a vivid reorientation of mind, an impressive sense of God in our hearts, and the infinite richness and wonderous-ness of prayer. With her permission, I want to give testimony to God’s infinite goodness and kindness, one of those good gifts that only our Heavenly Father could have orchestrated and accomplished.
For Jules, 2014 was painful and terrible in many ways, yet contained some of the greatest miracles and victories she has ever experienced. 2013 ended with great strife in her marriage, and 2014 began with her husband demanding a divorce that she did not want, which was eventually finalized against her will. We prayed, we sought God for that miracle of healing and restoration, we wept, we questioned, we counseled, we prayed more and I watched my best friend walk through perhaps one of the most painful seasons of her life trusting Jesus. Not only did she trust Him, but really truly depended on Him for the strength to draw her next breath. And I saw her pain and I felt it. I am convinced the reason I felt it so much is because I went to battle for her in prayer. It was the hardest and most precious thing I have ever been privileged to do for someone. Through it all, the Lord was teaching me what it meant to truly become a prayer warrior for another sister in Christ. And He as literally astounded us with His faithfulness to answer prayer. He did not restore her marriage or change that man’s heart, but He healed her and changed her, and He changed me, too. And we will not forget what He has done!
Such an interesting thing began to happen in her relationship with the Lord when her healing had become a reality. When it was no longer a miracle to get through a day without crying, when she no longer depended on Jesus to lift her head enough to look at her computer screen at work, when she did not have to eat/sleep/breath scripture just to keep from completely falling apart…then everything seemed dry. Have you ever experienced something like that? When you go through such a shocking and tragic loss, depending on Jesus for everything is a necessity. When He comes through, you begin to heal, it transitions from necessity to choice. I think that is actually the much more difficult thing. I remember telling her once that she had to be the 1 leper out of the 10 that returns to give thanks. And that’s what I have witnessed her doing, praise Jesus! But, it has not been without struggle against the dryness. And, just as Pastor Keller’s book was quoted above…seasons of dryness really do finally break through into joy and feeling again.
She was actually supposed to be here celebrating New Year’s with us this weekend. There is currently a record-breaking ice storm between here and where she lives. So, we prayed and we sought wisdom as to whether she should brave the icy conditions. Even when she tried to get out in the ice and come against our better judgment, the Holy Spirit gave her such incredible conviction she had to turn around and go back home! My attempts to buy her a plane ticket were thwarted by flight cancellations. And as God would have perfectly timed it…she is stuck in New Mexico. Alone.
So, I did what any best friend would do…I pouted. Ha! I was seriously walking through the store with my husband yesterday, and silently contending with the Lord as to “why He would make her be by herself instead of with all of us who love and miss her so much.” Well, little did I know, He was going to tell me why he kept her in New Mexico a few hours later. And so quickly I forgot – He loves her more than any of us could!
Fast-forward to last evening, New Year’s Eve. I told my husband that since we were not going anywhere, I really wanted time to take a long, kid-free, hot Epsom-salt bath to soothe my aching muscles from starting a new workout program earlier this week…and because of the awesome guy he is, it actually happened! (Those of you who have ever had small children know what a miracle that is in itself)! So, with all my quietness I was praying, and specifically I was praying for Julia. I was just bolding approaching the throne on her behalf as I have so many times over the past year. And, suddenly I got the strongest word from the Lord concerning her. One of those instant downloads from On High where I knew I better record or write it down ASAP so that I would not forget it.
I called right away to tell her what the Lord laid on my heart that He wanted to say to her. I had to leave it on her voicemail. My heart was beating 100mph it seemed, and therefore I spoke 100mph so I could say everything without getting cut-off. She called me back in tears and praising Jesus and telling me that it was the exact thing she had been needing and wanting from Him. I had no idea, but some of the secret things she had told the Lord, He confirmed them through what He told me. I was just as overwhelmed and amazed as she was! She was crying and laughing when she told me she was totally content if that is why she had to stay home alone so that I could have been by myself away from the crowd in prayer and hearing a word from Him that perhaps will set the course for her life in 2015. I do not want to say that He sent the storm to keep her home, but He might have. I do not know how to fully explicate it, but we were closer together right then on the phone discussing God’s faithfulness, praying together though 7 hours apart, than we could have been if she were right here in my living room.
I cannot describe the gratitude I feel that God is that big. He is that personal. Our best plans for New Year’s Eve paled in comparison to what He had a mind to do in us and for us.
He knew what she needed to hear because she had been coming to Him in prayer and being honest with Him, even in the drought of her heart.
He knew that I needed to be still and to listen, and to pray and experience exactly what He desires to be my reality for 2015…boldly approaching the throne of grace to receive what He has to give.
But, you see, it’s not merely about me and Jesus, or Jules and Jesus, or you and Jesus. He is too big for that. The word He gave me about not letting 2015 be a year where I do not have because I do not ask – it has to do with being His representative in the Earth.
We really can experience God in such a profound way that we are forever changed, and so often He accomplishes that in response to us being alone with Him in prayer, listening and pursuing His heart. Matthew 6:6 is where Jesus says, “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” He takes what He teaches us in private, and moves us into the context of the people He places around us. He means for us to be in community. He means to use our lives to impact those around us with the power of His presence, with the glory of His goodness, with the kindness of His mercy…and He prepares us for all of that in the secret place.
I love this next quote from Pastor Keller’s book:
“The traditional forms of prayer—adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication—are concrete practices as well as profound experiences. We must know the awe of praising his glory, the intimacy of finding his grace, and the struggle of asking his help, all of which can lead us to know the spiritual reality of his presence. Prayer, then, is both awe and intimacy, struggle and reality.”
Excerpt From: Keller, Timothy. “Prayer.” Penguin Group, USA, 2014-11-04. iBooks.
Sweet sibling in Christ, I don’t know where this blog post finds you today, but I pray that you will experience the Lord in a refreshing way this year – by intimacy in prayer in the aloneness with Him. Press through days that are dry and difficult, where you feel like He is not there and when it seems He does not see you. He is & He does. Press in to His Word, let Him write His truth on your heart. Press in to His goodness and allow Him to astound you with what He is doing in, around, and through you. May you have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that seeks Him and His will on the Earth. Press on in this walk with Jesus, know the reality of His presence…He is worthy and He is so very worth it!
Isaiah 43:18-19, 20b NLT
18 “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
19 For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland…
20b Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed.