Summer highs and lows

This summer has been anIMG_4923 eventful one so far. Many things certainly weren’t planned like my son’s car accident and my daughter’s concussion. Both scared this momma and reminded me that in one moment your whole world can turn upside down. Thankfully for us… none of the damage was permanent. My son sustained no injuries and my daughter was able to talk and think straight again within 24 hours of her head injury.

Other activities crowded our calendar with good things like camps for my teens, a mission trip for my husband and daughter to Guatemala and we just returned from a relaxing few days at a lakehouse with friends. Through the scary moments and the sweet ones, God has been teaching me much this summer about prayer.

In addition to family stuff, there have been the events taking place in our nation. The shootings, the rallies, the upcoming election…. is there anything more to say on these topics that hasn’t already been posted online? As believers, these things should bring us to our knees as we ask God to help us make sense of what we read and how we should respond.

Prayer is an area I confess that I struggle.  I need God’s Word like food and am pretty good with sticking with a reading plan, but I often find myself bargaining in my mind about how I will pray later or as I do household chores.  Getting still and quiet remains an elusive discipline for me to master.  So this summer, I decided to read several books on the topic of prayer to see what God might teach me.

Funny how experiences often align with our study as we seek to grow in a particular area. Through scary moments with kids and and also times of peace and rest in God’s creation not to mention scrolling online at all that is happening in our world –  I’ve renewed my commitment to talk to God – intentionally, listening, and lifting up those around me. I want to share just a few highlights that have struck me in the highs and lows of summer as I’ve been learning about prayer. Most of these insights come from Philip Yancey’s excellent book called Prayer: Does it Make a Difference. (These are not direct quotes… just my biggest take-aways as I read.)

  1. We pray because Jesus told us to.  Prayer isn’t a magic vending machine to ensure a life of ease and prosperity. Jesus intentionally got alone with His Father and taught his disciples to connect with God through prayer.
  2. When we pray, we help realign ourselves with God’s kingdom. I often say that I am leaky. Earthly pursuits can easily cloud my view so that I get consumed with stuff or the opinions of others rather than valuing what God values. He loves people. Prayer helps me remember things of first importance and loosen my grip on worldly distractions.
  3. Prayer changes things.  I don’t pray solely for personal benefit, but I’m also not trying to change God.  In many Scriptures we see God change his mind based on the repentance and prayers of His people. Now Phil Yancey wisely pointed out that this isn’t God changing His character based on our prayer. Instead, it fulfills His character.  He is a loving, patient God who values repentance. By His very nature He softens when we turn from our sin and turn toward Him. We don’t pray to change Him, we pray because He is so loving that we know He welcomes our prayers and by His nature is sacrificially loving. He will relent on consequences or open up blessings when we humbly ask.
  4. Prayer requires perseverance. Just because I pray doesn’t mean good things will happen. It also doesn’t mean bad things will happen. It does mean that as I continually seek God during the dry times and the peace-filled moments, I develop a closeness with Him that sees me through every situation. I have found I still battle fear when my kids face challenges, but I know where to go…. into the loving arms of my Lord who unbelieveably loves my kids more than I do!
  5. We should be cautious about triumphalism in prayer. By this I mean, when something goes well for us – a new job, a rescue from danger, a recovery from disease, we must be careful about saying that means God is good. What about those who lose their job, don’t recover, or whose loved one dies… was God not good to them?  We must acknowledge the mystery that surrounds prayer. God loves us. He hears us. He asks us to pray. He promises to be with us…. but He doesn’t promise that every prayer will be answered in the way we hope. I know all mine haven’t.. yet God is still good in the midst of our obscurity. First Corinthians reminds us that for now we have only a partial view and we must trust God in the gaps of our understanding.

I don’t know what kind of summer you are having. I’ll bet its filled with some tough things… and some wonderful moments. In the midst of all, I hope you’ll find time today to sit at the feet of Jesus. Tell Him all your worries, pray for the children in your life by name, repent of any sin that the enemy has been using to shame you, and then relish His lovingkindness as He promises to walk with you through every circumstance.

If you have something you would like me to pray for – I have a list in my journal and would love to add your concerns. Just email me  – mspoelstra6@gmail.com – and know that I will lift your concerns up to our loving Father.

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