Beth Armstrong

Christian wife, mom, & author. Doing life with my eyes fixed on Jesus. I walk, I stumble, I fall. But God is big. And this is what I write about… Thanks for stopping by!

Archive for the tag “pray”

WHY I’D BET ON A MILLION-TO-ONE ODDS

Which is easier to do—protest, or pray?

Which do we resort to first—complain, or cry out to God?

Because sometimes we want to appear super spiritual, we quickly offer up the “I pray” answer to those questions. But think about it. When things are awful, when life really stinks, when nothing seems to be going right, which is easier? And which do we do right out of the gate? We protest and complain:

  • “This just isn’t fair!”
  • “Why me?”
  • “God, don’t You care?”
  • “I can never seem to catch a break!”
  • “Why can’t something good happen for a change?”
  • “I am so fed up with this mess of a life!”

Have you ever been in a situation where everyone around you was complaining, protesting, or just flat out negative? It’s tough not to join them, isn’t it? It’s tough to be positive. It’s tough to convince them that things aren’t that bad or that the circumstances will change if they had hope or faith.

Imagine how Moses felt. Shortly after leading the Israelites safely out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt, the masses started protesting. And when I say masses, I mean million (or maybe even plural). In Exodus 15:22-27, a million people protested, but one man prayed. A million people complained about their circumstances, but one man cried out to the Lord.

complain

One million versus one. Not very good odds, huh?

Whose voice was louder—the million that protested, or the one that prayed? Whose voice ultimately accomplished good—the million that complained, or the one who cried out? It seems crazy to think that in these million-to-one odds, God honored the one. God brought relief to the people. Not because a million of them complained, but because one of them cried out. God met their need. Not because a million of them protested, but because one of them prayed.

In your next difficult situation—when the odds are stacked against you—will you protest or will you pray? In your next challenging circumstance—when the odds are stacked against you—will you complain or will you cry out to God?

If popularity was the issue, I’d bet on the million. But since power is the issue, I’m betting on the one.

(*Note: This post originally appeared on the Clutter Interrupted website on February 8, 2015)

 

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THE POWER OF 20 SECONDS

Twenty seconds isn’t a lot of time. It’s a veritable microcosm on the timeline of life.

Here…let’s do an experiment. Find a clock with a second hand, or set your stopwatch on your phone. Hold your breath for 20 seconds as you watch each tick of the hand. Ready? Go!

20…
19…
18…

If you actually held your breath for 20 seconds it might have seemed longer than you had anticipated. But in all reality, it’s not a lot of time, right?

So, can you really do anything significant in this short amount of time? Can you impact anything or anyone in 20 short seconds?

Benjamin Mee would say “Absolutely!”

In the movie We Bought A Zoo, which is based on a true story, here’s what Ben said to his son, “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

The Power of 20 Seconds

Twenty seconds of “insane courage.”
Twenty seconds of “embarrassing bravery.”

Would you even consider the possibility of insanity or embarrassment? It’s risky. It’s gutsy. It’s out of our comfort zones.

What kinds of things could happen in 20 seconds insane courage? What kinds of things could occur in 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery?

Think about it…

Twenty seconds of insane courage to:

  • Make the phone call you’ve been avoiding
  • Have the conversation that’s long overdue
  • Walk across the room and make contact with that person
  • Lace up your tennis shoes, head out the door, and start the exercise program
  • Inquire about that job
  • Say the words that need to be heard
  • Write the check to support a cause
  • Make a decision for lasting change

Unlike Benjamin Mee, I can’t promise you something great will come of your 20 seconds of insane courage and embarrassing bravery. But more than likely nothing will happen if you avoid it.

Do you know what nothing means? It means no change. It means things stay the same. It means words are left unspoken, brokenness continues, repairs are left undone, salvation or redemption are put on hold, mending doesn’t begin, transformation stalls out, despair or discouragement perpetuate.

Twenty seconds of insane courage.
Twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery.
Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds…

Pray that God would give you insane courage. Pray that God would give you embarrassing bravery. Pray that God would open a door for you. And when He does, don’t dawdle through it, dance through that open door like there’s no tomorrow.

…because that’s the power of 20 seconds.

 

 

WHEN GOD IS SILENT…

You pray.When God is Silent...
…You don’t get an answer.

You pray again.
…Still no answer.

You keep praying.
…Dead silence.
…Crickets.

Frustrating? Absolutely! Dead end? Not necessarily.

There’s a story in the book of Matthew where a woman came to Jesus because she had a demon-possessed daughter. So she asked Jesus to have mercy on her. And guess what happened? “Jesus did not answer a word” (Matthew 15:23). The Message translation of that same verse says, “Jesus ignored her.” Man, talk about awkward! Or perhaps humiliating, or embarrassing, or frustrating, or irritating, or even confusing. Yeah, totally!

Here this gal was probably at her wit’s end, probably worn slick from trying to care for her daughter, yet going to the One who no doubt she heard could heal. She cried out to Jesus, and He didn’t answer. Dead silence. Crickets. Ouch!

What in the world does a non-response from God mean anyway? Other than the fact that it means we’re more frustrated or confused than when we initially started praying, it actually could mean several things.

  1. The timing just isn’t right—Sometimes the non-response from God means the timing is off. Either you’re not ready, the person, place, or situation isn’t ready, or God has something else in mind. We have to remember He’s sovereign. He knows what’s best. And His timing is indeed perfect.
  2. Change needs to occur—Sometimes when it feels like God isn’t answering our prayers, it’s because we need to change. Maybe we have some pride that needs dealt with. Perhaps we’re holding onto something from our past that we need to let go of. It could be that we’ve got some sin issues that we need to come clean with. If there are greater issues at stake, God may use silence to guide us into necessary change.
  3. Passion, persistence, and perseverance need to be learned—Sometimes God’s silence is a way to develop our spiritual growth and character. Our passion for whatever we’re praying for grows. We come to grips with how important our request really is. Our persistence increases. We learn to lean on God and go to Him more frequently. And our perseverance develops as we wait on Him.

Since I’m not God, I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers about His silence. But whatever God’s silence means, we must understand that His non-response exercises our faith muscle. And for this we ought to be grateful. It’s hard to be grateful when God has us wait, but remember without exercise, muscles atrophy.

Here’s the thing we gotta grasp…God is actually right there working in our midst, growing our faith, exercising our spiritual muscles when we hear nothing but silence. We might not be able to see His hand at work, but I assure you, it’s there.

In Mark 10:52, Jesus said to a blind guy, Your faith has made you whole. Go in peace.” At that moment, Blind Bartimaeus could see again. And from that time forward, he followed Jesus.

Let this be a lesson to us all. Our faith can make us whole. Notice it did not say “our faith can get us everything we ever wanted.” No, our faith can make us whole–make us well, heal us, save us, preserve us, etc. And after a period of silence, when we actually do see God’s hand at work, let us, like Blind Bartimaeus, follow Jesus from that time forward.

SLOW ME DOWN, LORD!

The following is a prayer written by Orin L. Crain in 1957. I happened upon it this week as I was glancing through a book at my in-laws. I’d say Mr. Crain thought rather profoundly in the 1950’s. In a crazy, mixed-up, warp-speed, lost world with all kinds of misplaced priorities, we all need a dose of what Mr. Crain prayed.

I would invite you to sit back, relax for a moment, and read his prayer slowly. Let it soak in. Let it permeate the busyness of your mind, heart, and soul. Read it, then pray it. Pray it, then believe it. Believe it, then live it.

“Slow me down, Lord!
Ease the pounding of my heart
By the quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace
With a vision of the eternal reach of time.
Give me,
Amidst the confusion of my day,
The calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tensions of my nerves
With the soothing music of the singing streams
That live in my memory.
Help me to know
The magical restoring power of sleep.
Teach me the art
Of taking minute vacations of slowing down
to look at a flower;
to chat with an old friend or make a new one;
to pat a stray dog;
to watch a spider build a web;
to smile at a child;
or to read a few lines from a good book.
Remind me each day
That the race is not always to the swift;
That there is more to life than increasing its speed.
Let me look upward
Into the branches of the towering oak
And know that it grew great and strong
Because it grew slowly and well.
Slow me down, Lord,
And inspire me to send my roots deep
Into the soil of life’s enduring values
That I may grow toward the stars
Of my greater destiny.”

Oh, that God would slow us all down…at least a little bit. 🙂

PRAYER–UNDERUSED, NEGLECTED, and IGNORED: 3 Attitude Changes

What’s the hardest thing about prayer for you? I once took an informal survey of about 25 friends on this very question. I got a variety of answers. But as most of my friends explained their answers, it really boiled down to one main thing: I’m just too busy to pray.

No matter how you might struggle with prayer, the net result is that Church-wide, nationwide, and worldwide, prayer is underused, neglected, and ignored. So what’s up with that? I’m being serious. Why don’t we practice the privilege of prayer more? Is it a lack of education? A lack of understanding? A lack of time? A lack of effort? A lack of faith? A lack of confidence? Why, oh why, do we blow it off?

I assure you, if I knew the tried, tested, and true answer, I would package it, sell it, and be the richest woman around. (You think I’m kidding…..) Most pastors would tell you that a lack of prayer in their church is a perpetual problem. And I would agree wholeheartedly!

Now, I could tell you about several keys or essentials to follow when we pray. But I’m not gonna do that. You see, prayer is far less about the rules we follow and far more about Who we follow. So instead, I’d like to share with you three attitudes toward prayer that just may invite you pray a little more frequently than you do.

Attitude #1: When you pray, EXPERIENCE GOD.

  • How many times do you dive right into your quiet times of prayer and bible study and do not even acknowledge the presence of God? All too frequently, during our daily quiet times or even at our worship services, we come into God’s presence flippantly, not really aware of Who we’re talking to and how awesome He truly is. We are so guilty of this as we pray “on the fly.” (In the shower, on the drive to work, etc.) I am not discounting those times of prayer at all.  Those are vital times we spend in conversation with our Creator. But all too often, we miss out on the whole “God experience,” the whole encounter with the Almighty because we pray so quickly and flippantly…limiting our prayers to a long laundry list of concerns we want God to fix for us.
  • When we slow down, pay attention, and when God is our initial, immediate focus we are able to release those things that concern us so that we can become altogether lost in the majesty of His presence and the joy of His ministry to us.

Attitude #2: When you pray, EXPRESS YOUR HEART.

  • Have you ever been around a brand new Christian when they pray? Or perhaps a child or young person? There is this incredible freedom…there’s an uninhibited abandon that just flows out of their mouths and you know that what they’re saying is coming directly from their hearts. They haven’t been around long enough to know that we Christians ridiculously impose all kinds of “rules” about prayer. Somewhere we (as grown up Christians) have lost the creativity… the spontaneity… We’ve lost the ability to just express our hearts because we’ve gotten so caught up in doing it “correctly.”
  • I went to a prayer meeting once in which the leader began the meeting by praying this: “Well, God, here we are…” And I remember being taken aback and wanting to laugh out loud. Not because it was wrong or inappropriate or funny…but because it was refreshingly genuine and unlike anything I had experienced. You see, the leader was just expressing her heart.
  • King David said in Psalm 62:8 “Trust in, lean on, rely on, and have confidence in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him” (AMP). King David poured his heart out regularly before the Lord. If the man after God’s own heart prayed this way, shouldn’t we?       

Attitude #3: When you pray, EXPECT GREAT THINGS.

  • Over and over again in Scripture, we see evidence of people praying and something significant happening shortly there after. Consider Acts 4:31, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” And how about 2 Chronicles 7:1, “When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.” Wow! After these folks prayed, the power of God was revealed in some incredible way.  Can we expect the same results?  Should we expect the same results?  I don’t think we’re too far off the mark if we expect great things when we pray. 
  • We have an extraordinary, amazing, mind-blowing, remarkable, great big God who is just begging to blow us away.  He longs to show us a little piece of His glory. Why not begin to expect it?

Early converts to the Christian faith in Africa had a separate spot out in the thicket where they would pour their hearts out in prayer to God.  They prayed so frequently that they wore paths in the grass out to the spot where they prayed. But, if somebody began to be negligent in prayer, others would kindly remind him, “Brother, the grass grows on your path.”

Is the grass growing on your path because you are neglecting this powerful privilege called prayer? If so, perhaps it’s time to alter your attitude.

What changes in attitude toward prayer will you make beginning today?

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