Today, I want to share with you something very personal to me…
My little red prayer box.
Have you ever felt your prayer life to be floundering or nonexistent? Yeah, me too. I have been through seasons of closeness with God and seasons when I couldn’t find my way. Times when praise filled my heart and times when I, regretfully, wondered “what’s the point.”
My prayer life was going through one of those “seasons of struggle” in 2013. I can’t remember anything particular happening at the time other than I needed more time in prayer and closeness with God. I told Him so…and what happened next still amazes me.
I awoke in the night from a terrible dream. Tears filled my eyes and my heart ached. I tiptoed to a back bedroom and grabbed some notecards and a black Sharpie. I would pray and write a single prayer request on each card. I remember the first one. I held the Sharpie over the blank card for several seconds. I felt silly in even writing the words. Hadn’t this thought just originated from my awful dream and not from something real? “Either way God knows all that is in the world,” I decided. So I wrote on the blank notecard:
A girl in this world crying out to you…rescue her.
I went on to fill cards with prayer for family, friends and “the old man with the horse cap at the post office.” Apparently, I didn’t know his name but I asked God to bless him. Some cards were “requests” and others were “thanks;” but all came from my heart and I put them away in a little red box.
Later that very day, I turned on the television to watch the news. Sitting on my couch I was stunned by what I heard. Never again will I feel silly about any prayer I feel in my heart. I listened as the story of Amanda Berry was revealed. How this young woman and two others were held captive by a monster for 10 years in Ohio. How that very day she had the courage and opportunity to escape. I don’t pretend to believe her escape was because of my single prayer. I am sure her family had prayed and agonized over her kidnapping every moment of every day for ten solid years. But this I do know, God used this miracle to remind me that He is here…listening.
Do you need to know He is listening?
I have wondered about the prayers of Joseph as he sat in prison unjustly for three long years. The prayers of Moses as he led the complaining Israelites through the desert for forty years. The prayers of Abraham as he felt the struggle between obeying God and the love of his son. The prayers of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as he anticipated his fate.
So often we want, what we want, when we want it and we usually want it NOW! I can remember having to wait for my favorite song to come on the radio so I could try and record it on a cassette tape! My kids can’t even imagine. You can download anything on iTunes in a matter of seconds. And Amazon Prime shipping…Wow! I can have just about anything delivered free to my doorstep in just two days…or overnight if I want to pay extra. But prayer is different. We wait, we struggle, we learn and we realize we NEED God.
By continuing to use my little red prayer box of notecards, I have learned a few things about prayer…
- Prayer requests are not Amazon Prime. I write down many (though not all) of my prayer requests. Writing them down helps me to stay focused in my prayer and thanksgiving while reminding me of all the prayers God has answered in different ways. Apparently as a human, I have a short memory when I have moved on to a new struggle. Some prayers have been answered in ways I never expected. But others are still waiting… these are hard for me. In our world of “instant gratification,” I am reminded that God works in His time and not mine.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1
- Anything concerning us, God cares about too. I teach a Sunday morning Bible class of 8, 9 and 10 years olds. At the beginning of each class we make two lists on the board. The first is titled “Ask” and the second is titled “Thank.” We list things to include in our prayer together: Things we wish to ask God and things for which we want to give thanks. The highlight of my week is praying with these kids. We have prayed for sick grandmas, pregnant dogs, math tests, our church family, new friends, old enemies, and wisdom. We have thanked God for pizza, football, new kittens, healed fingers, Christmas, birthdays, dirt bikes, gymnastics, and ice cream. I am reminded to thank God for all the little, delightful blessings He sends every single day.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in EVERYTHING
by prayer and petition, with THANKSGIVING,
present your requests to God. And the PEACE of God that transcends all understanding;
will GUARD your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
- Sometimes we have to get out of God’s way. I have prayed for something and then instead of truly GIVING it to God; I have tried to continue “fixing” it myself. This doesn’t exactly glorify God or exhibit trust in Him. When I finally gave up on “doing it myself,” everything fell into place in God’s perfection. He was just waiting for me to get my stubborn self out of the way and let Him do what He does best…be God!
Be Still and Know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10
- God is faithful…and we must be too. I wish there was a day absolutely nothing would be wrong in the world. When my prayers did not include sick friends, concerns about my kids, private insecurities or the pain of those I love. Every single day there are issues in this world. God is all powerful; why doesn’t He just fix it?! I will tell you why…because this is not Heaven. We live in the world; a world God sent His only son Jesus to save. A world that needs faithful Christians loving other people. And someday we will reap our reward of a forever perfect, Heavenly home. So hang in there!
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12
- Prayer gives hope and peace. The days I take some time to pray are so much more enjoyable. I go to Him and my burden is lifted. I have given it to the God who created all things and cares for me. Have you ever heard the old hymn “Sweet Hour of Prayer?” The words were written by my distant relative William Walford. It is one of my favorites. (You can read more about its history and view the lyrics here. You can listen to one or all of these beautiful versions by Alan Jackson, Acapella or Casting Crowns) Walford was blind but had memorized large portions of scripture and spent a lot of time in prayer. He blessed us all with his words: “In seasons of distress and grief, my soul has often found relief. And oft escaped the tempter’s snare by thy return, sweet hour of prayer!”
Go to Him, praise Him and let Him take your burdens…
“In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” Psalm 5:3
And just in case you missed the beauty of this morning’s sunrise…
Have a great day! With love, Nikki