Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Encouragement of Prayer - Being Prayed For As Well As Praying For Others

“Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints”
(Ephesians 6:18).

Recently I had a particularly grueling time battling a migraine for four days. I had been trying to remain faithful and focused on the positive but was losing ground.  Then God blessed me with some wonderful encouragement from other believers.

I received a text message from someone I had not heard from in a while, saying she was praying for me.  I received an email from someone else I had not heard from recently, updating me on her life and saying she was praying for me, and I received a phone call from another friend. This support gave me the strength I needed to keep fighting the good fight until that particular battle was over.  Of course this does not happen every time I am in a crisis, but knowing that others are lifting me up in prayer, even occasionally, is a great encouragement and reminds me I am not alone in my struggles.

A few people have told me that they want to pray for others but they have difficulty staying focused. I face the same problem and was becoming frustrated, but I realized I needed to be realistic in my expectations.  Although it would be wonderful to have in-depth prayer times for others, including praying specific Scriptures for their needs, that may not be possible for me.  Yet whenever the Holy Spirit brings someone to mind, I can take a minute or two and lift them up in prayer. God already knows their needs and He knows my mental and physical limitations as well. 

We may never know the total impact of our prayers until eternity, but we can be sure that as we pray for one another, we are participating with God in accomplishing His divine purposes - in their lives as well as ours.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you that we can freely come before Your throne in prayer.  Lord Jesus, just as You are interceding for us before the Father, strengthen us to intercede for others even in our own weaknesses.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Traveling through Life with God’s New Luggage instead of Our Old Baggage

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self. .  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”
 (Ephesians 4:22,24).

I don’t do a tremendous amount of traveling and most of what I do is done by car, but I have traveled by plane in the past.  Fortunately I never had the experience of  losing my luggage. Retrieving and holding on to my physical baggage is a good thing when traveling.

There is another kind of baggage that is not such a good thing, particularly if it impacts the way we handle our pain and problems.  Most of us carry around some mental and emotional baggage that we would do better to let go of.  This might include views and beliefs about others, ourselves, and God. We may be carrying the baggage of beliefs that God doesn’t care about suffering, is not hearing our pleas for help, and His strength will not be enough to carry us through our pain.  We may have a suitcase of lies about ourselves – we are useless, we can’t do this anymore, or we are unimportant and insignificant.  Our baggage may include fear, worry, and many other negative emotions and beliefs.

As new creations in Christ this baggage is not something we have to claim anymore.  At least some of the people Paul was addressing in the above passage had been caught up in many negative behaviors  (II Corinthians 4:1), yet they were able to change because of God’s renewing power.

We have that same power within us.  We can let go of our old baggage and respond differently to our trials.  When we are tempted to reclaim that old baggage, we need to let it pass by and claim the new wardrobe God has given us.  What’s inside – a garment of praise and salvation, a robe of righteousness, and other blessings – is a much better fit.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, I want to let go of the baggage of negative and faithless beliefs belonging to my old self .  Thank you for the power You give me to change and let me appropriate that power today. Amen.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Reality of Heaven Makes Our Losses Worth the Wait

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first earth had passed away”
 (Revelation 21:1).

At the beginning of the summer I had a bicycle accident.  Although no permanent damage was done, I did aggravate my back and fibromyalgia problems.  All summer I have debated whether to ride again and finally decided it wasn’t worth the risk.  I grew up on a bike so letting go of it will be losing one of the last remaining links with my old life. 

Not too long ago I heard something that changed my response to this parting.  A woman had hoped to attend a Bible study at her church but her sick aunt came to live with her.  Her aunt was very demanding and not a believer.  Finally one day when this woman was trying to do her Bible study at home, the aunt asked what she was doing and said she might as well read the study out loud.  In that process the aunt became a Christian, and she and her niece became quite close.  Some time later the aunt was dying.  After several hours of being in and out of consciousness, the aunt opened her eyes and said in a very clear voice, “It’s all real!”, and then died.

That statement brought tears of joy to me.  Of course I know heaven is real, but to hear it from someone who actually saw a glimpse of it and shared it before leaving this life gave me greater hope and ability to keep persevering.

With that story in mind I thought again about losing my bike. I can honestly say that the first thought that came to mind was, “The next time I ride a bike will be in the new world.”  And that is exciting to me!  I don’t know what bikes will look like in heaven – maybe we’ll have something even better.  What I do know is that everything Scripture says about the new life is real, and as I live with the losses of many things, my hope is in all that is to come. 

Prayer: O Lord, how I look forward to the joys of eternity – a new and perfect world with You!  Help me to persevere in patience and maintain hope while I wait.  Amen.