Indeed God Answers Our Prayers

 . . . And the Proof Is in the Pudding!  

Perhaps this is my new favorite word since yesterday, but today it still applies — “voila!”  I prayed to God for peace, and today I feel it.  Thank you, Lord.  I feel God working, and I like watching Him work in my life and in the lives of those closest to me.  Yesterday, I told my boyfriend that it was interesting that the scripture where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11), and the devotion that I read yesterday where Hannah prays to God for a child (Samuel 1) both involve God hearing our prayers.  He is listening.  Thank you, heavenly Father, for hearing our prayers and for granting them.  I guarantee it; He is listening to you and to your heart.  So pray on whatever it is you are dealing with, and watch God work it out for your good.

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Indeed God Answers Our Prayers

For the Benefit of Others — Part Deux

Drafted three days ago . . . published today . . . it’s a journey everyday, so if you’re reading, read on.

My devotional for the day said, “why do we pray out loud?”  You should know that praying out loud with others around or praying out loud for others, leading the prayer, all that stuff, used to terrify me.  And because it terrifies me, I get tongue tied, my mind blanks, I speak really really fast, and I don’t feel like I say everything that I need to or should because the fact that others are listening to me makes me nervous.  I prefer to pray silently, or aloud but by myself, just me and God.  Today, though, the devotion really boiled down to doing things for the benefit of others because according to the devotional content, we pray out loud because “One, it keeps our mind from wandering! And two, it can strengthen and encourage those who are listening” (“Pray” published by http://www.lifechurch.tv).

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead in John chapter 11, making audible these words from verses 41-42 right before he is about to perform the miraculous,

So they took away the stone.  Then Jesus looked up.  He said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me.  I know that you always hear me.  But I said this for the benefit of the people standing here.  I said it so they will believe that you sent me” (NIRV)

Sometimes we have to do things for the benefit of those around us, and that in itself is a powerful statement because it speaks to a selflessness that we often need to be reminded of.  Jesus didn’t have to say those words.  It’s not about something that he himself needs.  Like he said, he already had a relationship with God, his faith in what God could do and was going to do was already certain, and his words confirm that he knew already that God always heard him.  Yet, he thanks God and reminds us of God’s power so that WE can know and so that WE can believe.  For the benefit of others, right?

On a personal note, this devotion got to me when I read it because I’ve been asking my boyfriend to prove what he says he wants through his actions.  A lot of times, the little random devotion that I read each morning actually seems to have been handpicked for where I am in my life right now . . . God knows, right?  While what I am asking of my beau might benefit him in the long run, what I really need is for him to prove his actions for my benefit.  It’s not for him, it’s for me.  Sometimes we have to do things like that to help someone else believe.  It’s an act that requires us to step outside of self.  Our situation and what I am asking him to do for me is not directly religious, and you should note that.  Though, we may find that God will and should probably be glorified all the same in the successful outcome of my honey’s act of proof.  Nonetheless, I am asking boyfriend lover boy to essentially proceed as Jesus did in this verse realizing that sometimes we must allow others to SEE (or hear and then see) what we already know.  Perhaps my connection may be a bit of a stretch for you, but still I say, “Voila! Proof!”

This verse speaks in so many ways to me, and you need to read it for yourself and pray on how God wants it to touch you.  When I think about doing something for the benefit of others, I think about being giving, kind, and caring.  Now, I also think about helping someone believe.  I would be remiss, though, if I didn’t emphasize that in Jesus’ statement of publicly and audibly thanking God for hearing him so that those standing around him could hear is a direct correlation to glorifying God.  Amen!  Jesus makes this declaration for all to hear before he performs the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead so that those who witnessed would know where his power came from and who it was that sent him.  The action of his words rather than the action of his work reminds us that everything we do should be to bring glory to God.

In verses 41-42, Jesus acknowledges that it is not he who is raising Lazarus from the dead but God because without God’s power, without God hearing our prayers, nothing would be possible.  Imagine how powerful that testimony or prayer could be for someone who is listening.  For the benefit of others, right?  Go out and be selfless today (or tomorrow!).  Give glory and honor to God in what you do.  And do something to help someone else believe in God’s power and love today.

For the Benefit of Others — Part Deux

For the Benefit of Others

A little update before I begin . . . I fell off with fulfilling my four pillars each day.  I left my home and went back home to my family for a visit.  It was harder for me to focus myself on what I knew I was supposed to do, so I just let it slip.  In light of the last thing I did post, I’ll just say, talk about self will.  In any effect, everyday is a new beginning, and today I’m resolving to get back on my game.  And one last thing to add because it’s just human nature even when it doesn’t count for much . . . I did try to write one day (I just have to say it).  Somehow, it didn’t save, and I don’t know what happened to it (never mind the fact that I never finished it, though, of course, I had every intention to finish it), BUT (one finger waves defensively in the air) I did TRY to write one day!  

Let’s just be honest, who was it who said “almost (and all the words like it that indicate that make yourself feel better half-hearted attempt) doesn’t count?”

For the Benefit of Others

Forgiveness and Will

Right before I sat down to write this post, I wanted to grab a handful of the semi-sweet chocolate chip morsels that I keep in my kitchen cabinet.  I had just finished dinner, and I was overcome with a sudden urge for something sweet.  Now today has been a good day for me.  Once again, I accomplished my physical obligation to myself.  This is the second day in a row I’ve exercised.  I worked my abs, legs, and ran for a longer length of time today.  All a win!  I happily partook in my emotional/social pillar.  I started my morning talking with my boyfriend then had lunch with two friends who celebrated their birthdays today.  I even took a positive sidebar back to the physical during lunch when I chose to pass up the fries for an arugula salad.  With my boyfriend this morning, I shared spiritual time.  We read Psalms 51.  I’ve revisited it this evening because as I went to grab that handful of tasty comforting chocolate I had to tell myself to say no, and then my brain said to me, why not write about self discipline and will!

Yesterday, I felt inspired (so inspired that for the first time ever I started a blog) to write.  I literally feel that God led me to pick up a pen yesterday while I read 2 Samuel 7.  There was something that He wanted to say, and it’s been getting out because yesterday and today have been about sharing the scripture and message I received with family and friends . . . Note to self: Think back. What am I doing for God?  Today, the mental exercise of writing has not been so easy.  My day has been different; the process slower.  Still, a piece of what I’ve done today has been to revisit my devotional, Psalm 51, and what I discovered for myself has been pretty interesting.

When they say the Bible is the greatest book ever written, there is truth to that.  At one point in my life I was a voracious reader.  I read less today, but my favorites have always been stories filled with adventure and love.  Before you get excited, Psalm 51 is not that story.  Psalm 51 is a prayer of forgiveness requested by David.  Now why does David need to be forgiven? — here is my *click*, my semi-sweet chocolate morsels of delight — because for a moment he grew weak in self discipline and will.

The context to Psalm 51 can be found in 2 Samuel 11.  It’s a good read, a lustful story and its deceitful aftermath . . . Yes, in Biblical times too!  Spring has sprung, David who is standing on in his rooftop sees a beautiful woman named Bathsheba taking a bath, and he simply cannot resist.  Casting who she is, the WIFE of Uriah, to the wind, he sends for and sleeps with her.  A momentary lapse of discipline can cause serious regrets.  If you don’t already know this story, then you should prepare to raise your eyebrows here because the drama continues.  This one slip in wise judgment causes Bathsheba to become pregnant with David’s child.  Now what is David to do?  After all he is the king and Bathsheba is married.  You will have to read 2 Samuel 11 for the ending to that tale.

David committed adultery with Bathsheba.  He sinned; and, in Psalm 51, he asks to be washed clean and to be made pure from his sin.  David is literally broken when he presents himself to the Lord.  In verse 17 he makes this assertion, “The greatest sacrifice you want is a broken spirit.  God you will gladly accept a heart that is broken because of sadness over sin” (NIRV).  Going to the Amplified Bible added additional meaning to the verse.  The heart that is broken should be “contrite” and “thoroughly penitent” when being offered as a sacrifice to the Lord (AMP).  I discussed this verse with my boyfriend this morning because it stuck out to me.  It seemed to me that David was saying that the greatest sacrifice to the Lord is a broken spirit because I know the Lord is glorified when He repairs us.  We have a testimony when the Lord fixes us and our situation.  We speak to the glory of God.  Reading the Amplified Bible, though, gives me more to see.  God doesn’t just want us to be broken.  He wants us to come to Him broken, not because of, but over the sins that we committed.  Our hearts should be torn because of the wrong we did.  We are to be affected by the guilt.  Take David for instance, he comes to God broken in Psalm 51.  All he wants to hear the Lord say is, ‘David, “your sins are forgiven” ‘ (v. 8 NIRV).

So what does this Psalm of forgiveness have to do with my will power?  I say increase your will power by learning from David’s transgression.  For me, succumbing to chocolate despair would have been gluttonous and it would have erased every bit of physical work that I worked for today.  Strengthening self discipline requires proaction, and here is where we can learn from David’s Psalm.

In verse 3, David is conscious of the fact that he has sinned.  He knows what he has done, and he knows that what he has done was wrong.  Growing greater will power requires awareness.  You have to think about what you are about to do before you do it and know that giving in to the temptation of whatever that thing is that you want at the moment is detrimental to the life you are trying to lead.  Realize and remain strong.  As the famous G.I. Joe quote goes, “knowing is half the battle.”

Having sinned, David asks God several times in this Psalm to make him pure and clean.  Eating that chocolate today would have contaminated my body.  Look at what sleeping with Bathsheba did to David.  Thinking about the damage the chocolate would have done made it easier to say no.  As you seek greater will power, think about the consequences giving in to temptation will have for you, your body, your journey, and your spirit.  We will all have times when we will need to ask God to cleanse our hearts, but why not try to keep what has already been cleansed pure?

Finally, verse 10, “[. . .] Give me a new spirit that is faithful to you,” and verse 12, “[. . .] Give me a spirit that obeys you” (NIRV).  Prayer is powerful in the midst of temptation too.  Be faithful to God and strive to have a spirit that obeys Him.  Pray for it, believe that God will answer your prayer, and carry that through.  Exercise the self will to say no to feeding your weakness because nothing about feeding our temptations or giving up on a goal seems to be aligned with being faithful to God.

Discipline is hard, but I hope you find the inspiration to stay your course.  The hard reality is that there will always be an area in your life in which you will need to exercise discipline, especially if you are pursuing something worth accomplishing, and so here is mine.  I’ve successfully said no to the chocolate tonight, now to tackle what I’ve been putting off since yesterday . . . sit down and focus on applying for new jobs.  Pray in the midst of weakness and be strong.

Forgiveness and Will

Is This Your Usual Way?

I finally woke up this morning with renewed energy in myself.  I’ve been trying to find myself because, quite honestly, I’ve been lost.  So far, today has been a good day, and it has gotten off to a good start.  I’ve fulfilled my physical obligation to myself.  I exercised this morning and even focused on my abs — an area I’ve been lazily neglecting.  I ate a healthy breakfast and passed up adding sugar to my coffee.  I worked on the spiritual.  I connected with my Lord, which is what brought me to this blog today.  And, as I type, I am currently in the process of sorting out part of my mental pillar for the day.

It’s daunting and scary and hard to be where I am in my life right now.  It’s even more terrifying for me to share any of this in a blog.  I fear what outcome each decision that I make presently in my life might hold for me, and quite frankly I am a little distrusting of myself that I am doing the right thing.  I am at a personal, professional, and livable crossroads in my life, but words from the Bible gave me some encouragement this morning.

My spiritual devotional for this brand new first day of July was 2 Samuel 7.  I focused on verses 18 and 19.  In this chapter David looked around him, seeing the beautiful palace in which he had been blessed to live in, and realized that the ark of God still resided in a tent.  David was struck with the idea to build a house for the ark of God.  Look at how God had blessed him, how could he not do this thing for his Lord?

David tells his idea to the Nathan the prophet, and through Nathan God speaks his blessing for David.  David wanted to do something for the Lord; God blesses him in return.  God blesses David’s name, David’s people, and David’s son.  God promises that David’s son will be king after David, that his kingdom will be secure, and that God’s love will never leave this son.  David’s son will be the one to build a house for God.

I started to ask myself, what am I doing for God?  It’s a serious question.  It’s a question that I really don’t ask myself very often.  In our society today, most of what we do is for ourselves not for others.  Even what we do for others, is really for the gratification of self.  It makes US feel good or, better yet, look good.  The question what am I doing for God? is one that I intend to give more thought to, but the message from this scripture for me wasn’t even in that question, which I find to be truly remarkable.  It speaks to the selfless nature and love of God.

After hearing God’s blessing, David goes to the holy tent to pray to God, to TALK TO God.  In verses 18 and 19, David says to the Lord, “Who am I? [. . .] So why have you brought me this far?  I would have thought you had already done enough for me” (NIRV).

Who am I, God, for you to have brought me thus far?  My message was there!  For me this is a continuous blessing.  No matter what, God has continued to bring me to where I need to be and through what I needed to get through.  When I ask for guidance, He continuously provides.  Even in the midst of feeling lost, which I honestly feel, I know He is still leading me because He has a plan for me and a purpose for me.  Who are we?  Like David, we are people for which God has a purpose.  He has a purpose for me, and He has a purpose for you.  This is why He has literally carried us so many times, which brought us and brings us to where we are.  This is what I believe.

And if that is not enough, because somehow God never leaves us at just enough, David goes on to say in verse 19, “But now, Lord and King, you have also spoken about what is going to happen […] is this your usual way of dealing with people?” (NIRV).  Today was my second day reading 2 Samuel 7.  I read it Monday, and because it popped up on my Bible app feed I read it again today.  Of course, it wasn’t coincidence.  Monday, I said to my boyfriend, I think that this is God’s usual way of dealing with people.  It has to be because I have seen it in my life and the lives of others so many times.  There seems to always be a “but now,” as Pastor Freddy Haynes might indicate, when it comes to the Lord.  David was already in a good position and because of what he wanted to do for God, the Lord blessed him and those around him again.  But now, Lord , you do even more for us.  My reading of this chapter, said that David deserved his blessing because of what he wanted to do for God, yet the amazing thing is that God does more for us who really don’t even deserve it.  And this is His usual way!  This is what God does.  This is what His grace and His mercy does for us, and it is utterly astonishing.

Today, I was led to pick up my pen when I sat down to read the Bible.  Picking up the pen, led me to literally starting a blog today.  See, something has been telling me to write, and I am trying to listen.  This is when the mental and the spiritual mix.  I’m thankful today for the blessing of this word; and, really, I hope that if you read this, that you read 2 Samuel 7 and that the Lord blesses you.

Is This Your Usual Way?