Hey you! Yes, YOU!
I see you. You’re in the fight of your life. And maybe, just maybe, it has gone on so long that you don’t even know how to fight anymore. You don’t know how to pray anymore. You’re spent.
Please hear me: DON’T GIVE UP!
(and don’t look at the length of this and stop reading. ♥)
I’m not claiming to have all the answers to all the questions (and if I were, you would need to stop reading immediately), and I am fully aware that there are so. many. atrocities and tragedies that happen for which there is no obvious explanation. I don’t know why babies die, or why some people receive healing while others don’t. I don’t know why some attract all the favor the world has to offer without regard for righteousness, while others commit to a life of unbending integrity and yet don’t see their dreams realized. I just don’t know. But I do know that too much is at stake to give way to exhaustion, throw in the towel, or to lose faith.
I’m no expert in anything, really, and the only thing that qualifies me to even write this post is that I’m in the fight, too. Our battles probably don’t look the same. The assaults that come against me and my family may be of a different tactic than the ones that come at you. I’m not here to try and compare war stories. But I am here to say that the Lord has proven to me that in it all, He is good. That is not an empty platitude, but rather something my heart and mind have tested and found to be true.
I’ve been thinking about hardship lately, wondering how much of it is sourced in the Lord (testing, trial, discipline from a loving Dad)? How much of it comes from the enemy of our souls (spiritual battle)? How much of it is simply a result of the human condition (a broken world filled with broken people living in broken bodies doing broken things)? And how much of it is a consequence of our choices? Certainly over the course of our lives we’ll experience varying degrees of all of it. But regardless of the why, or the what, or the how long you’ve been trudging through, I want you to know…to feel it…to be utterly convinced in the depths of your soul that
- your Daddy God has not abandoned you (2 Cor. 4:9).
- Your Daddy God sees (Gen. 16:13).
- Your Daddy God is jealous for the affection of your heart (Ex. 34:14).
- Your Daddy God is still the God “who brings the dead back to life and who brings into existence what didn’t exist before” (Rom. 4:17).
- And did you know that there is even a place in Scripture where it is written to ask, and He will “tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.” (Jer. 33:3)
Now, we can debate about context and who these verses were written to, and we can even dialogue about whether or not they apply to us today. But, friend, will you allow me to camp out here on this last bullet point, if only from the body of my personal experience? Because I think this last verse from Jeremiah holds an incredibly important truth for us if we’re willing to engage it, and it brings confident strength to our battle cries before the Lord if we let it.
Question: if we operated in prayer under the assumption that praying makes any kind of difference whatsoever, or that God would actually do anything about the things that concern us, or that He just might say something in reply, do you think our prayer lives would change in any way? If prayer were more than a recitation of memorized jargon…more than words full of wishing but completely devoid of any faith…would it make a difference? I would submit to you YES!! YES IT WOULD!
While I carried each of our children, I felt like the Lord gave me clear impressions for each of them as to who they would be, what kinds of beautiful things they would bring into the world, as well as the landmines that they would have to beware of as they navigate the battlefield of life. You may think that sounds crazy, but so far, it seems I’m 3 for 3. Actually, let’s be clear – He’s the Revealer and I’m just doing my level best to listen. They are each just as He whispered to me before I ever saw their faces or smelled their baby skin. It’s astounding, really! And so my experience says that He still tells us remarkable secrets about things still to come. The question is: are we listening?
Initially, the things I thought I understood the Lord reveal to me about our youngest left me feeling
a little a lot scared . I thought to myself, “If he turns out to be as I think I saw in my spirit, I am not prepared to be this child’s mother…not as a 2 year old, or 9 year old, or 16 year old, or 21 year old…” It wasn’t an issue of my love for him; it was an issue of fear. It was a lack of confidence. It was not knowing.
The sweet cherub came into the world with 3 strong pushes, and just like that, I beheld the face of the one whom I already loved profoundly and whose very soul felt intertwined with my own. I nestled to my breast the tiny little 7 pound bundle of love whose body contained the biggest, boldest, bravest spirit of a baby I’d ever seen. It was as though we were one, and it was more than just the fact that he was mine, and carried my DNA in his own; I had already been fighting for him in prayer for months.
Out the gate, he proved the strength of his spirit – the child would. not. sleep. All you mamas out there with babies that don’t sleep know what this means. You can’t think, you’re contending with roller coaster hormones, your body is beaten and battered and trying to recover from growing and bringing a human being into the world whilst also feeding said human with your body; you’re trying to care for other children, you’re trying to be a wife…and you’re an emotional basket case in desperate need of the one thing you can’t get: sleep. Add in a massive leap of faith that we had known for months the Lord was calling us to – a leap that would mean that all reliable income would cease indefinitely, and we truly would have to trust the Lord for financial provision, health insurance, car insurance, food, toothpaste, school clothes, gas for the car…you get the point. Daily manna. No one wants to trust the Lord for daily manna. We like control. Independence. A plan. Nest eggs. (and sleep…)
This season of life – we’ll call it “Right Smack in the Middle of the Refiner’s Fire” – was/has been a doozie of monumental proportions. But I’d do it all again without hesitation if given the opportunity because even though the heat of the fire has been intense, the purification of the refining process has been life-altering. I’ve come to know in my heart (not just in theory) that prayer makes a difference, and even if I don’t immediately see the evidence of it in my circumstances, I see the evidence in my spirit…my soul. It’s unmistakable to me. Along the way, I learned a few things about prayer that may be useful or encouraging to you as well. These are what I’ve come to know as my
4 linchpins of life-changing prayer.
Have you ever been to coffee with a friend where you couldn’t get a word in even if you wanted to? The conversation is completely one-sided, and though you have truth to speak, there’s just no gracious way to insert your 2 cents. Not in the least do you begrudge them for getting everything off their chest, but there’s certainly the real possibility that your friend was left wanting because you weren’t given the opportunity to express your gifts of the Spirit. The same is true in prayer. Prayer is an invitation to speak and be spoken to by the God of the universe…the Creator of your soul…the One who cares about every detail of your life. But isn’t it just like us to go dump our junk on Him and run off to the next thing without even a second of silence to listen to what He might have to say in return?! Instead, what if we posed questions and lingered in silence until we discerned an answer? What if, throughout the day, we tuned our ears to His voice? “God, what do you think about this?” “Daddy, what do you want to teach me?” “Jesus, this is how I feel and what I think. Am I right? Am I wrong? What do You have to say about it?” “Elohim, what do I need to…
2. Surrender to you?”
Ok, ok. I know this is a wildly unpopular idea. More frequently than we’d probably ever care to admit, we tend to draw our lines in the sand and say, “I’ll go this far with you, Lord, but no further. What You’re asking of me is preposterous.” But friend, you know what I’ve learned? I’ve learned that this kind of strings-attached thinking is a relationship killer. It’s much more akin to quid pro quo than love. You see, it is in no-strings-attached surrender that our souls are laid bare before God and self, and it is in that place of nakedness that there is healing. It might be a little uncomfortable because He may reveal to us some things that we don’t want to see, but how can we heal if we don’t know what we need to heal from? How can we repent if we don’t know what we need to repent from? It is in surrender that He can purify us, thereby ridding us from all the garbage that gets in the way of right relationship with Him, interfering with our ability to discern His voice from among the myriad others, and keeping us from praying in line with His will. And it is in surrender that we can truly worship. And when we truly worship, we gain right perspective: We see ourselves in light of the eternal, good God. In surrendered worship, we give all the space for Perfect Love to cast out all fear. And when Perfect Love casts out all fear, we can pray from a place of boldness and confidence, and not, well, not from a place of fear. But it all starts with surrender…a yielded heart. (if you aren’t so sure of this, and would prefer a more seasoned, reputable pastor’s take on this, you may find this devotion by Rick Warren to be helpful.).
- Name and Take Aim
“Wouldn’t he know without being asked?’ said Polly.
‘I’ve no doubt he would,’ said the Horse (still with his mouth full). ‘But I’ve a sort of an idea he likes to be asked.” – C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew
When you name something, you define it. My husband and I named our children based on who we felt like the Lord told us they would be. So we placed those banners over them, that we may always remember how to speak into them and pray over them, so that they would always know who they are. Listen friend, God doesn’t need you to name anything for His benefit. He doesn’t need us to define anything for Him, as though He were confused or unsure or unaware. But when we surrender our hearts to Him and get silent before Him…and when He reveals things to our hearts that we clearly discern, it is important to name it…call it what it is. Doing so provides clarity and direction; it opens the lines of communication and transparency; it shows us where to take aim. “So what are we naming?”, you may wonder. I would submit that our communication with the Lord becomes much more personal and intimate when we define the battle that we fight, the dilemma we’re in, the fears we wrestle, our hopes, longings, the promises of God – both stated explicitly in Scripture and those revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. Name the passages of Scripture that He has given you. Name your position in relation to His. Call forth to your remembrance His goodness to you; the ways He has provided over the course of your life; His breakthroughs at just the right time. Name the impossible prophecies that He fulfilled, the miracles He performed, and what you know to be true of His character. Ask Him to help you remember; help you define.
As I walked through “Right Smack in the Middle of the Refiner’s Fire,” I began to learn these linchpin lessons for myself. You know those sleepless nights and exhausted days? He pulled back the veil that shrouded my understanding and He let me see that those nights were a gift…a gift of time with my infant son to contend for him in prayer, sing over him, declare Truth over him, press deeper into worship without interruption. I found that those “ungodly hours of the night” can actually be the most Spirit-filled, and He invited me to spend them with Him. He knew I needed Him (and He wanted to give himself to me). A gift. As I paced the floor for hours at a time bouncing my baby boy, aching for some zzzzz’s for both of us, Daddy God helped me to understand that I have the authority to condemn a spirit of fear because “greater is He who is in me than He who is in the world.” He reminded me that He ALWAYS keeps His word, so I can declare His Word over my children (and whatever else is coming against me). He whispered words of love and pleasure to me…tender words from Father to daughter.
I could have named this season something like “rotten” or “not fair” or “I didn’t sign up for this”. But by the grace of God, He let me see it for what it was….a gift.
And that gift gave me:
I don’t know what the rest of my days hold. I don’t know what my childrens’ days hold. I don’t know what circumstances lie ahead for any of us. But in the secret place of prayer, what I have come to know is that He is far more concerned about my heart and my sense of identity than He is my circumstances.
I am His.
When we realize WHOSE we are, along with the character of the One to whom we belong, confidence naturally flourishes. He wants that for you. Your prayers don’t have to be riddled with fear. They don’t have to be lacking courage. They need not be devoid of faith or ring of hopelessness.
- “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.” 2 Cor. 3:4
- “…in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.” Eph 3:12
- “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb. 4:16
- “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus…” Heb. 10:19
- “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has great reward.” Heb. 10:35
This list could go on and on with references to our confidence as children of the Most High, but you get the point. Abide in Him. In the secret place, we come to know Him, be shaped by Him, know that we can approach Him with deep faith and unwavering confidence.
That boy of mine that I was so afraid to mother because I feared a rebellious spirit? After weeks of me telling God how nervous I was (and naming each of the specific fears), I decided to get silent, surrendered my heart, and began to worship my Daddy God in spite of the fear. And when I did, Perfect Love cast out every single shadow of fear and I was able to hear Him say, “that boy of ours is a rebel with a cause. Make that your prayer, my love.” And so I have. The child I initially feared because I felt his will would be much stronger than my own? The Lord said, “He’s a world-changer, and I gave him the strength of will that he will need to go to the nations, with his feet fitted for travailing the mountains with the gospel of peace. That’s why I gave you that name for him. Declare it over him. Call it out! Oh! And that image that I gave you of him as a special ops officer with his foot planted firmly on a rock? Yes, that’s who I’ve made him to be. So tell him…remind him…prove to him over the course of your life (and his) that I AM the Lord his God, who is his eternal rock.”
And THAT is just how it goes in the secret place. You never know what He might say when you make yourself available to listen. I am of the hopeful conviction that He still guides our minds, shapes our hearts, and whispers things that we wouldn’t otherwise know, because He wants us to pray rightly. He wants us to pray with confidence. He wants to make Himself known. And remarkably, He has chosen these earthen vessels of ours to show the surpassing power that belongs to God.
Silence. Surrender. Naming. Confidence. They changed the game for me.
If you’re wounded by the battle, weary and war-torn, and you find yourself counting the cost and not so sure you aren’t just ready to defect from the battalion you’re in…
“I just can’t do this anymore,” you think…
Then take a breather if you need to. Rest is GOOD! Take a nap in the shadow of the Almighty, whose power no enemy can withstand. Stay there as long as you need to. Regroup. Be silent. But don’t you give up, sister! For greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.