Does Prayer Have to Be Complicated?

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I don’t remember the first time I talked to God, but I remember the moment I decided prayer was personal.

It’s funny how you don’t recall most of life when you’re three or four years old, but you can have these few vivid memories that play back like a well-worn movie.

I don’t remember how I knew my father had left us.  I don’t remember how I felt about the whole ordeal of divorce.

But I sat on a swing-set in my backyard one day when I was about four and I said this,

“God, You’ll have to be my Daddy now.”

That I remember.

And prayer has always been that for me, not some awkward attempt to wax poetic before a stern God.  I’ve never felt like my prayers have to ‘measure up’ or ‘sound holy.’

Because it’s always just been me, a simple girl talking to Dad about life on a swing-set, about making tough decisions, about life as a mom, about life….

I found a prayer journal years ago with categories and lists, a calendar of prayer planning, verses and notes, bookmarks, quotes, all spiral bound for easy writing.

I’m a little surprised that it didn’t light up or play music.

But the thing about that super-duper-deluxe journal is that I never could use it.  All those bells and whistles complicated prayer, made it so cumbersome and bulky.

I’d been chatting with God all day, every day for decades, and I couldn’t cram all that intimacy into a multi-step method in this how-to of prayer.

Maybe formulas and fancy systems work for you.

Or perhaps you’re like me, who simply wants prayer to be communion with God, the recognition of His presence here in this place.

Samuel Chadwick wrote:

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.  He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion.  He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray” Samuel Chadwick

There’s such power in this prayer, and yet too often we avoid it and neglect it because we over-complicate it.

We act as if we’re not really praying unless we pray for two hours straight, on our knees, in a prayer closet, with a prayer journal, and maintain an adequate ratio of praise-to-petition.

And, since we can’t do all that, we simply don’t pray at all.

But God doesn’t regulate prayer with some hierarchical system of holiness.

That’s Satan, complicating things so that we give it all up all-together, feeding us the lies:

Prayer is too hard.
Prayer is for the holy.
I get bored.
If only I could pray like her.  I guess I’m just a failure.
Surely God hears her prayers, but not mine because I don’t know how to start or what words to say and what if I get it all wrong?
I don’t have anything to say that’s important enough for God to hear.

Perhaps that’s how the disciples felt, when they overheard the Pharisees praying Shakespeare-quality performances every time they bowed their heads in the synagogue.

So, they asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray….”

Maybe they expected a formula or a long lecture about the process of prayer or a complicated prayer  cataloging system.

But Jesus did the opposite.  The Lord’s Prayer fits into five simple verses, which Jesus prefaced with this:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:5-8 NIV).

Don’t pray to show off. 

Don’t feel like you need to pray for a long time.

Keep it simple.  Pray what’s on your heart, because God already knows what you’re thinking and feeling.

Over the years, I’ve kept prayers on Index cards, prayers in beautiful journals, prayers on my fridge, prayers in a Word Processor on my computer.

And you know what?  All of them were prayer.  All of them helped me rest in the presence of God, learning to trust Him with my needs and learning to listen to His voice.

In the end, what matters about prayer isn’t so much how we pray; it’s that we actually do it.

Now it’s your turn:  Has prayer ever seemed complicated or difficult to you?  What do you want to learn most about prayer?  What’s the best advice about prayer you’ve ever been given?   What have you found that works?

Originally published February 3, 2014

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

4 Ways to Pray for the Persecuted Church (and why you should be praying)

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It’s not so unusual to feel like crying a little while waiting at the car repair shop. I had my own reasons that day, like the $900+ bill we paid before picking up the keys to our minivan.

Ouch.

But this was different.

We waited and waited.  I walked my son around the room, pointing to pictures of cars and trucks on the wall and steering him away from the M&M candy dispenser.

The news flashed reports up on the big screen TV on the other side of the room: Christians being captured and killed by the hundreds.

I’ve heard the reports and, honestly, avoided them at times.  Thinking about those babies, those little children, and the moms watching their sons and daughters tortured and killed, well, it’s just too much to bear.

So, I pull in.  I hide my eyes.  I stick my fingers in my ears and hope the evil just goes away or at least doesn’t make me any more uncomfortable than I already am.

But I’m stuck that day waiting for my minivan to be fixed, so the news keeps playing and what is there to do but listen?

They show a map of how ISIS is spreading.  The red territories cross the map from country to country, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria……more and more countries are covered in red.

I’m thankful for my son’s squirming, giving me something to focus on so I don’t break down and bawl right there among the sample tires and coffee bar.

Meanwhile, two other people in the room are watching those same news reports and mocking.

They laugh at the newscaster. They laugh at her guests.

I choose to block out their snide remarks, but it’s clear they think it’s all some big, fat joke.

How funny that people are dying.  How funny to watch news broadcasts about death and persecution and evil while sitting in a heated waiting area with electricity, candy, coffee, television and million other amenities all designed to keep us from feeling one tiny bit uncomfortable.

What is wrong with them?

But my little temper tantrum of righteous indignation fizzles.  Conviction seeps in.

What’s wrong with them?

Maybe the better question is: What’s wrong with me?

When Peter was imprisoned, the New Testament church took to their knees in a desperate prayer vigil for his release and safety.

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him (Acts 12:5 NIV)

Why am I not earnestly praying to God on behalf of the Christians who are sitting in prisons, starving, facing torture and being killed?

Maybe because I’d rather avoid the issue.

Maybe because I don’t know how.

But today….today I recommit to pray.

I pray for their rescue.  I do.

But more than that, more than just, “Lord, please don’t let them be hurt, tortured or killed,” I’ve been learning to pray that in the midst of persecution, God helps them stand and He brings them through stronger.

Will you join me in these prayers?

  1. Lord, rescue them.  Free them from prison.  Defeat their captors and destroy evil’s stronghold.  Deliver them from torture and death.
  2. Lord, strengthen them.  Remind them of Your presence.  Help them know they are not alone.  Let them feel the impact of our prayers.  Plant Your Word deep inside them.
  3. Lord, provide for them.  Please give them copies of the Bible.  Provide jobs for them and food for their families, shelter, education.  Meet their physical needs. Give churches safe places to meet.
  4. Lord, multiply them.   Even in the wake of persecution, we pray for revival.  We pray that the testimony and witness of these courageous Christians stirs hearts, opens minds, changes lives.  We pray for widespread salvation, for churches to grow, and for the lost to know that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Help the world see the truth of what is happening; do not let us remain blind to their plight.

Want to know more about praying for the persecuted church, modern-day martyrs and how to get involved?  Here are some resources for you:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

 

Why The ‘Best Mom Ever’ Is In Need of Mercy

“Thanks, Mom.  You’re the best mom ever.”

It was a casual minivan conversation.  She climbed up into her seat after preschool.  I promised to make her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with strawberries and pretzels for lunch.

She bestowed on me the title of “Best Mom Ever,” clicked her seatbelt, and then asked if she could play on my Kindle.

But two days later, I am still thinking about the mercy of this.

psalm116-1

Photo by Viktor Hanacek

I may be a good mom, a making-an-effort-mom, an intentional mom, an organized mom, a take-this-seriously mom….

…but I am not the “Best Mom Ever.”

I have those days.  (Don’t we all?)

I grow weary.  I snap.  I grumble over dirty dishes and toilets.  I push too hard.  I hold on to things when I need to let go.  I feel distracted or selfish.  I forget.

This girl, though, this tiny encourager in the minivan seat behind me, doesn’t give me what I deserve or merit or earn.  She overlooks the faults and failures.

That’s what mercy does.

Mercy says, “You deserve judgment, discipline, and second-class status….but I choose not to give you what you deserve.”

And this is how I’ve learned to pray.

Lord, have mercy.

That Pharisee stood all bold and confident in the synagogue, booming out those prayers.  “God, I’m so righteous.  God I’m so worthy.  I’m not like those other people, the riff-raff and the sinners.”

But that tax collector dropped his eyes low:

“God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 8:13 NIV).

Have mercy on me, Lord.

And that blind man begging by the side of the road heard that Jesus was passing by and what could he cry out?  That he deserved healing?  That somehow he had suffered long enough and had earned a miracle?

No, he screamed it out so Jesus could hear this one desperate cry over the noisy chaos of the mob:

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!  (Luke 18:38 NIV).

This mercy prayer is what Jesus loved, the one that caught His attention and made Him pause, turn aside, and deliver.  Lord, have mercy.

Even Daniel, this man so righteous in the Baylonian world of unrighteousness, knew he couldn’t pray because of his own merit.

We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy (Daniel 9:18 NIV).

So I pray this also about situations for others and situations for me: Lord, have mercy on me!

This is no manipulative mantra, no magic incantation.  It’s not the words themselves that matter.

It’s the attitude of my heart.  God delights in the humble.  He shows compassion to the needy.

And it’s right here where I recognize my utter dependence on Him that He shows His glory most clearly.

God, I know what I’ve already been given—mercy and grace, so much grace. You have been good to me.

And I know I can’t come here asking for Your help because I’ve worked this hard or because I am this good.  Not because I’ve tried to obey or because I’m righteous.  Not because I’ve spent this much time in Your Word today or got down on my knees when I prayed instead of praying with my eyes open while I’m driving.

There’s no holy act that could earn me the right to ask this….

No amount of “good” that makes me “good enough” to request Your favor or Your blessing.

And yet, I pray simply because You are merciful.

Scripture says God hears my prayers, but the answers don’t seem to come and it feels like He’s not even hearing me.

Am I being too bold?  Am I asking for too much?  Are there far more important things on His agenda?

Am I complaining too much and should I just settle for less and be grateful for what I get?  Am I too needy?  Too demanding or spoiled?

But then this.

I open up my daily Bible reading and start to run right through that Psalm for the day and at that first verse I sit stunned.  I read it over and over again:

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
    he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
    I will call on him as long as I live (Psalm 116:1-2 NIV).

He blows this fresh wind of mercy over me and He fills my hyperventilating lungs with His very own breath of hope and life.

I still can’t see the answer to my prayer.  I don’t see the solution or the end.

But I know this—He hears my cry for mercy.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

 

Does God Listen When We Pray?

“Listening is an act of love.”

That’s what she told me years ago as we sat around the table in our Bible study group.

She said it with a laugh, because she was a talker.  She liked chatting, chatting, chatting.  Listening was the sacrificial gift she gave to others.

Sometimes one phrase like that sticks with you years later.  It presses that impression deep into your clay-heart and you can trace your finger along the imprint over and over, to remember, to act, to transform, to put it into practice.

It changes you.

Listening.  That’s the act of love we give to others.

We quiet our own renegade thoughts, stop trying to think of what we want to say next, stop tuning others out in order to turn our selfish eyes inward once again.

We listen.  Really listen.  We listen so we can pray and ask the right questions.  Yes, we listen so we can show love.

I take this to heart.  Me, the mom perpetually in the minivan.  Some days, my kids want to babble on so.  I live in a world of noise.

But when I start to nod my head without hearing and insert appropriate “Mmmm—hmmmms” at well-timed pauses simply to pretend like I’m listening to them (while I secretly revel in my own private thoughts), I stop.

Now I choose to listen, choose to value who they are and what they have to say.

And I remind myself of this: Listening is an act of God’s love to me.

He doesn’t just ask me to give this gift to others.  He gives it first.

I don’t always feel it, of course.  Sometimes I push out those breathy prayers and feel like nothing is changing.  He isn’t listening, isn’t understanding my need or even caring about my little self in my desperate situation.

Those prayers sure feel at times like they are hitting that proverbial ceiling.

The Psalmists understood.

David wrote,

Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth (Psalm 54:2)

and

“To you, LORD, I call; you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit” (Psalm 28:1).

Asaph prayed the same:

“God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God” (Psalm 83:1).

That’s what we feel perhaps, and yet we’re assured that God hears our pure hearts when we pray.

God doesn’t tune us out or ignore us.

Psalm 10:17 says,

“Lord, you have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their hearts.  You will listen carefully” (HCSB).

He listens.  Not distractedly, absentmindedly, or halfheartedly.

God listens “carefully” to the desire of the humble.

Indeed, the Psalmist could say, “You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh”  (Psalm 38:9 NLT).  Even when we can’t cram our needs and feelings into words, God hears the very longings of our heart and every sigh of our overwhelmed soul.

When Jesus stood outside of Lazarus’s tomb, surrounded by wailing mourners who blamed him for Lazarus’s death, He prayed with these words:

Then Jesus raised His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You heard Me. I know that You always hear Me….” (John 1:1:41-42 HCSB).

Jesus prayed boldly on the basis of the promise of God’s character:  He is the God who always hears us. 

In Beth Moore’s book, The Beloved Disciple, she issues a prayer challenge:

Every time you pray for the next week, begin your prayer with Christ’s words straight out of John 11:42, “I know You always hear me.”  Then conclude it with Christ’s words in John 11:41, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” Practice God’s presence!  Pray as if He’s really listening because He is!”

This is my prayer practice this week, the way I am pursuing the presence of Christ through my prayer life.

This week, I’ll continue breathing out those short 5-word prayers from last week.

But  in my longer prayer times, I begin each with: “I know You always hear me.”  And before I say, “Amen, ” I pray, “Father, thank You that You have heard me.”

Because He does hear me.  I just need the reminder and reassurance at times.  This great God, so Mighty, so Awesome, loves me and chooses to listen to me as an expression of that merciful love.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I focus on Praying Simply?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

How to Pray When You Don’t Have Time to Pray

praying

 

“Why’d you have to say that aloud?”

That’s what my husband asked me and I knew it the moment I said those words I should have kept them shut up inside my head.

Foolish mama, to say, “If I can just make it to mid-March, the rest of the year will be easy.”

It’s like painting a big target on yourself with a sign saying, “Please hit me HERE.”

Of course, my daughters carried home three different invitations to join this team and that club and this after-school activity that very week.  And my tiniest girl comes to me with two birthday invitations.

That cathartic breath of victory, the kind you gasp in when you’ve crossed the finish-line of a suffocating race with your muscles screaming in pain and your head pounding, but you’re feeling accomplished—-that breath just got knocked right out of my breathless soul.

Why’d I have to go and say that aloud?

I pray out this whispered apology to God in my minivan:

“I’m just so sorry I’m rushing, sorry that 15 minutes of quiet in my car is the closest I get to really pouring it all out here with you, God.  Please forgive me.”

It used to be…

In those pre-Mom days, I commuted at least an hour each way and amused all the New Jersey drivers as the woman talking to herself and singing in her Dodge Neon.

Every day, I spent two hours in prayer and worship.

And now?

I’m disciplining myself through Bible study and I’m grabbing every last second to flop down all exhausted at the feet of Jesus.

There are days when I’m panting like David:

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water  (Psalm 63:1 NASB).

I have been that dehydrated and parched.

This morning, I read it here:

In panic I cried out, “I am cut off from the Lord!”  But you heard my cry for mercy and answered my call for help.  Psalm 31:22

I have felt cut off from the Lord….Cut off from His presence.  Cut off from that sweet intimacy of rambling conversations and long soul-talks with my Savior.

But…

The Psalmist tells me God hears that cry for mercy and call for help.prayer quote

And He answers.

I can dream about used to be’s or feel the heavy burden of failure and mourn the loss.  No more two-hour-long ‘quiet’ times in my tiny commuter car.

But here’s the thing….I’m working harder than ever to be there with Him.  Perhaps that’s even more precious to Him?

There’s this blessed reality, this beautiful Mom-life.  The beauty of interrupted thoughts and sweet hugs, of digging seeds deep down in the fertile souls of these four babies.

Maybe I can’t slip away for hours of prayer, but it’s because I’ve got my hands sunk in the soil and God’s there with me, patting down the dirt, watering and weeding, pruning and tending this garden of my home.

I read this grace:

God gives more in a moment than in a long period of time, for His actions are not measured by time at allKnow that even when you are in the kitchen, our Lord is moving among the pots and pans.” – St Teresa of Avila

and this:

There are moments when you don’t have time for long, wordy prayers to God.  You’re in the trenches.  You’re at the end of your rope.  You’re in the middle of life and just can’t push the pause button….Simple prayers from a person whose heart is bent towards God can be just as powerful as the poetic prayers of David   (Emily E. Ryan, Guilt-Free Quiet Times).

I think of Nehemiah, who prayed and fasted for months, but had this one moment of great need and wrote simply, “So I prayed to the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 2:4).  Just one sentence.  one quick prayer for help when he needed it most.

That’s what my prayers are like now.

Emily E. Ryan teaches me 5-Word Prayers to Whisper in the Moment (from Guilt-Free Quiet Times)

Not my will, but Yours.
Not my timing, but Yours.
Not my day, but Yours.

This week, as I pursue the presence of Christ by Praying Simply….I practice these 5-word prayers.  Sometimes less.  Sometimes little more than, “Help!!” or “Jesus!!” or “Have mercy on me!”

I wash the dish and pray thanks.
I make the bed and pray for my marriage.
I drive the minivan and pray for our activities.
I tie the shoes and pray for the feet that wear them.

I feel His presence as we work that soil and I remember that I’m ministering with Him, not apart from Him.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I focus on Praying Simply?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

Does prayer really have to be that complicated?

I don’t remember the first time I talked to God, but I remember the moment I decided prayer was personal.

It’s funny how you don’t recall most of life when you’re three or four years old, but you can have these few vivid memories that play back like a well-worn movie.

I don’t remember how I knew my father had left us.  I don’t remember how I felt about the whole ordeal of divorce.

But I sat on a swing-set in my backyard one day when I was about four and I said this,

“God, You’ll have to be my Daddy now.”

That I remember.

And prayer’s always been that for me, not some awkward attempt to wax poetic before a stern God.  I’ve never felt like my prayers have to ‘measure up’ or ‘sound holy.’DSCF2151

Because it’s always just been me, a simple girl talking to Dad about life on a swing-set, about making tough decisions, about life as a mom, about life….

I found a prayer journal years ago with categories and lists, a calendar of prayer planning, verses and notes, bookmarks, quotes, all spiral bound for easy writing.

I’m a little surprised that it didn’t light up or play music.

But the thing about that super-duper-deluxe journal is that I never could use it.  All those bells and whistles complicated prayer, made it so cumbersome and bulky.

I’d been chatting with God all day, every day for decades, and I couldn’t cram all that intimacy into a multi-step method in this how-to of prayer.

Maybe formulas and fancy systems work for you.

Or perhaps you’re like me, who simply wants prayer to be communion with God, the recognition of His presence here in this place.

Samuel Chadwick wrote:

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.  He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion.  He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray” Samuel Chadwick

There’s such power in this prayer, and yet too often we avoid it and neglect it because we over-complicate it.

We act as if we’re not really praying unless we pray for two hours straight, on our knees, in a prayer closet, with a prayer journal, and maintain an adequate ratio of praise-to-petition.

And, since we can’t do all that, we simply don’t pray at all.

But God doesn’t regulate prayer with some hierarchical system of holiness.

That’s Satan, complicating things so that we give it all up all-together, feeding us the lies:

Prayer is too hard.
Prayer is for the holy.
I get bored.
If only I could pray like her.  I guess I’m just a failure.
Surely God hears her prayers, but not mine because I don’t know how to start or what words to say and what if I get it all wrong?
I don’t have anything to say that’s important enough for God to hear.

Perhaps that’s how the disciples felt, when they overheard the Pharisees praying Shakespeare-quality performances every time they bowed their heads in the synagogue.

So, they asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray….”

Maybe they expected a formula or a long lecture about the process of prayer or a complicated prayer  cataloging system.

But Jesus did the opposite.  The Lord’s Prayer fits into five simple verses, which Jesus prefaced with this:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:5-8 NIV).

Don’t pray to show off. 

Don’t feel like you need to pray for a long time.

Keep it simple.  Pray what’s on your heart, because God already knows what you’re thinking and feeling.

Over the years, I’ve kept prayers on Index cards, prayers in beautiful journals, prayers on my fridge, prayers in a Word Processor on my computer.

And you know what?  All of them were prayer.  All of them helped me rest in the presence of God, learning to trust Him with my needs and learning to listen to His voice.

As I continue this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, I choose this month to linger here:

In the end, what matters about prayer isn’t how we pray, it’s that we actually do it.

That’s what I’m thinking….Now it’s your turn:

Has prayer ever seemed complicated or difficult to you?  What do you want to learn most about prayer?  What’s the best advice about prayer you’ve ever been given?   What have you found that works?

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me next month as I focus on Praying Simply?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

Thanksgiving Devotions: Thank You For This Day

Every year, my daughters’ preschool teacher pulls the children aside individually and asks an important question:

What are you thankful for?

As a mom, I’ve grown accustomed to the tradition.  The week of Thanksgiving, I can check the bulletin board outside of the classroom and see what crazy thing popped out of my child’s mouth in that one moment with her teacher.

I think I’ve only ever had one year where a daughter was thankful for me.

Mostly, they’ve been thankful for loose teeth or funny things their dad does or some toy that I never see them actually play with.  This year, my girl was thankful for her stuffed animals.

Thanksgiving tends to highlight what’s important to us, usually family and friends more than toys, but still we’re motivated to be grateful at least one month, or week, or day out of the year.

Some of us start Thanksgiving journals and gratitude lists.  Others post daily Facebook status updates of what we’re thankful for this year (or sort of “daily updates,” more like once every few days with lots of catching up).

We’re sincerely excited to acknowledge the blessing and it’s beautiful in its season.

One of the things I love about my little girl, though, is that she isn’t just thankful for stuffed animals when the teacher pulls her aside for the annual preschool Thanksgiving assignment.

Every single time she prays, she begins with, “Dear God, thank You for this day.”

Mealtime prayers, bedtime prayers, prayers in June or in December, if it starts with “Dear God” and ends with “Amen,” she’s thankful for the day she’s had.  Time-outs, sadness, fights with her sisters, none of that can mar her thankful heart.

I’m reminded of Daniel, who prayed in a similar way in Babylon.  Despite exile far from his beloved Jerusalem and his family, despite political intrigue and plots against him, despite religious persecution and antisemitism, still Daniel prayed.

And he didn’t just plead and petition God for help in the midst of sorrow or stress.

He “knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Daniel 6:10)

He prayed on his knees.  Three times a day.  Every day.  Not so everyone could see, but in a manner people could notice if they chose to look his way.

And he “gave thanks.”

That’s why King Darius knew there was hope for Daniel even after he was shut up in a darkened den of ravenous lions and locked in overnight.

The King trusted in the God “whom you serve continually” (Daniel 6:16, 6:20) and his trust was not misplaced.

Daniel’s faithful, day in and day out, no matter what the circumstances, continual determination to get down on his knees and give thanks to God was blessed in that moment.  God sent the angel to slam shut the jaws of the lions until Daniel could be lifted out of the pit unscathed.

It might seem that the miracle was the reason to give thanks, and that’s what King Darius did, issuing a proclamation of praise to the “Living God” of Daniel.

But Daniel had been giving thanks all along.

Thanksgiving is over this year.  We’ve feasted and visited family and friends.  We’ve probably thought and even shared what we’re thankful for this year.

But I don’t want to just be a once-a-year grateful girl.

I want to be thankful for this day and the next and the one after that, regardless of the circumstances or annoyances or even fears.

I want to make it a discipline and attitude and habit of mind and heart to give thanks to God, maybe three times a day, maybe 20 times a day.

I want people to refer to my God as the one “whom I serve continually,” not periodically, or seasonally, or around the holidays.

When they see the lions’ den, I want people to know my God can rescue and deliver.

Don’t you?

If that’s our true desire, then our first step is today.  When everyone else has finished the annual mantra of thanks and the turkey is reduced to leftovers and others have moved on to Christmas lists and shopping, we make a choice to be thankful.

Today we choose to pause and give praise, give specific thanks, notice God at work and drop our head for a whispered moment of gratefulness.  We choose to look past the obvious and the bothersome or scary, to see reasons to thank Him “for this day” every…single…day of the year to come.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King