What to do when I’m tempted to criticize

ephesians 4-32

My friend was crying and telling me she felt like a total flake.  Life had been crazy, filled with mistakes and missed appointments, misplaced papers, forgotten promises, everything lost and mixed up and wrong.

I love my friend and I got it. Truly, I did.  I nodded my head and encouraged her while other shoppers pushed their carts past us in the grocery story.

But inside, in the secret places of my mind and heart, that compassion wasn’t complete.  It was hollow, pat-her-on-the-back kind of friendship–the kind that is sorry she had a bad week, but fell short of true understanding or free-flowing grace.

The truth was, deep down, I was judging her as much as she judged herself.  And it was ugly.

Forgetting, missing, losing, making mistakes? It sounded like a too-busy schedule and an absent organizational system.  Maybe a few files and a day planner could save the day.

Two weeks later, I was sobbing at my kitchen table.  It had been a week of misplaced papers and missing items—not little insignificant things—BIG things, like legal documents and DMV paperwork.

For someone generally in control and on top of things, the week had been devastatingly humbling.

Then, I felt the deeper challenge.

God never lets me get away with passing silent judgment or criticism on another.  Never.

Nor should He.

The very moment I start internally critiquing another mom or putting another friend in a labeled box based on her mistakes and weaknesses, I know God will be at work in my life, bringing me to my knees to ask for forgiveness.

Because I need a Savior.

Because I’m a mess, too!

I’m not perfect and my life isn’t perfect and the thing we all need as moms and as women and as flaw-filled humans is heaping loads of grace and compassion, not quiet judgment or silent criticism.

We stumble into the judge’s seat so easily, thinking we know the people around us:

The frazzled-looking momma with the crying baby in Wal-Mart.
The parents whose teenager disappeared from church.
The couple who met with the divorce lawyers last week.
The husband and wife holding the bankruptcy paperwork.
The family with the nice new car and large house.
Those who homeschool (or don’t).
Those who have large families (or small).
The mom who commutes every day to work (and the one who doesn’t.)
The highly fashionable woman next to you in church, with perfectly polished nails, a size 4 waist, and a wardrobe that looks like it costs more than your house (or the one in jeans and a t-shirt).

As long as we’re quiet about it, after all, there seems little harm.  It’s only in our heart, only our own private thoughts of criticism.

Maybe it spills over occasionally into snarky remarks and private jibes with like-minded friends, but mostly we control the collateral damage.

Yet, isn’t that the picture of the pharisees in Luke 5?

Scripture tells us: “One day Jesus was teaching and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there” (Luke 5:17).

They had front row seats, a privileged view of the hurting crowd.

They watched four friends carrying a man on a mat and lowering him down through the ceiling.  They watched as Jesus healed him, saying, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20).

While the man and his friends rejoiced and the crowd marveled, others remained unmoved:

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:21).

They were just “thinking to themselves.”  They weren’t gossiping or heckling Jesus.  They didn’t hop up then and there to condemn Him.

It was just an internal dialogue, a private moment of judgment and condemnation.

But, “Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, ‘Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?‘” (Luke 5:22).

Even our most secretive judgments of others have an audience—Jesus Himself.  

Would He also be disappointed about what I’m thinking in my heart?

After all, judgment that doesn’t appear on protest signs or Facebook posts or Twitter feeds is still judgment and it still hurts.

Instead of criticizing or labeling others when I see them struggling or hurting, I should be drawn to intense and consistent intercession, praying for them rather than picking at them.

As Oswald Chambers wrote:

‘God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.’

I should be slow to condemn and quick to pray for others.

The truth is I’m desperately in need of the grace Christ has poured out on me, and if I need that kind of grace, then I need to show that kind of grace: unhindered, unqualified, unmarred by an undercurrent of criticism and condescension.

Just grace.

Beautiful, pure, deep down honest grace.

(Author’s note: Of course, this doesn’t mean we can’t discern or judge right from wrong, sin from not-sin, etc.)

Lessons from the 5-year-old on prayer

romans 12-12
I put my hand on the back of my five-year-old to usher her into the minivan.

She does not move.

My lecture about wasting time and ‘please can you hurry because we don’t want to be late!’ catches in my throat when I glance at her.

Her head is bowed, her eyes squeezed shut.  Her hands are clasped and tucked under her chin.

She is praying.

I lean down and hear the whisper:

Dear God, please help the person who is hurt and help the fire truck make them safe and all better.  Amen.

Oh, now I hear them: The sirens in a distance that I’d been blocking out with busy thoughts and Mom-instructions to “get your seatbelts on quickly” and “take turns sitting in the middle seat” and “make sure you have all your stuff.”

You know.  Life.

Life crowded out the need, crowded out others.  It tunneled my vision so I saw only my agenda, heard only my voice, pushed and shoved and crammed right up to the Father with only my own needy self in mind.

As parents, my husband and I have had our more spiritual moments.  We’ve been driving before and hushed the general din of six people (including a baby) in the minivan so we could pray about the fire truck or the ambulance passing us on the road.

My girl took this to heart.  She tucked it into her soul and now she watches and listens and drops her head down the instant she senses the need to pray.

She even stopped the mad dash to the middle seat of the minivan and let her sisters rush in to claim the prime spots in order to pause and pray.

She let go of self.  She focused on another.

Maybe my husband and I taught her the principle, but this kindergarten prayer powerhouse teaches me to get down on my knees and beg for God to help me see.

Because somehow there’s this automatic pull of humanity back to self.  Somehow the noise within us drowns out the noise without….so we no longer hear the cries of need from a needy world.

Somehow we lose the eyes of God, the ears of God, the heart of God.

Yet, Moses teaches me to see others with God’s vision.

He stood on a holy mountain preparing to die.  Moses was not to enter the Promised Land and he knew God’s intentions to take him up a mountain that he would never climb down.

But his eyes were for the people of Israel.  He could have asked for a legacy.  He could have begged for forgiveness and the chance to step at least one weary foot onto Canaan’s soil.

He didn’t.

Instead, he prayed:

Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation 17 who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd (Numbers 27:16-17 ESV)

Long before Jesus, Moses stood overlooking the crowd and saw them with God’s eyes as sheep that have no shepherd.

Centuries later, Jesus Himself stood and saw this same need:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36 ESV).

Moses got it, really got it.  Got right to the heart of the matter, right to the need in front of his face and put aside his own affairs—he was, after all, moments from death—-in order to intercede on behalf of God’s people.

His heart matched God’s own heart.

He had 20/20 vision in that moment, not cataracts of selfishness marring his perspective.

Selfishness takes up time and takes up space; it muscles out God and keeps us from loving others.

Today, let’s lay it down.

And let us pray:

Lord, give me Your heart today.
Don’t let me be blinded to need and deaf to the cries of others.
Show me how to bless another.
May I be sensitive to the needs of others so I can be generous and compassionate.
I lay aside selfishness so I can live a life motivated by kindness and ruled by love.
Less of me, Lord. More of You.
Be glorified.
Amen.

prayerlovingothers

 

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 © 2015 Heather King

 

 

Five Simple Ways to Remember to Pray for Others

“The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.”
1 Timothy 2:1 MSG

“I’ll pray for ya!”

That’s what we promise.remembertopray

But do we really remember?  When life crowds in, do we keep our promise to pray for surgeries, doctor’s appointments, marriages, infertility, job interviews, ministry events, concerns about children, or direction….not for ourselves, but for others?

Because truth be told, so often we’re selfish, attending to our own needs and forgetting the needs of others.

Or maybe we’re distracted. Far too busy.  Simply forgetful.

We need, though, not just to say we’re going to pray, but to truly bow down at the throne of God and lift up our friends, family, and church members, interceding on their behalf. 

Oswald Chambers wrote:

“Your part in intercessory prayer is not to agonize over how to intercede, but to use everyday circumstances and people God puts around you by His providence to bring them before His throne and to allow the Spirit in you the opportunity to intercede for them.  In this way, God is going to touch the whole world with His saints.

God does not appoint one person in a group to pray for everyone else or call one person to intercessory prayer and give everyone else a “Get Out of Prayer” card.

He invites all of us to His throne room on behalf of the people we meet in “everyday circumstances and people God puts around you by His providence.”

Perhaps God sent you through that particular line at the grocery store so you could meet and pray for your cashier.

Maybe the hairdresser who checks your name off the list and calls you back to the shampoo bowl was God-appointed so that you could pray for her.

That interruption in your day that sent you to the store unexpectedly may have been so that you could meet up with a friend from small group who needs prayer.

So then, how do you combat forgetfulness and busyness and self-centeredness and make praying for others a consistent reality rather than a broken promise?

  1.  Mark it on your calendar: Mingled among doctor’s appointments, ballet lessons, and cookouts, prayer requests dot my calendar.  Surgery dates, job interviews, baby due dates, and court appearances are marked on the squares so that I will remember to pray on the very days necessary.
  2. Pray right away: If someone calls me with a prayer request, I may very well pray right there on the phone.  If not, I pray as soon as I  hang up.  I may be cutting onions, stirring pasta, washing dishes or folding clothes while I’m doing it, but I’m praying while it is fresh on my heart and mind.  If I receive an email with a prayer request, I pray over it as I read and as soon as I’m finished.1timothy2
  3. Pray as you read Scripture:  As I read, I ask God to reveal Scriptures that I can pray for those on my prayer list and He does.  Right there in that moment, Bible in my hand, I pray for the person who has popped into my mind in association with that verse. ” God, place a new song in her heart” (Psalm 40).  “God, fill her with the knowledge of Your will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9).  Every time I open my Bible, I begin a conversation with God that often includes requests for others.
  4. Stop, Drop and Pray: We’ve all had those moments when we’re running through our day and a friend appears in our thoughts for a moment.  “I need to call her,” we might think.  Or, “I need to remember to pray for her later.”  I’ve learned to obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit and pray right then and there.  I don’t need to wait until my quiet time to lift up a friend to God.  I stop where I am, drop what I’m doing even if only for a few seconds, and pray—-before I forget and before urgent things distract me.
  5. Post It:  I’ve tried keeping a notebook of prayer requests before and it hasn’t worked for me.  What I have done, though, is find ways to post the prayer requests so I see them all day and pray for them often.  I have a prayer list for my kids on my refrigerator door.  I’ve posted index cards around my desk with prayer requests for others.  I have a prayer card in my Bible and another in my car.

Too often we try to confine prayer to specific times, meetings, sacred places and holy moments.  But prayer can happen right here and now. As soon as the Holy Spirit nudges our heart, we can offer those prayers up to Him on behalf of others.

Originally posted as Pray for Us, Part II, 5/25/2011

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

VBS for Grown-Ups: Family and Friends Help Us

All week long I’m thinking about the Bible points for our Vacation Bible School and what they mean for adults.  This week will be a mix of some old and some new as I share these lessons.

Today at Kingdom Rock VBS (Group Publishing), we’re learning: Family and Friends Help Us…Stand Strong!kingdom-rock-logo-hi-res

1 Thessalonians 5:11  “So encourage each other and build each other up”
Adapted from “We’ve Got to Pray,” originally published November 26, 2012

I saw it when I took my kids to the zoo.

We walked through the darkened reptile house and stopped at every single window trying to find the tomato frog, the pancake turtle, the boa, the green tree snake, the cotton mouth.  Sometimes we stared carefully through the glass for minutes, examining every leaf and rock, trying not to give up.

Occasionally, the family in front of us helpfully pointed out the camouflaged creature and we passed the news along: “There he is…do you see him?  On the big tree in the back.”

My older daughters patiently pointed out lizard after lizard, snake after snake for their three-year-old sister and waited for her to follow their pointing fingers until she could exclaim, “Oh, I see him!” with a giggle.

And then, when she needed to be given a boost to see the meerkats in the Africa exhibit, my youngest daughter didn’t even need to ask for a boost.  Without a second’s pause, her older sister hoisted her up onto the shelf and held her while she peered against the glass.

As we finished for the day, I–the super-planner, never-spontaneous mom— actually gave my kids permission to run and play in the fountains with the other kids.  The sun had finally warmed up the day and maybe it was crazy and thoroughly impractical of me, but I sat on the bench while my daughters splashed, ran and giggled.

Even then, I saw it.  My three-year-old looking around, not seeing me, and her older sisters bringing her to where I sat.  Then, as they played, they led her by the hand, they smoothed her wet hair away from her face, they called her over to join them.

It wasn’t a burden to help.  It was a joy, to be the big sister, the one who could be depended on, the cheerful face, the kind voice and the strong arms that a little sister needed to feel love010d and safe.

This….was….beautiful.

And there I was, sitting in those benches around the zoo fountains just watching my daughters.

They were teaching me that day, teaching me how to be the bigger sister.  Teaching me how to come alongside others who are in need, others who need a boost, others who need a friendly smile and someone to notice their lostness and lead them to a Savior.

But they also taught me how to be the younger sister.  How to trust others and the helping hands they offer.  How not to give up and despair when the blessing is out of reach or I can’t see the hope camouflaged among the mess.

Too often we try to go it alone out of pride, or shame, or inferiority, or just not knowing where to turn.  We could sit there at our kitchen tables by ourselves with our Bible and prayer journal and pray.

Yet, Scripture reminds us of the power of praying together.

When Esther prepared to enter King Xerxes’s presence uninvited, placing her life in jeopardy in order to save her people from mass genocide, she didn’t just pray on her own.

She organized a nationwide prayer meeting, instructing all the Jews of Susa to “fast for me.  Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day.  My maids and I will do the same…” (Esther 4:16 NLT).

Her story isn’t one of a lone heroine rising to face an enemy.  She trusted in the advice, counsel, encouragement and prayers of her godly cousin Mordecai and depended on the intercession of her people.  Without it, maybe she wouldn’t have stood before the king and the Jews would have been slaughtered.

Jesus didn’t just fall to the ground in the Garden of Gethsemane alone as he waited for his betrayer to arrive with an army of soldiers and an unwelcome kiss.  He took along “Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed.  He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.  Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:37-38).

Paul, who seemed so confident and capable in ministry and who always seemed content and able to rejoice despite circumstances, wasn’t afraid to ask the church in Ephesus to “pray for me, too.  Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan…” (Ephesians 6:19 NLT).

God brings us others because He didn’t design us to walk through the dark places alone.  He created us for community and formed shoulders to help carry burdens and hands to hold hands.  He meant for family and friends to help us stand strong…and for us to help others do the same.

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 upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

The Prodigal Returns

Our prodigal finally tiptoed through our backdoor at 2 a.m. last night.

We’ve had our orange cat for about 11 years now.  I picked him out of a litter of tiny strays at the Humane Society when we lived in New Jersey.  He was strikingly beautiful with swirls of white in his fur.

And he was terrified of us and the world.

When people visited us, our other more-friendly goliath of a black cat would greet them at the door, and our orange skittish feline would hide away for safety.002

Since he had lived outside as a newborn before he was taken to the Humane Society, what he knew was the outdoors.  For years, he would stomp all over my potted plants to push their leaves down and then sleep on the soil.

At some point, this Scaredy-Cat, who is supposed to stay inside, got a taste of the outdoors again.  At first, it was little excursions out the back door.  Then longer jaunts into the wooded area behind our house.

On Wednesday night, he ran out in the evening, after it had already grown dark and bitterly cold.  It was the first day of spring and we’d been watching bursts of snow showers all day.

So, we went into “recovery” mode.  I opened the back door and made a loud production of pouring food into his food dish.  My husband searched the yard and called his name.  We left the door cracked open all night and put his cat bed out on the deck.

And we prayed.

But he didn’t come home.  Not all that night.  Not all the next day, even though I abandoned chores to trek through the woods calling his name and spent the rest of the day peering out the back windows watching for him to shoot up the stairs of the deck.

…Not even after I started to suggest to my daughters that maybe he wasn’t coming home and they invented adventure stories about how he made a new friend or went to kitty preschool or visited the cat doctor.

…Not after we bowed our heads as a family and each daughter and parent prayed that Oliver would come home.

At 2 a.m., though, I woke abruptly and fought the urge to roll back over and go back to sleep.  I fumbled for my glasses and plodded in bare feet to the back door, expecting to see an empty deck.

Instead, I saw our orange cat nibbling at the food we’d left for him. He lifted his face to look at me as if nothing had ever happened, and when I opened up the door, he just tiptoed inside nonchalantly like it was no big deal whatsoever.

All that time he was gallivanting through the woods or maybe hunkered down somewhere trying to keep warm, I thought and prayed about this cat.  Every time I walked outside, pulled my coat up close and felt the chill deep down in my bones, I thought about him.

And I’m not sure I ever really understood Jesus’ passionate, intense, and committed pursuit of the lost and the prodigals until now.

I was worried about a cat.

He’s concerned about people He loves enough to die for.

Sure, I read the parables in Luke 15.  The Lost Coin.  The Lost Sheep.  The Lost Son (there’s that prodigal).

I thought I knew–Yes, “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10 HCSB).

But I really didn’t understand.  Not the way that they would linger on His mind or how He’d put aside other agendas to pursue them or that He’d keep searching long after most of us would lose all hope.

He leaves the 99 sheep, to wander the hillside looking for the one stray.

He runs full speed toward the prodigal returning home and welcomes him in, celebrating rather than chastising.

And that woman who lost the one silver coin—I’ve been there.  Turning on all the lights.  Sweeping the whole house.  Scripture says she would “search carefully until she finds it” (Luke 15:8).  I don’t know what “carefully” looks like for her, but it sounds so methodical and orderly.

My searches look more like frantic overturning of dresser drawers, tossing things out of closets, sweeping papers off of desks and rumbling through junk all while whispering desperate prayers that God would just help this crazy woman find this oh-so-important-thing already!

I lose that for people too much of the time, that willingness to keep on relentlessly praying for the lost and the fervent intercession for and seeking out of the prodigals.

I struggle to confess–it’s ugly, but true—I think I felt more worry over my runaway cat and more desperation about finding missing pieces of paper than over the wayward and hurting around me.

And that needs to change.

Do you need to re-commit to praying for lost loved ones or loving the prodigals you know?

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 upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Praying for them and praying with them

My girl clambered into the minivan after school, heavy backpack on her shoulders, heavy thoughts in her heart.

She waited for my daily question, “How was your day?”

And then she spilled the news about “this boy in my class.”

“This boy” was loud and disruptive and didn’t follow the rules.  He cost them rewards in art class and never obeyed the teacher.  He did inappropriate things and wouldn’t stay in line.

She finished her story, pronounced a loud “harumph” and slammed her arms criss-cross around her chest to demonstrate her anger.

So many of our conversations take place this way, me angling the rear-view mirror to see faces, shouting back Mom-ly words of wisdom from the driver’s seat.  “You know what we need to do,” I hollered to the back seat.  “We need to pray for him and for your teacher.”

I expected her to shrug off my advice as impractical and unhelpful, no immediate solution and no personal satisfaction guaranteed.

But she didn’t.  I watched as a look of epiphany brightened her eyes and she lifted her face so her eyes met mine in the mirror.  She nodded in wholehearted agreement.

Later, snuggled together on our overstuffed blue couch, I prayed for “this boy” and for their teacher and when I was through, this child of mine–who finds kisses too embarrassing and 1timothy2declines to even hug much of the time–tossed her arms around me freely and tightly.

We parents, grandparents, teachers and leaders show our children how to pray over time, beginning with bowed heads over scraped needs and boo-boos on fingers.  We seek forgiveness for wrongs and take difficult situations to God.  And then we begin to pray for others, their hearts turning outward in ministry and compassion (and maybe sometimes frustration).

But it all begins with us, modeling the habit and discipline of “take it to the Lord in prayer.”  It’s bringing Jesus right there into the center of our everyday.

As Paul wrote, “The first thing I want you to do is pray.  Pray every way you know how for everyone you know” (1 Timothy 2:1 MSG).

The first thing we do is drop to our knees, not after consultations, Google-searches, strategies, all-night worrying sessions, and Facebook posts.  Pray first.

Perhaps God had been preparing me for that moment in the car because I’d been on my knees consistently for weeks over my girl.

Please God show me how to be the Mom she needs me to be, how to encourage her, love her, shepherd her heart, discipline her, and protect her.

I hadn’t just prayed, of course.  I’d tried the usual sources, asking for advice. Looking up some behavior issues on reliable Christian family resources.  Scrolling through resources from online sites, hoping to find that perfect book that would explain it all to me and box up my child into an understandable psychological package.

Nothing seemed quite right for my girl.  No formula or strategy was “it.”

What else to do BUT pray?  What else was truly needed but prayer?

Maybe God draws us to pray for our kids so that they’ll see us and learn how to bring His presence into the midst of all situations.  They’ll see our faith practiced in the everyday situations and learn to talk about life and God—-not life or God and never the twain shall meet.

Yes, this is more than Sunday morning belief or pew-sitting faith.  This is down and dirty life with God at our side, available to help us in every situation, to give us wisdom, strengthen our hearts, teach us to obey and discipline our desires.

We pray for children because we love them, still believing that God loves them so much more than we do.  We know them, but He knows them more.  He formed their hearts and personalities, gave them those gifts and talents that amaze us.  He knows the plans He’s laid out for them and how to guide them along “paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23).

And we also pray for them so that they learn to pray.  So that when they encounter “this boy,” they know they can carry his case to God.  And when their friend is hurt by teasing, they’ll give a hug, say a kind word, and petition God on her behalf.  When they don’t know what to do, they whisper to God a request for help and follow His lead.

Letting our children see us on our knees and hear our prayers for them teaches them how to pray—pray first, pray about everything, pray every way they can, pray for every one they meet.

You can read other devotionals on this topic here:

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.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

I’m Desperate For You

I don’t know if I’m desperate enough yet.

This past Sunday, the speaker for our church’s upcoming special services asked us to unite in prayer to prepare our hearts for next week.  He asked us to pray with celebration, desperation, expectation and anticipation.

It’s catchy.  It’s Biblical.  I’m happy to pray those prayers.

So, I begin by praying with celebration, thanking God in advance for the work He’s going to do in our lives, for inhabiting our praise, and for answering us when we cry out to Him.

I pray with anticipation and expectation.  That’s easy.  Surely I don’t take a night off from my regularly scheduled activities to tune in to God and expect nothing.  So, with excitement, I tell God, “I can’t wait to see what you’ve got planned!”

But that prayer of desperation, the idea of it, the challenge of it, has been on my mind and heart for days.  It’s branded there and I can feel the aching of burnt flesh as it digs deep, pushing past my outer self and past my complacency and knocking over my bad attitudes, religiosity, and pride.

What does it really mean for us to pray with desperation?  Can I say that I’m there as I sit at my kitchen table with my hot tea during my comfortable afternoon quiet time?  Is this desperation, this polite bowing of the head and subdued entwining of the fingers?

I know I can go through the motions of it all.  I can mutter the magic words, “Lord, we’re desperate for you and your presence.”  Then, duty done, I can roll right on to the easier prayers, the ones that don’t require me to empty myself, care about others and place my utter dependence on God.

I refuse to let myself off that easy.

The truth is we are in desperate need of God.  I am.  Others are.  I look to my right and see my prayer journal open with an overwhelming list of requests.  They knock the air right out of me and I can’t pray for these people without my prayers becoming breathless words and tearful pleas before a God so able and so worthy of our praise.

This world, its sin and evil, its divorces and separations, unemployment and bankruptcy, abuse and neglect, cancer and death, car accidents and inexplicable illnesses wrecking people with pain, is choking the very breath out of me.

Oh yes, I’m desperate for Him.  I’m frantic for His salvation, just as David was when he declared:

God, the one and only— I’ll wait as long as he says. Everything I need comes from him, so why not?  He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul (Psalm 62:1-2, MSG).

At least for a moment, I am praying with desperation, and yet it’s so easy to bounce back to an everyday blindness.  I don’t see the needs.  I don’t see the pain.  I don’t see the lostness of people who need a Savior.  It is, after all, a life or death matter that I shrug off so effortlessly.

Years ago, my husband and I served under a worship leader who hated the song, Breathe.  It made no sense to her.  She thought it was silly to sing, “This is the air I breathe . . . this is my daily bread.”

“What on earth does that mean anyway?” she always asked.

It means that Christ gives us the very air we suck into our lungs.  He has become for us the Bread of Life and the Living Water.  Nothing else can satisfy our most basic needs for sustenance, nutrition, air, for life.

It means without His grace, we wouldn’t survive one second on this killer planet.  We’d be dead where we stand.  That is why we sing, “I’m desperate for You.  I’m lost without You.”

I’ve decided that prayers of desperation simply can’t be desperate enough sitting up at my table.  They require time on my knees.  More truly, they require some time with my face to the floor.

How else can I come to God humbly enough, confessing that He alone is why I live now and why I have hope for eternity?  How else can I lay these requests at His feet with needs so burdensome and heavy they’ve pushed my shoulders to the ground?

This is how desperate prayers are prayed.  It’s clawing through the dust of a vast desert, panting and exhausted, searching for the only One who can satisfy us and sustain us.

That’s how David prayed when he was in the desert of Judah, cut off from worship in Jerusalem:

O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water
Psalm 63:1 (ESV).

There’s no water in this world that we live in, none at all, that can quench the deep-down thirst of our Spirit for God.  We’re desert hikers abandoned among miles of sand without even a canteen in this “dry and thirsty land where there is no water.”

That’s why it’s so important to fight against the blahs of the rigid schedule and the humdrums of daily life.
It’s so necessary to push aside the frantic pace of activities and meetings, responsibilities and the endless line of people who want just a tiny sliver of our pie of time.
It’s imperative that we stop being satisfied with a Sunday morning faith and we start fighting for time in God’s presence.

It’s because we only find God in the desert when we’re looking for Him, really looking, desperately looking.  “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13, NKJV).

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

You Want Me To Pray What?

It was my baby’s first articulate prayer request for someone else.

During our nightly family prayer time, she usually doesn’t wait her turn. Whenever the Spirit moves, she just jumps in and starts talking to God, even if someone else is still pouring her heart out.

But that night, she waited for others to finish.  My daughters and I were snuggled up on the couch with our eyes closed while my husband was out for the night at rehearsal.  When my older daughters and I finished praying, we hopped up and headed to their bedroom.

She stopped us.

Holding up her little hands with two Band-Aids on her fingers, my baby girl prayed, “My fingers hurt.  Daddy come home.  Amen.”

Amen.

That night, my two-year-old took the first powerful step in an effective prayer life.  Yes, she prayed for her own little need, her two little scraped fingers that had been on her mind all afternoon.

Maybe she also wanted to show off her Mickey Mouse Band-Aids so God could see them.

But then she prayed on behalf of another—could her Daddy please come home safely and soon?

I’ve written in this space so many times that there is power in the time we spend on our knees for each other.

Yet, I’m still not sure if we truly realize the impact, the great spiritual weaponry that is ours when we intercede for those around us.

It is humblingWe say, “God, I’m overwhelmed here, but I’m not the only one.  She’s hurting also, so I choose to petition You on her behalf.”

It is faithWe say, “God, I’m going to trust my problems into Your care.  I’ve made my request.  I believe You’re going to take care of me, so I don’t need to focus only on myself.  Instead, I’m going to turn my gaze outward and lift others up.”

It is forgiving.

Wait, forgiving?  What does that have to do with anything?

Prayer for others is forgiving when we actually do what Jesus said—pray for our enemies, “pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

I urge you to pause and consider this for more than the half second it took you to read that verse.  I never in my life realized the power of Jesus’ revolutionary call to intercession for our enemies until this year.

And it’s life-changing, I tell you.

In the past, when I was struggling with conflict, I would “pray for my enemy” with something that sounded like this:

Lord, why is he so blind?  Can’t he see that he’s in sin?  Please open his eyes and let Him know that You are God and You don’t tolerate disobedience.  Change his heart, God, and let Your Holy Spirit be heavy on him until he repents.

That seemed to qualify as praying for those who persecuted me.  Let me just check that super-spiritual box.

But Jesus’ prayer on behalf of his enemies didn’t sound anything like mine.  He asked, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

I prayed for condemnation and Holy Spirit judgement on people who annoyed me.

Christ prayed for the blessing of forgiveness for those standing at the foot of his cross, jeering at him and waiting for him to die.

In the same way, Stephen, the first Christian martyr, prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” just as the final stones pelted his body and killed him (Acts 7:59).

Have you considered who Stephen was praying for in that moment?  One of the men standing by the coat rack cheering on the crowd was Saul—later the apostle Paul.

Stephen asked for God to forgive his persecutors and shortly afterward this same Saul sat on a roadside blinded by Jesus Christ himself, experiencing repentance and conversion.

Satan fully intends to tangle us up in bitterness and jealousy.  He wants to defeat our ministry and make us thoroughly unusable because we’re so riled up and distracted by dissension and arguments.

He just doesn’t know what to do when we pray shockingly humble prayers on behalf of others, particularly our enemies.  There’s power there.

There’s also blessing.

After Job’s long ordeal ended . . .his children dead  . . . his servants killed . . . his animals gone and his property destroyed . . . his own body covered in painful disease . . . .after all that, God spoke to Job and hushed the mouths of the “friends” who had spewed religious rhetoric and condemnation while Job sat next to them in pain.

In Sunday School class, you probably learned that God blessed Job even more than before.  Yet, the blessing wasn’t immediate.  Something had to happen first.

Scripture tells us, “After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).

Job prayed for his so-called friends and then God blessed Job.

I’ve taken this to heart and I won’t lie to you: it is difficult, downright hard, and sometimes truly agonizing.

There are times when my blessings don’t sound like blessings.  The words I’m saying are right, but I’m forcing them out between clenched teeth.

Sometimes I need to start simple.

When I am jealous and full of envy . . .
When someone steps on my toes and hurts my feelings . . .
When someone does something I think is sinful and hurtful . . .
When a driver in the Wal-Mart parking lot drives me totally insane . . .

Then I pray for them—for blessing, for forgiveness, for their future.

I may never see the impact on their lives, but I see it in mine instantly.  God changes my heart as I humble myself, trust Him, and forgive.

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

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