Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

Do You Need a Pep Talk?

Are you a “cup-is-half-empty” kind of person or “cup-is-half full?”

I have found that the person that I’ll refer to as the “Half-Empty” tends to be more negative, more critical, more depressed, and often is more of a perfectionist.

Just about everyone knows that if we focus on the negative, we tend to feel worse. Conversely, if we focus on the positive, we feel better. So if it were that simple, then none of us would be “Half-Empties,” right?

Obviously, it’s never easy to change the way we think and respond. If our pattern is to trouble-shoot or over-analyze and find all the flaws, then taking a step back and looking for the good in our situation, ourselves, or others can be challenging.

After all, patterns don’t develop randomly. Often negativity has had a “positive” purpose in our lives. It provides the “Half-Empty” comfort in the familiar. It often gives the “Half-Empty” a feeling of vindication or righteous indignation. Many times, the “Half-Empty” approach is reinforced by others who applaud the perfectionism that has driven it. But what I see most often in others, including myself, is that the “Half-Empty” gains a sense of control. (Yes, I very often can be a “Half-Empty” with “Control Freak” tendencies. It’s actually the worst kind!)

So how do we change a habit that is so ingrained and reinforced?

  • First of all, we need to realize that the pay-off isn’t as good as the rip-off is bad. In other words, we may get what we want by being a “Half-Empty,” but we will pay for it dearly in the end, and the middle, and the beginning, well, actually all along the way!
  • Second of all, we need to replace the bad habit of being a “Half-Empty” with the good habit of being a “Half-Full.” That means we need to intentionally look for the good in our lives. We need to be thankful every single day, even in the bad things knowing that God will ultimately use those to bring about good in our lives.

Here’s my challenge to you (and myself): Begin a Prayer/Gratitude journal that focuses on prayers of thanksgiving for the good things in your life. Then stretch yourself to try to see how some of the bad things in your life did or will someday evolve into good things as you persevere in the situation and trust God to bring about His best.

Let me know if you plan to take this challenge with me. And in a future post, I hope to give you an opportunity to let everyone know about some of the good things that you focused on and how it made you feel more hopeful and encouraged.

“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:4-6 (NLT)

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NIV)

Share

Advertisements

e-Prayer

I’ve admitted in a recent post that I have an ugly habit of collecting used tissues for another blow or two.  (You can check it out at—7 Steps for Kicking a Habit.) But I’ve recently struggled with another habitual problem.  For the past year or so I’ve been plagued with fatigue, even sleepiness, during times that are less than ideal.  One of those inopportune times is during my prayer time.  I start out just fine, engaging with God in my usual way, but quickly find that I’m closing my eyes not just in prayer but also in sleep.  I know I need to get this problem checked out by a doctor—and I plan to! But in the meantime, I’ve discovered a fix for this dilemma and feel that it might help some of you weary or stressed-out readers who also have sleepy quiet times.

I’d like to refer to this new method as “e-Prayer.”  No, I haven’t made Jesus my Facebook friend—writing on his wall whenever I feel the need to pray. Instead, I’ve begun to type my prayers on my laptop in a file simply entitled, “Prayer Journal.”  I feel this method has some significant benefits over writing your prayers (something I’ve tried in the past, as well).  And I feel it also has huge benefits over speaking your prayers.  Since as I’ve said before, it was something I grew tired of in more ways than one!

Benefits of e-Prayer over writing my prayers:

  1. Keeps my hand from cramping
  2. Is typically more legible for rereading prayers
  3. Spell-checks!
  4. Avoids clutter with no paper or notebook to store
  5. Provides more privacy (depending on how you set it up)
  6. Speeds up recording my thoughts—increasing freedom of expression
  7. Feels less like a chore and more like a joy

Benefits of e-Prayer over speaking my prayers:

  1. Records my prayers so that I can easily reread, which lends itself to several additional benefits:
  2. Provides an ongoing record of what I prayed and how I prayed
  3. Gives me an awareness of how God has answered
  4. Gives me an awareness of how prayer has improved my attitude—this one was a real surprise for me!
  5. Keeps me awake and fully engaged in a way that speaking my prayers has not
  6. I’ve just seen God speaking to me both in and outside my prayer time that was not as obvious as when I was speaking my prayers (even when I didn’t have the issue of sleepiness).

There is a benefit to changing up your spiritual practices.  Anytime we bring novelty to something we are doing, it ignites increased interest and enthusiasm.  Maybe that is what I’m experiencing.  But either way, it has been a good thing for me.  And maybe it’s something you might want to try too.

BTW, I’m not saying that I’ve given up speaking my prayers or that you should too.  (After all, sometimes it’s just not possible to whip out my laptop!)  But for me this has been a new and rewarding way to pray.

I Need to Withdraw

I’ve mentioned my dad in previous posts.  He really was quite the character.  And one of the things I remember most about him was how loud he was.  He was a preacher and loved to, not just preach a sermon, but yell a sermon every chance he could get.  He also had the loudest laugh, and when he sneezed, I think the rafters said, “Gesundheit!”

My dad even had a way of making quiet moments, like studying, loud.  I can picture him now, sitting at the kitchen table with all of his books and Bibles, studying for a sermon.  Most of the time, he had a boom box behind him blaring a Cardinals game or some other KMOX broadcast.  And what made it even worse was that he was hard of hearing (go figure!), so he would almost always have the station playing a little off tune—allowing, for not just static, but annoyingly loud static to be transmitted throughout our house.

In other words, I grew up very used to noise.  So now I find myself feeling uncomfortable if I don’t turn on the radio or the television or plug into my iPod.  And it would just feel really weird to drive in my van without some type of music or talk to accompany my journey.  Don’t get me wrong, I like silence.  Sometimes I even crave it, but I don’t often pursue it.

I think God wants us to pursue silence regularly.  The Bible says that Jesus often withdrew from the crowds to pray.  And not only prayer, but solitude was a priority for him.  He knew that silence was necessary to keep His focus on God, to emotionally, mentally, and spiritually reenergize, and more than anything, to hear God’s voice.  If Jesus needed that, how much more do you and I need it?  I don’t know about you, but I need to withdraw.

“ . . . He (Jesus) went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, . . .” Matthew 14:23 (NIV)

“But so many people were coming and going that Jesus and the apostles did not even have a chance to eat. Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go to a place where we can be alone and get some rest.’” Mark 6:31 (CEV)

“The apostles came back and told Jesus everything they had done. He then took them with him to the village of Bethsaida, where they could be alone.” Luke 9:10 (CEV)

“He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, . .” Luke 22:41 (NIV)

I Have a Really BIG Prayer Request!

I’ve always been afraid to ask God for something that is really, really big.  But I recently listened to a great message on asking God for really big things from Andy Stanley, the pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta,* and it is making me rethink my usual hesitations.

The reason I’m afraid to ask God for something really big is not because I don’t think He can deliver.  He’s a big God and I know He can do whatever He wants.  The problem for me is that I don’t want to tell Him what He should or shouldn’t do.  I don’t want to assume that what I want is what He wants.  And I’m afraid that if I have a really big request—something that would take a miracle—then I’m deciding for God what I think He should do for me.  And it makes me feel like a spoiled child demanding a personal concert with Miley Cyrus while I ride on a purple pony!  (Isn’t that what most spoiled little girls want these days?) I think I get this notion from James 4:2b-3, which indicates that God will not give us what we want if we ask with improper motives:

“You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (NIV)

Andy Stanley took his text from the parable Jesus told in Luke 11:5-13.  When I look at that passage, I think God wants me to persist in whatever I’m asking Him for, but does that mean that God wants me to ask for big things? If I look over in Matthew 17:17-21, I see Jesus challenging his disciples to increase their faith, saying:

“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move.” (NIV)

That’s certainly asking for something big!  But how do any of us know if a big request is or isn’t selfishly motivated?  After all, most prayer requests have some personal benefit, therefore, selfishness is present, right? So is it the amount of selfishness that makes a request invalid?  And should we ask anyway, knowing there’s a built in safe-guard, because God won’t give us a request that is out of selfish motives?

Anyone care to share your thoughts on this subject?  I’d really like to know what you think! So tell me:

  • When do you think we should ask God for really big things?
  • How do you know if the really big thing you ask for is not out of selfish motivations?
  • What if it is somewhat, but not totally selfish, does that make it okay to ask for?

* If you’re interested in listening/viewing Andy’s message, go to http://www.northpoint.org/messages and listen to the Q3 series – “Asking Big.”  You won’t be disappointed, I promise!