Tag Archives: Prayer

Unwanted Feelings – Part 2

Last month we began a series of articles on how to biblically deal with unwanted feelings.

I used part of an e-mail from a friend to kick off our discussion, so I will share that again.

I woke up hurting and aching about the adoption this morning, and the feeling never left. Seeking HIM and seeking the peace and clarity that only HE can give.

Could you please pray for me to find my comfort in Christ? And to trust HIM. If you have time, could you please send me a Scripture that brings you comfort in times of loss? I will meditate on it. Amy

Amy had just learned that a newborn adoption her family had been pursuing wasn’t going to work out, and she was feeling sad. We will all face emotions that are painful, from grieving to loneliness to anxiety. Amy’s sadness wasn’t wrong; it was a normal emotion that comes when there is a loss. However, what she does with that emotion when it arises will most likely determine whether she becomes consumed by her grief or whether she experiences the comfort that the God of all comfort offers her, allowing her to move healthily through her sadness.

As an example, I have interacted with several moms who have lost loved ones, and when they write to me they have become immobilized by their grief. When we give in to self-pity in our sadness, then we are dealing with unwanted feelings. So often we will discover that our unwanted feelings are rooted in our own selfishness. We don’t get what we want. Things don’t go the way we prefer them to go. The children don’t do what we told them to do. Our husbands aren’t communicating the way we would like them to communicate. The foundation of the unwanted feelings is bound up in selfish thoughts that we might not even recognize or be willing to acknowledge.

In February’s article, we evaluated Amy’s cry for prayer support. We learned that when we make such a cry, we are requesting His strength in our weakness and His grace that is sufficient. As we cry out for His mercy, we are taking our focus off ourselves and putting it onto the One Who cares the most for us. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

We also saw that praying with thanksgiving moves our focus off of our pain and onto our blessings: self-thoughts then migrate to grateful thoughts.

The next step in dealing with negative feelings is to seek the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what Amy said she was doing: seeking Him, His peace, and His clarity. For Amy’s need, He is the God of all comfort. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

One clear way we seek the Lord Jesus is by being in His Word. “And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Luke 4:4). When we are in His Word on a daily basis, He is growing us, teaching us, comforting us, and nurturing us. In many ways, we are like those newborn babies we love so dearly. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). We have to desire the sincere milk of the Word if we want to grow spiritually.

We are prone, though, to make excuses as to why we aren’t in the Word. It usually has to do with being too busy, too tired, or too forgetful. Yet that busyness, tiredness, and forgetfulness make it all the more imperative that we keep our priorities correct and that we receive the daily spiritual milk and bread that we need to be the spiritual women God wants us to be.

As we are in the Word, we receive His comfort in times of grief, we learn how to deal with loneliness, we become more patient, we discover how to love, and so much more. As all of that is developing in us, the negative feelings will control us less and less. It is truly the fruit of the Spirit evidenced in our lives. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Amy was also seeking the Lord by asking for specific Scripture that would meet the need of her grieving heart. As we find those verses, read them, and even memorize them, we have a powerful tool in our hands for attacking negative feelings, whether they are feelings of grief that want to overwhelm or feelings of anger that want to lash out. “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).

Here are some verses that Amy could read and even memorize. Consider how they would help to bring comfort to her heart.

“Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” (Job 1:20-22)

“In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:19)

“This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.” (Psalm 119:50)

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” (Ephesians 6:16)

When you have those unwanted negative feelings this month, I challenge you to pray and ask the Lord to take those feelings from you. Turn your thoughts to ones of gratitude to the Lord for the blessings He has placed in your life. I also suggest that you determine right now that you are going to be committed to spending time reading your Bible every day so that you are renewing your mind. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). Finally memorize some key verses in the areas where you most frequently have negative feelings so that you have your ammunition available with which to attack those feelings.

Join me next month as we continue our consideration of how to deal with unwanted feelings.

Unwanted Feelings – Part 1

Recently I received an e-mail from a very dear friend. This is what she said:

I woke up hurting and aching about the adoption this morning, and the feeling never left. Seeking HIM and seeking the peace and clarity that only HE can give.

Could you please pray for me to find my comfort in Christ? And to trust HIM. If you have time, could you please send me a Scripture that brings you comfort in times of loss? I will meditate on it. Amy

Amy had good reason to wake up feeling sad. Her family had just found out that an adoption they had longed for and prayed for was not going to happen. They were in the midst of grieving the loss of this little one they had hoped would be theirs to raise.

We have all had feelings to deal with that we haven’t wanted to experience. It might be grief like my friend, but it could be depression, loneliness, anxiety, or anger. What we would prefer is to have the peace, joy, contentment, and comfort that comes from Jesus Christ. That sounds a great deal like the fruit of the Spirit to me. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

We want that fruit of the Spirit controlling our feelings, but how does that happen? “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:16-17).

My friend started in the right place in her desire to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh—by praying and asking for prayer support. What biblical basis do we have for this first step? “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Be careful for nothing means that we aren’t to be anxious, worried, sad, or upset about anything, whether it is an adoption that doesn’t come through, a child who is rebelling, a health obstacle, financial difficulties—the list is endless. Our directive is that we are not to entertain the negative feelings, but rather we are to pray and let God know our requests.

Not only did Amy pray herself, but she asked others to pray for her as well. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18). We humble ourselves as we admit our weaknesses and ask for prayer. “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6). We all need more of God’s grace. It is in our weakness that He is shown to be strong.

Paul was often seen in the New Testament asking for prayer. Here is one example: “Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:25). Of all Christians, Paul’s spiritual maturity would have indicated that he could have gotten along without prayer. Paul knew, though, that his strength was not his own but his Lord’s. He depended on prayer just like we must.

These powerful verses give us another clue as to how His strength is available in our weakness. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

There is another aspect to our praying, and that is to pray with thanksgiving. We enable great power through gratitude. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It is almost impossible to be sad, angry, depressed, or worried when you are being thankful. We recently hosted a young missionary who had just returned from a two-year mission trip to Ghana. He talked about how the Christians in Ghana thank God for things most American Christians never do—things like the air we breath, the sun shining, or the bed they sleep on. He challenged us to do something he had begun doing if he felt discouraged and that was to thank the Lord for five things he had never before thanked the Lord for.

When the challenge was presented, I thought it would be tough to come up with five things for which I hadn’t already thanked the Lord. The very next day I had the opportunity to try it out. Steve and I were both seeing a chiropractor, and I looked forward to our rides to and from the chiropractor together. On this day, Steve had a dental appointment before the chiropractic appointment so we met at the office and drove home separately. On the way home, I was feeling sorry for myself because I was alone without Steve’s company. So I thought, “Okay, Lord, what are five things I can thank You for that I never thanked You for before? Thank You for this street I am driving on right now. Thank You for those who made the road, and thank You for those who maintain it.” Wow, driving home was developing a thankfulness theme in my mind. “Thank You, Lord, for the engineers who designed this car that I can use to move around. Thank You, Lord, for the speed with which a car allows me to accomplish what I need to do away from home. Thank You, Lord, that we have gasoline to power this car.”

Since we will all experience unwanted, negative feelings controlling our thoughts, attitudes, or actions, as Christian women we look to the Word for direction on how to deal with those kinds of feelings. The starting place is going to be prayer. It is the foundation for the fruit of the Spirit that we desire to have ruling in our lives. Not only will we be crying out to the Lord, but we can also ask others to pray for us. Through prayer our weakness is His strength. As we turn our hearts to being thankful, that gratitude will be the bedrock of the peace the Lord Jesus brings to overcome the bad feelings from which we want to be freed. There is more I would like us to consider in overcoming unwanted feelings, so we will continue the discussion next month. P.S. I would really encourage you to read the book, Sweet Journey. It extensively addresses prayer and gives practical ideas to develop this important area of your walk with the Lord Jesus.

Praying with Your Wife

The title and content of this Dad’s Corner was suggested by a dad in an e-mail in which he writes:

“In the January 2007 Dad’s Corner, you mention praying with your wife is so important. You were very clear on the importance of prayer time (the ‘Why’) but my question is more the ‘How.’ I have always been unsure what this means. You did give some hinting that it is ‘conversational’ for you, which is the first inkling of understanding of what it means ‘to pray’ with your wife. I have always heard people say they pray with their wives yet no one has really explained it. I would like to pray with her, but don’t know how. My ideas of prayer and hers are vastly different. She would be on her knees, possibly, and I would be rather inclined to have a conversational approach discussing the day, the children, herself, etc. Does punctuating the conversation with ‘In Jesus’ Name’ classify the conversation as a prayer time?

“It would be so helpful for me, and maybe others, who are unsure of how to start a prayer time with their spouse, to gain some insight into what specifically IS prayer time. I did not grow up with parents or a church or anyone to teach me these things, and so I am now 38 years old, married eight years with three children, and playing catch-up with the feeling of wondering and guessing and trying to decipher what it all means from a practical, applicational approach. Praying with your wife 101, if you will.” A Wanting-to-Pray Dad

I appreciate this dad! Whewwww! How the “church” and families would be strengthened if our country was filled with men like this, who are committed to following Christ, even if they need a little help. The implication in the e-mail is that if he understands how to pray with his wife, he will do it. Amen. I will make my best effort to explain what praying with one’s wife is to me, although I’m confident there are many others who are far better suited to share what they do. I ask that you give me some grace in this as there can be as many different approaches to this as there are men reading this Corner. I am not saying this is the only way to pray with your wife, but I am sharing how Teri and I pray together.

Back in the 80s, Teri and I read a book on marriage that suggested husbands and wives pray together. If we remembered the name of the book and the author, we would tell you in order to give proper credit. I can’t even say that how we pray now is how the author suggested since it is likely we adapted their ideas to the way we wanted to implement them. The fact that we have been praying together for over twenty years has been a wonderful blessing from the Lord. It has enriched and strengthened our marriage due to bringing our spirits closer to our Lord Jesus and to each other.

First, it is a high priority of mine to be in bed before 10:30 p.m. on weekdays. I know that if I’m not getting enough sleep, my morning time in the Word will suffer. Therefore, I have to get to bed early enough to get the sleep I need. That is a wonderful thing about not having a TV. The world is not luring me into staying up late to watch shows that poison my soul and might take me away from my prayer time with Teri. “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).

It is important to take the needs of your wife into consideration as well. When should she get to sleep? Treat her bedtime as a higher priority than yours. If there are little children that Mom is up with during the night, she may require an earlier bedtime than you would have normally. If so, I would encourage you to see this as an opportunity to show your love for her and choose a consistent, early-enough bedtime to meet her sleep needs. If that means you will wake up early in the morning, great. Get up, have your time in the Word, and then do whatever else you would have done at night. Having a consistent bedtime is very important to having evening prayer time with your wife and having your own personal Bible reading in the morning. You will also fall asleep more quickly because your body is “tuned” to that being the time for sleep.

What if a dad says he doesn’t like to be “restricted” to a consistent bedtime? I would encourage him that his priorities are wrong and should be adjusted. Frankly, from my observation, many dads are dictators and are only thinking about themselves. Just one verse would help us to remember what God’s command is for us: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). If our focus is on loving our wives as Christ loved the church, consistent bedtimes should not be considered suffering in the slightest. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). God is very serious about husbands needing to honor their wives, and we would do well to honor them.

Once there is consistency in getting to bed, a husband is on track for being successful in praying with his wife. If you can’t get to bed at the same time every night, I believe you will struggle with having a husband-and-wife prayer time.

The dad who wrote with this Corner request mentioned he and his wife differed on their idea of prayer. Since his wife was most comfortable kneeling to pray, he couldn’t go wrong by doing it that way. I would consider kneeling to be more reverential in coming before the God of creation; therefore, I would encourage him to go with her preference. If you find that you are inconsistent because one of you is already in bed and reluctant to get out and kneel, then you might try what we do.

Once the lights are out and the alarm is set (if you get up at the same time every morning, you won’t even need to check the alarm), it would be good to pray before someone starts falling asleep. The temptation is to talk and discuss the day, which is a good thing, but realize it is better to first speak to your Lord. The longer you wait to pray after the light is out, the more likely someone is going to fall asleep. If that is a consistent challenge, then I would encourage you to leave the light on until after you have finished praying. Very likely, kneeling beside the bed would also help someone from falling asleep.

I always begin our prayer time, and it is similar to how I would pray if I was alone. However, I will pray one topic at a time and then stop to give Teri an opportunity to pray. This is what I call conversational prayer. We are each taking turns praying.

For example, I usually start praying by praising God and thanking Him for His blessing. I normally pray for fifteen to sixty seconds on each of my prayer turns. Rarely, if something is really heavy on my heart, I pray longer, up to several minutes. That is generally the maximum because during this time it is important that we both stay attentive to each other’s prayers. On some subjects I only pray three or four sentences. These would be topics that I want to mention, but I don’t have much to pray about concerning them.

On Teri’s turns to pray, she may pray about the same topic I have prayed about or whatever else comes to her mind. How long she prays could be as short as a few sentences to sixty seconds as well. We will continue to pray like this, alternating back and forth for awhile. Imagine a conversation between two people: normally, each person takes turns speaking, with no one monopolizing it by talking a long time. In this case, we are taking turns speaking to the Lord Jesus, out loud, so we can hear the other’s prayers.

Sometimes, if we are quite tired and falling asleep, then the total prayer time will be shorter. If Teri is very tired and falling asleep, then I will be the one to pray out loud until I have nothing more to pray. Since we don’t look at the clock, it is difficult to say how long we pray, so I can only take a guess that our prayer times range from less than five minutes to ten or fifteen. When one of us is finished praying, he or she says, “In Jesus’ Name,” and the other one finishes praying, closing with “Amen.”

Of course praying together doesn’t preclude praying longer individually after saying “goodnight.” What is most important is that you find a way and a length of time that feels comfortable for you and your wife and that you pray together every night.

Aside from taping one of our prayer times and putting it on the website, this should give a good idea of how Teri and I have prayed together for years. I pray our example will help other parents to begin praying together. It is such a blessing; don’t miss out on it.

Praying Scripture for Our Children

Praying for our children is a high spiritual priority in the life of Christian mothers. We know that the work of spiritual growth in our children’s lives is accomplished by the power of the Lord Jesus. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). As an example for us in praying for our children, we have many Scriptures that tell us that Paul prayed for his spiritual children without ceasing and with thanksgiving. If we are to invest heavily in prayer for our children, what exactly will we pray?

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). I believe these verses show us that Scripture is an excellent basis for some of our prayers for our children.

My two favorite Scriptures for prayer are ones Paul prayed. “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:14-21).

“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:9-13).

Do we want our children to choose righteousness over sin? Then praying from Romans 6 would be worthwhile. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Romans 6:12-13).

Is your child struggling with worry? You can pray Philippians 4:6-7 for him. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Does your child lack a thankful heart? Consider praying that your child would begin, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).

Do you realize how Scripture can be used to pray for our children? No matter what need you see in your child’s life, you can find a Scripture to pray that will relate to that need. If you desire growth in your child in a certain spiritual direction, you can look for Scripture to pray that will support and endorse this growth.

I have begun to memorize the verses that I am praying for my children so that I have them available any time I want them. I can pick out portions of the verses to pray, and I can individualize them by putting my child’s name into the words from Scripture as I pray. I have found that everything I memorize to pray for my children is applicable to praying for myself and others as well.

There are some things that I pray for my children day after day, prayer after prayer. Should I stop praying them because I have prayed them so many times? “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). My repetitive prayers for my children fall into this category of what I am not to become weary in doing because, in time, there will be a harvest of spiritual fruit.

“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8). This parable gives the example that we are to continue crying out to our Lord Jesus Christ in prayer for our children, even if we pray the same or similar things for them very often.

When I pray Scripture for my children, I feel assured in my heart that I am praying God’s will and desire for them. “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

As you commit your heart to pray for your children, I encourage you to use Scripture as part of those prayers. Memorize the passages that the Lord directs you to pray for your children so that you will have them available anywhere and anytime to pray. Then be faithful in spending much time in prayer for your children.

Praying for Our Children

As Steve and I continue down this parenting path the Lord started us on twenty-eight years ago, we become more and more convinced of the necessity of prayer for our children. Reading through the New Testament recently, I was reminded of the example Paul has set for us in his prayer life. I believe we can learn much from Paul that will apply to us as moms praying for our children.

Paul prayed constantly for the churches and individuals to whom he wrote. Please bear with me in reading through all of the following verses, because I believe they powerfully show us the heart and passion of a man committed to his spiritual children as we want to be committed to our natural children.

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers” (Romans 1:8-9).

“Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:16).

“We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you” (Colossians 1:3).

“We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers” (1 Thessalonians 1:2).

“Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).

“I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day” (2 Timothy 1:3).

“I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers” (Philemon 1:4).

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-6).

Paul knows that his example is a positive one: “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9). Yet, look where his dependence remains in his heart’s desire for his spiritual children to grow in holiness and godliness. He is continually lifting his churches and converts to Jesus in prayer. He isn’t relying on his own wisdom, strength, or example. He knows his total dependence on the Lord and the dependence his “children” will need as well. It would seem to me that of all teachers, Paul would have had the least need of anyone to spend that amount of time and energy in prayer. However, he was completely aware of his weakness and the weakness of those he loved. He was continually crying out to the Lord for those “children.” Isn’t that true in our lives and our children’s lives as well—aren’t we all weak and needy?

Strong’s Concordance tells us that “without ceasing” means exactly that: “without intermission, incessantly, without ceasing.” “Always” means “at all times, always, ever.” To me these verses and words indicate a mind preoccupied with prayer. Are we praying for our children when we wake up in the morning, when we are working, when we are with them, when we are doing school, when we are in the car, when we go to bed at night, when they are struggling, when they are disobedient, when they are unkind, when they are peaceful, when they are helpful—without ceasing?

My tendency is to make excuses for my lack of prayerfulness. I am too busy. I can’t do school and pray for the children at the same time. I have a one-track mind. Am I busier than Paul was? I don’t think so. Wasn’t he always preaching, ministering, and serving in addition to working as a tentmaker? Paul was a busy man. My excuses are nothing but excuses. We do what is truly important to us.

As I have evaluated in my life how to make continually praying for my children a reality, three things have stood out to me. First, I must make this a prayer of my heart, acknowledging my need for help in this area and asking God to strengthen me for the task and to bring my children constantly to mind for prayer. I want Him to put on my heart what I should pray for my children as well. Second, I want to feel the urgency of the necessity of never-ceasing prayer for my children. Have you ever had a dear friend or loved one diagnosed with cancer? What happens to your prayer life in regard to that person? In the same way, as I truly see the importance of prayer for my children, it comes more naturally to my heart. Third, I should develop the discipline of prayer. I have discovered that my mind easily gravitates to simply thinking rather than to prayer. I have to make a conscious effort and decision to bring my thoughts around to prayer when I realize I am just thinking rather than praying.

After praying always for my children, the next challenge Paul gives me is to fill my prayers with thanksgiving, just as his prayers are filled with thankfulness for his spiritual children. Look back at the verses we read. How many of them have the word “thank” in them? Here are a few more.

“I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:4).

“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren . . .” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

Think about what gratitude to the Lord for our children does as we pray for them. Thankfulness springs from a joyful heart. If we are continually thanking God for our children, it is hard to feel unhappy or angry with them. It prompts us to see our children in a positive light. It gives us hope for the areas of their failure and places their needs before the Lord. Spiritually, gratitude puts our thoughts where they ought to be—on the Lord rather than on anything negative about our children or ourselves. Being thankful for our children allows us to be in a place of rest and contentment concerning them rather than dissatisfaction.

Perhaps as we are challenged by Paul’s example of praying without ceasing for our children, our praying for them will be the most important step we can take in the turning of our hearts toward those children. It will be a true focus on them, and the best investment we can make in their lives. It may also be the most significant gift of love and sacrifice we could give to them. Will we be mothers who choose to pray without ceasing for our children? Will our prayers be filled with thankfulness for each of them?

Prayer Notebook

Have you ever had a friend ask you to pray for a specific situation? Then the following week she comes to you thanking you profusely for your prayers. How do you feel and what do you say when you completely forgot to pray? Has it happened to you?

Not only have I had “egg on my face” in relation to saying I would pray but then forgetting, I sometimes didn’t remember to pray for what was truly important in my own life. While I would stew about a situation in our family, did I consistently pray about it? Often I found I did not! I said I wanted God’s solution, but there were no “feet” to my desire.

A prayer notebook became a valuable tool in my life to facilitate my prayer time. It is something to help me do what I want to do. “. . . The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). It facilitates doing what the Lord has told me to do. “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). In addition, it is beneficial to others and to me. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed . . .” (James 5:16).

It is important to understand that my prayer notebook has been a tool. It did not take the place of being quiet before the Lord and letting the Holy Spirit put on my heart what to pray. Rather, it has been a memory device so that I don’t forget to pray about the areas the Holy Spirit has directed.

I have been using prayer notebooks, of one style or another, for about nine years now. I am pleased with the benefits they have afforded to my prayer life. I am happy to encourage each of you to put this prayer tool into use in your life as well. Because I am a practical person who loves great ideas but always asks “how,” I would like to give you some simple prayer notebook guidelines based on my personal experience. From these beginning stages of a prayer notebook, you can, with time, fine tune and expand your own prayer notebook.

I want to start out with simple and practical ideas so that you can realistically make use of your prayer notebook and continue to use it. If it is too complicated, you will enjoy the process of setting up your notebook and using it for a week or two. However, as soon as you hit your first major life interruption, your prayer notebook will become too cumbersome to maintain.

You will first need to decide what kind of notebook to use. Then you will have to choose how to set it up. I am sharing information to help you with both of these decisions. Please don’t let the decisions hold you back. If you can’t decide, simply follow my recommendations and go with them.

This notebook will begin by being a prayer request notebook. In it, list prayer requests, leave blank lines, and then fill in with answers as they come. With time, as the discipline to use the prayer notebook grows, other sections can be added. The starting goal of this notebook is to let it be easy so that consistency in its use is achieved.

Any kind of journal book or notebook should work. I am currently using a pretty, hardback, blank journal. The drawback with it is that the pages are not removable, so I face limitations and frustration as some pages fill up, but others don’t. I have overcome this by putting a checkmark at the top of every page that has all the requests answered and writing “Completed” beside the checkmark. Periodically, I move all the prayer entries from pages that only have one or two left unanswered, plus the ongoing prayers, forward in the book. The advantage of these kinds of prayer notebooks is that you can find ones with beautiful covers on them, and they are relatively small. Plus, when it is full, it is all contained together in a bound book for storage.

You could also use a three-ring binder—small or large. This would probably involve little or no cost. Often, in our homes, we have unused binders stashed here and there, or they can be purchased rather inexpensively at a store like Wal-Mart.

Having a three-ring binder for a prayer notebook allows you to redo pages if you aren’t pleased with them the first time or even after you start using them. You can also move a filled page to the back of the notebook so you don’t have to flip through completed pages when you are praying.

The small three-ring binder size has the benefit of fitting nicely on top of a Bible and in a drawer or basket. Its disadvantage is that paper is less easily available. The 8½-by-11-inch size is bigger and more awkward to store, but paper and tabs can be purchased at places like Wal-Mart. It also provides more room for writing.

If even a notebook is beyond the scope of your finances, you can use sheets of paper stapled together for your prayer notebook. The advantage of this is that you can keep your prayer journal right inside your Bible—very convenient.

Start small and simple. Grow your prayer notebook with time.

Using Your Prayer Notebook

1. Scripture decoration—In the top margin of each page of your prayer notebook, plan to copy in a Scripture verse on prayer that is particularly meaningful to you. You can write them on pages you haven’t begun using yet as well.

2. Prayer requests—In your notebook, you will list things you want to pray about every day plus requests that are temporary. This has to be a reasonable list so that you can work through it during your prayer time. When you enter something in your prayer notebook, I would suggest leaving at least two blank lines between entries and perhaps three. This allows you room to write answers or updates.

3. Always date entries in your prayer notebook. This makes it a prayer journal, in many ways, because you know when you started praying about a particular thing, when it was answered, and how. In preparing to write up this information, I looked back at my prayer notebooks. I discovered the year Steve was laid off from his job and the year we made a major curriculum change. Those were dates we had tried to remember, but weren’t able to with certainty.

4. Obviously you can put as many requests in your notebook as you want. The caution is that you keep it simple and not too long so that you can actually pray through your prayer notebook each day, plus have time for anything else the Holy Spirit puts on your heart.

5. You will probably want a mixture of prayer requests in your notebook. There will be important, ongoing entries for you, your family, and ministry. Then there will be short-term prayer requests that will be prayed for a few days or weeks with an outcome.

6. If you choose a loose-leaf prayer notebook, I would suggest having one page for important, ongoing prayer, such as one page for yourself, your husband, and your children. Then put other prayer needs on the page immediately after those pages.

7. You can consider using two different pen colors, one for the request, and one for the answer. The advantage with this is that it makes seeing requests versus answers easy. The disadvantage is switching between pens when you are filling in your notebook. Also, if you lose one of the pens, and it is a color pen you don’t have many of around the house, you will likely stop filling in that part of the notebook—until you get a new pen—and who knows when that will happen.

8. Develop a system to note prayer requests when you think of them but do not have your prayer journal handy. This is probably best done by having notepads near the computer and the phones. If you have a prayer need come in via e-mail, you can jot it down on a sticky note, carry it with you to where you have your time with the Lord, and then enter it at a later time.

9. Faithfully fill in answers to the prayer requests as they come. Again, remember that simplicity is our goal. Give the date and as brief a description as needed to understand it.

Just get started. There are drawbacks with almost any prayer notebook/journal. Some are so complicated the user never has time to do it. The easy ones, like we are doing, don’t have as much flexibility as far as categorizing and dividing up prayer time. That’s okay—just do it. Develop the habit of entering the prayer requests, praying, and recording answers. Then move to more complicated prayer notebooks once those disciplines are in place.

I have been blessed through using my prayer notebook. It has fueled my dependence on the Lord as I have learned to write the concerns of my heart in the notebook and then pray about them rather than worry. That notebook has enabled me to consistently pray for people and issues that are near and dear to me. I am grateful for my special friend, Janice, who first encouraged me to start a prayer notebook. The prayer of my heart is that you, too, might be challenged to begin a prayer notebook, finding it a useful tool in your spiritual walk.

She Prayed – Part 2

Last month the Mom’s Corner focused on praying in situations where there is a difference of opinion between a husband and wife. In this Corner, I want to go further on the issue of a wife’s praying.

We can know the importance of praying for our husbands. We can plan to pray for them on a daily basis. However, do we follow through, or do we find our prayer life steps up only when there is a crisis? I would rather be praying positively for my husband daily when all is going well than to wait until the difficulties arise.

When we begin praying for our husbands, particularly concerning areas where we disagree, we must be very careful that our motives are pure. It is easy to get caught up in the “I am right” syndrome and pray pridefully for our husbands to switch to our way of thinking.

Two times in our marriage Steve has been led to change churches when I didn’t agree with him. While I conceded there were good reasons to leave the current church, I was afraid of the unknown. I was settled in the present church and comfortable. The children had ministries and friends. I didn’t want to “rock the boat.” My prayers were not in support of Steve and the decision he was making.

We made each of those church moves despite my reluctance. In retrospect, they were good decisions on Steve’s part even though they were not the ones I wanted. The work the Lord did in our lives through each of those new churches was wonderful. Now I would not change those decisions for anything. In these cases, my opinions on leaving a church were not right, but I sure thought they were at the time!

Fear was ultimately at the heart of my desire to stay in churches that weren’t right for our family. I was uncertain of what the future would hold with a move. 1 Peter 3:6 says, “Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” We are encouraged not to be afraid as we follow Sara’s example.

How many times are our prayers about differences with our husbands based on fear? We are afraid that if we follow our husbands in these decisions, it will mean we may face financial difficulties, we could lose our children’s hearts, or perhaps we will be embarrassed in some way. Our Lord Jesus does not want our prayers for the situation to be resolved as we think it should simply because we are afraid. Rather, He wants us trusting in Him.

Keep in mind the biblical stories where everything looked terrible, but God had a purpose in it and brought about good: Joseph being sold into slavery, Samuel being raised by Eli the wicked priest, Moses taken from his mother to be raised by Pharaoh’s daughter. Our trust must be completely in the Lord and not in what makes sense to us.

Of course there are legitimate issues where it is clear the husband is making poor choices. When we are considering praying for changes in our husbands’ hearts, I would caution that we can easily be consumed with this and develop a critical spirit toward them.

It is important to lay a necessary groundwork for a careful guard against a critical or condescending spirit in a wife toward her husband. If we are praying in one area after another for a change in a husband’s heart and doing this day after day, it could keep our focus on the perceived failings of our husbands. This would fuel our critical spirits.

To avoid this, I would suggest being careful how we pray. For example, in my situation when I didn’t want us to go into debt for a new roof, I think I was asking the Lord to change Steve’s heart so that he didn’t want to go into debt for the roof. On the other hand, I could have prayed for the Lord to provide the funds for a new roof or another alternative that would keep us from debt. Do you see the subtle difference in those two prayers and how the latter would keep my thoughts off of my unhappiness with the direction Steve was headed?

What about the mom who didn’t want to have to go back to work? She can petition the Lord to change her husband’s heart, or she could ask the Lord to provide for the family without her having to work. Again, a very subtle difference, but one worth noting.

Proverbs 31:11-12 says, “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.” Is it possible that by allowing a critical, prideful spirit to develop in my heart toward my husband, I am doing him evil rather than good?

My heart’s desire is that, as wives, we truly learn the role the Lord has for us. Since areas of disagreement are bound to arise between a husband and wife, may we make it a priority to be much in prayer about each of them. May we rest in the Lord even if we don’t see the changes we would like to have happen.

She Prayed – Part 1

I expect, as Christian women reading Ephesians 5:22-33, we would agree that the Bible teaches wives to reverence their husbands and to be submissive to them. However, I wonder how we apply the practical, daily aspects of reverencing and submitting. In particular, how do we handle situations where the Lord puts on our hearts a conviction or direction but not on our husbands’?

We may wonder if we should bring the subject up. Should we share our heart concerns unsolicited, or should we wait to see if he asks our input? Do we speak of it once and then drop it? Do we bring it up every few weeks? Do we share others’ stories in the area or ask him to read a book on the topic?

In this Corner, I am not giving you specific answers to those questions. What I am going to do is point you to one sure biblical way to deal with the problem. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Several years ago part of our roof began to leak. As the head of the household, Steve was very concerned about the leak’s potential damage to the house. He immediately said we needed a new roof. The problem was that we did not have the cash for a new roof and were committed to no more borrowing.

However, Steve decided that we would borrow the necessary money for a new roof. I spoke my heart passionately concerning our agreement not to be in debt and asked if there wasn’t some interim solution while we saved money as quickly as we could for the roof. He was determined to have the new roof and save the house.

I knew after that conversation that I had pushed as hard as I could push. I had met with a level of resistance on Steve’s part that was very unusual. I was so distraught I cried, when I was alone, over the possibility of borrowing for a roof. I also began to pray. It was the only avenue I felt I had left.

I prayed and waited as Steve had two roofers come out to give estimates. I kept praying. Then Steve started talking about some possibilities for redoing just the flashing area on the valley of the roof to see if that would keep the rain out until we could afford a new roof. That’s what he ended up doing! The “stopgap” project worked. We saved money judiciously for most of a year, and we finally had a new roof—debt free!

I once asked for some testimonials in this area of a wife praying when her heart does not agree with her husband’s. I received several stories from women who gave me permission to share them with you. These are examples to encourage you to see prayer as an ally in resolving differences between you and your husband. God can use it to change your husband’s heart, change your heart, or simply give you peace in the midst of unrest.

“I worked part-time as a secretary before our first daughter was born, but before I ever got married, I knew I wanted to stay home with my children. My husband didn’t see this as an option, but almost as soon as I found out I was expecting, I prayed that God would make a way for me to be able to stay home with my child. However, as soon as my daughter turned six weeks old, my husband instructed me to call the company I worked for to let them know I would be back the following week. So I made the call, and to my husband’s disappointment, I was told I was no longer needed.

“I felt relieved at not having to leave my precious infant daughter, but not for long—he told me he wanted me to begin searching for a new job. This was a point of strife between us for a short while, but after receiving some wise counsel from someone I confided in, I told my husband I was willing to submit to his wishes and would begin looking for a new job.

“It was at that point that God answered my prayers, and my husband told me he did not want me working outside the home, even if it meant putting off the purchase of a new home for a while (which it did). It’s interesting that God answered my prayer in this matter when I did what was required of me, which was submitting to my husband instead of arguing with him.” Jill

“My husband had a vasectomy six years ago, after our having three children. Because I was raised to be in submission to my husband, I signed the papers for him to have a vasectomy. He was convinced that this was the right thing for us, and no matter how much I cried and pleaded, he wanted the vasectomy.

“For the next three years, I was so angry with him! And I was unbelievably hurt, even though he assured me that he did not think I was a bad mother. He honestly thought that my emotional health would be hurt by having more children because I was so often frustrated, short-tempered, and exhausted with the three we had.

“In the late summer of 1999, I read testimonies of women whose husbands had had vasectomy reversals and were hoping that God would give them more children. I began to mention this to my husband, who simply listened to me, but didn’t say anything one way or the other.

“Then I started praying for his heart to be changed about having more children, and I asked the Lord to show me that his heart had changed before our anniversary, which is in October, without my having to say a word about it.

“A couple of weeks before our anniversary, out of the blue my husband asked me if I wanted to adopt a baby! I was stunned! I asked him why he was even considering it, because he had always been totally against adoption in the past. He said he didn’t really know why, just that God had opened his heart toward more children!!!

“Over the course of two or three months, he apologized to me for making such a major decision without me and not giving me any choice in the matter, and he talked to our pastor about adoption. Our pastor suggested a reversal.

“At this point, we haven’t taken any steps in either direction, adoption or reversal. I have left that in God’s hands, to guide my husband. An unexpected blessing for me was the total peace that God gave me about the whole thing. I used to agonize over not having any more children, and then was up in the clouds at the possibility of having more. But now I can truly say that I am ready for whatever God has planned for us. If I never have another baby, I am at peace about it.

“So God has blessed my prayer and trust in Him, too! I know that my husband will follow God’s leading. He is a very godly, dedicated man whose life’s desire is to please God.” Susan

“My husband and I have four children. After number four, we used birth control because I was so afraid of getting pregnant again. I wanted more children, but was afraid of labor and finances. My husband was supportive of this decision. He felt like we were done and readily accepted the birth-control decision.

“About seven months went by and my guilt increased daily. I felt like we had taken something that was God’s and made it ours. I began to pray that God would show us what to do. I talked to my husband, and he said that he didn’t think it would be wise for us to have more children. He wanted us to be done.

“The next few weeks we didn’t talk about it much. I continued to pray that God would have His way with our family. One day my husband and I had a conversation. I told him that I really did not feel like it was okay to use birth control. I felt like God should decide how many children we had. He was the giver and taker of life, and I would not get pregnant if it was not His will. He said he agreed with the concept, but didn’t know if we could do it financially, etc.

“The next few weeks passed with more prayer. Then we had a very different conversation. My husband now believes that we shouldn’t try to have another baby, but we shouldn’t prevent it either. He says that it is totally in God’s hands.” Jennie

While these testimonials deal with three of the bigger issues on which a husband and wife may have differing opinions, they illustrate maintaining a quiet, trusting spirit through prayer and then resting. The results may not always be as we have read here, but God is sovereign. We can trust Him no matter what the outcome is or when it comes. I would much rather have the Lord change Steve’s heart than for me to talk, cajole, and push him into it. I would also rather not have Steve’s heart change if it isn’t the Lord’s will. If Steve gives into a decision simply to please me, then we run the risk of being out of God’s will.

These issues concerning how a husband and wife relate to each other arise daily and are ongoing. May we, as Christian women, bless our husbands by being women who pray about our differences rather than being drippy faucets.

(Update: since this Corner was written, I have begun giving a session called, Loving Your Husband. In it, I encourage you to develop and strengthen your relationship with your husband, and I share many personal examples. Also, Dr. S. M. Davis has two excellent resources we highly recommend on reverence and attitudes: How a Wife Can Use Reverence to Build or Save Her Marriage  and The Attitude No Lady Should Have.)