A Strategy For Beholding God: Purposeful Prayer

Friday, February 05, 2016

February 5, 2016
"But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life." Jude 1:20-21

Purposeful prayer is one of the main means by which Christians can position themselves to behold God as they wait on Him. It is informed and strengthened by consistent Bible reading. In purposeful prayer, we are resolving to wait on God while paying careful attention to what we are waiting for and exactly what it means to be waiting on God.

Faith in God sustains us when we don't think we can wait on Him any longer. It shouldn't surprise us that God means to use the purposeful prayers of His people to stir up the kind of faith that sustains.

Pay Careful Attention To What We Are Waiting For

When we take things to God in prayer, we are declaring that we are waiting on Him for certain things. It is important to consider the themes that our prayers are taking. Doing this requires some effort. It's sort of like taking an inventory  and we should be specific.

Andrew Murray gives some examples of what may be waiting for. Namely, for:

God to take His place as God in our prayers

God to work in us the sense of His holy presence and nearness

a special petition that we expect an answer

God's power in our inner life

the state of His Church and saints

some part of God's work that we are looking to Him to do

He goes on to say that, "it is good that we sometimes count up to ourselves exactly what the things are we are waiting for, and as we say definitely to each of them, 'On Thee do I wait,' we shall be emboldened to claim the answer, 'For on Thee do I wait.'"

Christian, taking specific things to God in prayer and then going over that list is a great way to keep yourself dedicated to this kind of praying. Exactly what are the things that you are waiting for right now?

Pay Careful Attention To What It Means To Be Waiting on God

Paying careful attention to what it means to be waiting on God is the part of keeping our prayer purposeful that helps to ensure that we truly are praying to GOD. I know that's a mouthful, but it is easy to get so caught up in either not praying at all OR in the things that we are praying for that we actually forget about the God to whom we are praying. This will never do.

The very purpose of prayer is to unite us with God in Christ. We take our needs to Him and turn them over to Him. Prayer leads us to trust Him and to KEEP trusting Him. While we pray, we are turning our attention away from everything else in order to direct our gaze to God.

Murray reminds us that we are waiting on "the living God, such as He really is..." In all His:

great glory

infinite holiness






"It is the presence of God, as He can in Christ by His Holy Spirit make Himself known, and keep the soul under its covering and shadow, that will waken and strengthen the true waiting spirit." Christian, you must guard against the tendency to turn away from God as He presents Himself in Scripture.

You see, purposeful prayer goes hand in hand with consistent Bible reading. You cannot be purposeful in your prayers without being impacted by your time in God's Word. This Word shapes our prayers and our view of God in a way that binds these two means together so that we may truly be waiting on God as we go about the business of beholding Him. What do you know of God and what role does this knowledge play in your praying?

What It Means To "Pray In The Spirit"

Before I close, I would like to go over what it means to "pray in the Spirit". This is where the "purposeful" part comes in. We must not be careless about HOW we pray.

Packer describes "prayer in the Spirit" as, "prayer from the heart, springing from awareness of God, of self, of others, of needs, and of Christ." He goes on to say that, "he (or she) whose heart seeks God through Christ prays in the Spirit." Praying in the Spirit is a means God grants His people to keep themselves in His love and as such, it is a means by which He keeps them in His love.

Just in case you missed it, praying in the Spirit requires a heart that is truly seeking God and His will. Have you been praying in the Spirit?

If you know your heart isn't seeking God, take it straight to Him and ask Him to teach it to. If that seems odd, read over the first few books in the Old Testament (especially Deuteronomy) and watch for the ways that God taught and instructed His people even before He gave them commandments. He is the best Teacher you'll ever have.

The Place of Purposeful Prayer

Though many of us struggle with keeping up with purposeful prayer, it is a true gift of God. If we doubt the power or place of prayer, we ought to look at the life of Christ who modeled it so perfectly. He was always meeting with God. It was something He could not neglect if He was to carry on with the work He came to earth to do.

The very fact that we are looking to and waiting on God will stir up in us natural utterances of prayer, just like it did for Christ. Murray puts it this way, "It is a great thing for a soul not only to wait upon God, but to be filled with such a consciousness that its whole spirit and position is that of a waiting one..."

If we are struggling to carry on or to keep our resolve to behold God, it could be that our lack of purposeful praying is playing a big part in that. May God grant us grace to employ this means by which our souls are kept in His love and may our prayerlessness be one more thing that makes us aware of our need to go to God.

To those of you who are purposeful prayer warriors, may your dedication of this means of grace remind you daily of God's work in your heart! May you remain strong in this area and may it accomplish much in your life as well as in the lives your prayers are touching.

How are you planning to devote yourself to purposeful prayer in 2016?

Where are you when it comes to this area of the Christian life?

Packer quotes taken from p. 79-80 of "Keep In Step With the Spirit".
Murray quotes taken from  chapter 7 of "Waiting on God".
If you would like more on the topic of prayer here's a very helpful sermon.

Currently: February 2016

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

February 3, 2016

I'm looking forward to quite a few things this month: a show this weekend, a visit with Ron and Julie, the superbowl (GOOOO Panthers!), my Mom's birthday, and maybe getting together for coffee with my friend Allegra. We're also going to exchange the Christmas gifts we never got around to exchanging due to my sister's travels, so that will be exciting! In the meantime, the cold snap came back and brought some flurries with it. I'm currently....

Sending: I'm really struggling with what to write for this category...I'm going to go with phone calls. I've been working my way through calling people that I haven't talked to in forever. It's been really nice to catch up! 

Planned meals and onions on everything! Any time I think of a meal, I jot it down and then about once a week I look over the list and plan out the next five or six days worth of dinners. Some day I hope to have a "this is what we eat" plan for every season.

Dreaming: Of getting together a monthly newsletter for YOU guys. Also, of starting up a podcast. The newsletter is a new dream and the podcast is something I've been kicking around for ages. I just need a co-host and a theme. We'll see!

Smelling: The crisp winter air on the few times I've gone for walks over the past few weeks. Also, cinnamon and maple syrup. I made a french toast casserole the other night and the leftovers smell sooooo good. I wonder if there is an essential oil that smells ANYTHING like maple syrup?

Hearting: Our routine lately and Emily Dickinson. It took some getting used to, but I've got a schedule going and that makes all the difference. Alicia's course has helped me approach winter in a new way too.

As always, I'm linking up with Jenna and Anne and I think you should too!

On Getting My Blogging Motivation Back

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

I spent the last half of 2015 limping along as a blogger. At first I thought I just needed a break. Then I got behind on emails. I was posting occasionally and every single time the comments continued to flow in. A few months into this blogger's slump, I realized that I still had just as many ideas and that I had every intention of resuming my regular posting schedule. The missing ingredient was simply MOTIVATION.

I posted about my struggle and my blogging friends told me to plug ahead anyway, jot down ideas, let them know when I figured out how to get back to blogging regularly, and that I would come back to it when I was ready. Their words were truly encouraging. Every time I didn't have a fresh post up, I remembered their words.

Eventually, I decided to take the first piece of advice and just start plugging ahead anyway. I was skeptical at first. I didn't want to make any announcements because I was SURE that after a few weeks, I'd find that my motivation was gone again. I kept sitting down at the computer, but I was holding my breath.

It's the beginning of February and I'm nearly two months into NOT losing my motivation again. About a week ago I decided to let myself breath and to be confident about the fact that my blogging motivation was back.

MOST of my readers have blogs of their own. I know you have struggled struggle with balancing life and blogging and keeping your motivation going strong. Here are some things that brought my motivation back and continue to give it a boost:

I made a list of my most faithful commenters so that I could send them an email explaining how grateful I was to them for sticking around even when I wasn't. I'm still making my way through that list, but it frees me from feeling bad about the pile of emails I never sent to my commenters during my slump.

I went back to keeping an editorial calendar. The one I use contains a whole month at a glance. It has one section to jot down ideas and then an actual calendar where I can pencil in a schedule. If I had to pick one step that makes the most difference, it's this one.

I made a resolve to answer emails every few days and I kept it. The fact is, I blog with the intention of people reading my posts. Receiving comments lets me know that people ENJOYED what they read. Emailing these commenters lets them know that I read their comment and APPRECIATE it. The key is keeping up.

I agreed to a sponsored post. I'm dipping my toes in slowly, but sponsored content really pushes me as a blogger. It forces me to get creative, to plug my blog on social media, and to look at my writing through the eyes of someone expecting to get something out of it.

I put in the work. This looks like taking the pictures, drafting the posts, editing the sentences, and hitting publish. I haven't done this PERFECTLY, but the goal is to get the posts that I have planned up even if it's 4:30 in the afternoon on the day AFTER I had intended the post to go live.

That's it. Five simple steps.

When I made the decision to plug ahead anyway, I did what I always do when I'm overwhelmed. I took a step back and started with a list. I thought about what might be missing. I thought about what would keep me in line. Slowly but surely, I started working on each of the steps I listed above. Two months later, they're still working!

Whether you've been struggling with blogging or can feel your motivation slowly drifting away, I'd encourage you to start there too.

After that, sit in the chair and blog.

Where are you on the motivation scale right now?

P.S. Renee, you're the one who told me to plug ahead anyway. I owe you big time!!!!

What I Learned in January 2016

Sunday, January 31, 2016

It's the last Sunday in January. I've got a pot of chili simmering on the stove and I just removed a batch of cornbread muffins from the oven. Before we end the weekend, I wanted to take some time to join Emily in reflecting on what I learned in January. I learned...

1. To thank God for everything. I wrote about it several weeks ago and I've continued to learn about it all month long. It's never uncalled for. Say it out loud. He loves to hear it and you'll grow to love saying it.

2. That I prefer front load washers as opposed to top loaders. As much as I love being able to add clothes to the wash cycle after the water is done pouring in, that convenience isn't worth the beating that the agitator gives to clothes in top loaders.

3. That Psalm 23 is an explanation of Jesus' relationship with the Father. Maybe you already knew this, but I didn't until our pastor preached on it this month. Jesus Christ received all from the Father just as sheep receive (and expect to receive and lie in wait) from the shepherd.

4. To give being an expositional listener a try. This idea came from chapter one of Thabiti Anyabwile's book "What Is a Healthy Church Member?" .  I've got got a list of about 6 goals related to this task.

5. That command + v = paste. I'm not one for keyboard shortcuts, but that one has come in HANDY this month. Are there any that you use regularly?

6. So many things about Emily Dickinson that make me love her even more. She loved: her friends, Mount Vernon and George Washington, gardening, walks, New England, and writing. She was afraid of being alone to the point of not even being able to sleep with the window open when her sister traveled. This list of things to like about her is always growing.

7. That E.B. White was born in Mount Vernon, NY on July 11, 1899. I think of E.B. White often and keep a book two books of his essays back for reading when I need a boost. Coming across this tidbit unexpectedly in a book I happened to be reading this afternoon was a nice piece of trivia. You'd think I would know when one of my favorite writers was born, but I didn't until just a few hours ago.

What did you learn this month?

More Than A Mystery

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Detective novels are my favorite. They belong to a genre that always keeps readers on their toes. If you can find a good author, then every new release means another book gets added to your reading list. Irene Hannon is one of those authors that I keep tabs on. Her stories always draw me in. I'm someone that finds it pretty easy to walk away from a book even if I'm enjoying it immensely. Hannon gets the better of me. I almost always finish her books in just three or four sittings.

When I'm reading Hannon, I might sit on the kitchen floor to read a few more pages while a pot of pasta simmers on the stove or while a tray of cookies comes to life in the oven. When I'm reading Hannon, I know I'm in for a treat.

That's exactly how things went when I picked up my review copy of her latest novel, "Thin Ice". This book happens to be the second in her Men of Valor series. A woman named Christy Reed takes the center stage in this thriller that is just spooky enough to keep you on the edge of your seat.

In typical mystery fashion, this is a race against the clock. Readers will find themselves wrapped up in staying one step ahead of the plot by paying careful attention to the information Hannon allows them to access.

Without giving away any spoilers I'll tell you that "Thin Ice" involves an abduction and one person's attempts at seeking revenge. Christy needs to examine the past before she can ever get on with the future. As you might have guessed from the cover, ice skating plays a brief role in the plot, but not so much that non-skaters like me would get bored with the details.

While there are a few cliches here and there that Christian fiction can't seem to escape from, there are also a few moments that will stop you in your tracks. In fact, I folded three particular pages over so that I could come back to them. What I'm trying to say is that Hannon gives you a mystery, but she also gives you characters who are learning lessons and overcoming obstacles that we can all relate to.

Pick up your copy here.

*I received a review copy from the publisher and all thoughts are my own honest opinion.