When “I’ll Pray for You” Is An Insult

when-%22ill-pray-for-you%22-is-an-insult

Sometimes words said with good intention can be insulting. We live in a world where it’s easier than ever to comment on a friend or family member’s trials, triumphs, and everything in-between. But do we stop to think before we insert our like, love, or laughing face?

I will be the first to say I love emojis and use them often in texts and on social media, but I often wonder what all this instant, no-thought-required communication is really doing to our ability to communicate. Take, for example, the statement, “I’ll pray for you.” Or the comment I see more often, “Thoughts and prayers!”

Now, by no means am I saying we shouldn’t pray for others. Sometimes, as I stated in my previous post, it’s all we can do. And let them know you’re praying. It can encourage a person’s heart to know there are people rallying behind them in prayer.

But what if there is something else we can do? What about the times when someone desperately needs help, and we could be the ones God uses to provide it?

There are times when I see people on Facebook crying out for help. Sometimes, it’s a home that’s flooded and they need a place to stay. Or they’re sick and could really use a hot meal. The possibilities are endless.

If we have the resources and ability to help the person in need, are we really displaying the love of Christ by saying “I’ll pray for you,” and then carrying on with our lives? While I’m certain God is all-powerful and able to swoop down, make the person some soup and deliver it to their front door, do you think maybe that’s what he’s called us to do instead?

when-to-stop-praying-and-act

When Jesus walked the earth during his earthly ministry, he prayed. A lot. He and the Father were in constant communion and he often removed himself from others completely so he could be alone in prayer.

But I don’t recall a single time when someone walked up to him, begging for help, food or shelter, and he said, “I’ll pray for you.” He knew there was a time to pray and a time to act, and he wasn’t going to mislead others by confusing the two.

John, who was with Jesus during most of his ministry, says it like this:

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 John 3:18 NIV

Friends, prayer was never intended to be used as an excuse for inaction. And I am convicted. I am guilty of turning the other way when I know God was asking me lend a helping hand, but he is showing me that if we are to be his hands and feet, we must act. We must move. We must do something other than say, “I’ll pray for you.”

I know there are seasons when we are stretched thin between little ones, jobs and other responsibilities. Prayer may truly be the best we have to offer. I know there are also times when we aren’t the best person to help.

But if we are constantly turning the other way, we need to reevaluate. We need to take a long hard look at ourselves and ask the question every person who attended VBS as a kid knows: What would Jesus do?

I can guarantee you, he would do more than sit. Let’s follow his example and do the same.

 

Linking up with these communities: #RaRaLinkup, #IntentionalTuesday

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3 Truths About God to Remember When You Can’t Stop Worrying

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The news took my breath away. With one quick phone call, our lives changed.

A family member was in trouble, and it was the kind where no one could help. As I looked out the window and listened to my Dad on the other end of the phone with tears streaming down my face, I knew God had taken the situation out of our hands.

All of our attempts to control and prevent a worst-case-scenario had come to this, and it was as if He was saying, “It’s in my hands now.”

After hanging up the phone, I sat in the recliner for over twenty minutes and tried to pray. But every time I attempted to utter words, I was paralyzed. My mind circled endless what-if scenarios, and my fear of the unknown kept me mute.

Frustrated, I got up and took a hot shower, hoping to clear my head. As I was toweling off, I recalled the following verse.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV

I often look at scripture like this and think, “Yeah right. How is that even possible?”

But on a day when my world seemed to be crumbling around me, I thought, “What if every time my mind went to worry, I prayed instead?”

Hard? Yes. Possible. Very much so, if we persevere.

Friends, we have any enemy who loves nothing more to exploit our weaknesses during times of trouble. If you’re prone to worry, he’ll take a troublesome situation and fill your mind with every worst-case-scenario possible.

But you know what? Satan does not control our minds. We do. And we can choose to believe the lies the father of them suggests or we can fill our minds with truth. We can pray. We can bring all of our anxiousness and pain to the one who knows the end of the story.

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There is a reason I felt so paralyzed when I tried to pray. Prayer is a powerful weapon, and our enemy would rather us not use it.

If you’re stumbling around, looking for a starting point, here are 3 truths to remember and guide your prayers:

  1. God is sovereign. Regardless of whether or not it appears so, God is in control. He has a plan. It may seem as though everything is falling apart, but he is aware of the situation and is working through your prayers.
  1. God is a Redeemer. It may take years. It may take a lifetime. But God can redeem this story. He can use this mess and make it a testimony of his grace and goodness. If there are other people involved, it will take a willing heart on their part, but God loves to take the ashes of our lives and turn them into something beautiful.
  1. God loves you and the people involved. Many of us heard this as kids. We know John 3:16 and learned the song “Jesus Loves Me” when we were little. But when trouble comes, we doubt. We wonder where He is and why these things are happening. We live in a fallen, painful and often chaotic world and while God’s hand may not always seem evident, his love is still steady and constant.

When storms come, our natural instinct is control. We want to fix it. We want things to change and go according to plan. But often the situation is taken out of our hands and we’re left clenching our fists.

You know what? We can still do something. And it’s the most beautiful, powerful step we can take.

Our strongest weapon against the darkness is the one we use on our knees.

 

Linking up with these communities: #ThoughtProvokingThursday

An Open Letter to My Daughter (In Utero)

an open letter to my daugher

Sweet baby Elise,

I had your name picked when I was pregnant with your brother, Gabriel. And although I wouldn’t trade him and his silly antics, endless energy and confidence for the world, my heart leapt when I heard God was giving us a girl. You were a hope deferred and nearly lost for a time, but the Lord turned that hope into a tree of life, growing and becoming stronger with each day that passes.

Since the day I heard you were here I’ve sent up countless prayers to your heavenly Father. I pray for your health, your development and delivery, but I also send up pleas which go beyond those first few days into your future.

Here are a few of the things I desire for you, my girl. When I feel anxious about your future or overwhelmed with the weight of responsibility, I come before Jesus and ask these in his name.

I pray you will be a woman who knows who you are. That you will see how your Creator formed you and planned you before you were ever a plus sign on piece of plastic, and he has a unique purpose only you can fulfill.

I pray you see at a young age that it’s okay to be different. God does not create clones. He creates unique masterpieces. Each one made to reflect his glory in a special way that can’t be imitated or bought or sold. If he wanted you to be someone else, he would have created someone else. Embrace your one-of-a-kind identity. And if you’re not sure what your niches or gifts are, ask Him to show you. He will answer you with grace and patience.

a letter to elise

I pray you know He sees you. Even when no one else does. Even when it feels like you’re invisible and no one appreciates what you have to offer, your Father sees you and loves you with an everlasting love. He cares about each aspect of your life and knows when you rise and lie down. When you feel unseen, remember there is only one person who fully sees us and can fill the deepest desires of our hearts. His name is Jesus. Call on his name.

I pray you love selflessly and fearlessly. I know there will be times when you will be heartbroken, and I will always be here to offer a hug, and shoulder to cry on, and a listening ear. But I pray you keep reaching out and being vulnerable. I hope you look to our Savior, who risked it all and was promised nothing, and follow Him as the ultimate example of fearless love.

Elise Skylar, I can’t wait to meet you. I imagine what you will look like, what unique personality God will give you and can nearly hear your first cries within me. As you grow and change, I’ll keep praying. I’ll never stop. Because your Daddy and I believe prayer changes things. It makes a difference.

And you, my child, were made to make a difference in this world. Never stop dreaming or reaching for the stars your Creator put into place.

We love you to the moon and back,

Mom

Expect An Answer {Rays in the Storm Series}

rays in the storm series

Sometimes when catastrophe hits, I freeze up. I can’t think, I can barely breathe, and my prayers feel feeble and numb. Lifting up words to the Almighty takes every physical effort I have, and all I have the ability to mutter is, “Help.”

But you know what? It’s enough. Even murmuring a verse God planted in your heart for such a time as this can do wonders. Simply speak. Say the words you don’t feel the strength to utter.

And afterwards, watch. I think we often forget that last part. Today I have the honor of sharing over at Remade Ministries about what God taught me in the midst of those tearful prayers. We’d love to have you join the discussion by clicking here.

Pray Through the Dark, Even When You’re Not Sure Now

pray through the dark

As I listened to my son tap the keys on the piano, a smile enveloped my face. He was role-playing, and the audience encircled the bench where he sat.

“Now, I’m going to play you a song you may have heard before….” he said, placing his fingers across the keys.

I leaned against the wall, soaking in the rhythm, not wanting to interrupt this moment. The notes of Yankee Doodle filled the house for the twentieth time that day, but surprisingly, I wasn’t tired of hearing it.

“That was perfect,” I said when the concert was over. And it was. Pride beamed from his face as he started the second and only other piece he knew.

In an instant, I realized how alike my son and I were. Even at seven, he had an innate desire to be seen. To be applauded for his efforts and acknowledged for a job well done.

He continued playing not only because he loved music, but because he loved the applause. I sat there with him until he was done, wanting him to know I saw the time and energy he put into making those notes soar.

Over the past few months, I had lost my bearings and found myself questioning whether anything I did had meaning or purpose. I knew God had called me to lead in ministry, to write and to share with others through stories, but my lack of progress left me feeling discouraged, wondering if I’d lost my way.

Since I didn’t see results, I concluded there were none. But often the real progress takes place below the surface, in the areas we don’t see.

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As I fumbled through the darkness, my prayers seemed to go nowhere. Instead of feeling the closeness to God I craved, it was as though he’d taken a vacation. I knew He would never leave me or forsake me, but I longed for the intimacy I once felt.

Often at a loss for what to do, I continued praying. Even when I wasn’t sure what to say, I brought my words before the Lord.

I prayed for wisdom and direction. I prayed my life would be a light to others and bring glory and honor to his name.

When we pray through the dark, God can use our words as evidence of his Light.

One day as buds formed on the trees outside, I received an email from the coordinator of a ministry where I volunteered. She was following up on an inquiry and wanted to let me know about praise report she’d received. A member of the critique group I led had emailed them, thanking them for the community and commending my work.

As I scanned over the words, my eyes filled with tears. I thanked God for his grace and sovereignty, even when I doubted. I thanked Him for his power to move, even when my progress seemed stagnant.

Although I couldn’t see God through all the months of uncertainty, he was still working. When I didn’t see progress, he was still using me and moving through me. I continued in obedience to his call, and He was faithful to do what only He could do.

Friend, if you’re in a season where you can’t see growth and you question whether God is still using you, can I encourage you to come before Him in prayer? God will use those words muttered in the dark for his glory.

Pray through the uncertainty and I can assure you of this: God will show up.

When My VIP Pass Becomes My Last Ditch Effort

vip pass or last ditch effort

My brother had VIP access at the concert, and he didn’t even pay for it.

After waiting in line for an hour to speak to his favorite Christian musician, he held nothing back. His questions, compliments and everything in-between poured out like water from a fire hydrant. Crowder didn’t rush him, but gave him his undivided attention until one of the event staff brought the God-ordained time to an end.

As I listened to my sibling describe the experience over the phone, I was filled with awe. And a little envy, of course. But it also made me realize how often we lose sight of the fact that we have that same VIP status every day.

We have unlimited access to the same God who spoke the planets into orbit, but we usually don’t take advantage of it.

We love our independence, and live in a world of smart phones where we can simply speak directions into a microphone to access directions to the airport, ratings on the new restaurant, and step-by-step instructions on how to install the tile. Being able to do something on our own brings a sense of satisfaction, and sometimes we don’t ask for help even though we know we need it.

After all, if Siri can’t fix it, who can?

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m honored to be sharing over at Precepts & Life Preservers. You can read the rest of my story here.

vip pass or last ditch effort

Linking up with these communities: #RaRaLinkup, #IntentionalTuesday, #TellHisStory

Are We Forgetting the Most Powerful Counselor We Have?

let's not underestimate

I have a confession to make.

Several times a year when I gather up the boys’ toys to donate to the Salvation Army and Social Services, I make sure they are either at school or asleep. Doing otherwise results in the inevitable cries of, “Oh, I forgot about this!” or “Oh, my favorite toy!” even though they haven’t played with it for a year.

Until my oldest son surprised me. And in an instant, I realized I should never underestimate the power of the Spirit to work in a child.

My husband and I were in the family room going through toy chests when I heard the pitter-patter of little feet.

“What are you doing?” my firstborn asked. My heart dropped and I told him a half-truth. I was organizing the toys. Which, technically, I was. But when I looked across the room at my husband, I could tell we were both thinking the same thing.

We needed to be honest. He was old enough, and he could help. I held my breath as my husband explained we were gathering toys to give away.

“We want to make sure other kids who less fortunate have a good Christmas too,” Daddy said.

I explained that we wanted to give our best so we could honor the families who would receive these gifts. As I looked at the amount of stuff lying on the floor, I knew we had been blessed with much. But did my son? I waited to see how he would react.

Then, he amazed me.

He began gathering things and placing them in the bag, which was nearly full already. Not just thoughtless items but items he and his brother played with and loved. And what surprised me most? He didn’t want to stop.

As I watched me son in awe, all I could say repeatedly was, “Thank you.” To my son, yes. I told him how proud I was and how grateful we were for his giving attitude. But inwardly I thanked God.

Often, I think my husband and I are doing this parenting gig alone. I feel inadequate on a daily basis and I second-guess decisions more often than I’d like to admit. I forget there is a third party involved, which although invisible, is the most important influence in my child’s life.

I forget about the Holy Spirit.

When I pray, asking God to help me be an example for these kids he’s entrusted into my care, he listens. When I ask him to fill in the spaces where I am lacking, he hears me.

Even when I don’t know what to ask for or how to pray, he sees.

And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

Romans 8:27 NIV

Let’s not underestimate the power of the Counselor who lives in us.

The same power which arose Jesus from the grave is accessible to us everyday, if we are in Him. We simply have to believe. We have to ask. We abide in him and seek even those answers we may not like.

And when he moves and stirs hearts in those moments we least expect it, we fall on our knees, we give thanks, and we know with new certainty: our help comes from him.

 

Linking up with these communities: #RaRaLinkup, #IntentionalTuesday, #TellHisStory