An over-used, over-explained phrase shared in churches is ‘pray all the time’, or pray without ceasing, for the traditionalists amongst us. However, I have had to question whether I understood the implications and repercussions of pray. Be patient with me as I share my thoughts in a haphazard way.
God answers my prayers. If I boast of anything I am told to boast in the Lord, right? So again I say, undoubtedly, that God answers my prayers. I pray and He tells me what to do, where to go and how to get to my destination. His answers to my prayers are clear and precise. I cannot tempt myself into thinking that anything I have asked for was given to me by those words we often use to downplay the power of God - luck, chance and coincidence. How very blessed I am.
Yet, ‘blessed’ is not how I would describe my reaction to answered prayers recently. I have felt hemmed in, pigeon holed, angry and rebellious. The truth is, God’s response to our conversations have told me that the things I desire have not been ear-marked for my future. He shows me that I need to slow down and focus on Him because my salvation is what concerns Him. Please do not misunderstand my point, God is interested in the minutest details of our existence, our breakfast, hairstyle, exercise regime and everything above and between. However, we hem in and pigeon hole God if we fail to realise it is eternal life He is constantly working on in His daily dealings with us.
The agenda of God, in making sure I get to heaven, is a fact I have been blindsided to for awhile now. When He has used Bible verses, friends, work colleagues and even Instagram to answer my prayers in opposition to my desires - I reacted as any spoilt child. I systematically tried to punish my Father by refusing to spend time with Him, pretending to misconstrue the answer and repeatedly telling Him how unfair and dictator-like He has been towards my prayers. Everything that God had been trying to tell me, I have interpreted as a personal affront:
• He answers my prayers before I ask because He doesn’t want me to think for myself
• He is everywhere, talking to me all the time, in a million different ways. I cannot escape Him!
• He is cutting me off from people and things because He is selfish and wants me all to Himself
As ridiculous as these words sound, as embarrassed as I am to share this, it is exactly how I felt until a conversation with my sister this week. I told her my annoyances with God and she looked bewildered, genuinely bewildered, at how every action of God I had confused and turned against Him. And I am stubborn. With tears of anger I heard my sister’s words as she tried to realign my views into the correct order. After our conversation I sat, thought, and finally allowed the Spirit to guide my mind. I began to accept that everything I had seen as an attack, was actually proof of God’s undying love towards me:
• He answers my prayers before I ask because He wants to lead and protect me from making hurtful decisions and life choices
• He is everywhere, talking to me at all times, through a million different ways because He loves me with an everlasting love and refuses to give up on me and my salvation. He will get at me through all mediums in order to bring me into relationship with Him; Love endures, and protects, and is patient with and fails not the object of its true affection
• God wants me all to Himself. He loves me enough to cut me off from everything that would jeopardise my relationship with Him, and similarly all that He has in store for me. He knows I am human and will undervalue myself because I will never be enough in this world. I can always be thinner, richer, happier, more powerful, more intelligent. The ideal life is only around the corner of my next sacrifice of conscious, character and integrity. But, God says let Him be my everything, because He loves me just as I am. My worth is tied up in who I am in relation to Him, and without giving myself wholly to God, anything I use to replace Him is a way of selling myself short
Even as I write these words, I know I will have to remind myself of their truth. I will have to continually pray for God to let me accept their significance to my existence. For day by day, I realise that pray is more than just talking to God. Pray is about humbling my thoughts, desires and opinions, and accepting that God truly knows best. Yes, it is a cliche but trusting and allowing God to do His will in my life has only ever worked out in my favour.
Trusting God is not easy. It can be painful. It will cause you to question everything of which you are sure. Your instincts will tell you to drastically guard and fight against submitting to His will. Nevertheless, a peace I cannot explain, a peace that defies understanding, is what accompanies an acceptance of God’s answer to your prayers.
Walk through your life trusting that God is always sparing us from what it is we think we want. He desires to give us the things we would really want if we saw the course of our life in its entirety. Let Him show you, and often in time, that He has greater things in store. I have not seen them all in my life yet, but as a reforming spoilt and stubborn child, I realise today is another day, and I start it by walking and trusting again in my Father’s loving answer to my prayers.
A friend told me to write a little everyday, but I have been blog dodging for months. However, today I felt inspired enough to share.
My day was spent at a spa retreat where I celebrated the birthday of a friend. Apart from the obvious relaxation and pampering, it was the conversations in-between activities which I found the true highlight. My problem and perhaps sometimes the most endearing thing about me is my failure to hide or lie about my feelings. I am a person with no facial barrier, what you see is what you get and more than occasionally what you do not want to see.
As I opened up about a situation in my life I could feel not only the outpouring of the raw emotions that linked me to it, but that queer bond that begins and builds between two communicating beings. Intimacy. Sharing part of yourself, a true, undiluted and vulnerable part of yourself with another person is the beginning of intimacy. Letting someone see behind the curtain of our painted faces and laughter is where, to me, relationships can also become scary. The parts of you they can hold in their hand and cherish or trample on if they do not realise what you have entrusted to them.
As my conversation began to wind up, my friend’s parting words were along the lines of, “you have to be vulnerable. It is scary but you have to be”. In any relationship, whether family, friends or romantic, it is only with vulnerability that you began to really trust someone. There is nothing like intimacy, when you get it right. When it is untainted and you know that who you are, your insecurities, failings, shortfalls, triumphs, victories and happiness are understood and experienced by someone with whom your heart is connected - there is nothing that can equal this feeling. And it is more than physical, more than sexual. Any married couple will tell you the physical act of sex should only aid the intimacy you have already established. There is example upon example of people trying to have the sex and then the intimacy and it fails, miserably.
We as human beings have access to the purer form of intimacy every minute of every day. Jesus Christ came to earth to have this type of intimacy with us. He is intricately intertwined with our souls longings and desires. He knows what builds and brakes us. He does not see a joy or pain in our life and not know precisely what it means to us.
Intimacy is a two way path. Someone a lot wiser than me said, ‘intimacy begets intimacy’. To experience the best of it, you have to be willing to open yourself up to the person who is holding out their truest self to you. Even Christ. He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks, desperate for us to willingly share ourselves with Him and know the fullness of His intimate presence in our life.
So I beg you to speak a word to Him. Let Christ know what is on your heart today, tonight. Forget what you have previously heard, seen or known about intimacy. It is daunting to trust again once it has been mis-used. But, I boast in the knowledge that He cannot fail you, it is not in His nature. His record in our troubled existence is beautifully and intimately perfect.
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And all of these, though they won divine approval by [means of] their faith, did not receive the fulfillment of what was promised, because God had us in mind and had something better and greater in view for us, so that they [these heroes and heroines of faith] should not come to perfection apart from us [before we could join them].” Hebrews 11v39-40
This chapter in Hebrews talks of the patriarchs of our faith, such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. They where murderers, liars and thieves, but men who became righteous in God’s eyes because of their simple trust and confidence in Him. The last few verses touched my heart, as Paul tells us no matter how loved or great our ancestors became, God has held off coming back for them because He is giving us time to seek Him out, come into relationship with Him and claim the inheritance along with our beloved forefathers. So be encouraged! God is holding back the doors of heaven just so you can become part of His forever. For me, I do not want Him to wait in vain.
“Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33.
It is difficult to not become consumed in the hustle and bustle of life. I know what I want to achieve in my career, within my family and in a relationship. These things are important to a certain degree, Christ does not want us to have foodless, homeless, loveless lives. We must give the founder, protecter and beneficiary of everything good credit for the gifts with which He wants to bless us.
However, “what good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul” (Matthew 16:26). If I succeed in obtaining everything I want on earth but in the pursuit I give up Christ and salvation, the loss could never be worth what I gained. By using every waking breath to achieve my earthly desires, I do an injustice to God. My actions tell God that His best preparations in heaven are comparable to earth’s, thereby creating an excuse to put them first.
Chasing after the best this world has to offer has a tragic irony, as regardless of all our achievements there will always be part of us that is never satisfied. Look at many of the rich with every perk, adoring fans and successful careers, who take a downward spiral into self harming, drugs, alcohol or committing suicide. We will always seek after more than what we have because there is a God shaped hole within us which, (you guessed it), can only be filled by God.
God does not require us to be monks or nuns, segregating ourselves from the world in which we live. He cares about the careers, families and relationships we care about - just like every good father. God simply asks us to put Him first by spending time talking to Him (prayer), finding out who He is and what He does and does not want (Bible study) and doing His likes and giving up His dislikes (obeying His will). All these things added together begin to equal eternal life, but He also promises to give us everything we desire on earth as a bonus. That is the best buy one get one free deal you will ever see!
It may take courage, and an undeniable leap of faith, but I am putting God to the test when He says - “start with Me”.
“When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not shouting “I’m clean livin’.”
I’m whispering “I was lost,
Now I’m found and forgiven.”
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I don’t speak of this with pride.
I’m confessing that I stumble
and need Christ to be my guide.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not trying to be strong.
I’m professing that I’m weak
And need His strength to carry on.
When I say. “I am a Christian”
I’m not bragging of success.
I’m admitting I have failed
And need God to clean my mess.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
But, God believes I am worth it.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not holier than thou,
I’m just a simple sinner
Who received God’s good grace, somehow.”
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