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Posts Tagged ‘praying out loud’

Jo 23‘I enjoy the challenge of learning new things,’ one of our pastors told me, as he settled me in front of those glaring lights, ready to record a segment for our online church service last Sunday.

I agreed—albeit a little weakly. You see, I was about to do something I had never done before. I had been asked to pray out loud for our church while being filmed, with just the two of us present. And that felt a little weird to me.

I decided I would begin with a few verses from Psalm 40. I had thought of writing my prayer out in full, but felt that was not me. Usually, I like to be more spontaneous when I pray. Yet now, with that camera on me and those glaring lights shining in my face, I wondered if I had made the right decision. I had jotted down some things I had been asked to pray about, but that was it. Would my mind go blank? Could I truly trust God to show me how to pray?

The first time through, I stumbled a few times but soon became immersed in praying. There are so many urgent needs in people’s lives right now. Some have big financial concerns facing them. Others are seriously ill and undergoing tricky medical procedures or in the midst of long-term cancer treatment. Then there are those who are not in a good place mentally and emotionally who need to know God does indeed hear their cry, as Psalm 40:1 says. I feel for them all and meant every word I prayed. But at the end, we decided we should film it one more time—and make it a little shorter too.

We started again. Soon I was in the midst of praying for the same people and situations once more, although in a slightly briefer and more restrained way. But afterwards, I felt unsettled and even worried. Had I truly prayed from the heart that second time around? It had sounded a little flat to me and I hoped no one would feel short-changed as a result, particularly those I had prayed for in such difficult situations.

Later, however, as I reflected on the whole experience, I almost laughed out loud. What a silly way of thinking! After all, God knew it was my desire to pray earnestly for our church and for those going through challenging times. God saw my heart. And, judging by what Jesus said about those hypocrites who wanted everyone to notice how well they prayed or the pagans who used so many words (Matthew 6), surely what I said or how I looked was irrelevant?

Yes, there is always something new to learn or something different to experience. But there is nothing like that old, familiar experience for me of being held in God’s loving arms, knowing my prayers have been heard and feeling that firm rock once again beneath my feet.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:1-2

God hears. God understands. God cares. And we can be at peace.

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I never cease to be amazed at the neat things God does in my life. Just when I least expect it, I am surprised yet again with some kind act or some special insight that leaves me gobsmacked.

This past weekend, I found myself trying to round off that final chapter of my current work in progress—a non-fiction book, entitled Coming Home to Myself. Should be simple, right? Hmm—wrong! Instead, I found myself writing several paragraphs, then deleting them—over and over again. I swapped them around. I shortened them. I split them up. But nothing seemed to flow well.

As you might imagine, I became somewhat frustrated. I have struck difficult patches in my writing before, but this time, it all seemed particularly confusing. Eventually, I stood up and declared out loud, in a firm voice, ‘This is enough!’ I then prayed, still out loud, asking God to show me the way forward. Almost immediately, the thought came to go to our china cabinet and get out my set of five wooden Russian ‘babushka’ dolls I bought at a market stall in London years ago, simply because I loved them. I had always envisaged these dolls featuring on the cover of my book. In fact, I mention them in my introduction, since, to me, they depict my own journey over the years, as God has gently removed various self-protective layers from my life and enabled me to become who I believe I was created to be. But I had never thought of mentioning them again, to conclude my book.

P1030938I took them back to my desk and lined them up. The words began to flow, almost carrying me along with them. Then, as I wrote, out of the blue, I remembered how I had once dropped the smallest doll of the set and how I had been unable to find it for years. Then one day when we moved the whole china cabinet, there it was, right at the back underneath it. I had forgotten that whole experience, but saw immediately how it fitted in so well with the theme of my final two paragraphs, which stresses the importance of not losing sight of who we are at the very centre of our being—that person made in the image of God, created to show something of God to the world in our own unique way.

I almost laughed with joy as I wrote. How freeing it was, as those words flowed out! I could feel the lightness in my spirit and such a sense of the fullness of God in me. Surely God had prompted me to stand firm against that overwhelming confusion, to get out those Russian dolls and to remember, as I did, my experience of losing—and finding—that littlest doll all those years ago. Again, I knew I had been privileged to experience another touch of God’s amazing love and grace in my life, just when I least expected it and in a way I could never have envisaged.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8-9

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