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Posts Tagged ‘the power of prayer’

Jo 12Last week, some long-time friends decided to drop in on their way to Canberra from Queensland.

‘We’re up the Central Coast,’ they told us. ‘We’ll be there in around a couple of hours!’

After getting a few things ready, I made a quick dash to the shops. I raced around the supermarket, then fumed as I became stuck behind a very slow-moving, elderly gentleman on my way down to the car park. Why couldn’t he move faster? What if my visitors arrived before I got home?

Still feeling frustrated, I finally hopped in my car and headed home. Just as I reached a roundabout near our Village, I noticed a motor-home approaching from the opposite direction. Oh, our friends have a motor-home, I thought to myself, but I can’t remember what theirs looks like. …  Hold on a minute! It couldn’t possibly be them, could it?

I waved, hoping that, if it was indeed them, they would follow me. And they did! I pointed them to a parking spot and we all marvelled at the absolute ‘coincidence’ of our arriving at the roundabout at exactly the same time. Had that old gentleman not slowed me down, I would have missed seeing them and helping them find our unit.

Over the next twenty-four hours, we shared many experiences from past years of how God had guided, rescued and enabled in all sorts of situations. Our friends told us about their three children, now parents and grandparents themselves. When the eldest was born many weeks premature, the nurses put him aside in a humidicrib when they saw he wasn’t breathing and focused on our friend’s wellbeing as the mother. But when she was told her baby was dead, she declared firmly, ‘He’s not dead!’‘ The next moment, nurses noticed he was breathing and scuttled to care for him.

‘I just knew in my heart he wasn’t,’ she told us, tears in her eyes, even after all these years.

As for their second son, it was discovered just prior to his birth that the cord was around his neck. Before an emergency caesarean could be organised, however, he arrived. to everyone’s amazement, the cord was not around his neck at all and the birth went perfectly smoothly! Later, our friends heard how someone they barely knew had woken up in the early morning hours and felt prompted to pray earnestly for them at the exact time of this baby’s birth.

When their third child was born, she seemed fine. But later in life, she was found to suffer from a severe congenital brain malformation involving not one aneurism, but thirteen! A brilliant surgeon happened to operate on her and managed to fix them all—a super-amazing, life-saving miracle.

As we talked, we saw again how God had indeed been present, not only in those bigger, key moments but also in the little ‘coincidences’ along the way—like arriving at roundabouts at the exact same time! What a wonderful God we serve, we decided, as our friends went on their way to continue with their amazing ministries, even in their late seventies!

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

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Jo 17‘So how is the moving going?’

I looked around, trying not to drop the mountain of things I was carrying into our lovely, new unit in a village complex. Then I saw a lady eyeing me curiously as she worked in a nearby garden.

‘Oh, not bad, thanks,’ I responded, keen to keep going, yet realising I needed to introduce myself. ‘My name’s Jo-Anne. You’ve done a beautiful job in the garden here.’

We chatted on—and then my new friend came out with something that took my breath away.

‘We’ve been praying for you, ever since the man who lived in your unit left ages ago,’ she said in such a matter-of-fact manner that I wondered if I had heard her correctly. Did she really say that word ‘praying’? I decided to fish a little.

‘Er … did you know my husband has been a minister all our married life?’

‘Yes—we did hear that,’ she admitted. ‘We go to church in Auburn.’

‘Which church?’ I asked, unable to resist fishing further. ‘I know Auburn quite well.’

‘The Salvation Army,’ she responded. ‘We have so many different nationalities there. They all love us and call us “Mum and Dad” or “Aunty and Uncle”.’

I was gobsmacked—as I have been several times lately during our move from our old home into our beautiful unit. At each step of the way, God has guided us, protected us and watched over us. Now here someone was telling me she had been praying for us for months!

‘Wow—thanks so much for those prayers,’ I told her. ‘Lots of people were praying for the sale of our old home and that worked out so well. Now I find you’ve been praying for whoever would move into this unit. No wonder our move has gone so smoothly!’

The next day, I saw her again. I had decided to ask our near neighbours first, before playing my piano, but as it turned out, I had to practise briefly before I could do this. You see, just before moving into our Village, I was asked to play for the monthly church service here, to be held two days after we arrived. I usually don’t play for services anymore—so what a surprise to find myself doing such a thing again! It was as if God was saying, ‘Come on, Jo—you can do this! Let’s bless some more people with those gifts I gave you!’ Now however, I decided to ask at least this one neighbour.

‘Oh, I’ve been waiting for you to play!’ she said. ‘And I’m sure no one will mind at all.’

I was relieved. It had been a moot point whether to bring my piano with me at all, but now through this lady’s response and through being asked to play for the service, it seemed so right that I had.

Truly, God hems us in, behind and before, as David wrote, watching our backs but also smoothing the path ahead for us. And, just like David, that is the type of love I still cannot fathom. How blessed we are!

You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139:5-6

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Jo 23In the past few weeks, we have had the joy of reconnecting with various old friends, as we have prepared to move house. Some have emailed, in response to our emails notifying them of our change of address, expressing their delight that we have found somewhere lovely to live. Others have said they will come and visit, once we are fully settled in. Still others called in before we moved out, making their way around boxes and enjoying a final, informal cuppa in our old home.

One couple came with whom we have stayed in contact for over forty years, mainly through email and Facebook. Yet when we met again face to face, the years simply fell away. We had heard they were shipping old but good theological books to an overseas country and asked if they could use my husband’s remaining books that we simply cannot take with us. What a joy to know these volumes will be used yet again by those who truly need such resources! And what a joy too to see how this couple have remained so faithful to God over the years, using the gifts God has given them in amazing, practical ways, with such servant hearts!

Another popped in with homemade slice in hand to visit us one last time in our old home. Many years ago, we were in the same small group at church. As we talked, I realised all over again the journey we had shared during those years and beyond, as this girl went through huge, traumatic life events. Yet here she was, still firmly trusting God, ready to pray with us as we faced our big move. Over the years, we have not seen each other often, yet our friendship has remained as fresh and firm as ever. How deep those roots go when we share those big life experiences with others and with God!

As for those emails from family and friends, I found myself deeply touched by the good wishes in them and especially those assurances of prayer on our behalf, as we said goodbye to our old home. Some emails were only brief, yet I could still feel that heart connection with those who wrote them and picture their faces as they did. One girl I rarely see but with whom I have shared some deep things via email simply wrote: ‘Oh Jo! That’s huge!’ Those four little, heartfelt words almost brought me to tears. Immediately, I could tell she was with me in spirit, feeling for me, praying for me, understanding the depth of emotions I might well be experiencing as we move. What a comfort and privilege to have such constant friends like her who love us and are so concerned for our wellbeing!

Then one morning just before we moved, I ‘happened’ to read Psalm 121. And it was as if the Lord, the greatest Friend of all, reached out to me once again, wrapped his arms around me and lovingly reassured me of his faithful protection:

The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.   Psalm 121:7-8

What more could we want or need? Forever friends—with God and with so many others.

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p1040399I love each of my electronic devices. I almost live on my trusty laptop. I wouldn’t be without my mobile phone. And, as of Christmas Day, I now own a Tablet—although I have yet to figure out how to use it properly! But there is one thing I draw the line at. I refuse to give up my ‘hard copy’ diary. Yes, I know I can use a calendar on all these devices I own and link them in a way that is beyond my understanding. But no—I prefer my humble little diary, purchased from a Hot Dollar shop for $2.50!

There are advantages of swapping to an electronic diary/calendar, I’m sure. I could check my calendar via my mobile phone while out and set up appointments much more easily. I would have a record of the year ahead at my fingertips on several devices. I could store information about each speaking engagement in one place, rather than putting the main details only in my diary and typing the rest into a Word document on my laptop, as I do now. Surely this would be more efficient all round?

On the other hand, there are decided advantages in having a little paper diary. It will always open and ‘work’, wherever I am and without any power supply or wireless connection. I can scribble information in it quickly, even while still talking to someone. I don’t need to worry about the calamity of stored information disappearing altogether. But best of all, there are those pages at the back which enable me to keep all sorts of valuable information on hand—including the addresses and phone numbers of family and friends. Yes, I need to take time to transfer this information each year to my new diary—but that in itself is a huge blessing, as I discovered afresh this past week.

God has ways of ambushing us, don’t you think? As I began copying over details for close family members, it was as if God was reminding me to be thankful for each one of them and their unique personalities and to pray for them as the new year begins. What will 2017 hold for the one hoping for a new job? What about the ones studying hard to complete university degrees? How will our grandson fare as he starts ‘big school’?

Then as I write down details of close friends, I pray for them all as well. Some have big mountains in their lives to climb. Some have had such difficulties in the past year. Some are slowing down and enjoying retirement. I ask God to bless and strengthen them all. I pray too for our doctor, as I add her details. Who knows what issues she has in her life? Only God.

I am thankful God used my humble little diary to keep me on track in praying for each of these people. And I am so thankful for those who pray for me too. So as we step into 2017, may this be a year when we each faithfully keep track of and support one another in prayer even more.

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Ephesians 6:18 NLT

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Jo 23Over the past few years, I have had many interesting experiences speaking at all sorts of places. As I head out to these events, I sometimes wonder what lies ahead. Often, I have never met the person who has invited me to speak, since arrangements have been made only by phone or email. If it is a large venue, will I be able to find this person easily? I comfort myself with the thought that I look pretty obvious turning up with a couple of boxes of books to display. Surely that makes me somewhat recognisable—even apart from that photo on my website.

But I have learnt from experience to ask myself a few other questions as well. Will everything I need be there as promised? Will I be able to use my power point presentation with the equipment available or will I need to get my own from the car? Will I have time to attend to this, as well as set up my book display? And will too many people come and chat to me beforehand so that I can’t think what I need to do?

Having sorted all this out, will there be enough time left in their program for me to share all of my input? Or am I just there to fill in that ‘speaker’ space they know they have to have? Will people be interested in what I have to say? Will I be able to ignore the one or two who might fall asleep and instead focus on those lovely people who are smiling back at me?

No wonder I’m glad I have a secret weapon at my disposal in all my ‘book adventures’! In fact, I would not want to undertake these at all without it. You see, I have a little email prayer team, consisting of nine women who pray for me as God enables whenever I head out to speak anywhere. With one brief email, I can let all nine women know at one and the same time all about my next exciting speaking adventure. I know not all of them might be able to pray for each particular event or exactly when I speak. In fact, all some can do is just pray as they receive my email and ask God to guide and watch over me when I do speak. But who would not want such prayer? Surely our God is big enough to hear whenever we pray and to sort it out?

The longer I continue my speaking and writing journey, the more I am thankful for these women, some of whom have tracked with me for more than seven years now. I am so grateful for their ongoing faithful support in the midst of all the other demands on their time and energies.

But how about you? Do you have those around you who will stand by you and pray God’s blessing on you as you face life’s challenges? Are there those you could ask to provide this secret weapon for you? Or could you even perhaps activate that secret weapon for someone else in the new year?

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Eph 6:18

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Jo 23I did not have a good attitude as I headed off to catch the train to the city. I was tired. I had writing to do at home and this meeting would take up most of my day. Why waste my time in this way?

I wondered that even more when only six people turned up for our meeting. Usually there were more than twice as many. I stifled a sigh and felt embarrassed for one person who was present for the first time. Surely she’d be disappointed to find the group was so small.

This new person introduced herself and shared about the challenges facing her. Others shared as well, including one lady who had only recently left hospital and was still far from well. When the new person had to leave early, I wondered again if she had felt it was worthwhile. The rest of us then prayed for the lady who had been ill—and straight away it was obvious how important this prayer was for her. We could almost see the weight being lifted off her shoulders as we gathered round her.

The next day, I received a call from the new person who had been present. She wanted to buy two of my books and was also recommending me as a speaker to friends she knew. I thanked her but also told her how sorry I was there had been so few people at our meeting.

‘Oh, that was fine,’ she told me. ‘I was just blown away by the group—it was amazing! I wouldn’t have shared all I did if the group had been any bigger. There’s no one else I can talk to about the things I told the group yesterday.’

How humbling it was to discover I had completely misjudged the situation. Then I realised that, had there been more people present, the lady who had been ill would also probably not have shared as much and we would have been unable to pray for her as we did. It would all have been worth it just for her—let alone for the new person as well. It was as if God had arranged it all just for them.

Yet that was not quite true, because we had all received prayer in the group. The others had prayed for me about completing my current manuscript, although, in my tiredness, I could not remember exactly what they had prayed. That night, I found myself able to get through much more editing than I would have expected—and the following day as well. I felt alert and empowered and more hopeful about this particular manuscript. Could this have happened as a result of those prayers the group had prayed? Hmm.

In my great wisdom, I had thought my trip into town was a waste of time. Yet God had it all in hand, went before us and brought great comfort and healing to us all that day. Who are we to outthink and criticise God? As Isaiah reminds us:

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

I’m so glad that’s the case—aren’t you?

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