“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
Being a teacher was hard. I was disappointed because I loved working with the high school kids at church and I loved writing and planning lessons. I didn’t expect that most days as a teacher would be a struggle to find joy, a struggle to persevere, and a struggle in wondering if I made the right career decision.
Sometimes, I attempted to vent and talk with people, but they couldn’t really understand. To them, teaching meant a secure job and summer vacation. I just needed to get over it and take the paycheck. Because of this, I didn’t often share my struggles with anyone.
But, God knew. Every day we would have a nice chat. He would listen to my venting and wonderings and I would sit and listen to Him and seek His wisdom and strength. I would grab a blanket, my Bible, and one of my many journals and settle in on the couch and start reading and writing. I know this time in my life is what has made me so passionate about prayer and prayer journaling.
Prayer is powerful. Prayer is healing. Prayer is a sacred privilege of communication with Almighty God. Have you experienced it? Has your life been impacted by leaning on God in any and every situation? (Philippians 4:6) If it has, I want to encourage you to remind yourself of that and not minimize the power and beauty of prayer. Remember, prayer is all about God and the gift of communicating with Him.
Unfortunately, sometimes the word prayer is minimized and misused for gossip or excuses. Have you ever heard someone say, “Did you hear what happened to so-and-so? Did you hear what they said? We need to pray for them.”
Friends, that’s not sharing a prayer request, that’s sharing gossip. In those times, we shouldn’t stop and pray for that person, but rather pray and ask God for forgiveness for falling into temptation.
Another instance when prayer is minimized is when it’s used as an excuse. “I’ve prayed about it and God told me to (fill in the blank).” For example, last week, I prayed about it and God said I should have cake and cookies for every meal (not with every meal, for every meal). If I say, “I prayed about it” that validates it as truth, right? Wrong! Just because you put the word prayer in front of your sentence or desire does not make it true.
The cake and cookies was a silly example, but let’s stick the word prayer in front of a couple other sentences. “I prayed about it and God told me I don’t need to serve,” or “I prayed about it and God said I don’t need to read my Bible anymore.” Honestly, those sound just as silly! Let’s face it, there are some things God wouldn’t say no matter how hard or often you prayed.
My challenge to you is to not only spend more time in prayer, but be more conscious of when you use the word prayer. Don’t minimize its value or sacredness! Be careful if you are sharing a prayer request. Ask yourself if it's necessary to share or if you just feel the urge to share it with someone. (The latter is gossip).
Also, if you don’t want to do something, just be honest with others. Don’t pretend like God told you to do or not do something. Oftentimes, there are many right answers to a situation. Don’t stick the word prayer in front of your decision to gain more clout. In addition, when you’re praying, make sure you are listening to what God is telling you, not simply listening for what you want him to tell you.
If you are someone who struggles to pray, I strongly encourage you to start a routine. Get a journal and find a special place to pray each day. Don’t let anything interrupt that time with you and God!
“But, I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:4
Sometimes, in the quiet, it’s easy for the hard times and the hurt to sneak up on you. While you’re waiting and thinking and trying to keep yourself occupied, Satan has a way of reminding you of every awful thing others have done to you. You might be trying to distract yourself and stay positive, but the list keeps coming back, haunting you, stirring up anxiety and anger.
The irony to holding on to these hurts and remembering them is that it’s not hurting anyone else. It’s only hurting you. You are the one allowing yourself to be bombarded with un-forgiveness and anger. Saint Augustine once said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Isn’t that so true? We keep a long list of hurts and resentments, and it’s only eating us from the inside out. The other person most likely has no idea! They don’t realize the depth of hurt, or the occurrence was so long ago that they don’t even remember.
So, what are you going to do? How are you going to deal with this if it’s only hurting you and holding you back from being content. It’s separating you from hope and peace. If you want to move on, you need to work on letting go.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus addresses his disciples and the crowds with his Sermon on the Mount where he pours out a vast amount of truth and teaching. In his teachings, he shakes the norm on so many things, in particular on revenge and how to handle your enemies. He doesn’t say to simply forget and move on with your life. He says to love your enemies and pray for them. Feeling a little guilty over those hateful thoughts?
This is not an easy task. It takes time, healing, and the power of God, but today, I’m going to give you a couple practical steps to start your journey of forgiveness.
This option probably sounds like a no-brainer. Of course, you need to pray for your enemies, but maybe you need to be a little more intentional. The more you pray for others, the less anger you should hold onto because you’re seeing them through God’s eyes. They are his children. No matter how awful they have been, He still loves them. Pray and watch your heart change.
Letters of Forgiveness
Sometimes, it’s helpful to get your thoughts and feelings on paper. If there is someone who has hurt you and you need to feel a “release” in your anxiety, take time to write them a letter. This is not necessarily meant to send to them. Remember, if the hurt is from long ago, they may have no idea, and the letter writing is to obtain your own peace with forgiveness. Write them a letter and be honest about how you feel and then present it to God in prayer. This is another opportunity to see how God can change your heart.
Switch Your Thoughts
Forgiveness is going to be a battle and isn’t going to happen overnight. If you’ve been in the habit of thinking poorly about someone or allowing hate to fester inside, you’re going to need to be very intentional and adamant about switching your thoughts when that person comes to mind. When a poor thought comes to mind, you need to ask God for forgiveness first and then do your best to think about other things. It’s not going to help you at all to have past situations running through your mind.
I want to encourage you to try these things when you feel anger and un-forgiveness creep in while you wait. We serve a God who can do anything so run to Him because he knows what is best!