“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!
Begin today's devotional by reading Philippians 1:1-11
I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "blood is thicker than water." This phrase means that when it comes down to having to choose loyalty or make a decision, family is chosen above anyone or anything else. Maybe you've felt it in your own life. I know I've had various situations where I wish I could be in two places at once, but honestly, the family choice is the only answer.
I also have some friends who may as well be family. We have been friends for so long, and will be for the rest of our lives. Even if we see each other once a year, we pick up right where we left off, know what each other is thinking or feeling, and are so close that other people assume we are cousins or related somehow.
I love this section of Philippians where Paul is so thankful for the church in Philippi that he says, "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy." (vs. 3-4). Are there people in your life that make you feel the same way? Every time you think of them, you are thankful to God and filled with joy? I hope so! If not, I encourage you to pray that God would surround you with family and friends who love you with an inexplainable unending love.
In addition to family, and close friends who could be family, have you ever gone on a mission trip or traveled somewhere and met other Christ-followers? Did you have that instant connection or that feeling like you've known each other forever? I know it's happened to me throughout my life.
Several years ago, my husband and I went on a mission trip to Mexico. There were two host missionary families that we connected with and still stay in contact with today. When we met them, it seems like we skipped right to the "we're family now" feeling before the week of serving even started. And we aren't family, we're not blood-related...or are we? We are blood-related. And that blood is the blood of Christ!
The blood of Jesus has given us each grace and hope and true meaning in our lives. And God has given us countless brothers and sisters, blood-related family, that we should love and encourage with everything we have. It is unfortunate when petty issues divide us, and unforgiveness reigns. We need to rise above whatever differences are going on and realize that blood is thicker than water. Right now, is just a breath of time, we have all eternity to spend together so let's start the healing process.
Spend some time thanking God today for those He has put in your life. If there is anyone you need to forgive, ask God to help you. If there's anyone who you need to ask for forgiveness, ask God to help you.
I encourage you to pray the last verses of this passage over each of them.
"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God." (vs. 9-11)
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."
I love coffee! For me, it's a must-do for every morning. If I don't have at least one cup, the day is going to be a little off without my needed dose of caffeine. Lately, I've been trying to watch my spending so have been making a lot more coffee in the regular coffee maker with coffee grounds and good old-fashioned coffee filters instead of my single serve machine.
And you know what I don't love? Drinking my delicious coffee, taking in every sip, and when I get to the bottom, discover that coffee grounds got into my cup, and I have to go spit them out in the sink. Gross! This hasn't happened in awhile, but when it does, I go over and check the status of the coffee maker. Sure enough, in the process, the weight of the water pushed down the edge of the coffee filter, and some grounds snuck into the pot and then ended up in my cup. It kind of ruins my relaxing start to the day.
Filters of all kinds, are so helpful. They separate the bad from the good, the truth from the lies, the wanted from the unwanted. We use coffee filters, air filters, water filters, and more. Why do we sometimes forget to use filters when we are speaking or posting on social media?
As Christians, the most important filter we can use is the Bible. If anything we hear contradicts the Bible, it isn't true. Therefore, we shouldn't repeat it. If anything we hear contradicts God's view of those He created in his image, it isn't true. Therefore, we shouldn't repeat it.
Philippians Chapter Four provides us with a great filter to protect our thinking and speaking. If anything isn't excellent or praiseworthy or admirable or true, we shouldn't think about it, let alone say it. It harms others and it harms ourselves.
I want to encourage you to start using God's Word as a filter more intentionally before you speak or share things on social media. See how it changes your life and changes the lives of those around you.