Category Archives: prayer

10 years and counting

Today is our 10th Anniversary! Advice to anyone just getting married: it goes QUICK! When we first got married we had all kinds of plans for how we’d celebrate our 5th and then our 10th. But without intentional planning, the years come fast as life is full, and here we are with no plans aside from spending the day together.

Yesterday I showed our 5 year old our wedding album and read to her our “how we started dating” story. It was fun to reminiscence and hear the questions only a 5 year old could ask. (I also played our wedding music and she asked all kinds of questions about the lyrics, that honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever listened to. Yikes!)

As I read her our story, I realized there are several more people who have come into our lives over the past 10 years who probably haven’t heard it, and it’s a story worth telling! So, in honor of our 10 year Anniversary, here’s the shortened version of how God brought us together.

Brenda:

Over the years, God has often stretched my faith by putting various things on my heart to pray for. In August 2008, at age 31, He put on my heart to begin praying for a husband.  I was incredibly reluctant at first, but since one can’t argue with God and win, I began to pray that God would prepare my heart to receive a husband. Somewhere in my praying I also got the impression that he was coming in a couple years. I wasn’t sure if I heard that right, so I held that with a very open hand. Thus began a new faith journey of praying for a husband.

August 2008 was also when Micah moved up to Spearfish, SD to finish his 4 year degree  at BHSU. I got to know him a little through our campus ministry, Campus Ventures. In May 2010, the CV students and I started a summer Bible study called Experiencing God and Micah joined. I got to know him more through the study, but all the while, I was only proud “of this student” who was growing so much in hearing God’s voice.

Micah:

 In the Summer of 2010, I joined the study, “Experiencing God,” and learned how to hear God’s voice. After learning how God speaks to me, I remembered in April when God told me to consider Brenda. I threw it out at the time as just a conscious thought, afterall, she’s not blonde. When I realized it was God speaking to me, I began to consider Brenda in the months of June and July. During that time, there were four things I observed about her that made me biased towards her:

  1. She is smart academically. 
  2. She truly loves college students and will cry over them if she needs to.
  3.  Brenda is a faithful laborer of Christ.  She follows God every day.  She is very valuable and precious to God.  She has a deep calling for college ministry.
  4. The biggest thing that stuck out the most, and I pondered the most, was Brenda’s fear of the Lord.   Brenda trusts God with every situation in her life, especially the hard ones.  Fearing the Lord is a part of who she is. It’s woven into her personality.

However, I have this thing for blondes.  I decided to mentally line up all the prettiest blondes in the world I could think of and then compare Brenda to them. I picked Brenda every time, hands down.  The way Brenda fears the Lord captures my heart over all the blondes.  Wow, that is an epic one liner.  I needed to save that one for a special occasion.

Yet, I am still not sure if God will let me have her.  He did just say consider her for a wife, not “go chase her; she is yours.”  (And if I could eventually chase her, how would I do it?)

Brenda:

On August 11, 2010 after Bible Study ended and everyone headed back home, I sat down to have my quiet time before bed.  I heard ever so quietly, but distinctly, “Micah Lewis is your future husband.” The next morning I woke up with the biggest crush I have experienced in years! That following weekend, several of us were going backpacking in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. I decided to flirt a little with Micah to let him know I see him. He didn’t seem to notice.

Micah:

Oh! I noticed! I picked up on it right away.  I was watching Brenda all summer to see what would happen in regards to being able to chase her. “Alright God, I see it now.  I am totally going to hook up with Brenda.”  Any girl who flirts like that is just asking to be chased and caught.  I just don’t know when.

After the camping trip, for the next 3 mornings during my Quiet Times, God told me “you have got to tell Brenda the truth” of why you are biased towards her. All of it.

Brenda:

After the weekend, I was talking to God about three issues that weighed heavy on my heart. I asked God “what does Micah mean when he says he is biased towards me?” Another desire was for Micah to ‘see’ me. If he is “the One,” I want him to ‘see’ me, to see something in me that I don’t see. The third issue, was my disappointment that I didn’t have blonde hair (but I really do like my red hair). If anyone knew Micah, they knew he preferred blonds.

On our last Bible Study meeting for Experiencing God, Micah stayed afterward because he felt God asked him to tell me some things. I was shaking with excitement and ready to burst as he pulled out a piece of paper to read from. It was all I could do to stay calm. Micah began to list off reasons why he was biased towards me!  As I processed in my journal later that night the things Micah said, I realized that he “sees” me. He sees in me “a fear of the Lord that draws him in.” I don’t even see that in myself. And then he told me that my fear of the Lord is more valuable than hair color! Oh! My emotions were sky high after that conversation. I couldn’t believe it; he does like me after all! I couldn’t sleep that night!!  As I prayed, I could sense God sharing in my joy. I heard Him speak several things that night.

“Remember it is my love being poured through Micah. What he sees, I see.”

 “I love you both. And I have a mission for you both. Something only the two of you together can do that you couldn’t alone.”

“Wait, Daughter. It won’t be too long.”

Micah:

When I started to consider Brenda in June, I felt like she was way out of my league, but now I see she is reachable. Nevertheless, Brenda isn’t just any girl.  She is at the top of the ladder.  She is smart.  Cheesy one liners will never work on her.  She is a valuable laborer. Her fear of Lord makes me want to climb right up the ladder and capture her heart. It would be like an epic challenge with many rewards.  As I pondered this, I asked God, “if I could pursue Brenda how would I do that?”  God told me “love Brenda like I love my people.”  I instantly got a peace over me that signaled go chase her and pursue her like God loves his people.

On Monday, August 23rd, we shared our stories and I was completely blown away that I was answering Brenda’s prayers.  All I knew was that I was doing what God told me to do.  Well, since obviously God wants us together, I think we should start dating.

Praise God, she was definitely worth the wait!

Praying for Guidance

praying for Guidance2I’ve started reading John Eldredge’s newest book, “Moving Mountains,” and it’s been soooo good! It’s all about prayer, and praying effectively. I hope to write several blog entries about it as it will help me process the good stuff in this book, and hopefully also be a benefit to you reading my blog.

I picked up the book as the description seemed to be where my thoughts have been for the past several years. It did not disappoint and Eldredge put things into words so much more effectively than I had been able to. He wrote on prayer, but I’ve been thinking about how these concepts apply to our relationship with God in general. His general concept in the book is that there is a way things work, it’s that way with everything in life. There is a way friendships work, marriage, owning a dog, raising a child, planting flowers, reading a book.

But like many people, I’ve had the idea that prayer just works. Raise a prayer and hope for the best. But in my heart, I knew that wasn’t quite it. Especially based on my experience of when my prayers work and when they don’t. It’s not as simple as God giving a “yes”, “no”, or “later” answer; even more so as we mature as Christians. I know that statement ruffles some feathers, as it goes against some long-held beliefs many of us have had.

Let’s look at praying for guidance. There is a way to pray effectively for guidance. And really, it’s common sense, or at least to me, because as I read what Eldredge wrote, I noticed this is what I’ve done when I’ve experienced effective prayer for guidance.

So here are some of Eldredge’s thoughts mixed with my own, taken from Chapter 11: “Let There Be Light” – Praying for Guidance, Understanding and Revelation.

The first rule of seeking guidance is to take the pressure off. Pressure to get an answer or hear something “right now”. Or pressure, stress, or drama of any kind in our lives from any source. Pressure nearly guarantees you will have a hard time discerning what God is saying, if you hear anything at all. Pressure clenches up your heart and soul and ties up all your insides in rubber-band knots. Even if God is shouting, it is unlikely he can get through to you because of the chaos. We need to do what we can to reduce the pressure. Get someplace quiet, peaceful, away from the chaos and stress. The whole “Be still and know that I am God…” concept is super important. Take a moment to remember who God is. Our hearts need some breathing room to hear God. I think of the story of the scattered seed in Mark 4:19 “…but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

Eldredge shares the story of Daniel (chapter 2) when King Nebuchadnezzar had dreams that troubled him. He wanted his “magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers” to interpret the dream, but first to tell him what he dreamed. When they said it was impossible and they couldn’t, the King ordered their death. This included Daniel. Talk about pressure! Daniel took the pressure off by asking the King for some time and sought God. Now, I doubt many of us can even comprehend the pressure Daniel faced, but our pressure will still clench our hearts just the same. If Daniel needed to take the pressure off in a high pressure situation, we certainly do too.

Daniel calms the situation down and he and his friends seek God, God answers and Daniel praises God:

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.
I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
you have made known to us the dream of the king.” (Daniel 2:21-23)

God will make known to us what we ask of Him. But first, we need to take the pressure off.

The second thing we need to do is let go of our constant attempt to “figure things out”. This one gets me often, my brain will just go and go, figuring out plans and plan b’s, and c’s. I’ll start praying for guidance and then get sidetracked in my trying to figure it out.

Eldredge shares how God has some strong feelings about those who choose to walk in the light of their own counsel:

Who among you fears the LORD
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the LORD
and rely on their God.
But now, all you who light fires
and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
go, walk in the light of your fires
and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand:
You will lie down in torment. (Isa. 50:10-11)

Ouch! Wow! God wants us to seek Him rather than light our own fires and try to figure things out on our own. And why not?! He is the God of all wisdom, knowledge, insight, and power. It’s silly for me to not go to him. Even sillier, fruitless really, is seeking God’s counsel while I am privately committed to one course of action over all others. Or trying to “fill in the blanks.” Spending half my energy trying to figure it out while I give the other half of my energy to seeking God. It’s far better to live with uncertainty for a while than to be our own counselors. Tolerate the ambiguity!

We must surrender our agendas. We must surrender our “best thoughts” on the matter. We must surrender even our secret desires. When we do all this, we are in a much better place to receive God’s thoughts on the situation.

Surrender is the key. We need to be open to WHATEVER it may be that God has to say. If you are only open to hearing one answer from God, “yes, you should take that apartment,” then it’s not likely you will hear anything at all. And if you do hear a yes, you won’t be able to trust it (is that me or is that God?). Yield your plans, desires, even hunches (oi!) to the Living God so you can receive something far better: His counsel. Give the matter to God; give the process of decision making over to God too!

Finally, give it some time. Seeking God’s guidance through prayer isn’t something to get done in 5 minutes. It takes time to take off the pressure and be still. It takes time to remember who God is. It takes time to truly surrender our thoughts, desires and hunches. And it takes time to specifically pray. “Do you want me to take this job?” “Is now the time to move?” If it’s a complex decision, try and break it down into parts: “Do you want us to move, Lord?” Should we move now or wait?” Complex decisions are better handled in bite size pieces.

If you feel you are receiving guidance from the Holy Spirit, then ask Him to confirm it. God speaks through His Word, His People, Circumstances and Prayer. Look for all four areas to line up.

If you haven’t heard anything, try another round of prayer. If clarity isn’t coming, come back tomorrow. Most decisions don’t need to be made right this instant, and if someone won’t give you time to pray about it, then my advice is to say no. However, if a decision truly needs to be made now, then ask God to come into your decision and to block your path if you haven’t chosen well.

I’ve also noticed that when we aren’t getting the answers we seek, it’s because God wants us to be asking a different question. Quite often God wants to address a different issue in our lives first, and He will be silent on the one matter until we let Him speak on the other. I’ve noticed in my life, I’ll go to God because I really want some direction, but He wants to talk to me about a relationship that’s gone sour. I don’t want to deal with the relationship, so I won’t talk to God about it. But He won’t talk to me about what I want until I talk to Him about what He wants. And I’ve learned that I can’t argue with God and win.

A sample prayer for this situation:
Holy Spirit- is there something else you want to say to me? Is there something you want to address before you speak to this? What should I be focused on right now – what do you want to speak to? Shine your light on that; make it clear to me. I surrender the process and I allow you to speak into whatever it is you want to speak into.

I hope this helps. There is a way things work. There is a way prayer works. There is a way praying for guidance works.

I look forward to processing more thoughts and sharing them with you in future blogs.

Christmas Peace … for whom?

I discovered something new about the Christmas story that I never noticed before. While reading John Piper’s Advent Devotional, Good New of Great Joy, he highlighted Luke 2:12-14:

 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,  “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Now I’ve always noticed verse 10:

The angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.

To all people. The good news that will bring great joy was for all people.

But verse 14 brings a limit; peace on earth isn’t for all people. It’s for those with whom God is pleased. Which is people of faith (Hebrews 11:6  And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him).

I believe that peace on earth for believers also means peace in our hearts. If God is really real, which He is, then there is no reason for a Christian not to have full peace and assurance in their hearts. Even with, especially with, how the world is today.

I know a lot of people, including Christians, watch/read the news and panic. And I must admit, lately, my heart has faltered into fear over ISIS and stuff. However, God is in control, with a good plan, and the more time we spend in His Word and with Him, the more we gain that reassurance (as opposed to spending time watching the news and being reassured our world is in trouble). As a Christian, we never need to fear or worry when it comes to the bad news in the world, or the bad news that comes to us personally.

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

We aren’t helpless either when it comes to the bad news. We can pray. Pray for Paris,  pray for wisdom for leaders, pray for God to thwart the enemy and his plans, etc… Prayer isn’t just a feel-good thought, it has power! James 5:16b: The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. God lets us change the spiritual climate around events through prayer. Granted, sometimes I have a hard time believing this all the time. It takes work to pray: focus, time to set aside, remembering that prayer is powerful when nothing seems to be happening.

But it’s when we remember God, what He’s done in the past, and who He is, that we can have peace, no matter what is going on in the world around us.