Ministry Moment: Good Gifts Prayer Walk

“One day we went to Guatemala and my prayer life was transformed.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very much a work in progress. But once upon a time, 11 years ago we were invited to partner in mission work with those working in and around the Guatemala City garbage dump. I went to teach VBS. Who doesn’t love a good VBS? That’s my gig. I can easily organize a chaotic group of kids to sing and play and discover the promise of Hope in the Word of Christ Jesus. No problem. I was shocked when one day the missionary walked us through a shanty village and abruptly stated, “Now we will pray.”

Before I knew it we were knocking on doors and entering homes by the invitation of warm, but weary, residents. We introduced ourselves and said who we were with. We asked one question – “Is there a way we can pray for you today?”

I expected resistance. Heck, I was surprised anyone even opened their door. I expected small things, practical prayers, based on physical needs – the need for food, clean water, a better home than their current cardboard and corrugated metal shanty, or more money…any money…

What we got were prayers for healing after the loss of a stillborn child named Emilio, prayers for strength and others to walk alongside in the battle of alcohol addiction, prayers for a teenage son to know the Lord among the voices of friends who would only share with him darkness, and prayers for hope after a child had been kidnapped from them while they slept in their beds.

No where on this earth do we have less struggle, less concerns.

No where are we more desperate for the love and hope of Jesus. We all NEED it. We needed it yesterday, we’ll need it today, and by golly, you better believe that whatever tomorrow brings we are going to need it.

I realized that praying is a simple kindness with deep roots. Praying together is the sharing of the burden with one another so that together you can place it on the shoulders of Christ Jesus, the only one who can really hold it anyway.

I literally groaned with one mother, selfishly thinking of my 18-month-old, praying together for our children by the Spirit grace of a Spirit who intercedes when there are no words, no words (Romans 8:26-27). The beautiful thing is that groans of a fellow mother overcome the language barrier like few other things can.

Praying with others on this trip wasn’t about me and what I would learn and do, but isn’t it always like God to refine and teach in every moment? When we returned back to the States my conscience poked and prodded me. Why don’t I do this more? What is holding me back? So I made a concerted effort to pray with people like mad. And I mean like mad. I had to rip a Band-aid of distrust and embarrassment off like you would not believe! I still do, every day. I just have to do it…or I won’t. Every day it’s a battle of the Spirit in me against the Prince of Darkness –

“Pray with them…pray for them…just ask…I am with you…”

“What can your little prayers do?! Don’t humiliate yourself! They don’t want your prayers anyway!”

Thank goodness there is confession and forgiveness, and He doesn’t really need me to do His work, He just invites me to be a part of it all. Praise God that even prayer holds the same grace as every other piece of life lived with a Savior and Redeemer.

So, as part of our study of James, I created a prayer walk. It’s usable, whether you have studied James recently or not. Use it in your individual prayer life, in your small group Bible study, in your women’s group, at a prayer breakfast, anywhere! Here’s some ideas to get you started.

Some ideas for using the prayer walk:

Get up and walk! 😉 It’s good for us. Walk around your neighborhood, your church, your work place, anywhere and let in a little Gospel light by silently or quietly praying as you go.

Use the prayer walk for a “walk through James” as you sit in your chair for quiet time with the Lord. Spread the prayer walk out over multiple days, and pray one segment a day. You could do it on repeat for a season as well.

Journal your prayer journey with the prayer walk in your journaling Bible, prayer journal, a notebook, or scrap pieces of paper. Post it notes and 3×5 notecards are a personal favorite. Just get it out of your brain and into open space to share with the Lord.

Host a prayer breakfast or luncheon and work through the prayer walk (sitting or walking) as part of the program, or all of the program.

Use the prayer walk as an intentional time of prayer in your marriage. Use it every night for 9 days, or spread it out for 9 weeks, or whatever works.

Got another idea? Share it with us in the comments so that we can learn and grow together. Did you do something that works? Feel free to share that in the comments as well.

Pray, praise, and give thanks. Ask. Seek. Knock. Let the Spirit dwell richly. Watch and see what He has in store. He gives generously…

Click here for the free printable prayer walk

Dr. Mom, mortality, and simply being a Child

 

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When we had our first baby, I was like, “I can handle this little ol’ thing.” Breastfeeding was easy for me (THANK YOU, LORD!). Diaper changes and sleeplessness nights were hard, but seemed manageable with copious amounts of coffee. Granted, at this point there was only one of them and two of us, but you get the idea.

Then it happened. She got sick. And babies don’t get normal sick. They get weird sick. There was all this snot that wouldn’t come out. She couldn’t breath when I fed her. Her little chest found it challenging to rise and fall. I took her to the doctor, found out these symptoms evidently stemmed from an ear infection (WHAT?!!) and filled about 14 prescriptions at the pharmacy.

I hit a breaking point one day, picked up my phone, and called my pastor’s wife, Linda. Crying as soon as she picked up, I lamented, “I don’t think I can do this. I’m not cut out for parenting. I might need to turn her back in.”

She got in her car, came to visit me, hugged all my tears out of me, and gave me comfort in the form of this phrase: “I hate the Dr. Mom part of parenting too. Don’t worry, It’s God’s job to keep them alive. It’s your job to just love them.”

Relief rushed over me. For weeks I had felt just so responsible. A tiny human dependent completely on me for survival was more than daunting, it seemed impossible. Of course it seemed impossible, because it was impossible…for me. That was God’s job.

In Isaiah 38 we find a section of narrative, a break from the poetic style most of Isaiah is in, for a story. A true and real adventure in which King Hezekiah finds out very quickly that life is in God’s hands and not His own. It’s a useful lesson for all of us. Each of our lives, held tightly in the hands of God and God alone.

Open your Bibles to Isaiah 38:1-22. I’ll highlight verses 1-3 and 12-20 below.

In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. AndIsaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover.”Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, and said, “Please, O Lord, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness:

12 My dwelling is plucked up and removed from me
    like a shepherd’s tent;
like a weaver I have rolled up my life;
    he cuts me off from the loom;
from day to night you bring me to an end;
13     I calmed myself until morning;
like a lion he breaks all my bones;
    from day to night you bring me to an end.

14 Like a swallow or a crane I chirp;
    I moan like a dove.
My eyes are weary with looking upward.
    O Lord, I am oppressed; be my pledge of safety!
15 What shall I say? For he has spoken to me,
    and he himself has done it.
I walk slowly all my years
    because of the bitterness of my soul.

16 O Lord, by these things men live,
    and in all these is the life of my spirit.
    Oh restore me to health and make me live!
17 Behold, it was for my welfare
    that I had great bitterness;
but in love you have delivered my life
    from the pit of destruction,
for you have cast all my sins
    behind your back.
18 For Sheol does not thank you;
    death does not praise you;
those who go down to the pit do not hope
    for your faithfulness.
19 The living, the living, he thanks you,
    as I do this day;
the father makes known to the children
    your faithfulness.

20 The Lord will save me,
    and we will play my music on stringed instruments
all the days of our lives,
    at the house of the Lord.

21 Now Isaiah had said, “Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, that he may recover.” 

“The father makes known to the children your faithfulness…”

Hezekiah’s prayer to our Father in heaven is so very real. So often we go about our lives in that relative security and then in comes the hard stuff. When we face death as human’s, this is when we can’t help but turn to God. Almost any human being in those last moments, looking death smack dab in the middle of the eye, prays at the very least. Sometimes it’s as simple as

“Why, God?”

“Have mercy.”

“Save me.”

We all have our opinions about God, until mortality shows up on our doorstep, as it did for Isaiah. Suddenly, we need God like we have never needed Him before.

Isaiah’s prayer goes through phases- anguish and uncertainty- to the embrace of mercy and absolute certainty. Isaiah may be one place in the Bible where the stages of grief was laid out for us long before any psychological theory existed.

“I am consigned…”

“…like a weaver I have rolled up my life…”

“…like a lion he breaks all my bones…”

“I moan like a dove…”

“My eyes are weary with looking upward.”

“Be my pledge of safety!”

Can you hear the physical and emotional struggle? Can you hear the doubt? The wrestling? Isaiah says it out loud before the Lord of Hosts. Why?

Because he knew he was invited.

This is part of God’s make up. He is Father to His dear children. He is not just King, although He reigns on the highest throne. He is not just Lord, although He is certainly Master over our lives. He is Father to His much loved children.

You are a child of God.

Just as Hezekiah proclaims his own place before the Lord, so this is your place to claim.

Read Isaiah 38:19 again –

The living, the living, he thanks you,
    as I do this day;
the father makes known to the children
    your faithfulness.

In Isaiah’s psalms, God reassures me and whispers hope in my ear. The father does indeed make known to the children God’s faithfulness, to each one of us, as His precious child. We can share the Good News of God’s salvation as Isaiah does in verse 20, because God the Father has left it open in His Word for all of us to see and hear and be a part of.

Hezekiah is desperate to worship the Lord in response to His faithfulness (v.23), but dear one, the worship began long before recovery. The worship began with the eyes of a child raised up to the Father that longs to embrace us and tend to every wound. Before Isaiah was at peace with what God was working in His life, He turned His face to Him in prayer.

Raise your arms up today and let God hold you. In my opinion the best part of the promise for Hezekiah is found early in the chapter. Look again at the first part of Isaiah 38:5 –

“Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears…”

The strong arms of our Father sent Jesus Christ, His Son, to dry our tears with His death and resurrection. One day those tears will be no more in heaven. This promise is for you and for your children, for you and every child of God around you. Each of you a dear child to His Father’s heart.

 

Exploration:

What has been the hardest part of being a mom for you personally or what is your least favorite part of being ill? (Emotional, practical, or gross) 😉

What promise or truth, whether pretty or hard, sticks out to you in Hezekiah’s prayer in Isaiah 38?

Peek ahead to Isaiah 40:1. How does this verse remind us of God’s Fatherly affection for us?

Child Scripture Engagement Tool

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Clergy and mental health

 

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Once upon a time, the world was perfect. There was no sin, no evil, no disappointment, no sorrow. That time, my friends, has been long gone.

I sat in my therapists office and let the question stuck in my throat for weeks on end, finally come tumbling out…

“But when will it get easier. I keep waiting for life to be easier.”

I knew life wasn’t made for easy. That even before sin in the world, easy wasn’t the goal.

So, why in the world was easy suddenly my goal?

Maybe because life had been hard, really hard. We had some junk. We had marriage junk, mental health junk, kid behavior junk, family junk. In fact, if there was a form of junk in existence, we probably had some connection with it. Or at least that’s how it felt.

I was ashamed. Deeply ashamed. Pastors were not supposed to have junk. Pastor’s wives were not supposed to have junk. Deaconesses weren’t supposed to have junk. Our families were not supposed to have junk spilling out our back pockets. We were supposed to hold it all together so that we could help other people with their junk. “Above reproach” in the depths of my mind, hidden from even myself, meant keeping it together, being above turmoil, above struggle…above the junk.

Then I opened my eyes.

This world- it’s been filled with junk since the tree in a garden and the fruit that changed everything. I am a part of that world. God, in fact, in John 17:15-17, asks me to hold on tight and walk fully immersed in this world bearing His Truth. Bearing His salvation.

You see, your pastor has some stuff. Every member of our church has some stuff. This is the world we live in, far from perfection, never easy, but full of people walking around bearing His salvation.

Above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2-6) isn’t in being the person without any junk, the pastor without any real life stuff to deal with, whether in himself, in his marriage, in his home, or in his family. It is about how we deal with those things. Do we ask for help? Do we take the time we need to get help? Do we avoid keeping secrets? Are we willing to take the risk to help our marriages and our families and our ministries, by admitting we have some stuff?

The devil loves destruction. Don’t for a minute pretend that he doesn’t want to eat us up and spit us out. He would love nothing more than for a church work family or even a whole congregation to implode because he convinced us to let darkness reign over the struggles of our lives.

1 Timothy 3:5 tells us – “…if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”

How does he manage? By asking for help. By admitting that he’s not perfect and making sure he gets the help he needs.

There are certainly instances in which someone can not be a pastor, it isn’t the best choice for him, or the church. And we need to be honest when that is the case, but the majority of the time only good things come from church workers and their families seeing a counselor, getting needed medication, and placing boundaries around their time and energy.

Surprise – your pastor has some stuff, your deaconess has some stuff, your dce has some stuff, your children’s ministry person, your teachers, your youth director…all have stuff.

Let’s build one another up and normalize the act of getting of help, asking for what we need. How much more likely are our parishioners to come for care, confession, and counseling if we, ourselves, utilize what’s available to us?

Life is full of junk – God promises to make all of it beautiful in His time. He restores us with His salvation, not just for a place called heaven, but for His kingdom today. Anything we have, Jesus Christ can handle. Run to Him. Ask Him for help. Let the Church be the place that loves us unconditionally and helps us rise up from the ashes of whatever Satan throws at us.

Need resources or help with something? Send me an email. This is what I do and I’m happy to help. Brothers and sisters, I’m praying as we minister and reach this fallen world together.