No Buts About It {How My Prayers Have Changed Pt. 2}

This is the second post in my James Prayer series — on how my prayers have changed. You may read the first post HERE.

https://simplystriving.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/no-buts-about-it-how-my-prayers-have-changed-pt-2/

My elbows dug into my knees, palms firmly planted on my chin. And I rocked slowly, trying to soothe my pounding chest as I searched for words. I have no idea how much time fled as I started over and over, determined to get it right…I realized then I was doing exactly what the verses warned me about. Finally, I relented and told Him outright:

Lord, I don’t even know how to pray…I know how to praise and thank You, but I don’t know how to bring my worries to You. Because they seem to bubble with doubt…

It stung as it rolled off my tongue. I’ve considered myself a prayer for years, with prayer journals to prove it. And here I sat on this moonless night realizing I’ve completely lost my way, drifting off to sea.

I’d become a “But Christian”.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, Who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
James 1:5-8

For how many times have I said

“Lord, please heal _____, but if it’s not Your will…”
“Father, help me _____, but if You have other plans…”

Oh mylanta, I’m as wishy-washy as they come. How can He even look at me let alone listen…

I opened my Bible, hoping I missed something. Where does it say how to believe firmly when you know not every prayer gets answered with hoped-for results? How do you decipher between needs and wants? Do I admit how big of a deal these things are to me when in the grand scheme of grace, they are so very small?

Then I saw it…how I’ve been complicating prayer all these years. How I’ve tried to act double-minded, like I can read His mind, how I’ve presented pleas instead of just presenting myself.

  • I’ve asked for solutions and not answers.
  • I’ve treated Him like a taskmaster — focusing more on the gifts than the Giver.
  • I’ve acted as if I know better…and then tried to cover it up with a ‘but’…

James shows us how to get our buts out-of-the-way. What to ask when we’re deep in need: Wisdom. Ask for His wisdom. Every time.

And he even promises…God gives that out generously to all (vs. 5). I have no reason to doubt His will in this regard.

Solomon knew it–all one really needs to get through this world that’s not our home is wisdom. Intimate life-knowledge. And He is the Bread of Life. He is the source of wisdom we all seek. He is all we need.

If I want to gain life-knowledge, I need to know the One Who Is…I need to see Him.

https://simplystriving.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/no-buts-about-it-how-my-prayers-have-changed-pt-2/

Doubt holds no weight when all we seek is to know Him. When all we ask for is what He’s promised to always freely give.

So when trouble comes and I’m grasping for a way out, I can pray:

“Father, I’m sinking, yet You’ve never let me go… Here, You take this ____. Give me wisdom, Lord, so I can see You and know You’ve got this. Show me how You want me to respond. For I know and believe fully–You are all I need.”

When cancer/illness plagues someone who owns a piece of my heart, I can pray:

“God, You are bigger than this cancer cell. Let us see You, Lord, right here right now. Rest Your healing hands upon ___ and overwhelm them with Your comfort. Peace. Gives us eyes of wisdom, Father, so we can watch Your glory unfold and know You’ve got us in the palm of Your hand. We’re right where we need to be.”

I go through my prayer list and put it to practice as I seek this intimate life-knowledge He freely gives. And smile wide as I realize…there are no buts about it.

My back straightens as I pick up pace. My shoulders relax as I chat easily with my Creator. And for the first time in my tenure of claiming His name, I can pray with confidence and know He’s heard me when I call.

How about you, friend? Do you ask for wisdom when you pray? How do you tackle those areas we so desperately want to go a certain way? I’d love to hear.

P.S. I’m just getting started with what I’ve learned from the Book of James lately. I hope you’ll stick around. You can catch up on other posts HERE.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

The One Question You Need to Answer {When Trials Come}

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I write it in bold, though I don’t need the reminder. I circle in color to proclaim it deserves a place here on my wall. This space where I display the importance of my everyday.

Calendars share events like no other, yet they are not a place to tell a story…

And I leave words off intentionally. They may be part of the event, even part of the story, but they don’t paint the picture I see.

My pen slows as I write his name in full. I print it out neatly as if I’m teaching it to him for the first time — the name his father and I painstakingly chose for him. The one I hold tightly to my chest and often exhale in stolen breaths.

In my best handwriting, I write the year below. Not to remind me of his stillborn birthday, but to remember the first time I heard “It’s a boy.” I don’t see it as an end date, but rather a beginning. And pronouncing it here helps me cling to the promise that this date of when I first held him won’t be the last.

I step back and look at the statement I’ve made. It’s not enough. These square days are too confined. But a journal… Not only can you share a story in those empty lines, but you can paint a picture. The very one you see imprinted on your heart…

It’s taken many pages, but I now see it. This masterpiece He’s been brushing on in strokes. Some heavy and hard. Others light and quick. Yet they all flow together to form the very pattern of my soul. It’s starting to take shape…the story this day has brought to my picture.

Friends, through every trial I have faced in my “short” life, one lesson has proven to be true:

Answering how, why, when, or where aren’t nearly as pertinent as answering “WHO.”
That’s really the only answer you need to know with certainty.

  • Who will walk through this with you?
  • Who will pick you up and remind you to breathe?
  • Who is still good even when all you see is bad?

And today, as I remember a day where I asked every question. As I look back and see where this pain of loss and longing has brought me. Today, as I proclaim this part of my story, I will celebrate the one answer I received.

For I discovered the answer of “WHO”. And it never changes. I can always rely on its predictability and have found comfort in it since.

Friends, I know Who holds my hand.

I know Who has never let go.

I know Who’s good. All the time. Even still…

And when I remember Who holds tomorrow. Who has overcome. Who has conquered the unbelievable this world can throw our way, I realize:

James was right.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4

I write it in bold for the world to see: JOY. Because that’s what my son has taught me. That no matter why, how, when, where — none of that matters in the end. It can’t steal my joy, because I will always know the answer of Who.

And that answer promises joy in the morning (Psalm 30:5) along with new mercies every day (Lamentations 3:21-24).

He brings hope to days like today.

He is whom I will cling to when the mama inside me longs for more.

He is the answer. Every time. Even still…

How about you, friend? Do you know the answer of who? What have trials taught you? How do you answer those questions when all you see is defeat? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Intimate Life-Knowledge {How My Prayers Have Changed}

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The word haunted me worse than a recurring nightmare. And no matter how I tried to look at it, I knew…it wasn’t describing me. Yet it needs to for it’s how He wants me:

Complete

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:4

This I already knew, but the self-reflection portion of my Lenten journey revealed how incomplete I really am. And it scared me big time because I’ve read the verses preceding this many, many times. And let’s face it — I didn’t want to go through more hard times. I don’t want to test my perseverance. My faith muscles are still sore from the last one…

Falling to my knees between the chair and ottoman, I rocked back and forth as I made my plea known: God, please, this can’t be it. You’re trying to show me something else, aren’t You? I know I’m not complete and I’m willing to work on it, but Father, do You really think I’m ready for another trial? Is there another way? What am I missing here? Please…Help me see…show me…I’m listening.

Would you believe I witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit right then and there as I saw the next verse unfold.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
James 1:5

There’s no other way to describe it but a miracle. Without the Holy Spirit showing me, I would have missed it, I’m certain, because I’ve done many James Bible studies, and I never got it…until the Spirit knew I was ready to receive it.

Friends, for the last 30+ years, I’ve been praying through trials the wrong way.

My prayers have been far from complete.

It was as if I could see the transcripts of my prayers through every significant trial I’ve endured. And I saw it in black and white. Wow…I never asked…

  • I always prayed for a way out instead of asking for His rest to get me through.
  • I always asked for healing instead of asking for the Healer.
  • I always wanted to know why, how, when and never once asked for the wisdom to see beyond them…to just see Him more clearly.

Sure I would ask for wisdom when life decisions were needing to be made. Financial choices, job changes, moving options. I’m smart enough to know where to go for those answers. I’d even asked to know Him more when life was slow and easy.

The best description of wisdom I’ve heard is simply “Intimate Life-Knowledge.” And I can’t help but think…He is the Bread of Life. He’s the reason I have life. So how could I go wrong if I simply asked to know Him more intimately?

But when hard times were slapping me square on the face, I would ask for the escape route instead of the know-how of overcoming them.

Never once did I get to the root of the problem…which made me incomplete and always in need of another try…via trial.

WHY?!? How could I have missed this?!?

Easy…I don’t deserve this bigger picture understanding. So I wasn’t expecting a dirty sinner like me to be given the kind of gift worthy of King Solomon. Why would I ask for that?

That’s where grace comes in.

With one little phrase in the verse, given just to me. Friends, look at it again and say it out loud with me:

God gives generously to all without finding fault…

How soon I forget…

  • I’m not trying to earn anything–He gives this stuff away for free.
  • I can’t pay Him back for saving my life, but I can give the rest of it to Him.
  • I don’t need healing, I need the Healer.
  • I don’t need Easy Street, I need His rest and joy to fall upon me.
  • I don’t need a way out — HE’S my escape plan — I need Him.

And right there, between the cushions, I asked Him to help me. And I boldly asked for it…for intimate life-knowledge of Him…

How about you, friend? Have you asked for life-knowledge? Not just know-how, but for a greater understanding of Him? I’d love to hear.

Would you mind if I keep sharing what I learned while going through James? I’m feeling like He wants me to share how my prayer life has changed…but first, we need to talk about the “But” that proceeds these verses.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

NOTE: After I went through this, I discovered this Bible Study by Pastor Mark Hall of Casting Crowns which confirmed what my heart felt. It’s worth 8 minutes, friend. I implore you to listen as he also talks about what I plan on sharing next…