Covenant Relationships: The Power of Prayer

This is an excerpt from my 2010 book, Living Life with Strings Attached.  It’s a short little guidebook that walks through the Strings Attached Pledge and the development of covenant relationships.  Enjoy!

job and his friends

“After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.” – Job 42:10

I love this quote from Job. Let me refresh your memory about the story.  This particular verse actually takes place within the Epilogue of the story of Job. Job has been through (literally) Hell on Earth; he has been faithful, but prideful; he has questioned God; and he has seen the error of his questions and repented before the Lord.  The Lord is angry with Job’s friends for speaking out against Him. He tells them to offer burnt sacrifices and Job will pray for them and that Job’s intercessory prayer will be heard. It is heard and Job’s friends are restored in the eyes of God. Job also, by praying for his friends, is restored.

How many times have you said to someone going through a tough time, or needing a little encouragement, “I’ll pray for you.”

I do it, often multiple times a day. It’s the standard Christian good bye.  “Hi, how are you today?”

“I’m fine, thanks!”

“Oh great…I’ll pray for you!”

That’s wonderful! But the real question is: how often do you REALLY do it? Do you REALLY pray for them?

I will be totally honest – I am preaching to the choir here! I have been really convicted of late to change this part of my Christian walk.

Here’s my challenge to you (and to me, too):

The next time you are confronted with an opportunity to pray for someone…STOP RIGHT THERE and do it! Right then! There are a couple of ways to do this:

First, you could simply say to the person you are talking to, “I would love to pray with you about that. May I pray with you right now?” If the answer is yes, well, then you know what to do.

Sometimes, however, the answer will be no. Prayer is a very intimate experience and some people are simply not ready to share that with you. They may covet your intercessory prayers on their behalf, but they are not ready to be privy to them.  This is ok, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t pray RIGHT THEN.  Just take a moment alone, and lift that person up in prayer. Your moment doesn’t have to be long, but it does need to be intentional. I find that not only does praying for others encourage a life of “praying without ceasing it also helps me to remember the prayer requests of the people who I run across in my daily life.

Thinking of the Book of Job, I often wonder at Job’s friends. They showed great loyalty by sitting with him.  They sat for 7 days and watched their friend suffer. They debated and thought and tried to coach Job through a solution to the problem.  Sometimes, perhaps they were not far from striking the theological truth. Sometimes, they were just plain ole wrong. But never once did they offer to do the one thing that all good friends should do. They never once offered to pray for Job.

I wonder what would have happened if they had?

Five Minute Friday- Goodbye

 

On Fridays around these parts we stop, drop, and write.

For fun, for love of the sound of words, for play, for delight, for joy and celebration at the art of communication.

For only five short, bold, beautiful minutes. Unscripted and unedited. We just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.

Won’t you join us?

Here are the rules:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

2. Link backhere and invite others to join in.

3. Most importantly: leave a comment for the person who linked up before you – encouraging them in their writing!

OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes on:

Today’s prompt is:  Goodbye

Ready? GO!

Today I say, “Goodbye.”

I say goodbye to words spoken out loud, to external processing, to kiddo belly laughs in the living room and begging puppy barks for apples sticky wrapped in peanut butter.  I say goodbye to television and Facebook, and *gasp* my cell phone.  I say goodbye to the neverending noise that I steep my life in.

But only for a little while….I’ll be back soon.

This afternoon, at 3 pm sharp, I will enter into a time of silence with 14 other retreatants.  For three days we will give each other the gift of a community of silence.  Silent, but not alone.

I am excited and I am TERRIFIED.

After all the hustle and bustle of the last two months and the deep community with my church last week, I am already feeling the effects of withdrawal…the sudden margin in my life has left me reeling…a little sad….and jones-ing for another hit of constant togetherness.

But today I say “goodbye” to my earthly community to say “hello” to my God.

I have spent intentional time in silence and prayer before, but never this long.  There are great things moving and swirling around me, and I desperately seek the center of God’s Will.  Will you pray for me this weekend?

STOP!

Unwrapping His Promises: The Promise of Every Need Met

Do I believe this?

If  my actions speak to my beliefs and I look hard at how I act, do my actions say I believe that He will meet my every need?

I’ve worked hard today. I’ve been productive. I’ve called calls and written blogs. I’ve worked up budgets and hobbed and knobbed with potential ministry partners. I’ve knocked things off my to do list that I’ve been “meaning to” get to for weeks.

And yet….

It’s not finished. Not done. The cute little boxes are not all checked off.

There are clean clothes on the bed unfolded and dishes in the sink unwashed and chapters God asked me to write unwritten.

There are hugs unhugged and kisses unkissed, prayers unprayed and love unsaid.

I NEED more time. More energy. More motivation. More hands.

And if I truly believe that God has promised every need will be met, why do I feel so desperately overwhelmed by it all when I look around?

As I work today on the budget for a women’s conference we are hosting next fall, I laughed at the numbers.  I feel like I’m playing with monopoly money as I look at a budget that BEGINS thousands of dollars from reality is daunting.  And the question that rattles around is do I really believe God will provide?

EVERY NEED

That’s the promise.

Today I have to settle for claiming this promise- because today, well, frankly, belief is coming so readily.  God and I have spent a lot of time chatting about this today and He’s made other promises of need fulfilled.

“Lord, help my unbelief.”

Another need. One he’ll meet. Like all the others.

Digging for Living Water: Reflections from Advanced Captivating

 Frontier Life Ranch,Buena Vista,Colorado

 My first morning at Adv Captivating dawned clear and chilly. Sleep had not visited me much in the night, and I was reluctant to brave the pitch dark of our 12-woman bunk room to climb down from my (top) bunk and prepare for the day ahead.

God was insistent.  Calling gently, “come walk with me. Greet the sun with me.” So I (grumbling) rousted myself from the bunk and got dressed for the day ahead.

Much of the material of Advanced Captivating focused on establishing conversational intimacy with God. This wasn’t a subject new to me. I have heard the voice of God clearly for most of my life, but for the several months leading up to this event, that voice was

Still.

Quiet.

Far away.

Gone?

Jesus and I just hadn’t been talking like we used to.  Blame it on the busy season of life and my squeezing out his voice with activity and noise. Blame it on the seminary studies and my squeezing out his voice with the voices of classic theologians. Blame it on the dry, desert-like conditions of my heart at the time.  Blame it on me….because God didn’t change. He was still there. Maybe I was the one gone….

I was terrified during the first session of the retreat when Stasi encouraged us to take time to chat with God. To ask questions. To start small with questions we knew the answer to, questions that we weren’t too invested in. I was afraid that no matter the size of the question, He would not speak. But I decided I would listen for Him any way, and start small.

When I felt His invitation to walk early Friday morning, I was elated.  I knew exactly where He would take me. A beautiful overlook just up from our bunkhouse offered breathtaking views of the sun rising over the mountains….it would be there….we would sit, I would breathe in creation and the wonder of the Creator and we would be renewed together. I packed my camera to record the moment…and set off….

As an act of obedience, I told God I would follow only where he led on our walk. Turn by turn.  (Knowing exactly where we were going…of course…) I smiled as he led me up the stairs toward the overlook. I looked ahead to choose the rock I would curl up on. As an afterthought, I remembered my promise….

“Left or right here, God?”

Left.

“Are you sure? The overlook is to the right.”

I know. Turn left.

“Uhhhh….ok…”

I continued to follow his directions down a small path behind the gym that led past dumpsters and the dining hall. The path led into the woods and was not well lit. The sun wasn’t up yet and the way was difficult to see. I breathed deep and trusted, and made my way up the narrow, windy way.

Not far up the hill I heard a bubbling brook.  The sound of water rushing was clear and calming.  A few steps more I found a foot bridge.

This is your place.  Stop here. Sit and meet the sun.

I sat on the cold wooden planks of the bridge. Sat listening to the water flow. Sat waiting for the sun to rise. Sat praying through my daily prayers.

The white bark of the aspens reflected the light as it began creeping into the wood, illuminating the scene.  I looked down at the bubbling brook beneath my feet….

and was stunned to see a dry creek bed.

The bubbling brook was completely underground.

This is your heart, Cari. See, the Living Water is still there…bubbling to the surface here and there, but, mostly, buried.  To expose the water, you will have to dig. I’m ready to uncover it…Are you?

I sat and wept that morning.  Broken hearted that I had buried His life so far beneath mine, but relieved to know that He still dwelled within me. I asked Him to show me how to dig.  He did. He is.

And God is so so good because at the same time…

He also made it rain….

As part of this series of reflections, I’ll be sharing with you some of the music from Advanced Captivating….Ransomed Heart did such an amazing job of creating rich worship experiences I want to share a little taste of that with you.

Three Questions with Shaun Groves

Several weeks ago, a fellow blogger (and awesome musician) Shaun Groves posted an invite to ask him any three questions in order to spread the word about his latest musical genius Third World Symphony .  (Really, this album is beautiful genius! You can take a listen here. The video above tells a little bit of the story behind Third World Symphony.) I jumped at the opportunity to dig a little deeper into this man’s heart and head and understand someone I have such great respect for a little better.

Shaun’s had a few things going on his life these days, which makes his taking the time to answer these questions super special to me (did I mention my love language was quality time? P.S. this doubles as a shameless plug for comments! 🙂 )

So here were my three questions:

 1.  Strings Attached Ministries next event is on  the topic of prayer and action.  How do you feel these two disciplines intersect? Do you find that intersection reflected in your music?

You know, Cari, I’ve read a great deal about prayer – enough to know I know very little. It is perhaps the most puzzling and frustrating aspect of my relationship with God. How does it work? Why pray when God knows everything already? When is taking action a lack of faith in God’s ability to act on my behalf?

I’m thankful that God did not give us a plan or procedure but a Person, Jesus Christ. Spending time in prayer is spending time with Him. It is one aspect, I believe, of “abiding in Christ.” Essential since apart from Him we can do nothing right? But as far as the nuts and bolts of how or why prayer works? Well, I just don’t know. After volumes read and hours of sermons heard – I don’t know.

I do think that prayer does not negate our need to often take action. Sure, sometimes God’s answer is “wait” or “not yet.” But so often we find in action the opportunity to answer our own prayers, or the prayers of others, by using the gifts and resources He has given us to meet the needs He has caused us to take notice of. I try to remember that God’s calling is often at the intersection of need and ability. Hunger. Injustice. Poverty. These are needs I have the God -given ability to meet. So I am called to do so.

What good is it, James asked, to tell someone you’ll pray for them in their need when you could meet that need and answer their prayer instead?

 

2.What do you feel is your greatest challenge when leading corporate worship?

 Our Christian culture here in the West is very music-focussed, whereas biblical worship had nothing to do with music at all. The word “worship” is translated from 16 different Greek and Hebrew words and not one means “music.” So, how do I, as a singer guy, lead singing but at the same time communicate that worship must be more than music, that Church and faith can exist without music? That’s a challenge for me. How do I sing well without making singing the main thing for anyone else?

3.  What is (currently) your favorite Bible passage and why?

Proverbs 30:7-9 is a dangerous prayer at the center of my new record and of my life right now. In it Agur asks God for only two things. That’s remarkable in itself isn’t it? Only two things?

He asks that God keep him from believing lies.  And, second, that God would give him neither wealth not poverty.

He explains that if he becomes wealthy he will likely lose his dependence upon God and believe that he himself is god of his life – that all he has and does is his own doing.

But, he says, if he becomes poor there is another equal danger – he may steal in order to survive, not trusting God to provide him daily bread, and so dishonor God.

So, he prays that God give him only what he needs – no more and no less. Daily bread and God – that is all I need, he says. I wish that were always true for me. I pray that it is more and more.

 

Wow! That is good stuff! Do you see why I am such a fan?! My hope is to one day get to work face to face with Shaun during one of our community wide worship conferences, but for now I’ll have to live with soaking in his words of wisdom from my playlist and through my computer screen.  Stop by his blog, stay a while. Read his heart…it’s there for us to see and be blessed by.

 
Shaun Groves is a communicator who’s known by a lot of titles: Singer/songwriter. Speaker. Blogger. Husband. Daddy. Friend. He feels and thinks deeply and laughs easily. And he’s helping Christians discover what they were saved for, and being a voice for children around the world, desperate to be saved from poverty.

Sometimes TV surprises me: Thoughts on “Falling Skies”

“So when you pray, will you ask for a hot bath and some ammo?”

“I don’t think it works that way.”

“What do you mean?”

“When I pray, I don’t ask God to give me things. I ask God what I can give to him.”

Profound stuff from a TNT sci-fi drama about alien invasion and the human struggle for survival starring Noah Wyle. Not that I am promoting the show (which isn’t bad if you like that kind of thing….I do…so I am kind of digging it right now), but the quote shocked me. So much I had to rewind it and listen to it again.

Truth is sometimes found in the oddest of places. Tucked between restaurant commercials and war scenes, was this one little nugget of wisdom that has played through my mind for over a week now.

It made me think about the way I pray.

Shoot….it made me think about the way I do a lot of things.

Is my life lived in a way that reflects God’s Will?

Or is it lived out where His Will and my choices intersect by lucky happenstance?

I hope…nope..I pray that it is the former…I wonder though, if more often than not, it’s the latter.

So today, when I pray…I will pray one thing and one thing only:

Lord, help me be in your will today. Help me live for you today.  Whatever that looks like, Lord, help me. Show me. Guide me.

I wonder how that prayer will change the rest of my comings and goings?

Will you pray it with me?

Why I love kids camp…

Church camp is a brand new experience for me. I never went to away camp as a child, so the experience of counseling eight 5th and 6th grade girls through this adventure has been full of lessons.

Lesson #1:

Girls are NEVER quiet!

As I sit and look at this sentence I think about the ironic application in my life. Most of my post-motherhood adult life has been a search for a moment of silence to steal. I’ve been on a mission to teach women to seek and find these quiet moments with God. And as I watch these young ladies flit to and fro like manic bumblebees, I realize that I might have inappropriately diagnosed our “lack of quiet” problem as a function of our busyness. Perhaps this need for chatter is truly something we are born with…a “girl thing.”

As I sit here in this quiet spot tucked away from the swimming pool and basketball court, this bench in the shade overlooking the lake, I am joined only by boys who come away for a moment or two of stillness.

The girls walk in groups of two or four chit-chatting and giggling, swatting at bugs and barely noticing the beauty of this place. The boys break away for just a moment to feel the breeze and gaze over the peaceful waters of the lake before running off to join their friends in play.

It’s not all fun, the girls can and do broach serious topics, but even in their silence-they are never quiet. No wonder I struggle to silence my own inner chatter…I have lived with noise for as long as I can remember.

Lesson #2:

As quick as the pace is here, God stops the world sometimes.

So far there have been moments, a couple of them, where time seemed to stand still. Moments where I pray I lived up to the title of “Counselor.” Moments of connection that made camp wonderful. In those times when a student reaches out for God’s answer, I am blessed to be able to come alongside and point the way. In those moments, it seems, the chatter quiets, time stands still and the world stops.

I am sure that there were LOADS of other lessons…some that will come out in the days to come…others that are still unknown to me. Suffice it to say I had a blast! (Every kid should go to camp–even if they have to wait until they’re grown!)