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What Role Do We Play After We Pray?

 

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 So they broke camp to cross the Jordan River. The priests who carried the ark of the promise went ahead of the people. (The Jordan overflows all its banks during the harvest season.) When the priests who were carrying the ark came to the edge of the Jordan River and set foot in the water, the water stopped flowing from upstream. The water rose up like a dam as far away as the city of Adam near Zarethan. The water flowing down toward the Sea of the Plains (the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. Then the people crossed from the east side of the Jordan River directly opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the Lord’s promise stood firmly on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan until the whole nation of Israel had crossed the Jordan River on dry ground.

Joshua 3:14-17

Trusting in God means we lay our requests at his feet before moving. Then we get up and take the next step, then the next, then the next. We take those steps no matter the obstacle we see in front of us. No matter the terrifying terrain ahead. We move expecting that as we move with God, God will move before us.

Each time our family has relocated to a new state, we’ve learned to trust God in a deeper way. We’ve learned that He is completely faithful. Each move God has showered us with rich relationships. Of course He would. God is relational. He created us to be first in relationship with Him, second with others. His desire is to be glorified in and through our relationships with His people.

Because of this, one of our top prayer requests since moving a year ago revolved around friendships.

I think sometimes we pray for situations then we simply sit back not realizing we might need to take an active role. Over time we see nothing happening and we become frustrated or disillusioned. We believe the lie that God doesn’t hear us.

We desire the miracle, yet we don’t always fully trust the Miracle Maker.

One of our greatest privileges as parents is to cultivate a wonder for the God of miracles in the hearts of our children. If my children develop an attitude of God as a far off God in the sky who may or may not listen when we speak, that will be a tragedy.

I delight with each opportunity to point the hearts of my children to their Creator. To teach them to watch and wait with excited expectation just how He will respond. And He will respond.

Sometimes to see God’s answers requires active participation. God created humans, not robots and puppets.

God invites us into His great big story. We have a choice in how we will play our role.

At some point a few months into new life in Nebraska, a friend invited me to a meeting about a homeschool group for teens wanting to serve the community. I showed up late to the meeting and quietly slipped into a seat in the back of the room.

I listened with interest but quickly discovered the dates wouldn’t work with our other homeschool group commitments.

I knew God had me at that meeting for a reason.

A woman sat in that meeting with her three boys. They looked about the same ages as my boys, who were not with me at the time. They seemed to be respectful and kind boys. I noticed they actually listened during the meeting rather than distract themselves in the world of phones. I wanted to meet this family.

As the meeting drew to a close, I wrote my phone number on a slip of paper and stalked the woman to her car.

She might have thought I was crazy, but the way I looked at the situation is like this – I’ve been praying for friends for my boys and here might be some. Now is my opportunity to actively participate with God.

I caught up with this woman in the parking lot, told her we had just moved to Nebraska, were fairly new to homeschooling, and we’d love to have their family over.

Then she and I actually followed up with each other. We invited them over. They came. Then another outing and another. Fast forward many months and this family, and these boys, have become friendships we absolutely treasure.

This is what I want my boys to see. God is a God of abundance. He does nothing on a small scale. Everything He does is miraculous and other-worldly. We can expect with 100% confidence that when we ask according to His will, He will respond with a resounding YES.

Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.”

1 John 5:14-15

When we asked for rich friendships, we already knew God said yes. The exciting part is waiting and watching as His yes after yes unfolds.

The day I met my new friend, I came home elated. Not because I knew I had a new friend (though this was exciting to be sure) but because I had just tasted the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”

Psalm 27:13

Nothing lights my fire like seeing God at work. Nothing.

When my faith fire dwindles, all I need to do is blow on that flickering flame with my whispered request. He answers by setting that fire ablaze all over again. Those sparks spread to my family.

I view my primary role as mom to be teaching my children to know God truly. Not the version the world has created, but the actual One True God. The only God. Yahweh.

The way to know Him is through His Word. First and foremost. The Word is first a story of who God is. Once we meet Him there, it’s easy to see Him everywhere in our world.

And so on a Friday night, a year into moving across the country, Steve and I sat on the sofas of our family room. I curled with a book listening with contented peace to the loud ruckus in the basement as 6 boys played ping pong, basketball, wrestled, ate pizza and brownies, and ended their night with a movie.

I marveled at the graciousness of God.

When God, with supernatural speed, brought us a buyer on our North Carolina home, He blessed us with a home in Nebraska with a basement of our dreams that we knew exactly what to do with. That basement and this home would be a place to invite people in as often as they would say yes. To fill it with love and laughter, gifts from our Father. To have a home to graciously and generously show the love of the Father.

The key in parenting is connecting the dots of God for our kids until they learn to do this on their own. Actively participating with God is drawing it out for them until they learn to connect their own dots.

“Boys, remember how we prayed and have continued to pray for friends? Well, think back to how we met this family to begin with. We prayed, but then we had to take a step. We had to place ourselves in places where we’d want to meet friends. And then when we noticed people the Lord was divinely bringing our way, we had to step again.”

I explained to the boys that the day I followed my friend to her car, I could have simply left the meeting that day, never crossing paths with her again. I wouldn’t know what I had missed. It makes me never want to miss an opportunity the Lord puts in front of me.

He answered my prayers for friends by nudging me to the meeting, bringing our families together, but it took a step only I could take to bring it to fruition. How cool is God?

This is what I desire my kids know. God is real. He is alive and active. He inclines His ear toward us. He desires to pour out His blessings.

If only the whole world knew the God He really is. I can’t change the world, but I can influence the very ones He has placed in my life. For as long as I have breath, I will proclaim His goodness.

“Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits–“

Psalm 103:2

I have created a tool to help our souls forget not all His benefits. Illuminate – Seeing God by the Light of His Word releases soon. You can find more information here including a video trailer. Illuminate is for us all. Women, men, and parents who desire to remember who the Lord is. It’s to encourage us to create the discipline of keeping our eyes fixed on who God is. Practicing the art of remembrance.

In our home, we’ve used this as a time of family devotion. Gathering in the family room and listening together. Continuing the conversation throughout the week.

It’s 14 days that I believe will change your life. It’s changed mine because it’s gotten me into His Word to seek out His character as revealed by Him.

“Renee Robinson has used her gifts to bring us one – a 14 day primer for anyone desiring to go deeper as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Unwrap it and be blessed.”

–Tara McClary Reeves, speaker and author of Is Your Dad a Pirate and Point Me to Jesus.

 

 

 

The One Prayer Every Parent Must Begin Praying Today

Prayer for parents

The One Prayer Parents Need

I began to notice a trend in our mornings. After the mumbled good mornings were spoken, one boy would begin telling me about a dream he had. Often this would spark another boy to share his dream. At first, I paid little attention. Until one morning I found my eyes rolling inside my head.

I just wanted to start our school day, but I was listening to details of dreams. They were persistent in sharing with me. Almost as if they couldn’t move on until they got it off their chest. They sensed my impatience as they often began with, “It’s real fast, Mom.”

The day I felt my inner-self exasperated at the chore of listening to dreams, the Lord spoke, and I stopped what I was doing and audibly gasped.

This is what you’ve been praying for.

I immediately began thinking back to what I’ve been praying.

There are certain scriptures I will pray each night before they go to sleep. In addition to scripture, there are specific phrases I pray consistently.

Recently, I read Praying Circles Around Your Children by Mark Batterson. He termed these types of prayers as prayer mantras. I realized I had a list of prayer mantras. Many were developed from scripture, but some were not.

 

My Prayer Mantras for our kids:

  • Lord, give them a heart like David’s, one who has a heart after your own heart. Give them a spirit like Caleb’s, one that follows you wholeheartedly.
  • Lord, tonight may they lie down and sleep in peace, knowing you alone, O Lord, make them dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)
  • Use them in mighty ways for your kingdom and let them strike fear in the eyes of the enemy.
  • Let them determine in their mind and heart to seek You, their God. (1 Chron 22:19)
  • Plant your Word deep in their hearts that they might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11)
  • Instruct their hearts with truth even as they sleep. (from Psalm 16:7)

That last one. Instruct their hearts with truth even as they sleep. When they sleep, and their bodies and minds are at rest, I desire that God uses that time to keep speaking to them. When nothing is competing for attention, when nothing distracts, may they lie in sleep and allow God to mold and shape their hearts while instructing their minds and hearts.

God is at work in times and areas we are completely unaware of. Our tendency is to limit what God can do or focus on what we can see.

God is at work deep in the heart. His arms can reach into the places no man’s hands can go. Man can repair a heart and make it function. But God can purify a heart and make it beat with true life again.

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

It’s the area we as parents can influence but can’t actually change. However, God can. This type of work happens over time. Often gradually, slowly. If we watch with alert eyes, we can see the changes that happen little bit by little bit.

I think many times we fail to see what God is doing in those deep places because we are looking for the instant gratification of an immediate, miraculous change, a road to Damascus moment.

While that can happen and absolutely does, sometimes what God is doing is massaging a heart. He is softening it. He is growing and stretching them. He is bringing together multiple layers and purposes.

We see mere glimpses of the inner hearts of our children. But if we are praying for God to do the deep heart surgery, we can rest knowing He is at work. Even when we can’t see it.

So maybe we stop and ask God to give us eyes to see glimpses. Maybe we praise Him for the glimpse. Praise Him for the slow work.

Maybe we stop wringing our hands and instead lift them to heaven.

Psalm 134:2 Lift up your hands in the holy place and praise the LORD!

Praising God brings forth the miracles. Try it and wait. Miracles rain from Heaven when a heart turns to praise. Something shifts in the spiritual world.

You see when we praise Him, the miracle first happens in our own lives. Inside of us, in deep crevices, something bursts forth. This is the first miracle.

Andrew hopped himself onto the kitchen counter and began telling me details of a dream. We were all going to a carnival where Andrew had been the day before. He watched as carnival goers followed the carnival workers into games and attractions only to find themselves tricked by their persuasive speech and promises. Once inside the attraction, they never came out again. Andrew saw the true colors of these workers and had warnings for the rest of us.

As we all arrived at the carnival, he begged and pleaded with us not to fall for the deception. He urged us to trust him that these people weren’t who they said they were. In his dream he said he warned over and over again that while they said the right things and put a big smile on their face, they were really tricking people to get them to follow them. And once they went with them they never returned.

Only days before Andrew shared this dream, another boy heard in a dream to “Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

And another son that same week had a very detailed dream. He and one of his brothers were martyred in Rome by being thrown out of a window. In the next scene they stood in Heaven and he watched Jesus approach each person who stood at the gate. He said he saw Bible greats like David and he was so excited to see them. He watched Jesus approach his brother and tell him well done. He watched his brother enter the gates of heaven. Then Jesus went to another man to deliver the message that he wouldn’t be entering heaven. The man began to plead and explain that ‘he didn’t know’. The man held up a Bible and said, “I had the wrong Bible. I didn’t know.”

After hearing all of these dreams in the span of days, I saw instruction that could be taken and applied. I saw themes of wisdom and deception. After putting the three dreams together, I landed at Matthew 7:14-16.

14“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

15“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17“So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18“A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20“So then, you will know them by their fruits.

21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME

While I don’t know exactly what all these dreams might mean, what I do know is they are a sampling of many others they have shared with me. Dreams that hold Biblical applications the boys could apply.

I believe God placed in their hearts the desire to share many of these with me as a reminder that I often pray and forget I’ve even prayed the very things God is doing.

The Lord reminded me that He is speaking to my kids at times and in ways I cannot. And He is speaking to me through my kids. He’s got us in His hands.

I can trust my kids to the Father who created them and will never leave or forsake them.

I can trust Him to change hearts like water to wine.

I can trust Him to feed their 5,000 needs out of the crumbs I see with my eyes.

I can trust Him to open their eyes so that they see how many are on their side.

I can trust Him to take their sin and wash them clean.

I can trust Him to use them in ways I’m too fearful to fathom.

I can trust Him to mend and repair the pains created when He rips the weeds from their hearts.

I can trust Him to fix what is broken.

I can trust Him to part the Red Sea and make their impossible way miraculously possible.

And I can trust Him to do what ONLY He can do.

Trusting God is a choice. Today I choose trust.

When I choose trust, I choose freedom. I choose rest. I choose to release anxiety and let it go back to hell where it came from.

God has given me a choice. I can choose to trust Him with my children. Or I can white knuckle through our days. I’m running to Him. It’s a choice.

And when I tuck my body tightly under His Wings, I whisper these words. God, I choose to trust You. If you are holding me this tight and secure, I believe you are doing the same for my kids. I’m asking for miracles to rain down on my kids. Miracles that leave them speechless before a Holy God. And Lord, like I pray for my kids, I pray the same for me. I declare the truth of your Word that I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. I can rest because I’ve chosen to trust you with every second of the lives of my children. Even their sleeping moments that I thought went unused and wasted. You waste nothing. I praise you for you are the God  who speaks. May we have ears to hear you speaking.

 

 

My near-death experience

4wheeler

Saturday I had a near-death experience. Or it felt that way at the time, and even more so as I reflect back on the event. I can’t help but wonder what I will never know. Were we spared because we prayed?

This question is tough and unanswerable. We all know someone who prayed for protection or safety, yet the Lord called them home despite their prayers.  We’ve all faced circumstances where we prayed for healing and healing didn’t come. We’ve all received no’s to some of our prayers.

What we don’t know is how many yes’s we’ve received in the invisible world. How many times did we pray for hedges of protection, and in the spiritual realm those hedges are the very thing that saved our lives, but we never knew.

Identifying the no prayers seems a bit easier than identifying the yes prayers. The no’s are clear and obvious. The yes’s can be categorized as coincidence or “luck”.

If our eyes were opened to all the yes’s we’ve received, would we ever forget to pray again? I wonder.

Do we pray like our very lives depend on it? Do we believe it? Or have our prayers become an act of religion?

We took a trip to Georgia to celebrate my nephew’s graduation. Visiting my sister is a treat because their house is a true experience. Farm, land, 4 wheelers, pool, trampoline, and lots of wide open exploring. A boy’s dream.

As I walked outside her house, the warm Georgia sunshine hit me full on. Sounds of summer and celebration took all anxious thoughts and cares right away. Beach tunes, splashing kids, adult conversations weaving in and out, the smell of charcoal, and the sound of 4 wheelers coming and going. Activity swirled at a pace set to relaxation.

Steve and Zachary pulled into the front yard on the 4 wheeler. I took note how big Zachary is on the 4 wheeler. Gone are the days his little body fit snug into Steve’s as he held tight. Zachary hopped off, and with his still boyish grin, Steve nodded my way, “Hop on and let’s go for a ride.”

My nephew may have graduated but I’m not too old for some 4 wheeling fun. I climbed on for a ride on a freshly created trail. It was nice not clinging for dear life. The trail was fairly narrow and bumpy, so our speed stayed in my safe zone.

Steve has learned the hard way that I’m not much fun when I’m scared, and because he wants me to join him on his little adventures, he is wise to use caution.

I don’t know if I said this out loud to Steve or only thought it, but there were lots of small stumps and bigger than sticks smaller than logs obstacles. I noted how we had to be quite careful because these small innocent stumps could likely do some damage. About 1 second later it happened.

We took a turn at a safe speed, but the back tire hit a stump on the side of the trail. As Steve steered left, our left rear tire hit a stump and it pushed us right. Right at the time Steve was accelerating for the upcoming straightaway.

Everything happened so fast, I remember having all of these thoughts and questions quick firing. It likely took 1-2 seconds for us to hit the tree, but it felt like longer as I watched us accelerate to the tree. I remember not being scared because I thought when you hit a tree you stop, but the 4 wheeler performed what it was made for. It climbed right up that tree like it was climbing the side of a mountain. I fell off the rear, landing flat on my back, and I know Steve fell off and landed on top of me. What I can’t figure out for the life of me is how in the world the 4 wheeler didn’t crush us.

The details in the moments after falling are foggy to both of us. I remember lying on my back, looking straight up and seeing the 4 wheeler in a vertical position. 2 wheels in the air, 2 wheels on the ground, headlights shining to heaven.

I remember Steve being somewhat on top of me, but also somewhat holding the full weight of the 4 wheeler up, protecting me. I can only imagine what fear he saw on my face. I must have looked in shock.

Steve said, “You’re ok. You’re ok. Now move. Move!”

In that instant I realized I hadn’t died, but if I didn’t move fast, I might die. At any moment, that 4 wheeler could fall back on me with a crushing force.

Steve holding it up seemed supernatural. There is no way he could brace that 4 wheeler from his back the way he did. I mean he’s strong and all, but not that strong. Right then he was my hero.

I scurried to my feet and retreated to a safe distance to watch the 4 wheeler roll over and down, dumping chains and first aid kits from hidden compartments.

That’s when I started to tremble. It was only then that I felt the fear. We could’ve died. As hard as we hit the ground, had there been a rock instead of dirt, everything could have been different. Had Steve not held up the 4 wheeler, it could’ve crushed us.

I wish I could say that was the end, I thought it was the end. I thought that was the worst part, we’d be back to my sister’s in no time.

I had no choice but to get back on, though I had hoped I’d never have to again. Somehow we ended up off trail in a part of the woods that I saw no way out of. We were in deep, no carved trail, and steep hills that seemed impossible to a 4 wheeler.

I jumped off and walked while Steve rode up the ravine that felt impossible. I watched it flip a couple more times.

I was taken by his calmness. I felt a basket case, but I was too terrified to even speak. I thank God Steve handled each step with a quiet calm that hushed my fears.

As I watched him riding up what looked impossible, I prayed out loud for God to do the impossible and to protect Steve in the process.

Eventually, we made it out unharmed and the 4 wheeler still works. It did the job well.

As I have thought on that incident, I go back to the day before we left when the boys and I prayed while we packed and cleaned in preparation for the trip. We prayed for safety and protection, for hedges to be placed around us.

I must admit, I often pray these prayers out of habit and duty. I wonder if I pray them in disbelief even at times. I’m sure I do. What if we hadn’t prayed? How do we know if it wasn’t us calling on the power of God for protection that saved our lives that day?

I’ll never know that answer, and that is ok.

This isn’t the first time I’ve wondered this. I looked back at my prayer journal prior to Zachary’s Lyme diagnosis and read specific prayers for the strengthening of his body and immune system. This was before he had any symptoms. What if those prayers hadn’t been released to God? We just don’t know, so why take the chance? He’s placed power closer than a whisper’s reach.

What God has impressed on my heart is a desire to deepen my prayer life. To opening my eyes for a moment by moment need for Him. He actually has been stirring this in my heart for weeks. I’ve been reading a few books on prayer, I’ve been spending more time throughout the day simply talking to God. I’m finding constant companionship with Him is a treat I’ve been missing out on in the busyness of life.

Summer seems a good time for slowing down and praying more. Each moment I encounter is shaped by prayer. If we are given that kind of power, we’d be crazy not to use it.

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