Prayer

Becoming More Like Jesus–Praying for Our Enemies

Winter scene with white lettering that says, "God commands us to pray for our enemies, and He can be trusted, even in this. ~Kristi Woods"

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
Matt. 5:44 NIV (Taken from Wholly Loved’s 365 Daily Devotion, releasing soon!)

Think about someone who hurt you. How did you love or pray for them? Or, did you?

As a mother, I love and protect my children. When someone wounds them, my mama bear instinct roars. I want to peel back the fur and watch those razor-sharp claws swipe.

But emotional reactions like that don’t come from Jesus. They usually arise when we’re attempting to play God.

A few years ago, while driving home from a school event with one of my kids, I received an unexpected phone call from a classmate’s mother. She accused my daughter of bullying and made harsh statements about her. Unfortunately, my daughter sat in the passenger seat and well within earshot. My mama bear instinct stood ready to rip and roar, but I sucked in a breath and prayed silently, Help, God!

His truth guided me through that phone call. I recalled Jesus’ words about praying for those who persecute us, which includes mamas protecting their children. God’s guidance to be quick to listen and slow to anger (James 1:19) rushed to mind as well. I fought the urge to lash out, using patience, truth, and prayer to battle instead.

Afterward, I prayed for that mother and both children—myself, too. It wasn’t easy, but it was right. And God used those prayers to soften my heart.

God uses prayer to soften the heart. @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

She and I didn’t realize that both our children were facing difficulties adjusting at school. As new transfers the year before, they were still attempting to find their footing. What seemed a situation of “enemies” ended quite differently.

Winter scene with red berries and the words, "God uses prayer to soften our hearts." - Kristi Woods

Loving those with whom we clash or praying for people who persecute us feels awkward and hard. But God can be trusted, even when praying for our enemies.

God can be trusted, even when praying for our enemies. @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

Do you have an “enemy” or someone persecuting you or someone you care about? How can you love and pray for them today?

How can you love and pray for your enemy today? @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION(R), NIV(R) Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (R) Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Prayer

Praying When Hate or Trials Get in the Way

 

KristenPrayerQuote2-

Hate is a word I never use unless I’m talking about cancer.

It’s a festering, growing batch of cells that leads to sickness and destruction in one’s body. When it attacks someone you love, everything within you rages and aches.

I detest the joy cancer steals, and the life it tries to take. I abhor its effect on families and the financial stress it creates. I especially hate the physical pain it causes and how it can trigger a wavering faith.

I wish it didn’t exist.

But it does. So my hatred is an ill use of my time. And, therefore, I avert my focus from disdain back to what I love— Jesus and my family. Yes, my little sister has cancer, but I choose to concentrate on my adoration of Him and her.

Watching someone I love endure pain erodes my heart a little each day, leaving me on the verge of tears constantly. But as I concentrate on Jesus, the Healer, and my love for my sister, I can rebuild some of that erosion.Watching someone I love endure pain erodes my heart, but as I concentrate on Jesus, the Healer, I can rebuild some of that erosion. Click To Tweet

Although to be frank, praying in the midst of heartache, no matter what kind, is challenging. I’ve counseled many to remember that God is good and loving and kind. But what good is there in this disease? Or maybe you’re asking, “What good is there in losing a loved one?” Or a marriage? Or a career?

My limited, human viewpoint has a hard time seeing through the cloud of grief. Sure, I notice droplets of joy along the way— a new medicine working, a successful surgery, a clearheaded afternoon— but the hardships remain.

So what can we do when we’re feeble and frail? KristenPrayerQuote1

We remember the Holy Spirit is interceding for us. Romans 8:26-27 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

These are heavy verses, so let’s break them down.

When we’re physically tired and spiritually drained, when we have no idea what to ask God for, or when anger confuses our judgment, we can count on the Holy Spirit for help. Click To TweetWhen we’re physically tired and spiritually drained, when we have no idea what to ask God for, or when anger confuses our judgment, we can count on the Holy Spirit for help. He’s our Advocate (John 14:26 & 15:26), who speaks to God on our behalf, and since the Holy Spirit is God living in us, who understands all things, He knows exactly how to pray for our situation. He will and can only plead for us according to the will of God. And since God is fully good and perfect, His will is also good for all.

I’ve sobbed to God with misplaced words and disjointed thoughts, finally crying out, “God, You know! You know!” He understands “what we ought to pray for”, and immediately does.

If you’re up against trials, a confusing path, or a hatred you can’t get past, drop to your knees and ask the Holy Spirit to “groan” on your behalf. Jesus knows what you and your loved ones need. Trust Him to get you through your battle.

Let’s talk about this! When has it been hard for you to pray? Share your thoughts in the comments below, so we can learn from and encourage each other.When has it been hard for you to pray? Share your thoughts, so we can learn from and encourage each other. Click To Tweet And make sure to engage with us on Facebook and Instagram where we post daily snippets of encouragement.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION(R), NIV(R) Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (R) Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Prayer

Doubtful Prayer

Image of woman thinking

Hi, my name is Christa, and (dramatic pause) I suffer from doubtful prayer. Phew—I said it!

What is doubtful prayer? It means that I know there is no other God above our Creator, that He has unfailing love for me, delights in me—His created daughter, and that He hears my every prayer. But I still doubt sometimes that my prayers will make any difference—that my request will stand out among the billion others God receives daily.

Can you relate? Are there times when you say “Amen” and think: “What’s the point? My prayer isn’t going to change anything.” Times when you can’t shake the nagging feeling that you’re just talking to the wind.

We learn to doubt early in life, likely after the first time we’re hurt by a broken promise, disappointed when someone didn’t keep their word, or let down when something or someone failed to meet our expectations. In an effort to safeguard our physical selves, our “stuff”, and ultimately our hearts, we begin to question, become skeptical, and withhold trust until we receive adequate proof.

Let’s face it, doubt is a necessary part of navigating life in a fragmented world with fragmented Speaker image with quote pulled from texthumans. But, God reigns far above everything broken and hurtful here. When we open our hearts to Him in prayer and bow at His feet, we’re in a safe place to shed all of the earthly protection we cling to. (Can I get an “Amen”?!) We have complete freedom to move from guarded to unrestrained.

Scripture shows us prayer is a gift from God—the primary way we communicate with Him.

But, prayer is also one of the most powerful, effective weapons we have to fight the darkness that longs to snuff out God’s light. So, it’s no surprise that Satan attempts to shake our confidence in prayer with pervasive feelings of doubt.

James recognized our bent toward skepticism, saying: “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6-8 ESV).

Thankfully, even as we question, God is incredibly patient and uses the opportunity to guide us into deeper revelations of His Truth and unwavering character. He ultimately leaves us no reason to peer at Him through squinted eyes and ask, “How do I know that you’ll really do what you say you’ll do?”

verse image of Numbers 23:19“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor the son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19 WEB)

 

For me, the antidote to doubtful prayer is this:

• Confession—I confess my hesitation to trust, and ask for God’s grace.
• Gratitude—I thank God for the ways He has blessed and continues to bless me every day.
• Recall—I think back on times when God answered my prayers and showed Himself faithful.
• Read—I immerse myself in the Truth of Scripture, which highlights God’s character and reinforces that I truly have no reason to stand reluctant before Him.

I believe God delights in our doubt. He knows that as we press in to test Him, and find Him trustworthy, we solidify our allegiance and find ourselves more deeply in love with everything He is.

Let’s talk about this. Has doubt crept into your prayer life? Can you recall a time when your questioning pushed you further into God’s truth.

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Prayer

The Importance of Prayer

When you feel a nudge towards prayer, do you listen? Or are you too distracted? Too inconvenienced? Too busy?

A few months ago, my daughter and I were driving down the highway when the traffic quickly slowed down from its usual 55 miles per hour pace to almost a complete stop. Sirens rang louder as it became apparent that there had been an accident. Immediately my daughter said, “mom, let’s pray for them.” And we did.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NIV) tells us to “Pray continually”.  Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? It would be, if we try praying hands with words to 1 Thes. 5:17to take it literally. In this passage, God is telling us to have a prayerful attitude at all times. To obey him fully. To pray frequent, short, spontaneous prayers when called to do so.

Do you seek opportunities for prayer? Do you listen when they are presented? I humbly admit there are times when a specific person or situation is placed on my heart, and I ignore the feeling because I’m too busy. I rationalize that whatever I’m doing at that moment is not only “more important” but also what God would rather have me doing. I tell myself it’s more productive than prayer.

How can I be more like my daughter and listen for God’s calling to pray for others?

I’m embarrassed to admit prayer was not my first thought as the traffic slowed. I was frustrated it would take longer to get to my destination. I was focused on myself.  On my own inconvenience.

My daughter listened to God’s calling and immediately wanted to pray. She didn’t hesitate.

Ephesians 6:18 (NIV) says “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” His words “be alert” speak to me. My daughter listened to God’s calling and immediately wanted to pray. She didn’t hesitate.

Let’s talk about this! When you feel the nudge to pray, what do you do? Do you ignore it? Do you question its existence, or attribute it to something worldly and discredit its divine origin?

When you feel the nudge to pray, what should you do? Listen. Be still. Embrace the divine moment. Share it with God. Be thankful for the opportunity to pray for a certain person or situation.

I haven’t heard a siren the same since that day, and I won’t let one pass by without a prayer. We should never be too busy for a prayer. A few words, like, “Lord, please be with those people. Amen,” is easy.