God Told Me “No”

Any time you explore the topic of prayer, eventually you come face to face with a time when God says “no”.  When that happens, if you are not careful, you can quickly find yourself in a theological quagmire.

Through the centuries this issue has made some followers walk away, has made skeptics feel justified, and the rest of us….well, feel uncomfortable.

Quickly we get dragged down the rabbit hole of “why”.  I’m telling you now, there are some things you will never be able to reconcile. Things like why a child dies instead of being healed, or why, even with fasting and prayer, your marriage still falls apart. To try to answer “why” will simply frustrate you, and hearing platitudes like “God has a plan” or “There must be a purpose”, do little more than drive a wedge between your grieving heart and God.

For a few minutes, set aside your desire to understand, why, and instead, think about what you can learn through the experience. Now I can’t begin to tell you what your lesson from “No” is, but I invite you to look over the shoulder of my experience and let me share what I learned when God gave me the biggest “no” of my life.

I met my husband in Bible college. When I graduated, we married and moved back home to start our life and our family. That first year together was everything a young couple could ask for. We threw ourselves into youth group, our careers, and family. Life was good.

In those early years, we learned how God would deal with us the rest of our lives. When we had a decision to make, we would pray about it, asking God to either open or close the door of opportunity according to His will. That’s exactly what He did! Time after time He demonstrated His faithfulness, and we became quite adept at recognizing His direction.

We had four young nephews, and we adored them!  We dreamed of a house full of boys or girls, at least 3, maybe even 4. Those first few years passed by, but no children.

In year five I talked with my doctor. We began testing to see why we weren’t getting pregnant. The tests all said nothing was wrong. There was “no reason” why I shouldn’t be able to conceive. Another year went by childless. My husband went through tests with the same results, “everything was working correctly”.  There was a lot of prayer, but no children, only closed doors.

Once we suspected we weren’t going to have children of our own, we started to explore adoption… I can’t express how deeply I admire those who welcome children into their home and raise them as their very own. It’s a reflection of how God deals with us, adopting us as His very own sons and daughters.

I’ve always had one great fear, though…that we would adopt a child who would later feel we weren’t enough and would go looking for his or her birth parents. In fact, as I prayed I told God about my fear. We asked Him to open or close the door for us to build our family through adoption.

Repeatedly the door was closed. Often like this:

I worked for a number of years as bank teller. One year I was assigned to a branch where a young woman (we’ll call her Stephanie) worked.  As I came to know her, I learned Stephanie was adopted. My husband and I were once again beginning the process to adopt, and I considered Stephanie’s arrival a confirmation we were moving in the right direction.

I spent many slow afternoons asking Stephanie about her relationship with her adoptive parents, and sharing my fears that my child would feel the need to go searching for birth parents. Stephanie assured me that no matter what happened, her adoptive mom would always be her mom.   She was saying all the right things! I was convinced God was saying “yes”. It was finally time.

It was a Friday in October when Stephanie arrived in the office and announced, “I found my REAL mom!” and over the next few weeks, as the holiday’s approached, she lived out all my fears. The door shut.

The years passed and I continued to pray for children. However, door after door has closed, always in different ways, always shut tight.

Three years ago I accepted the reality that even though God has given me blessing after blessing over the years, what we wanted most is a “no”. Why? I have no idea. We haven’t done anything noble or spiritual with the experience. We haven’t been unhappy…just, a little empty.

Recently the Spirit tapped me on the heart and asked me a life-changing question.

“Why do you serve God? Is it because He gives you what you want?  Or do you serve Him because He deserves your worship as the creator and sustainer of the universe?”

I’ve wrestled with this question for a while now, examining why I serve God. Is it because He does what I want?  Is it because I live this charmed life and He gives me good things? Am I like my cat who hangs around for the tuna treats, or do I serve and worship God because of who HE is? You see, He deserves respect, honor, and praise from a creature He made.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Habakkuk 3:17-18

So that’s my 33-year lesson. Maybe I’m a slow learner. My friends, you are not likely to find peace if you are looking for “why” – but after the pain fades, look for the lesson. He’s a gentle, patient teacher.

 

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Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Visual Prayer Starters

Last week April and her friend, Monica, talked about visual prayers. Since this may be a new idea to many of you, we put together a few suggestions to help you get started. If you are intrigued by the idea of visual prayer but don’t know how to begin, just download our Visual Prayer Starters.

April started the conversation about Visual Prayer here and continued here. You can watch her interview with Monica here.

We would love to see some of your visual prayers. If you would be willing to share them with us, please pin them to our Project Prayer Pinterest board.

Visit here to enter the Project Prayer Giveaway.

Download all the Project Prayer extras here.

Visual Prayer: Using Art to Enhance your Prayer Life

Invest 15 minutes to learn more about art and prayer from retired art teacher Monica!  Click HERE to view

 

We started the conversation about Visual Prayer here and continued here.
We would love to see some of your visual prayers. If you would be willing to share them with us, please pin them to our Project Prayer Pinterest board.

Visit here to enter the Project Prayer Giveaway.

Download all the Project Prayer extras here.

Visual Prayer: A Gift for God’s Fridge

fingerpaintWhen I visit a friend’s house, one of the first things I do is check out what they have on their fridge. I find sport schedules, photos from vacation, pictures drawn by their kids, all kinds things important to them.

How many times have you been handed a masterpiece by an eager 5 year old with a “This is for you” – their eyes are expectant, waiting for you to hang it on your door of important things (the refrigerator)?

Monday, we started the conversation about Visual Prayer (click here to read it)…looking at art and how it can help us open our heart to God. I want you to think about your visual prayer project like a picture for God’s fridge. Something you create for His pleasure. And since it is from you, precious child. He is going to LOVE it.

So let’s get started with the rules…. THERE ARE NO RULES! This is totally about finding a way to let go of all the worries of your life and focus on you and your savior. Here is how I do it.

Pick a Purpose

Because visual prayer takes preparation (gathering materials and such) – I tend to approach it like a meeting with God. Meetings have purpose, and so does my time with God. Sometimes I need to vent, and lay my worry at His feet. Other times I long for Him to give me direction for an important decision, or I want insight. Maybe I want to pray for a friend’s encouragement.

Here is an example of when I put on my intercessor hat and prayed for someone special to me. I have been blessed with 5 wonderful nieces and nephews. I love them deeply and as they’ve grown up, I have made a prayer quilt for each of them. Every seam was filled with my prayers for their health, wisdom, their relationship with Jesus, blanketing their lives in prayer.

SEE IT

Pick a medium

After I have a purpose in mind, then I select a medium. It may be something complicated like a quilt, or quick like a coloring page. I’ve tried water colors, acrylic paints, and even scrap-booking.

Choose anything your imagination is drawn too. You were created in the “Image of God” – you are a creative being just like Him.

SEE IT

Open my Heart

The next two steps are the MOST IMPORTANT because this prayer time is about your heart connecting to the heart of God. So find your quiet place, turn on some music and get started. Lose yourself in what doing and you’ll find the worries of life fading away. Focus on the promises He has made and the faithful way God always come through.

Here is an example of something I did when my life felt out of control. Work and relationships were challenging. The result is not pretty, but neither was my life at that point. The funny thing is I was trying to make something beautiful… but it just wasn’t. That’s OK, it was a real conversation with my Savior…and He led me to a better place.

SEE IT

Create and listen

As you focus on what you are doing, open your spiritual ears. Some days when I finish I just feel peace, and sometimes God gives me insight or clarity into a problem.

One day I didn’t have a lot of time, but felt the pull of the spirit to work on a visual prayer piece so I decided to use a coloring page. I used markers, and the colors were very vibrant. Here is what the Spirit said to me and what I wrote on the back of the finished product:

bicycle

Put it on God’s Fridge

When you’re finished, put it on God’s fridge. Send a bookmark of encouragement to a friend. Give a gift to someone in need. Or share with us! You can do that by posting an image of your creation to our Project Prayer Pinterest board.  We would love to see what you and God are creating.

Ultimately, your prayer is between you and God. So keep a portfolio, then you can look back and celebrate the journey you and God take.

 

Visit here to enter the Project Prayer Giveaway.

Download all the Project Prayer extras here.

 

 

When Your Prayer Life is Stuck-Try Something Different

QuietPlaceMy prayer life has long been a source of frustration. I can’t count the number of days I fall into bed, and realize I haven’t spent even 5 minutes talking to God. So I look at the ceiling, take a deep breath to pray at the end of the day, and the next thing I know my alarm goes off and a new day begins, yesterday’s opportunity to talk to God is gone.

So I decide to pray in the mornings… I bought a journal, and with coffee in hand, bible on the table, I was determined to succeed in this new method of prayer. I read 10-20 verses and start to journal. One or two days go by and all is well, then my journal starts to look more like a “to do” list. I start missing days because I get up late or have an early meeting and the house of cards comes down.

How about praying while I walk? Great idea, except rain for 3 days straight and walking no longer happens daily.

You see why I’m frustrated, right? It’s humbling to say I’ve been a God follower for 40 plus years and still have not mastered the most basic of Christian disciplines, prayer. I envy those who have that deep, intimate, daily time with the Savior. And if I’m being honest, sometimes I give up.

It was a couple years ago I had a life changing, guilt lifting, eye opening revelation! (At least it was new to me. I’m confident people much wiser than I have been telling me this since I was in middle school). Here it is: When I talk to my husband, I do so in many ways, we talk face to face, we text, I call him, he writes notes, we walk and talk, drive and talk, sometimes we even communicate in silence.

If I use all these ways to communicate to my husband or mother or father or friends, why do I think there is only 1 way to pray? Why am I constantly trying to corral God and confine Him to only one method of talking with me?

That one thought, prompted by the Holy Spirit released 40 years of guilt, and put me on a path to discover new ways to “Pray without ceasing”.

So now I mix it up and I try to look for new ways to pray. In that search, I’ve come across one method I’d be honored to share with you over the next weeks. It’s called Visual Prayer.

Sometimes I go through periods when I don’t know what to say. There’s not necessarily anything wrong in life, I simply am at a loss for words. Visual prayer uses art like painting, coloring, photography, sculpting, or even scrapbooking to help me focus on connecting with God. Now, before we go any farther I AM NOT AN ARTIST. In fact, sharing what I’ve done will be embarrassing, so please extend the cover of grace. You see, it’s not really about the product, it is about the conversation with God that happens during the process.

As we explore visual prayer, I try to give you some tips about how art can help your prayer life. I’ll interview a friend or two to gain some insights into art and prayer. Along the way, we will share some pieces, and I hope you will share too.

 

Visit here to enter the Project Prayer Giveaway.

Download all the Project Prayer extras here.

23 Prayer Principles
from the Prayers of Jesus


Did Jesus pray? Yes. Yes! Yes!! Although we are not given very many examples of prayers Jesus spoke, they are there, and they reveal a lot about how we should pray. We are not going to spend time dissecting his prayers for their spiritual meaning. Our purpose here is to discover principles that we can apply to our own prayers.

Principle #1
Acknowledge what God is doing in your situation and agree with His plan.

Matthew and Luke both recorded the first example of a prayer from the lips of Jesus. (Matthew 11:25-26 and Luke 10:21) Jesus began this prayer with praise. The Greek word for praise here is eksomologéō which means “fully agree and to acknowledge that agreement openly (whole-heartedly); hence, to confess (“openly declare”), without reservation (no holding back).” [https://biblehub.com/greek/1843.htm]

Jesus was saying that he agreed with what God was doing and whole-heartedly acknowledged it. He recognized and accepted God’s will in the situation which led to this prayer. So the first principle we discover about prayer is that we should acknowledge that God knows what He is doing and agree that His will in our situation is best. 

Principle #2
Recognize your relationship with God.

The second principle we learn from this prayer is that we need to recognize our relationship to God. In all the prayers of Jesus, except one, he began by addressing God as Father. He also honored God as “Lord of heaven and earth”—the master and ruler over all. Finally, in one of the 3 prayers Jesus uttered from the cross, he prayed to “my God.” (Matthew 27:46) At the same time that he recognized God as holy and transcendent (above all), he recognized God as a personal God—my God.

God is indeed our Father and the “Lord of heaven and earth.” He is capable of taking care of us now and in the future. We can each say he is my God because He desires a personal relationship with us. Recognizing the variety and depth of our relationship with God will help us to pray for the right things and with the right attitude.

Principle #3
God always hears your prayers.

The next prayer of Jesus (John 11:41-42) was made when he went to the tomb of his dear friend, Lazarus. We again see Jesus recognizing his relationship with God. God is The Father (Principle #2). The third principle we find in Jesus’ prayer was the knowledge that God hears—always. While He may not give us what we think we need, He does always hear.

Principle #4
Public prayers benefit those listening.

In this prayer we also find our fourth principle: public prayers benefit those listening, specifically unbelievers. The hope of public prayers in certain situations is that those who have no relationship with Jesus may see who he is and believe in him.

Principle #5
Recognize God as the source of everything you need.
Principle #6
God will provide what you need in order to honor Him.

Jesus’ next recorded prayer is a short one: “Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:28) Jesus was predicting his death when he interrupted himself to utter this prayer. He knew what was about to happen, and he did not want to go through it. In spite of his feelings about the way he would die, Jesus still wanted God to be honored through that death so he asked God for help.

The fifth and sixth principles revealed by this prayer of Jesus are that we need to recognize the source of our help–The Father–and the reason he helps–to point others to Him. God our Father will help us to bring glory—honor and fame—to Him, if we only ask. He is the source of our strength, and the reason we need that strength is to honor Him and to share Jesus.

John also recorded the longest prayer of Jesus. (John 17). In this lengthy prayer of Jesus we see several of the principles we’ve already discussed. He began by recognizing God as his father (Principle #2). When he asked God to glorify him so that he might glorify God, Jesus was asking God to provide what he needed in order to honor Him (Principle #6).

Principle #7
You can and should review your situation with God.

This prayer also shows us that it is acceptable (maybe even expected) to review what we have done for God (or He has done for us) as a way to introduce a new request. This is an effective way of reminding ourselves of what God had done for or through us in the past and of His ability to help us going forward. 

Principle #8
Pray for protection of believers.

Jesus listed things he had done for God (possibly for the benefit of those listening—Principle #4). As he finished that list, he prayed for the believers. And, it wasn’t just any prayer. It was a prayer for protection of their unity in him (verse 11) and protection from evil (verse 15). We should be praying for protection for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Principle #9
Pray to be molded more and more into the image of Christ.

Jesus continued by praying for our sanctification (that we would be set apart for His work and that we would become more and more like him). Principle #9 is that we should be praying for our faith and life to continue to grow more and more into the image of Christ. That should be our prayer not only for ourselves but also for our fellow Christians.

Principle #10
Pray that others see Christ in the way you live and through your story.

Jesus’ prayer continued with a plea that others would be united to him through the message—testimony—of the believers. This prayer changed to focus on how the believer lived so that others could see him. The principle here is that we ask God to help us live in such a way that others see Christ and that our message would spread and be accepted.

Principle #11
Express your longing to be with God forever.

Jesus concluded this prayer by expressing a desire for believers to be with him. We should be longing for eternity with Jesus and our prayers should voice our longing to be with God in His kingdom forever.

Our next prayer principles come from the 3 prayers Jesus uttered in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Garden of Gethsemane Prayers)

Jesus began this series of prayers acknowledging his relationship with God, something he did in every prayer we have looked at thus far. God was his Father. Abba (Mark 14:36) is a Greek word for father which emphasizes an intimate, dependent relationship. Jesus recognized that God was his father, God loved him, and God could be depended on. (Principle #2)

Principle #12
You can repeatedly ask God for what you want—as long as you are willing to accept His will.

The next principle is that we can ask God for what we want (repeatedly)—as long as we are willing to accept His will if He does not grant our request. I find it encouraging that when God did not grant Jesus’ request, He sent an angel to strengthen him for what was to come. God will help us to bear what we think we cannot.

In addition to the 3 prayers in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed 3 times while hanging on the cross. (Jesus’ Prayers from the Cross)

Principle #13
Pray that God will forgive those who hurt you—that they will come to a saving relationship with God.

Principle #13 is that we should pray for God to forgive those who hurt us. (Luke 23:34) We should want them to be forgiven—saved—and we should pray that they would come to that saving relationship with God. If Jesus could pray that for those who tortured, reviled, and murdered him, we can do it for those who hurt us.

Principle #14
It is okay to cry out to God.

From these 3 prayers we discover that we can cry out in pain and frustration. (Matthew 27:46) Jesus already knew why, but he cried out anyway. Sometimes we just have to cry, and that’s okay. 

Principle #15
Trust God and let Him know it.

We also discover is that we can trust God, and we should let Him know it. We should trust Him enough to commit our spirits into His care and let Him know that we are doing it. (Luke 23:46)

Principle #16
You should pray often.
Principle #17
You can pray any time.
Principle #18
Prayer length does not matter.
Principle #19
Prayer is between you and God.

The other things we learn about prayer from the prayers of Jesus is that we should pray often (Luke 5:16). We can (and probably should) pray early in the morning before the demands of the day (Mark 1:35) and into the night (Luke 6:12). Our prayers can be long (Luke 6:12) or short (John 12:28). And, prayers are private encounters with God (Luke 5:16).

Principle #20
You should pray for others.
Principle #21
You should thank God for your meals.
Principle #22
Temptation should motivate you to pray.
Principle #23
Prayer results in strength to fulfill your God-given purpose—pointing others to God through Jesus Christ.

Finally, Jesus interceded, or prayed on behalf of others (Luke 22:32). On several occasions we see him offering a blessing before a meal (i.e. Luke 24:30). He prayed when he was faced with temptation (John 6:15) and when he needed strength (Luke 22:42-43).

Jesus did indeed pray. Between specific teachings of Jesus (discussed here) and his examples of prayer, we learn so much about how to talk with God. We would love to hear from you. Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

What principle(s) were new to you?
What principle(s) are the most challenging for you?
Which principles(s) do you find the most comfort in?

Download the Principles from the Prayers of Jesus.

Visit here to enter the Project Prayer Giveaway.

Download all the Project Prayer extras here.

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Word Count by Lisa Whittle

Have you ever felt like your prayers weren’t good enough? Relax. God doesn’t care how long your prayers are. He just wants you to pray.

Lisa Whittle believes strongly that prayer length doesn’t matter so she began a ministry using a 5-word-prayer model. She graciously granted us permission to share Word Count Spoken Word with you. After you’ve enjoyed her spoken word, why not visit her site (http://www.lisawhittle.com/) and find out more about her prayer ministry? (Don’t forget to let her know where you saw her video!) Then, on Friday join us for more of Project Prayer!

 


Courtesy of www.lisawhittle.com.

 

Visit our Project Prayer resource page (here) to access the downloads. And don’t forget to enter the Project Prayer Giveaway!