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.

 

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Finding Your Way with GPS

Are you a GPS user, or do you just figure out where you’re going on your own? In the 80’s when my siblings and I got our driver’s licenses, gasoline was pretty inexpensive. Living in a rural town, we would often go cruising for our entertainment. Just driving around with nowhere to go; just taking an adventure to see if you could find your way back. We always found our way home and had a blast exploring the countryside.

One of the funniest trips was years later though. My sister and I loved cable TV decorating shows and really enjoyed a local show called Decorating Cents. They had a segment called “Trash to Treasure,” where the host would go to a resale shop called Sticks and Stones in Minneapolis, MN.  My sister lived within in an hour of there, so one day we took a road trip to visit the store. At the risk of sounding like a complete idiot, we thought, “Huh, how hard could it be to find?” Well…let me tell you.

She had one of the first-generation, dash-mounted GPS units so we thought it would be a piece of cake to find the store. If you ever tried to use one of these units, you know that they were not always the most accurate (to say the least). She followed its instructions to the T—turn left, turn right, continue forward; and before we know it, we found ourselves on a dead end street. Well, that was obviously the wrong path! So, we turned around and tried again.

Just about the time we’re thinking we might not find the place, we saw a library sign. We pulled over to hopefully look up resale shops in the yellow pages. I got out of the car and got the address—only to find out that we’d been close and didn’t even know it. We went just a bit further, and she said, “THAT’S IT!” She whipped into an off-street parking spot, I jumped out and went up to the door, only to see a sign that said, “CLOSED FOR THE MONTH OF JULY.” What?! NO WAY!!! You are kidding me! I got in the car, told my sister, and we cracked up! Only we would get into the car to go to a town of 350,000 people looking for a small resale shop having no idea where it was. We still laugh about it today.

Do you ever feel your life is like being on a road trip and you don’t know the destination or which way to go? God doesn’t give us a map with a big X showing us our full journey with road blocks, construction, and other obstacles clearly marked. How are we supposed to know what journey he wants us on? Does our path ever change? How do we get where he wants us?

May I suggest using GPS–God’s Provision Steering. Jesus has gone ahead of us and prepared all we need to arrive in the Glory of God. “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105) I can only know what God wants for me, if I am in communication with Him. We communicate with God by prayer and reading His word. I verify my understandings of what God is showing me by seeking counsel from biblically-sound pastors, elders, and siblings in Christ.

Our paths and purpose do change from time to time. It is rare that our journeys are on a single, long straight road with no turns, hills, valleys, or obstacles. For each season of our lives, we may have a different route and purpose. Each of these routes have something in common with the others. That commonality is our specific gifts that God has given us.

Each of us have been blessed with a gift or an ability that shines God’s presence through it. For me, it’s a passion for people, a great sense of joy and laughter, and a discerning eye. As I go through each day making decisions and interacting with others, I try to concentrate on living life for God, using my gifts to shine His grace through me. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)

There have been many times in my life when I have not stayed on the path God had set before me. There were times I stopped going to church, stopped studying God’s word, and stopped engaging with other believers. At those times, I found myself struggling as if I was fighting with someone all the time. Each time I wandered, God so gently guided me back. “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” (Psalm 91:11) I didn’t always realize it as it was happening; but once back in his arms, I knew it was where I needed to be. It becomes easier to stay on the righteous path as I mature in my relationship with Christ. The temptations to live in the world that are all around us each day bring speed bumps, potholes, construction zones, and detours in our lives and break down our efforts to live in Christ publicly.

Just as you need to make sure your car has what it needs for a road trip, you need to make sure you have what it takes to endure life’s journey. We need to have the daily fuel of God’s word, using his GPS to find the path he has laid down before us. We need regular maintenance checks to make sure we are running as we were designed to. And, we need to make sure we are ready to be used at all times.

As I pondered the subject of life’s journey, I studied God’s word and found comfort in these truths:

• “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalms 16:11)
• “My son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths.” (Proverbs 1:15)
• “Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” (Proverbs 10:17)
• “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and please to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)
• “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17)
• “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3: 5-6)

Where does your journey lead? Is it the path you are called to be on? Seek God, and you will find where you are to be. Set yourself on studying the Bible to see where God is leading you. If you need help in this, you can send us a message, seek counsel from elders or Pastors of your local church, talk with brothers and sisters in Christ, and pray. Let’s join together on a journey with God.

What are some verses you have found helpful as you try to follow God’s path for your life? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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.™

Where Does Your Journey End?

What is life’s journey? Do the events in our lives matter? Does life just end?

These questions came to me when more than one person I knew passed away in the first couple weeks of June. As I drove the 45 minutes to my brother’s home the day his dear wife passed away, I saw these questions as clear as day. I had to stop and capture the scene pictured here. I knew then that God wanted me to share my thoughts with you.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Some think that this refers to focusing on our lives instead of where we are once we pass away. Others think it’s a bit smaller and say that each event in your life doesn’t matter nor does where you end up. They believe it’s the fun you have while meandering through life, living in response to events instead of living purposefully to obtain an end goal. I’ve lived both. Prior to being a Christian, I was in it for me. Now I live my life for Christ. It changed my perspective on why we are on this earth and where we go when we die.

“May we live here like strangers and make the world not a house, but an inn, in which we sup and lodge, expecting to be on our journey tomorrow.”
–Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon said, “May we live here like strangers and make the world not a house, but an inn, in which we sup and lodge, expecting to be on our journey tomorrow.” Using Hebrews 13:14 as my basis, “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come,” I think that Spurgeon is NOT telling us to be strangers among ourselves but telling us to not make this world our home.

If this world is not our permanent home then there must be another that is. God has created a place for each of us to spend eternity. A glorious home at his right side. But entry into this home is not granted just because you pass away. There are requirements that grant you entry:

  • The first of which is humbly realizing that God is the Creator of all.
  • Believing that he sent his son to be a sacrifice for our iniquities, leading the way for our own redemption and entry into an eternal life with Christ. But you have to do more than just believe.
  • The key to life with Christ is to ask our Father to cleanse you of your sins, replace it with his love, and be the LORD of all in your life. Once you have done this, you have access to the Holy Spirit who guides you on the path that God has made for you. You now are able to see your iniquities, ask for forgiveness, turn from those ways and live a purposeful life glorifying God through it all.

These scriptures tell us that there is life after death and life on earth has a purpose, a goal:

  • John 14:1-4: “‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.'” 
  • Philippians 3:14: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
  • Philippians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

Have you secured your relationship with Jesus?

Our life here on earth is like dew on a lawn, lasting such a short time, then gone with the morning dawn. You can plan for your eternity now. Have you secured your relationship with Jesus? If not, I hope these passages have encouraged you to invite him into your life. God has created a place for you in heaven. Jesus is waiting there for you. If you need more help to connect with God, send us a message or reach out to your local church.

#journey #story #life #road
#lifesjourneywithjesus

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.™

Be a Sonflower

I recently learned about sunflowers and it got me thinking about how they reflect the relationship we should have with God. Let me explain.

Sunflowers need the sun to display all their beauty. When it is not sunny they droop. When it is sunny, they perk up and shine their faces for all to see. They are a happy flower. It is amazing to see a whole field of happy sunflowers. As the earth rotates around the sun, these happy flowers follow the sun. Their heads are focused on the sun, not hanging down focusing on the ground and what is around them.

So, my friend, it is for us. In order for us to shine for God we need to focus on Him. We need to follow the Son and not get dragged down by all that is around us pulling us down. I like the amplified version of Hebrews 12:2:

“[looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].”

Did you catch that? We are to look and focus our eyes on Jesus. It is a command. Like Peter, when he jumped out of the boat to walk toward Jesus. While he kept his eyes focused on the Son, he did great. Once his eyes came off of the Son, he started to sink. We need to keep our eyes focused on the Son. We need to follow Him continuously.

Isaiah 26:3 (AMP) reads “You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast [that is, committed and focused on You-in both inclination and character], because he trusts and takes refuge in You [with hope and confident expectation].

Sunflowers need the sun to help them stay upright and beautiful. They are totally dependent on that. We need the Son to help us stay on the right path and shine beautifully for Him. See, we have a major advantage that the sunflowers do not. Our advantage: Jesus is always there for us. He promises to never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5b) We can always follow Him. He is always there.

Are you walking down a dark path of despair, fear, anxiety, uncertainty, change or any other hard times? Remember, He promised He won’t leave us. He wants us to stay focused on Him. Like the happy little sunflowers focus on the sun, stay focused on the Son and be a Sonflower for Him.

 

Scripture taken from the AMPLIFIED® BIBLE, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by the Lockman Foundation Used by Permission. (www.Lockman.org)

 

In Weakness and Fear

Photo by Talen de St. Croix on Unsplash

I can’t do that! I don’t have what it takes! My knees are shaking, my hands are sweating, and the butterflies in my stomach feel the size of elephants. I can’t do it! 

That’s how I feel every time I step out and do something new for God, especially when I teach a group of women for the first time. When I stand up in front of those lovely women, suddenly my knees begin to shake, I feel totally inadequate, and I can no longer remember what I wanted to say.

Does that happen to you when you try to share Jesus with others (even with only one other)?

When I [Paul] came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (bold mine)

Paul’s first trip to Corinth was immediately after his trip to Athens (Acts 17:16-34). The Athenians loved to reason (aka debate) so Paul had reasoned with them about Jesus. Paul was good at what he did, and he probably knew it. His education had included a healthy dose of public reasoning. Despite his best efforts, only “a few men became followers of Paul and believed.” It is interesting first of all that only a few believed and second that they followed Paul.

A Few Believed

Despite Paul’s well-reasoned, educated, and probably confident teaching, he had little impact. Such a poor response to his message probably shook his confidence and would have surely depressed him. At the very least, it would have made him evaluate what he was doing and why he was doing it.

Followed Paul

As Paul opened his letter to the Corinthians he chastised them for the way they were following the teachers and causing division. He wanted them to follow Jesus, not men. He must have wondered if the people at Athens were following his reasoning or following Jesus. He wanted to make sure the Corinthians were following Jesus.

Shaken Confidence

Paul took an emotional and spiritual hit in Athens. His confidence was shaken. His walk to Corinth that first time gave him plenty of time to think about whose wisdom and power were needed and who he wanted the people to follow. By the time he arrived in Corinth, Paul had wrestled with the realization that he wasn’t as wise as he thought. He had received a lesson in humility and been reminded of who he wanted people to follow.

The Wisdom and Power of God

When Paul arrive in Corinth, his confidence was shaken, and he was leaning more heavily upon the wisdom of God and the power of the Spirit; consequently, the wisdom of God and the power of the Spirit is what the people in Corinth saw.

That is my prayer every time I teach (or write). I always feel weak, afraid, and ill-equipped. I tremble inside when I think of what I’m doing. But that forces me to rely on the wisdom of God and the power of the Spirit. The result is that (hopefully) people see God, not me!

As you talk to others about Jesus, may you each be weak enough and afraid enough to lean on God’s wisdom and Spirit power! As a result, may others see “a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” and place their faith in God’s power.

 

 

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.™

Morning Walk

I’ve been awake since 3:00 am. While that is not unusual for me, it is frustrating and has the potential to put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. This morning I finally gave up trying to go back to sleep and rolled out of bed at 4:50 am. I quietly slipped on some clothes and left the house.

There is nothing quite like a walk in the early morning hours before anyone else is out and about. It is so peaceful. As I watched the fog grow out of the creek behind out house and listened as the birds woke and greeted one another, I praised God for his blessings. My prayers were disjointed and sporadic as I walked this morning, the fog in my mind mirroring the fog rising above the trees. However, I just can’t help but talk with God as I walk.

I came home and pulled out my Bible, looking for verses about getting up early to pray, but the one that jumped out to me wasn’t exactly about rising early or prayer. Instead I found: “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.” (Psalm 113:3) I may have praised God in the early morning, but His word reminds me to praise him from the moment I rise in the morning to the moment I fall asleep at night and wherever I am during that time.

Although I am still tired and frustrated from lack of sleep, I will resist the potential bad mood by praising the God who greeted me with a beautiful morning and try to remember to praise Him for the rest of the day, wherever I am.

“From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.” (Psalm 113:3)

 

#morningwalk
#praisegod
#sleeplessnight

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.™

The Two Chapter Test

Whenever my children were assigned a book to read for school, I avoided arguments about whether or not they had to by implementing what I called The Two Chapter Test.

The Two Chapter Test was simple. Whenever I required a book be to read, they could not argue with me about it until they had read two chapters. Then (and only then) would I engage in a discussion about why they should or shouldn’t have to read that particular book. If their reasoning was sound (and I could justify using another resource) we would use something else.

The usual result of The Two Chapter Test was that they read the whole book without complaint. Once they had given it a chance, they were hooked.

You are probably expecting me to tell you to give the Bible The Two Chapter Test so I’ll pause here to suggest you do just that every day–give the Bible The Two Chapter (or Section or Verse) Test. See if it doesn’t leave you wanting more.

As valuable as The Two Chapter (or Section or Verse) Test may be to kick start your Bible study journey, the lesson I have recently learned is how this test applies to all areas of my life–ministry, work, fitness, homemaking, etc.

One of my children recently took a job that requires them to be away from home for the majority of the next five months. After their first day, I received a text at 1:38 am. They were convinced they had made a mistake and wanted to go home. Twenty minutes later, after telling them not to make any decision in the middle of the night and to call in the morning, I headed back to bed. When they called several hours later, Tim and I reminded them of The Two Chapter Test and encouraged them to wait until the end of the week before making any decisions–to give it the equivalent of The Two Chapter Test. Two days later they apologized for their frantic middle-of-the-night texting and said they were enjoying themselves and wanted to stay.

I realize now that I’ve approached most of life that way. Homeschooling is a prime example of how this has worked in my life. I never said I would homeschool four children all the way through (25-30 years is a long commitment). I didn’t want to read that particular “book.” I always said that we would homeschool “this year” and think about “next year”–my Two Chapter Test. Each year I would say the same thing until, before I knew it, I was finished. Once I jumped in and tried it, I just kept going until that part of my journey (the book) was done.

There have been many times when I didn’t want to do something, but once I started, I just kept going. Once I tried it, I even enjoyed the experience as a whole (not that their weren’t challenging parts to get through on occasion).

So on this life journey, I encourage you to take up the challenge currently before you and give it The Two Chapter Test. See what happens!

 

Have you ever given a life project the equivalent of The Two Chapter Test?
What happened?

Are you being led to a Two Chapter Test now?

Do you have a favorite verse that would help someone who needs to jump into a project?

Welcome to
Bible Study Journey!

 

WHAT will you find here?


Whether you have been studying God’s Word for years or are new to the whole Bible study thing, we want to provide a safe place to share and discuss what you discover in the pages of your Bible.

Here at biblestudyjourney.com you will find several sections to explore: The GPS, What to Pack, Postcards, Souvenirs, and About Us. Let’s unpack those sections a bit so you know where to find the items you need for your journey.

The GPS – Bible Study

    In The GPS we will be sharing both original studies and links to other studies. We hope to have our first study available in January so check back soon for more information!

What to Pack – Bible Study Tools

    Whenever we go on a long journey, we pack items we think will be needed–shoes, toothbrush, pajamas, etc. As we prepare for our Bible Study Journey, it helps to have certain items in our bag–Bible, concordance, commentary, etc. What to Pack is where we will begin to provide links to those items.

Postcards – Blogs

    Postcards (and now social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) are how we share our journeys with others, and our Bible Study Journey is no different. Postcards is the section of our site where you will find our blogs, and our blogs are where we share our journeys with one other. The focus of our blogs will be on the journey itself–our study of God and His Word and lessons on how to dig deeper. This will be a safe place to share our insights, lessons, struggles, encouragement, and triumphs as we all journey toward a deeper relationship with God.
    New posts will be made every week. We have a family of bloggers and moderators on this journey with us. Follow us so you don’t miss a thing!

Souvenirs – Apply It

    1. Whenever we take a journey, we bring things home with us–pictures, key chains, t-shirts, etc. The same is true of our Bible Study Journey. As we journey with God through His Word and this life, there will be things we will want to take home–things we’ll need to apply to our lives and tools to use.  We must apply the things we learn on our journey in order to be strong enough and wise enough for the more difficult or longer parts of the trip. Join us as we share ideas on applying what we learn and offer free resources to help you along your Bible Study Journey.

About Us

    This section is where you will discover our mission, meet our contributors and find their stories, and be able to contact us.

Journeys are always more fun when they are shared so let’s join together on a Bible Study Journey!

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it–not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it–they will be bless in what they do.
James 1:25

 

[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.™]