How Do I Pray For My Family?

In my small group at church this week we talked a little about how we pray.  One of the members of our group mentioned reading Paul’s prayers for the church.

Knowing what to pray for my family has always been a topic of concern for me.

I confess most of my prayers are for their needs for the “here and now.”

  • Help this grandchild to find a good job
  • Provide the finances for this grandchild to pay for college
  • Heal this son/daughter
  • Take care of this difficult situation this child is experiencing right now

Looking at the ministry of Jesus on earth I do not think praying for their physical and financial needs in this life is wrong.  While on earth Jesus often spend time meeting the needs of those who followed Him.

  • He fed the hungry
  • He opened the eyes of the blind
  • He reached out and healed the leper
  • His very first miracle was actually supplying wine for a wedding party

Clearly He was and is concerned about all our needs, not just the “spiritual” ones.

Still, when I look at the prayers the early church prayed and the prayers of Peter and Paul in their writings it is clear that their main concern was not for the “here and now.” They were not so concerned for their own needs but for God’s kingdom to be advanced, for “eternal” things.

I say as a Christian I believe  there is life after this one on earth.  I say it is my desire that my children and grandchildren know and serve the Lord.  But do my prayers really reflect that?  Am I more concerned about the “here and now” than I am with the “eternal”?

One prayer the early church prayed which I think really reflects their focus on the kingdom of God rather than their own needs, is the one found in Acts 4.  Here, Peter and John had been in prison for preaching about Jesus.  Upon being released, they were warned to stop sharing the story of Jesus and threats were made if they did not refrain from doing so.

They immediately gathered with the other believers.  Now, today if this happened to our pastor, I believe our prayers would probably be for God to protect us or to change the hearts of the religious leaders.  But I love their prayer.

“And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word.  Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

To help me focus my prayers more in line with the early church, I have been praying one of Paul’s prayers for my children and grandchildren.  It is found in Colossians 1.

“We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.  Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.  We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.”

Truly I want all the best for my children and grandchildren.  It is my desire that they have great marriages, successful careers and good health.  But most of all, my greatest desire is that they will grow to know God better and better.

How do you pray for your family?

Thankfulness for Things Taken for Granted

Each morning my husband and I start our day with a cup of coffee and a time of devotions.  We are reading through the Bible this year and are now in the Psalms.  After our reading, we always pray.  My husband prays first and I follow.

While the things we pray for vary from day to day, one thing is always constant.  We lift our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to the Lord asking for His guidance and protection on their lives.

We include expressions of thankfulness.  Most often the things we thank God for are the answers to prayer.

  • This granddaughter was accepted to law school
  • This grandson has a new job
  • This child is over that cold or other ailment

We also thank God for the “big” things like salvation, mercy, his love.

But today as I listened to my husband’s prayer I was reminded how much of God’s blessings we take for granted.  Today my husband said thanks for:

  • Being able to just turn a switch and have light – when many have no electricity.
  • A stove to cook our food on – when many have to gather sticks to build a fire.
  • A refrigerator to keep our food from spoiling – when many have to buy food daily because they have no way to keep it more than a day.
  • A comfortable bed to sleep in – when many sleep on a cot or on the floor.
  • Clean, hot water to take a bath – when many wash with dirty and/or cold water.
  • Privacy in using the bathroom – when many have to hide behind a bush or tree.
  • More than one pair of shoes in the closet – when many have no shoes at all.

His prayer reminded me of how blessed we are in the USA and yet how we so often find so much to complain about and ignore the many comforts of life God has granted us.

At the end of his prayer we both thought of that verse that says:

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

While we may think we do not have much when we compare ourselves to our richer neighbors, in comparison to most of the world, we in America are all rich.

Question:  What are you doing with all God has blessed you with?

Are You One of the Nine?

My husband and I hold services at two different assisted living facilities and I also give a piano concert twice a month at one of them.  Today my husband shared with the residents the story in the Gospel of Luke about the ten lepers that came to Jesus asking to be healed.  That story really got me thinking about my own attitude.

Ten lepers came and Jesus healed them all.  He told them to go to the priest to have the priest confirm they were clean and could now rejoin their families.

As the ten started to the priest they realized their skin was clear and they were healed.  How exciting that moment must have been.

After that moment of great joy, nine of the ten continued on their way.  But one man turned back and came to Jesus to say “thank you.”

His response:  “Were not ten healed?  Where are the nine?”

It seems our society is so attuned to the bad, the problems, the disagreements between groups.  We are so quick to complain.

During this cold and snowy winter I often heard (and I was often guilty too) people complaining about how cold it was, how sick they were of snow.

Seldom, if ever, did I hear people saying how grateful they were for their warm house, their warm coats.  Little thanks were given for the road crews who were out in the bitter cold spreading salt and clearing the roads.

Now comes summer and soon we will be complaining of the heat and humility instead of expressing gratefulness for air conditioning.

Why are we so slow to be thankful, to see all the blessings we have been given?

When my first husband died, I cannot count the times someone asked me how God could allow this.  They would say something like:

“But you are a good Christian.  How could God let this happen?”

But when God blessed with me with a good second husband no one asked me how God could allow this.  No one said:

“Why did God bless you so much.”

We take His blessings for granted but are quick to complain when we feel we are not getting the blessings we deserve.

Lord, help me to be like the one who came back and said “thank you.”  Help me not to be like the nine who accepted your blessings as if somehow it was their right and went on their way never to thank  you.

I’m Good at Complaining

My husband and I are reading through the Bible this year in our devotions.  Right now we are working our way through the book of Numbers.

This morning I was thinking how the Israelites complained their way through the desert on their way to the Promised Land.  They would face a difficulty, God would intervene and meet their need, then when the next problem arose, they started complaining again.  My first thought was:

“How could they keep complaining?”  Had God not met each need?  What was wrong with them?

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Then I thought of how easy I find it to complain.

Example:

We have had a few weeks of bitter cold and lots of snow.  What is my first response?

Complain:

  • I can’t get out in this bitter cold
  • I’m afraid I’m going to fall on the slick side walks
  • The cloudy days are depressing

But why not be thankful:

  • I have a warm house with warm clothes, warm car
  • My backyard is beautiful – like a winter wonderland
  • I’m retired so I don’t have to get out in this terrible weather

Example:

We recently moved from a nine-room house to a five-room house wanting to downsize as we age.

Complain:

  • The closets are so small there is not enough room for our clothes
  • The bedrooms are so tiny
  • I don’t like electric stoves

But why not be thankful:

  • Having everything on one floor has meant not having to cope with stairs
  • Thank God I have so many clothes
  • Thank God I have a modern stove and other modern appliances

Why is it so easy to see the negative instead of the positive?

Looking at the story in Exodus and Numbers I think they complained because they were so quick to forget what God had done.

Is that my problem?  I quickly forget what God has done for me.

“Lord I know you have saved me from the consequence of my sins and you have promised me your presence and guidance in all circumstances, but it’s cold outside, the sun is hidden behind the clouds and my favorite TV show has been cancelled for tonight.”

Let me remember:

  • the wonderful children you have given me
  • a husband who is also my best friend
  • I’m still living almost 17 years after being diagnosed with advanced, aggressive cancer
  • you protected me when the car I was driving was hit head-on by a young man driving way too fast
  • how many friends you have given me through the years
  • how you provided financial help when my husband was out of work
  • how you allowed me to be born in a family where I was taught about God at an early age
  • that you loved me so much you gave your only son that I might be saved

How about you?  Do you see the glass half full or half empty?

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Do you find it easier to complain than be thankful?

 

 

Some Scary Thoughts During This Cold Snap

We Americans like to think how great and advanced our nation is – and we are.

But during this cold snap I had a few scary thoughts on just how dependent we are on our great advanced technologies – and what would we do if something happened to them.

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The energy company that supplies our heat sent an emergency text to all its customers asking them to turn down their heat to 65 degrees so that they would not run out of gas this week.

“Due to extreme temps, Consumers asks everyone to lower their heat to 65 or less through Fri.”

 

The cold temperatures meant everyone’s furnace was running more and the demand for gas was much higher than normal.  Of course, the company has reserves for times like this.  But, a fire at a compressor station in southeast Michigan had caused them to shut down the plants there.

Even the governor posted a video on her Facebook page asking customers to lower the heat in their homes as much as possible,

“so that we can deliver enough gas for everyone to have some heat, and to protect our most critical facilities like hospitals and senior citizens’ homes.”

General Motors shut down eleven facilities in Flint, Lansing, and Orion Township and asked thousands of workers at the Warren Tech Center to work from home through at least Friday.

Ford Motor Company lowered the temperature in its Livonia Transmission Plant and Van Dyke Transmission Plant to minimum levels and stopped heat treatment processes at Sterling Axle Plant, as well as the paint process at Michigan Assembly.  Many other big commercial users closed their plants or reduced their natural gas usage.

Normally in a shortage like this the utility could buy gas from other utilities in neighboring states.  But this cold snap covered all the midwest and there was probably little extra gas to buy.

Of course, the cold snap moved on and we are back to normal.

But some scary thoughts I had:

  • What if the cold snap had lasted longer?
  • What if another processing plant had a fire or other malfunctions?

Unlike Grandma and Grandpa who had a wood stove, we would have nothing to keep us warm.

stove

Since our power company also uses natural gas to produce electricity, that would probably mean no lights and even my electric stove would not work.  So how would I cook any food?

And our water plant would not be able to provide water and sewer.  Unlike Grandma and Grandpa we had no well and no outhouse.

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My thoughts went on and on.

I realized just how dependent we are on all the advanced technology we have.  I’m thankful for how much easier to makes our lives than our grandparents, but I also realized how quickly we could be brought to our knees.

I also thought how much we take for granted on things many in the world still do not have.

  • Clean, hot water by just turning on a handle on the sink.
  • Comfortable temperatures in the bitter cold of winter or the sweltering heat of summer.
  • Lights so that we can stay up late at night or rise early in the morning and not have to work by candlelight.
  • Refrigerators so we can keep enough food for weeks or months and not have to go to market every day for fresh meat.

I could go on and on about all the blessings we have today – but this episode of possible gas shortage has once again made me realize how thankful I should be for the life we Americans live.

And how dependent we really are on technology.

Are We Grateful?

I can’t take credit for this story.  I heard it somewhere along the way, but I don’t know who or where.  So – if anyone knows, please let me know.  But the story is so good as I think about how we fail so often to be grateful for our “every day” blessings.

coffee shop

One afternoon a shopper at the local mall felt the need for a coffee break.  She bought herself a little bag of cookies and put them in her shopping bag.  She then got in line for coffee, found a place to sit at one of the crowded tables, and then taking the lid off her coffee and taking out a magazine she began to sip her coffee and read.  Across the table from her a man sat reading a newspaper.   After a minute or two she reached out and took a cookie.   As she did, the man seated across the table reached out and took one too.  This put her off, but she did not say anything.

A few moments later she took another cookie.  Once again the man did so too.  Now she was getting a bit upset, but still she did not say anything.  After having a couple of sips of coffee she once again took another cookie.  So did the man.  She was really upset by this – especially since now only one cookie was left.  Apparently the man also realized that only one cookie was left.  Before she could say anything he took it, broke it in half, offered half to her, and proceeded to eat the other half himself.  Then he smiled at her and, putting the paper under his arm, rose and walked off.

Was she steamed!  Her coffee break ruined, already thinking ahead of how she would tell this offense to her family, she folded her magazine, opened her shopping bag, and there discovered her own unopened bag of cookies.

Recently my husband had a major surgery.  In recovering from that surgery he was reduced to having me do a lot of things for him that he would normally do.  That first week home I brought him medicine, put on his socks for him, basically waited on him “hand and foot.”

As he slowly regained his strength and began taking care of his own needs, we both thought about how we take for granted so much each day, how grateful we should be for the “little things.”

  • being able to get out of bed without anyone’s help
  • being able to put on our own socks and shoes
  • being able to walk outside and see the beautiful flowers
  • being able to get in the tub and have a relaxing bath

The list could go on and on, but we realize we need to be grateful for what we have instead of ungrateful for what we do not have.

“I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” Psalm. 9:1

“O Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” Psalm 95:1-3

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”       Psalm 103:1-5

“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Ephesus 5:20

Thank you Lord for waking me up this morning.  Thank you that I was able to fix my own breakfast, dress myself and enjoy another day of life.  Thank you that my husband is here with me to enjoy that cup of coffee.  Thank you that I can see the beautiful flowers starting to bloom.  Thank you for being able to speak to my children on the phone or share pictures with them on Facebook.  Most of all, thank you for your mercy and love to me.

What are you grateful for today?

To Be Blessed of God!

I recently wrote on the thought of being blessed.

Are You Blessed?

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Our idea of being blessed of God often only looks at the physical or material aspects.  A nice home, a good marriage, a great job.  While these ARE blessings of God for which we should be thankful, the Bible is clear these kind of blessings are temporary.  The real blessings of God are those that will last throughout eternity.

And receiving those blessings require more than just a “God bless you” that we share with each other in passing.

Just a few thoughts on God’s blessings and how to obtain them.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither…..Psalm 1

It appears that receiving God’s blessings requires us to be careful whose advice we take and how much time we spend thinking of His Word.

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But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed…..1 Peter 3:14

Whoa!  Blessings from God might include suffering?  

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Wait a minute here!  Blessings from God might require trials?  And the blessing is not a promotion at work but eternal life.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God…..Matthew 5:9

Come on now!!!  When I seek to bring peace to others rather than pushing for my own agenda I will be blessed?  And the blessing is the privilege of being called a son of God?

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But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Again, it seems God’s blessings are somehow connected to knowing His word – and obeying it.

God's word 2

I could go on and on, but I hope you get the idea.  We Americans count blessings from God almost as a right rather than a privilege.  When we do not get that promotion at work, when we get that diagnosis of cancer, when someone makes fun of us for being a Christian, we are so quick to complain or feel like somehow God has failed us.

If God’s blessings are so tied to material things, how do we explain the Christians who live in a third world country and often wonder where their meal is coming from?  Who are persecuted, put in prison, even killed for their faith in Jesus Christ?

God is much more than a genie in a lamp.  He does love us, He does want to bless us (yes, even in material things) but more than that, He desires a real relationship with Him.  One that loves Him for who He is more than for what He does.

May God truly, really bless you!