The prayer, part 1

What he sees

Today on Choosing Peace, you’ll read about the power of prayer and a man named Christopher. In part 2, we’ll start digging into The Lord’s Prayer.

The power of prayer
I didn’t understand the power of prayer until I experienced it personally. Honestly, I didn’t get it. The whole thing seemed mechanical to me. That’s because it was. My own, personal trust in God was missing. That’s why I didn’t get it. I was picking up the wrong phone. I was picking up the Do-Me-A-Favor Phone or the Get-Me-Out-Of-This-Mess Phone, not the God—I-Need-You Phone. Until I did. (More about that shortly.)

Talking to God—praying—connects me to God, builds my faith, and activates the power of God.

Remember this Bible verse: “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2b; NHEB). My boss, Father Ben, describes prayer like this: “From your mouth to God’s ears.” I like that sentiment.

Scripture gives many examples of the power of prayer. Here are seven of my favorites.
♦ God receives Elijah’s offering and the people fall on their faces ~ 1 Kings 18:30-39
♦ Jesus casts out a demon ~ Mark 9:17-29
♦ Israel is rescued from the Syrian army ~ 2 Kings 6:15-23
♦ Peter raises the dead ~ Acts 9:36-42
♦ God fights for his people ~ 2 Chronicles 20:1-32 (see the last sentence of verse 12)
♦ An angel rescues Peter from prison ~ Acts 12:1-11
♦ Jesus feeds a massive crowd ~ Matthew 14:13-21

How have I experienced the power of prayer in my own life?

Healed
One thing I’ve learned time and time again is that prayer changes people. A lady in our life group had mixed feelings about me. I understood why. After she heard me pray faithfully out loud for her children, she came to see me differently. Her heart warmed toward me. She grew to love me. Prayer knitted out hearts together. That was a beautiful thing to watch unfold.

In this post, I described my time at Camp Charlene and the power of prayer to heal our marriage. Truly remarkable. That chapter included miracles—for Brandon and for me—and so much more.

God provides healing and unity through the power of prayer.

Blessed
For years after Brandon and I got married, I prayed for a child. And I knew our child would be a son. I felt him in my heart. At the time, I didn’t understand why we had to wait for years—through tests, through infertility, through procedures, through delays between procedures. But now, as I look back, I know that our Logan was born on the right day in the right year in the right way. The doctor told me on the day I turned 39 that our Logan would be born the next week. Logan attended the right school, was in the right class, had the right teachers. We found the right church when he was in fifth grade, he was in the right student ministry, he got saved after attending the right Disciple Now weekend with the right college students pouring truth into him—asking Logan the right questions. And now he’s in college—right university, right professors, right friends, right church, right life.

The words
Can I put into words how motherhood has changed my life? Nope. But here are a few words anyway. Amazing. Loving. Fulfilling. Surprising (in a very good way). Expanding. Challenging. Learning. Forgiving and asking for forgiveness. Smiles. Hugs. Kisses. Tears. Depth. Gratitude. Prayer.

The question
When your child goes away to college, your prayer life intensifies. Big-time. You realize so tangibly that your child is in God’s hands, not yours. And you pray a lot.

My friend Meagan taught me this important question to ask Logan. “How can I pray for you?” That short question says all these things and more. “I care about what you need.” “God cares too.” “I’m praying for you.” “Prayer makes a difference.” “God takes care of us.” “We can trust and rely on God.”

Asking that question—“How can I pray for you?”—blesses people. It really does. When Meagan asks me how she can pray for me, I feel loved. I feel heard. I feel valued. Try it with someone you love. When we receive someone’s answer to that question, we pray, which activates the power of God. That reminds me of my favorite line from this old hymn: “What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.”

Saved
I was saved because of the power of prayer. Even though I wasn’t a Christian yet, I prayed for my first husband—for God to help him in a specific way. And God delivered. Mightily. So I gave my heart to Jesus. The God I’d learned about while growing up became real in my life. Very, very real. To learn more about that incredible chapter, read The Post-Trauma Transformation, part 1.

How many people prayed for my salvation before that point? I have no idea. I look forward to hugging and thanking them all in heaven. I sure do.

If you don’t know what I mean when I say “I was saved,” read the posts called Thanksgiving from the first series on Choosing Peace. There’s nothing more important than the truth about our souls, who (or what) we worship, and where we’ll spend eternity. If you don’t know God yet, I promise you that God is here.

And he’s calling….

He’s calling you.

Protected
Last month, I experienced the protection of God through the power of prayer.

Christopher
I work at a small church that I call St. Matt’s. Christopher comes to St. Matt’s frequently. Sometimes daily. Christopher sleeps under a nearby bridge and has schizophrenia. His appearance and behavior are unpredictable. He can be thin, with long hair and fingernails. He can be tidy looking, even with all of his missing teeth.

We usually invite Christopher to come on in and we visit—offering him water and snacks that our St. Matt’s Angels bring up for him. Most of the time, Christopher can have a reasonably normal conversation with me. But every now and then, he’s out of his mind.

Sometimes Christopher hears and sees things that aren’t there.

Not understanding
Christopher doesn’t understand things—like why he can’t dig through the church’s mailbox. And the fact that he can’t just hang out wherever he wants to—especially after people have asked him to leave. Sometimes Christopher refuses to leave various places, so he gets arrested routinely for criminal trespassing.

Not there
The other day when I arrived at work, Christopher was sitting on the bench by the front door. He was talking to someone. Unfortunately for Christopher, the someone that he was talking to wasn’t visible to me. Yet Christopher was talking. A lot.

I was the first person to arrive at work that day. I shot up a quick prayer that I’d be able to get in the door without difficulty. As I approached the door, I told Christopher to stay where he was because I needed to open up the office. He stood up, but didn’t follow me to the front door. Thank you, Lord.

The view
Once I was safely inside the building, I had a clear view of Christopher through the all-glass wall of my office and the all-glass front entrance to St. Matt’s. Christopher kept talking to The Person He Saw. Sometimes he’d punch The Person He Saw. It was a strange, disturbing scene.

When Father Ben arrived, he knew it wasn’t the kind of day when Christopher could be welcomed inside. I mentioned that people could not arrive at St. Matt’s and encounter Christopher by the door in this state of mind. Father Ben said repeatedly—through our security system’s intercom—“Christopher, you need to leave now.” About 30 minutes after Father Ben arrived and started asking him to leave, Christopher finally left.

Sunday
That Sunday, Christopher came to church at St. Matt’s. That same Sunday, Brandon and I went to our church and I asked our life group to pray that Christopher wouldn’t be outside St. Matt’s when I’m the first staff person to arrive. During our prayer time, my friend Elyse prayed about this. Hearing her pray for my safety really blessed me. I knew other people would be praying for me too.

The very next day, Christopher was arrested for criminal trespassing.

After I found out, I texted Meagan and Elyse to let them know and I thanked them for their prayers. The next Sunday, I told everyone in our life group about God’s answer to their prayers. They loved hearing that.

God works in our lives and encourages his children
through prayer—through our conversations with him.

Answered prayer
God’s answer to our prayers about Christopher taught me some things.

Conflicting requests
Other people were making a different request about Christopher. Some ladies at St. Matt’s were praying that Christopher wouldn’t get arrested. I understand that. He’s a vulnerable target in our large county jail. If he’s put in a cell by himself, the solitary confinement could make his mental state worse.

This example helped me to acknowledge that God receives conflicting requests all the time. Constantly. Which begs the question: Do I trust God to do the best thing at the best time? Do I, truly? Hmmm. Thought-provoking, to say the least.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” says the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9, New Heart English Bible

Trust
Because we don’t see what God sees or know what God knows; because he’s our loving Creator and Savior; because we’ve experienced his compassion and goodness, protection and provision, might and power in our own lives; because we believe and cling to his word—we trust him.

Thank you, God Almighty, for protecting me—in your way, in your time.

The timing
Speaking of not knowing what God knows, I didn’t know that Christopher was arrested on Monday until I went to the online inmate search thingy on Wednesday. God saw fit to answer our life group’s prayers in the affirmative. Quickly. But I didn’t know that he’d already said Yes. I don’t know everything. I don’t see everything. God does.

What he sees
Are there people or things that we’re praying diligently for that God is working diligently on, unbeknownst to us? Absolutely. I need to remember that. God’s thoughts are higher than mine. His ways are higher than mine. He sees The Total Picture and the intricate interweaving of lives and events—things that I don’t see.

And God sees Christopher. A sick and lonely man without a home. A man who wanders. A man who sees and says strange things. A man who’s angry and afraid sometimes. A man who punches the air sometimes. A man who prayed out loud for me in the office at St. Matt’s several weeks ago. A man who feels safe in God’s house. A man who loves Jesus.

One day, my friend Sam asked me to take a look at a burlap art piece of the face of Jesus that hangs on the wall at St. Matt’s. She asked me who it looks like. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then she mentioned Christopher and I saw it. The face of Jesus in that sculpture looks just like Christopher. The name Christopher means “bearer of Christ.” I chose this name for our frequent visitor before I knew what it meant. Now I’m smiling.

Unexpected
Eleven days after Christopher was arrested last month, he was back at St. Matt’s. But I wasn’t there. Unexpectedly. When throwing-up is a part of your morning, driving to work is not. I view this as God’s hand protecting me—not in a way that I could forecast or would have asked for. And on this unexpected Sick Day at home, I’m typing these words.

God’s ways are higher.

His ways are better.

Psalm 91
Two years ago, my friend Summer gave me a book for my birthday, Psalm 91 by Peggy Joyce Ruth. Now I recite Psalm 91, The Protection Psalm in the Bible, every morning. So do many other people. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I buy five copies at a time and keep them on hand to give to people as the Lord leads me.

Two dreams
Two years before I read Psalm 91, God gave me a dream related to it. He gave me another Psalm 91 dream right before I began reading the book. God and his word—Psalm 91—gave me the interpretations of those dreams, and so much more.

Three protection posts
When we think about protection, we usually think about physical protection. But God protects us more than that. He protects us physically. He protects us mentally. He protects us spiritually.

God protects us in body, mind and spirit.

If you’re encouraged by true stories about God’s protection of his people, I think these three posts will bless you.

Protected in body
God’s miraculous protection of me when I was driving to work one morning
Frozen on the Freeway

Protected in mind—in my thinking
A very revealing post in the Grieving series
The Big Why, part 4 (subtitle: The Protector)

Protected in spirit—warned about spiritual warfare to come
My two Psalm 91 dreams and many things God taught me
When the Need to Forgive Has Been Hidden, part 4

God is my protector.

Going deeper
Are you thirsty for a deeper relationship with God? Prayer takes us deeper and closer. Talk to God throughout your day—about anything and everything. Nothing about you or your life is trivial to God. He made you and he has plans for your life.

Go deeper.

Come closer.

Coming next: We’ll start digging into The Lord’s Prayer. I have a feeling that there will be some surprises. Until then, thanks for reading and for Choosing Peace.

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: Proverbs 3:5-6

Song for Healing: “In Reverence” by David Tolk

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