Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Prayer and Heaven

Day 21: Prayer

I am so thankful for prayer. 

The word prayer gets tossed around quite a bit these days.  People says things like, "I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers."  It takes real intentionality to actually follow through on that promise.  Some prayers can be just words with no real connection behind them like a memorized series of words that come out of the mouth with no thought necessary.  It can be easy to fall into a prayer rut or to feel inadequate when it comes to prayer and not even know where to begin.

Prayer is a conversation that involves talking and listening.  Prayer is not just a wish list sent up to the sky, but a divine encounter with the one who Created me.  Some prayers are short while others are long.  Prayer is essential.  It must come before, during, and after anything! 

I am so thankful that the LORD has given the gift of prayer to those who call on His name.  Not having prayer would be even worse than a pilot who has lost contact with Air Traffic Control.  The pilot can attempt to rely on his own judgement and what he can see and understand, but most likely he will be up against a battle that would be much easier if he could just get in contact again.  Some situations may even be impossible to come out of safely without contact and effective communication.

Prayer is so vital.  Even though I know this, I still often fail to apply this knowledge and stay in constant contact.  Thankfully the LORD is gracious enough to remind me often.  Hopefully as I continue to learn this lesson, the times that I neglect spending more time in prayer get shorter and shorter because I recognize sooner my mistake.

I love that prayer can be just one word - "Jesus!"  I love that when I don't know what to say I can just sit there and say, "Lord, I don't know what to say."  I love that prayer can take hours.  I love that there is constant intercession for me always (Hebrews 7:25 and Romans 8:27).  Jesus prays for us 24/7! 

It has been so exciting when we have seen God answer prayers.  He always answers better than we could have imagined.  This doesn't mean that He always answers in the way I wanted or according to what I was asking for, but He always offer what is best.  I then have the choice to take it or leave it.  Taking it with gratitude is always the best option.  I don't know everything.  He does.  It's not always easy when His answer is different than what I was hoping for, but it comes down to trust.  Do I trust Him enough to chose His way instead of mine?

I love specific prayers because it allows me to see God move in more specific ways.  We often make a list of our needs, spend time praising Him for who He is and how He has blessed us, confess any sins or shortcomings asking for forgiveness, and then lay the list out before Him asking for help for these specific areas.  We use this list as a way to turn over these things to His control trusting Him to take care of it in His way and in His time.  It is such a joy to update that list and record how He answered.

This is another good reason to keep a prayer journal.  It is so easy to forget what God has done in the past if we don't intentionally record it.  We have a wooden box with these verses on the front:

"We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about his power and his mighty wonders." (Psalm 78:4 NLT)

"But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren." (Deuteronomy 4:9 NLT)

We want to remember what the LORD has done and tell these stories to our children and grandchildren.  We want them to remember, too.  He deserves the glory for always giving us more than we deserve.  He takes such great care of us, and one of the ways we know this is because of prayer.

I cannot imagine my life without prayer.  I cannot imagine a day when I could not talk to my Heavenly Father.  What would I do?  Would I rely on my own understanding instead of trusting in Him?  Life would be so much more difficult without His guidance, without His loving words, without His truth, and without this ability and gift to communicate with Him like I can with no one else.  Only He sees the deepest parts of my being and loves me anyway.  It's remarkable.

Prayer can also be very uniting.  Praying with my husband brings us closer to each other.  Praying with my children, especially after one has disobeyed and needed correction, brings us closer.  Praying with a friend or family member can show them how much I care and love them.  Praying for my enemies helps me love them even when I don't want to and even when I don't like what they do.

I personally don't really like the cute little plaques that can be purchased that say, "Prayer Changes Things."  It can be misunderstood, I think.  The actual prayer doesn't necessarily change things.  It's God who uses prayer to change hearts, like mine, and through prayer we see circumstances change and God glorified.  Our focus must be on Him and not on our prayer.  It's a subtle difference, perhaps, but one that must be made clear in our own hearts and in our conversations with others.

One of my favorite scriptures about prayer is:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6,7)

Thank You, LORD, for prayer!  Please teach us and help us understand the value and need for prayer all the more!

Day 22: Heaven

Wow, the promise of Heaven.  The promise of Heaven is for those who have called on the name of the Lord Jesus as Savior and Lord and have been redeemed as a result.  Heaven is real and is far better than we can understand here and now.  I am so thankful for Heaven.  I am thankful that I will again get to see those I have loved who are already there.  I am thankful that I will get to meet the very people who are mentioned in the Bible and those God used to pen the Bible.  I'll get to meet my miscarried child there.  I am thankful that I will get to meet Jesus face to face.  It's too much to fathom.  Eternity.  Forever.  What does that even look like?

We use the word forever so incorrectly.  "I haven't seen that movie in forever."  "It feels like forever since I have eaten anything."  Our finite minds have a hard time grasping the infinite.

Jesus gives us so many examples in scripture of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.  We are told that He Himself is the light there.  There is no sun (Revelation 21:22,23).

There is so much I could go into about Heaven in this Thanksgiving post.  However I feel that it would be better to go into more detail at another time in a separate post.  There is much more that we can know about Heaven, much of which is greatly misunderstood without careful study of the scriptures, and I would not want to do anyone a disservice by not going into more depth on the subject of Heaven.  I will do that at another time.

In the meantime I want to thank the LORD for preparing a place for me and for all those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. 

If you are not sure that your eternity is secured in Heaven with Jesus, visit this website and learn more about what you can do to saved, redeemed, and free from the bondage of sin and death.  It's the most important decision you can ever make!

Thank You, LORD, for Heaven.  Thank You that there is more to life than just what we see here on earth.  I don't understand it all, but I trust You to tell me what I need to know now and to help me live with an eternal perspective for Your glory!

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