Turning Points: #MovingForward

Week 3 — it’s been tough — but I truly believe that my decision to join the Proverbs31 OBS for #AConfidentHeart  represents a BIG turning point for me.

There is, and has always been One that knew me:

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.  (Psalms 139:13-16, NRSV)

He has been waiting patiently for me to have that “V-8” headslap, or “Aha” moment, that led me directly to Him.

Given the events of my most recent past, that moment has finally arrived — and I am more than ready and motivated to #MoveForward.

One of the suggested topics for this week’s Blog Hop is sharing practical ways that I have begun the process of turning away from the shadows of my doubts and toward the light. While this takes me well beyond my comfort zone — forcing me to start to share my story and expose imperfections, ripping part of my mask away, I chose this topic.

I was baptized Catholic and attended parochial school to high school, I attended Mass faithfully, received all of the Sacraments. I have always had faith, and a little ray of hope, no matter what has occurred in my life.  Life events have been devastating at times — and when things occur, I always return to the Church for comfort, healing, and insight — yet, I have never been fully satisfied and fall away again and again, and bad things keep happening for no apparent reason.  I have blamed Him, because I have never had a strong, trusting relationship with Him, nor the full understanding of His promises and sacrifices on my behalf. I really want to build that relationship. I know that He’s not going to just wave a magic wand and make everything better — I need to work with Him so that he can work through me.

In working through Chapter 4, I have been forced to start examining how the combination of the absence of a full understanding of the depth and breadth of His love and the events of my past have influenced the course and path of my life to this point. In Chapter 5 of #AConfidentHeart, the focus is on using what I have learned to keep #MovingForward from the past.

I have been as Renee notes on p. 71, “Running from my past and my pain.” I REALLY didn’t want to revisit any of the past — I would have preferred that Renee had provided some sure-fire means to maintain the masquerade and to allow me to just keep #MovingForward.  She did however, provide the magic bullet for “looking back to move forward.” The suggestions, while painful to tackle, will keep me from “running from the healing work God wants to do in my heart (p. 71)” — and repeating the behavior and mistakes of the past.

I have begun the process of moving from “broken to beautiful (p. 79),” and beyond the stigma of “stained and ruined,” as Melissa noted.

I am taking steps to turn away from doubt and toward truth:

The first step I took was prior to joining the OBS and turning toward Scripture — beginning with reviewing passages that offered guidance on coping with adversity, dealing with loss, and working through various manifestations of my doubt. I also started looking at other peoples daily devotionals for insight on how to interpret the Word and use it to get through my most recent trials. I began to pray daily to Him, to the Blessed Virgin, and to various patron Saints.

This first step led me to signing up for the OBS.

While not necessarily step 3 (for there have been other baby steps) the next major step has been working through Chapters 4 and 5, cognizant of the messages contained in Chapters 1-3. As a result, with His guidance, I have begun to prepare a timeline of my life with key events, including painful memories, and resultant emotions. I then asked the Holy Spirit to show me the consequences. Everything is coming in bits and pieces, and it is going to take some time to fully process and work through what I am uncovering.

For example, understanding the full impact of the hurt that my mother inflicted on me at a very young age when her words or actions made me feel that she believed she had produced a poor, imperfect creature doomed to failure. This was particularly hard to process in a positive way at that time, because I knew, and have always known that she cherished the gift of both my brother and me to the day that she died. She waited a long time for us, and she almost lost me and her life in the process of bringing me into the world.

I am taking steps to turn away from self and toward God:

I still pray daily, but with the guidance of the Spirit, the tenor of my prayers have changed. I still review the Scriptures, but with a different level of insight.

Unfortunately, my inability to understand her motivations or emotions at the time, coupled with the cruelty of other children who gave me a nickname that stuck with me all the way to high school, caused some very regrettable decisions on my part and resulted in behavior that I am not proud of as well as lead to some very dark moments in my life. I constantly wear a mask — I don’t want anyone to see my vulnerability — I am driven always to excel in order to prove myself in every aspect of my life. I am also a survivor of a rape, and have used alcohol trying to escape pain and fear. I have suffered from bulimia, depression, anxiety, and tremendous fear and insecurity.

As I have started to work things through with Him, I believe that the reality is, that my mother may have been processing some of her childhood pain through her words and deeds. Like me, she struggled most of her life with a weight problem — so when it became evident that I was going to struggle with the same, she must have felt responsible somehow — guilty, and desperately wanting to spare me from hurt, and hoping that she could make my life different than hers.

I will keep turning from the darkness and toward the light:

One by one, with his guidance, I will tackle each of the things that I uncover.

For example, I have forgiven my mother — and have a better understanding of her motivation, which has caused a lingering regret about what our relationship could have been had we addressed some of this while she was alive. (I will work this through with Him as well)

I was particularly struck by Melissa’s story and the promises for the “stained and ruined,” particularly,

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”     Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)

As a result, I will work to fully appreciate that through Him, I can finally overcome both the trauma of rape and the feelings and responses it triggered.

Simultaneously, I will be seeking understanding of the reasons for my recent losses — my job, my beloved canine companion; and our family trials — my other half’s significant health issues. All the while reminded, that the plan is in motion, and through increased wisdom, I will be better equipped to follow it:

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, (Jeremiah 29:11-13, NRSV)

I will continue to turn away from the negative and toward the positive — praying — increasing the power of my prayer with the guidance of the Holy Spirit; and continuing to reflect on His promises in order to do my part in fulfilling the plans that he has for me.

#MovingForward: Living Beyond the Shadow of My Doubts

MovingForward

This Week’s Truth

He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? (Luke 24:38, NRSV)

Exploration/Affirmation

When I stumbled on the Proverbs31 Ministries website, I saw the ad for their next online bible study and it spoke directly to my heart. I signed up immediately. Since I have started this study, I have had several very emotional revelations. The biggest of these is that it is likely that everything that has been happening in my life for the last several years is my wake up call to surrender — to Him, once and for all — and that He has been waiting pretty patiently for me to do so.

So — this week we are working through Chapters 4 and 5 of A Confident Heart by Renee Swope. As I began to read the material, I was overcome with a range of emotions — pain, anger, resistance, and finally acceptance and willingness to try anything to make myself feel better. All of this just reinforces the fact that I can’t #MoveForward effectively in my everyday life, or in my journey with and to Him, until I open up my heart and begin to work through all of the issues and situations from my past that keep impinging on both my ability to be consistent in my belief and trust in Him and my ability to perform in all areas.

The title of Chapter 5 — Living Beyond the Shadow of My Doubts, lets me know that once I identify the triggers and responses, I can work daily to heal. The title of Chapter 4 Hope for My Future Despite the Pain of My Past — reassures me that once I begin to heal, in faith, I will be able to reaffirm my trust and listen to what He is trying to tell me. Combining the wisdom and exercises of the two chapters will help me start living a fuller life daily — and hopefully I won’t be the only one to benefit from that.

The context of the verse for the week is in the aftermath of the crucifixion, when Jesus miraculously appears to his disciples. While he is offering them every blessing, he notices their disbelief — they think perhaps they are seeing a ghost. He is disconcerted because He feels that even if they don’t remember the words of the prophets, they should certainly remember what He told them earlier:

Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” (Luke 18:31-33, NRSV)

BUT,

…they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18:34, NRSV)

So he is moved to remind them in this passage:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:36-49, NRSV)

Inspiration

This made me think several thoughts at once — He’s been waiting for me to open my heart, is not pleased that I am suffering and anxious, or that I entertain troubling thoughts about things that shouldn’t be troubling at all.

Some of you know that I have been desperately seeking employment after having been told that my current contract would not be renewed beyond October 31, 2013. (And this DEADLINE seems to loom over my head in red letters). This news comes on the heels of dealing with significant concerns regarding my other half’s health, losing 2 people who were dear to me, and having to put my beloved canine baby to sleep after 13 years.

This week — I have the opportunity to interview for 3 different positions — any of which would be a great opportunity for #MovingForward. This, of course, is great news, and I do feel blessed. HOWEVER — (isn’t there always a HOWEVER); with my confidence at an all-time low, particularly after having already been through a few great interviews over the last few months with no offer, uncertainty has rooted itself in my heart, and doubt is whispering in my ear as I prepare for these interviews. Because this process seems so heavily dependent upon what others think of me and may abilities — I have reverted to seeking my worth other than through Him.

I find some small consolation in the disbelief of the disciples — for it tells me that they, too, were fallible. The passage also reminded me that He has likely told me over and over, in many different ways, how to overcome my doubt and uncertainty.

Just prior to starting this study, I had been trying to work my way back to Him through prayer. I had been praying well-know prayers and I often sought guidance from the Spirit to help me personalize them. In relation to my concern about my abilities and getting through the interviews, the following verses caught my attention:

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” (Psalms 31:14, NRSV)

in God I trust; I am not afraid. What can a mere mortal do to me? (Psalms 56:11, NRSV)

Reflection/Prayer

LORD, let me always remember the sacrifice that You made for my salvation. When insecurity makes me begin to falter in my trust and belief in You, let me understand that Jesus is dismayed since he has repeatedly assured me that He sends upon me what His Father promised. Let me remember that for this, and many other reasons, I need not be afraid of anything that happens nor entertain disquieting thoughts, because mere mortals cannot harm me and I can always rely on You in times of trial. It’s time to move forward, working through the lessons You have for me from the pain of my past in order to live beyond the shadow of my doubts. In Jesus’ name, I pray, AMEN (See: Luke 24:38; 

How do you determine your worth? (And why does it always come up short?)

I have earned the respect and admiration of others through a variety of accomplishments and in many cases have outperformed both my own and other’s expectations for me, but I keep pushing for more, because it never seems like it’s enough. I have a great family and support system, the members of which I love and I know that they love me, yet often I have expectations that can’t be met and dreams that go unfulfilled. I have a huge closet full of clothes, shoes, and drawers full of accessories; a nice home, two vehicles, and lots of state-of-the art electronics; but they don’t last … in fact, nothing I have, or do, and no one that I know or love has ever offered enough to fill a lingering void, nor salve deep wounds … and I have found myself in some very dark places over the years as a result.

So as Renee Swope (2011) notes, I often feel “that aching emptiness we know when something or someone fails us — that cannot be filled by food, family, shopping, friends, sex, alcohol, or anything else (p. 56),” further, “If [I] am doing well, [I] feel fulfilled. If [I] am not doing well, [I] feel empty and worthless (p. 58).” Of course, the measurements of doing well are worldly standards and determination of my worth thus often rests with what I call the 4 Ps — people, performance, position/power, and possessions. This seems to cause me to repeatedly come up short, and cannot begin to address the need for healing of my long-broken heart.

Today’s Truth

If as Swope posits, “the wells of our hearts were created to be filled by God alone (p. 60),” then I need to move from reliance on the 4 Ps to reliance on the 3 Gs (Father, Son, and Spirit).

What better place to start than with the one who knows me best:

Psalm139v13_16

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.  (Psalms 139:13-16, NRSV)

No one can possibly know me the way that He does. He determined my path before I was conceived and formed me in my mother’s womb.

Exploration/Affirmation

Because I am one of His creations, I am “wonderfully made.” I was also, as Renee Swope (2011) noted, “made for love that isn’t measured by our last accomplishment but marked by God’s measureless grace (p. 62)”

Proverbs 19 22

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 36:7)

No one can protect and defend me like He can. Nothing can possibly satisfy my needs and desires as He can. And no one else can begin to help me heal my heart like He can.

So, I took some time to refute the 4 Ps, and affirm the 3 Gs as my next step toward gaining #AConfidentHeart:

As to measuring my worth by the 4 Ps standards and measures:

  • Relying on the opinion of others has been disappointing, to say the least — Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. (Jeremiah 7:8, NRSV) ; no matter how hard I have tried to please or how many accolades I have obtained — the response is often hollow, and sometimes false; thus, It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in mortals. (Psalms 118:8)
  • As for the clothing, the property, the vehicles, and the “toys,” they quickly lose value and must be replaced, not to mention they are of no value when I die — Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19);  but the promises made by God are invaluable thus, I should store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:20-21)
  • The pursuit of position/power yielded little of value when I pursued it with a self-centered intent, for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, (Luke 18:14b); and I did learn from this behavior, adopting a desire to serve — thus (albeit unwittingly) I reaped the benefits of Commit[ting] [my] work to the Lord, and [my] plans [were] established. (Proverbs 16:3) — as, all who humble themselves will be exalted (Luke 18:14c) though regrettably only for a short time.

So, as I turn to the 3 Gs, I affirm that:

  • Relying on the Father, means relying on someone willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for me — For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)
  • To live in the Word and attain all of the promises He made in recognition of the fulfillment of His Father’s will  — I long to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that [I]may be filled with all the fullness of God.
  • Those who trust in their own wits are fools; but those who walk in wisdom come through safely. (Proverbs 28:26) Thus, I seek the Spirit’s counsel in understanding the Divine Truth and finding the words to express myself in properly-motivated prayer.

Inspiration

My goal, then, is to learn to rely on His promises and to seek His mercy and grace daily:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

Reflection/Prayer

From Paul’s epistle:

LORD, I pray that, according to the riches of [Your] glory, [You] may grant that [I] may be strengthened in [my] inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in [my] heart through faith, as [I] am being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that [I] may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that [I] may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:16-21)

References

NRSV translation of The Holy Bible

Swope, R. (2011). A Confident Heart, Grand Rapids, MI: Revell Publishers.

#AConfidentHeart: The difference between salvation and satisfaction in Christ

Today’s Truth

Eph 3 - 17,19

Exploration

Today’s truth comes from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. This particular verse is embedded in his prayer for spiritual blessings.

One of the questions that arose in the course of my current bible study is: “What is the difference between salvation and satisfaction in Christ (Swope, p. 64)?”

Because I often struggle with my journey toward satisfaction — I decided to explore this further for this post today, and in brief, some of the conclusions I reached were:

Renee’s statement on p. 61, “Salvation is a one-time decision, but finding satisfaction in Christ and living in the security of his promises is a daily process,” resonated deeply with me.

Very simply put, salvation in Christ is the Father’s ultimate promise, and only required that I be baptized in order to benefit by it; while satisfaction in Christ requires me to commit daily to living my life in accordance with His Will, in compliance with His Word, and in the arms of His love.

Affirmation

The affirmation of my very simple conclusion above comes from my reflection on the Word:

Salvation

  • Salvation is a gift that comes through His grace, and not through anything that I or anyone else do/does; For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NRSV)
  • the sign of this gift was the passion of Christ; But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NRSV)
  • this sacrifice represents the unfathomable depth of His love and magnitude of His promise; For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16, NRSV)
  • and He has guaranteed that I cannot lose this gift; I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28, NRSV)
  • The acceptance of this gift requires the one-time decision Renee talks about – a declaration of faith and true contrition for my sins; because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. (Romans 10:9-10, NRSV). This was done for me through Baptism, which I have affirmed.

Satisfaction

Satisfaction in Christ requires a commitment on my part to demonstrate my gratitude for the gift of salvation. It is carried out daily in actively seeking to develop a fuller understanding of the full dimensions of His love: to become “rooted and grounded” in His love, to trust in His promises, and to live according to His Word (Ephesians 3:17-19).

In practice, this is far more difficult, but I am starting to develop a framework to keep me on track – some of the steps I take include:

  • (1) remembering the “Why?” and the “Who?”– Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, NRSV)
  • (2) taking Paul’s prayer for spiritual blessings seriously and seeking guidance from the Spirit on the “How?” – I ask for the gift of the seven graces (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear) so that I may
    • act daily in accordance with His will; Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2, NRSV);
    • and have the ability to deal with trials and adversity as they come with the knowledge that nothing can compromise His love for me; For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39, NRSV);
    • and the assurance that He will see me through anything: I will be with [her] in trouble, I will deliver [her], and honor [her]. (Psalms 91:15).
  • (3) always reminding myself that even when I falter, I can move forward – because he will never let me fail completely; though [she] stumbles, [she] shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds [her] by the hand. (Psalms 37:24, NRSV)

Inspiration

23AprP113BA800x500

Prayer

Lord, even when I stumble, You never let me fall headlong; rather You are always with me, always deliver me, and always honor me. Please know that knowing this truth gives me confidence and a desire to seek my full satisfaction in You. Almighty Father, I am grateful for the gift of my salvation, which I recognize as an expression of the unfathomable depth of Your love for me. Let me always remember that this gift was afforded through Your grace and the ultimate sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus. Let me remain cognizant of its enormous promise – that of eternal life. Let me reaffirm my acceptance of, and gratitude for this gift daily – by allowing Christ to dwell in my heart through faith; through seeking the counsel of the Holy Spirit to further my knowledge and understanding of the Divine Truth; and by striving to comprehend the dimensions of the love of Christ – knowing that nothing will be able to separate me from Your love. In Jesus’ name, I pray, AMEN 

Exchanging fear for faith: #priceless

I have spent my entire life in a big “shadow of doubt” created by insecurity that developed at a very early age (Swope, p. 21). Insecurity arising from my perspective of how others’ viewed or valued me, which in turn, determined my self-worth  and has continued to do so. That shadow always looms, as the insecurity manifests itself in many ways and many situations — its symptoms are not pleasant — fear, anxiety, depression, defensive and offensive behavior and caustic speech, to name a few. I have desperately sought to get rid of that shadow and its consequences in a variety of ways — some of which I am not terribly proud of. I have tried, over and over, in many different ways and many different arenas to prove that I am “perfect,” or at least well above average, when in reality I am flawed, and average. I have pretended that everything is fine, and that my life is going well and that I am satisfied, because some of my “successes,” by most standards should have been enough. The pretense has been very costly at times. So, I now take great comfort in the fact that “because His love is perfect, I don’t have to be (Swope, pp. 29-46).”

I have been seeking to prove my worth to and through others, through my jobs, promotions, new cars, new technologies and gadgets — and it hasn’t worked. I love my family and friends, and I know that they love me. But, I still keep seeking, “what a person desires: unfailing love (Proverbs 19:22).” So, I want to believe that, as Renee Swope (2011) states, “[I] was made for love that isn’t measured by my last accomplishment, but marked by God’s measureless grace (p. 62).”

There is indeed an emptiness in my heart. No amount of validation from others, no single accomplishment (or even a compendium of all of them), no possession, no career path, promotion, accolade has or will give me value or a true sense of significance — nor will any of these fill that emptiness. Why? Because I guess I finally realize that material goods wear out or lose value quickly, and performance-based measurement of my worth, is dependent upon the opinion, action, or behavior of others (who are likely seeking their value in the same fashion). I also don’t like who I am very much when I seek my worth in this fashion. The realization that the emptiness can ONLY be filled by God, because reliance on any other validation will never provide the abiding love and acceptance marked by His grace is a big, and welcome “wake-up call,” at a time when it is much needed. It implies that “His love will not fail, even when I do (Swope, pp. 47-64).” That type of love is #priceless (Pure; Redeeming; Inexhaustible; Comforting; Energizing; Liberating; Enduring; Supportive; and Sustaining)!

In my quest for #AConfidentHeart, I want to move from “fear-filled thinking to faith-filled believing (Swope, p. 228).”

The following When I/Then He statements address my “Top Ten” doubts and insecurities — they serve as a basis for replacing my doubts and insecurities with His truths:

  1. When I find myself seeking validation of my  worth through the 4 Ps (people, performance, possessions, or position); Then He will remind me that what I really desire is the unfailing love (Proverbs 19:22) that can be found through the 3 Gs (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
  2. When I feel as though life has filled with adversity and has become too difficult; Then He will remind me that He is with me in times of trouble, that He will rescue me, and honor me (Psalms 91:15).
  3. When I sense doubt creeping in and worry becoming all-consuming and non-productive; Then He will remind me that he cares about me and I can surrender my cares to Him (1 Peter 5:7).
  4. When I think that I have no strength left to face the latest trial; Then He will remind me that through His strength I can do all things (Philippians 4:13).
  5.  When I perceive that others are against me and feel beaten down, or defeated; Then He will remind me that no one can be against me if He is for me (Romans 8:31), and that I am a conqueror through His love (Romans 8:37).
  6. When I start to worry about finances, and finding a job that will provide the basic necessities; Then He will remind me that He knows what I need, and it will be provided (Matthew 6:32).
  7. When I begin to feel as though I will never find a sense of peace and contentment; Then He will remind me that I can find peace and confidence in Him (John 16:33); and can learn to be content in any situation or circumstance (Philippians 4:12).
  8. When I am tempted to pretend that things are fine, when in reality I am FINE (Frazzled, Irritated, Neurotic, and Exhausted (Swope, p. 31)); Then He will remind me that He can give me rest (Matthew 11:28), peace, and confidence (John 16:33).
  9. When I feel as though I don’t know what to do next; Then He will remind me that I simply have to ask him, and He will give me wisdom (James 1:5).
  10. When I find myself feeling uncertain about my next steps or my purpose: Then He  will remind me to rely on Him to guide me (Proverbs 3:5-6); and that His major goal is that I enjoy the full riches of complete understanding of the divine truth. (Colossians 2:2).

References

NRSV translation of The Holy Bible

Swope, R. (2011). A Confident Heart, Grand Rapids, MI: Revell Publishers.

#priceless love: motivation to pray

Today’s Truth

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. (Ephesians 3:16-17, NRSV)

Exploration

This prayer for spiritual blessings comes from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. In this segment, his hope is that they will develop the capacity to pray in meaningful ways and to develop a strong relationship with Christ.

Given the definition of some of the key words and phrases: Paul’s hope appears to be based on God’s strong desire that through a combination of faith, prayer, belief in and understanding of the divine truth, and the love of Christ, each person’s status as a follower, or one of the chosen will be solidified.

Rephrased, with these definitions: I pray that, God, in His Divine Wisdom, may grant that your belief be fortified, through prayer and the counsel of the Holy Spirit, and that Christ inhabits your core through faith, as you become entrenched and secure in His love.

  • Riches of His glory = the most precious realities of the spiritual realm
  • Strengthened = fortified; made stronger
  • Inner being = the heart of a believer
  • Power = capacity to do something
  • Dwell = live; inhabit
  • Heart = the core; source and center of all emotion, where the deepest and most sincere feelings are located
  • Faith = confidence/belief, even in the absence of logical proof
  • Rooted = well-established, entrenched
  • Grounded = secure

Application

I pray, in fact, I pray a lot. Once I found out that He wanted me to bring all of my concerns to Him, I flooded the airwaves. Some issues appear to be taken care of right away, while others seem to linger, unresolved, or perhaps, are resolved in a way that I never asked for or imagined.

While Paul affirms that the underlying motivation for prayer should generally be spiritual growth, James words really struck a chord with me — there are right and wrong ways to pray — all based on an appropriate motivation — love:

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:3, NRSV)

I wish I could say that I had never prayed a “wrong” prayer, but it wouldn’t be true. I have asked for specific self-motivated outcomes — that people be changed in order to make my life easier, and for situations to change so that my own needs are met at the expense of others. The reality is that I find it easier to pray “appropriately,” when all is going well, or in light of evidence that a prayer has been answered in my favor. It’s much more difficult to formulate an appropriate prayer when I am feeling beaten down, insecure, unloved, anxious, weak, overwhelmed, or defeated. (Of course, these are the times that my motivation should strictly follow Paul’s wishes — yet, easier said than done sometimes.)

In reflecting, I know that the motivation behind my prayer should be to strengthen my understanding and my relationship with God so that I can reap all of the rewards of his priceless and unfailing love. It should thus always be guided by the Spirit, rooted in love, and cognizant of the promises held in the Scriptures.

Inspiration

What do I truly long for?

Every [wo]man longs for love that never fails. (Proverbs 19:22a, NIV)

What are some of the particular promises that I can count on when I am faced with impossible circumstances, or life becomes too difficult?

Jesus replied, “Things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27, NRSV)

 [She] will call out to me, and I will answer [her]. I will be with [her] in times of trouble. I will save [her] and honor [her]. (Psalms 91:15, NRSV)

All of which are exactly what I need and can only be found through Him — with the aid of right-motivated prayer. 

Reflection and Prayer

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. (Romans 8:26, NIV)

Lord, let the Holy Spirit guide my prayer. When I pray, let it always be with the proper motivation, rooted and grounded in love. Let me remember that every person longs for a love that never fails, and I am no exception. Through Your priceless love, I can have full confidence that when I call out with proper motivation, You will answer. You will be with me in my times of trouble. You will save me and honor me. For what is impossible with people is possible with You. In Jesus’ name, I pray. AMEN (See Ephesians 3:16-17; James 4:3; Luke 18:27; Proverbs 19:22a; and Psalms 91:15, NRSV)