Monday, June 01, 2009

Love is a Verb

I have a confession to make: I was a trifler. As I've written before, I'm reading Catherine Martin's Passionate Prayer Study Guide, and it has renewed my prayer life as well as my relationship with God. But last week, it opened up my eyes to the fact that when it comes to prayer, I'm a trifler. The nightly exercises in Passionate Prayer send me on a journey through the Bible looking for new understandings of prayer and of God. The night of my revelation I was searching for what God says He is to me, and this is what I found: rock, fortress, refuge, savior, shield, protector, power that saves me, place of safety, hiding place, helper, loving ally and tower of safety. And He has surrounded me with songs of victory, I am in His thoughts, and He has rescued me from death. Read that list again slowly, stop and think about what each one really means, because it is full of amazing promises.

I realized after reading these verses that my God is so much bigger than I give Him credit for, and I tend to couch my prayers carefully to not expose my own lying to myself. For other people, I may pray for great things: healing, revival, faith, and miracles. But for myself, I tend to pray just for strength or intangible things that I can't ever really say whether I received them. I also fall back on what is the most powerful prayer: Thy will be done. But I wasn't doing it out of submission in my heart or a true desire for His will to be done, I was doing it because subconsciously I was afraid that if I asked for big things and He didn't answer the way I wanted, my faith in Him would waver. In doing so, I was keeping my God small and my faith shallow!

A couple of nights later I found that those who trust in God with their prayers are blessed, healthy, have hope, confidence, and deep roots and produce good fruit. Now that's what I'm looking for with my prayers, with my life! Charles Spurgeon, who has become my theological hero, says it perfectly, (you need to keep in mind the analogy that with our prayers we are cashing a blank check that Jesus has covered for us): We want to be more business like and use common sense with God in pleading promises. If you were to go to one of the banks and see a man go in and out and lay a piece of paper on the table, and take it up again and nothing more - if he did that several times a day I think there would soon be orders to keep the man out. Those men who come to the bank in earnest present their checks, they wait until they receive their gold, and then they go, but not without having transacted real business. They do not put the paper down, speak about the excellent signature and discuss the excellent document, but they want their money for it, and they are not content without it. These are the people who are always welcome at the bank, and not triflers. Alas, a great many people play at praying. They do not expect God to give them an answer, and thus they are mere triflers. Our heavenly Father would have us do real business with Him in our praying. Spurgeon's quote nailed me right through the heart as a trifler. Here's what I wrote in my prayer journal that night: No more trifling prayers Lord. I want your gold in my life!

The pain has been bad the last couple of weeks, and I'm not sleeping through the night. Rather than toss and turn in my sleep, I've been praying through the night, covering my family and friends with prayer, and when sleep finally comes it is more restful. The prayers in my journal are deeper and more about my relationship with Him. I've had a couple of emotional bombs detonate in my life in the last couple of weeks, and even through the worst of it, I have been able to say that it is well with my soul. He has supplied a peace I've never felt before. Even yesterday on the high of Doogie's graduation, I was fearful of becoming too emotional. Any time in the last year I even thought about him graduating, I burst into tears. I gave it over to God Saturday night, and He gave me peace even in this. I cried a bit as I hugged Doogie after the ceremony, but otherwise I was fine. There is a steadiness within me that could only come from the Lord.

Last night I read another Spurgeon quote on prayer: The religious life is not a brooding over emotions, grazing the keel of faith in the shallows, of dragging the anchor of hope through the oozy tide of mud as if afraid of encountering the healthy breeze. Away! with your canvas spread to the gale, trusting in Him, who rules the raging of the waters. The safety of the tinted bird is to be on the wing. If its haunt be near the ground - if it fly low - it exposes itself to the fowler's net or snare. If we remain groveling on the low ground of feeling and emotion, we shall find ourselves entangled in a thousand meshes of doubt and despondency, temptation and unbelief. Hope thou in God.

So how is your prayer life? Mine is thriving, because I am presenting my check and waiting for the gold. Just a little more Spurgeon before I am through for the day: We who believe the promise of God should rejoice in the prospect of divine revivals in our souls, and as we experience them our holy joy should overflow. Are we thirsting? Let us not murmur but sing...let us ask that the Scripture we have read and our devotional exercises, may not be an empty formality, but a channel of grace to our souls. O that God the Holy Spirit would work in us in all His mighty power, filling us with all the fullness of God.

Love is a Verb by Gary Chapman is subtitled Stories of What Happens When Love Comes Alive, and this book is full of love! In a format similar to the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Chapman has collected several stories about how the power of love has completely transformed lives. Marriages reborn, children who teach about the true meaning of love, and love even through illness, every story is an illustration about how God uses other people to teach us how to love and how He loves us. After each story, Chapman gives a short summary about how the reader can apply the message to his/her own life. Every story is uplifting, and many may induce some tears. This book brought a smile to my face every time I opened the covers.

The winners of the Chicken Soup for the Soul contest were Susan Reindl and Carol Rybka. Congratulations to both of them! I am starting a new contest today for a copy of Saints in Limbo by River Jordan. It's a beautiful fiction story of a widow who has lost all reason to live, but a special gift offers her hope for the future. To sign up, just send me an email before 10pm on Thursday, June 4th. Good luck!