When I was a green seventeen-year old beginning my first year of college, I went through an orientation week affectionately called “WOW week” (aka Week of Welcome). In one of our mandatory sessions, the Dean of the College of Sciences asked us the following:
How many hours did you study in high school?
Do you know how to take notes?
Do you know the importance of rest?
Having graduated second in my high school class, I had little concern about my study habits because I knew they were sound. I am not a genius so I had to spend hours (about 30 hours/week) studying, taking detailed notes, recopying my notes as a study method, and prioritizing my projects. I continued these habits in college and managed to graduate cum laude. Persistence really does pay off.
A few years after college, this question was posed to me:
“Do we devote as much time to studying the Bible as we did studying for our chosen professions?”Continue reading →
Today, as I was preparing to listen to my daily reading in the YouVersion app, this verse popped up as the “verse of the day.” YouVersion has graphic designers that make these verse images and every so often I post them to Facebook or Twitter. This particular verse jumped out at me today, and I particularly love the emphasis this designer gave to the three words, “joyful, patient, and faithful.”
Now, in the context, this verse is part of a list of “things to be” from Paul the Apostle in the book of Romans. As I looked at this verse this morning, I thought, “Am I joyful, patient, and faithful?” Continue reading →
Clogged up parking lots. Fresh, clean backpacks. Crisp new clothes. Sharp pencils. Eager young faces… Yup, it’s back-to-school time!
No matter what form of education you choose for your child—homeschool, private school, or public school—we need to pray diligently through this season of life. The education process is indeed challenging.
I realize that many children are already in school, but that doesn’t mean you can’t shift your focus toward school-time prayers!
Below are links to some PDFs with prayers for you, your child’s teachers and (of course) your children. Some of you have only one child in these situations,some of you have multiple children. Your child may have special needs. These printables are merely springboards to guide your thoughts. I have made three PDFs; one for homeschoolers, school-aged kids (for public or private school), and college students.
I welcome additional suggestions in the comments below!
For those of you teaching, may the Lord grant you a calm spirit, a heart of patience, and diligent hands. Thank you for your efforts to teach the children entrusted to your care!
And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.
And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
There are so many reasons we need to engage in regular prayer with the Lord. Throughout the gospels, we repeatedly see Jesus taking time to pray alone. What does He pray about? Some prayers are recorded, some are not, but He sets an example for us to go to the Father and lay our hearts before Him.
Here, in the gospel according to Luke, Jesus gives His disciples an immediate command, and He does it twice: “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” After the initial command, Jesus also gets down and prays. He leads by example.
He gets up from His prayer and walks over to His disciples. They are so overcome with sadness that they had fallen asleep. It’s possible they fell asleep while they were praying (has that ever happened to you?). I can’t imagine how embarrassing that would be to have Jesus catch you sleeping when you were supposed to be praying. Peter—of all people—should have been praying (and sweating) because Jesus told Him earlier that Satan had asked to “sift him like wheat.”
“I can’t believe they fell asleep!”
The disciples never seem to fully grasp the perilousness of their position.
We, too, often fail to consider the precariousness of our situation until we are waist-deep in it. We fire off brief “arrow prayers,” but fail to get on our knees each and every day for some solid time with the Lord. Arrow prayers have their place, but they should not replace quiet, dedicated time alone with God.
“Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Just last week, I wrote a post on the importance of committing the Word to our heart so we can fight temptation (click here to read it). Study and prayer go together like bones and marrow—only when the two work together can we have life.
We, like Peter, have too much confidence in our own strength and conviction. Strength and conviction will not be enough when Satan decides to tempt us, and He pursues us every minute of every day. He wants us to fail desperately because we do not belong to Him!
Peter might have had this experience in mind when he wrote:
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
Peter knew the consequences of sleeping when He should’ve been praying. After this account, Peter denies knowing Jesus three times. He never thought He would deny Jesus, but when the rubber met the road He wasn’t ready.
Being asleep isn’t just a literal problem. We do need sleep and rest. However, we can be slumbering in the sense that we do not possess any situational awareness of pending danger. The devil wants us to think that we are safe from temptation. He wants us to be over-confident and, rather than keep watch, sleep the slumber of the care-free. It’s much easier to attack and kill your prey while they are sleeping. It’s much harder when they are on guard and possibly even fleeing.
Are you sleeping?
The lion is at the door! Pray hard, pray often, pray to the one who can strengthen you for the fight or flight.
For people like me who wage a daily war with depression, there is a phrase that pops up every so often, and we grow weary of saying it: “I’m depressed… Again.” It’s frustrating, upsetting, and draining. “Will this ever completely disappear? Surely people are sick of my black cloud… I know I am.”
You know you have to face the day again tomorrow. You know you’ll likely wonder why you bothered to get out of bed. You feel like nobody cares.
There is One who always cares. He already knows you’re hurting. He holds all your tears in a bottle. He watches the ongoing fight.
God cares. Jesus understands. The Holy Spirit strengthens.
You are not alone.
People will grow weary of your ups and downs, but God never will.
There is an old hymn we sometimes sing entitled “What a friend we have in Jesus.” Most people focus on the friendship bit, but I want to focus on an often overlooked part:
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged— Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge— Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.
Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear; May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.
Are you really carrying everything to God in prayer or do you come with a few requests and then carry the rest to your best friend from school? Don’t bring some of your requests to God, bring them ALL. Pour out the anguish of your soul. Confide your worries, fears, doubts and weaknesses. Carry everything to Him.
Every person that I have ever loved in my life has let me down. That is not a reflection on their quality as a friend, but rather a reflection on our mutual humanity. I am quite confident that I also have disappointed each and every one of them at some point or another. We are not God, we cannot be omni-present, and we are prone to weakness. I have begun to realize in the last year an important truth: Rejection, disappointment, and failure are the gateway to true dependence on the Lord. We aren’t going to lean heavily on a God we cannot see when we have friends and loved ones we can see. We go to them when we hurt (and that is only natural), but at some point they won’t be there because they can’t be everywhere at once. When all obvious supports fail, we clearly see the One Solid Rock that has supported us all along.
God never lets us down. Jesus understands what it’s like to be abandoned by friends. The Holy Spirit is ever near to comfort you.
You are not alone.
Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
Memorize this verse and repeat it beneath those dark clouds of sadness. Then do it. Pray. Cast that burden on the Lord. Do it again until you feel unburdened. If the weight comes back, cast it off again in prayer. Do it for the rest of your life. Pray ceaselessly. Pray for others carrying that weight. Give thanks to God when you find relief.
Are you walking through that lonely, cloud-covered valley today? Is the weight of life too heavy? Take it to the Lord in prayer. Every. Single. Day.
If you are suffering from depression, I recommend you read these posts:
Before I dive into today’s post, I need to address a couple “adminy” things:
First, I apologize for my spotty posting schedule and slow response time on your delightful comments. From about 7 am to 9 pm everyday I am like a machine—get up, read, pray, then dive in to packing, painting, paperwork, cleaning, prepping, scheduling and trying to be helpful to my children. It’s been a nonstop whirlwind of activity. I am hopeful that once we get to Texas and back into a routine, my posting will be back on a regular track.
Second, I want to remind you of all the different ways to connect with Elihu’s Corner. Many of my readers follow the blog through WordPress, but you can also like the Facebook page, follow me on Twitter (@elihuscorner), or get email updates. In fact, I’d love for you to comment below and let me know which means of communication you prefer. I will continue to use them all, but it’s nice to get a pulse on what people use most! If you haven’t had a chance to check out my social media spots, I hope you’ll take some time to do so. I am thankful to all of you for your great comments, reblogs, Facebook shares, retweets, and for simply taking the time to read.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming….
Remember those goals/resolutions you created at the beginning of the year?
Wait… you don’t?
Where’s your list of goals?
“oh, right…. that list was in my head.”
“Goals? What goals?”
“My New Year’s Resolutions? Well… Uh…”
That’s where a lot of people are by this point in the year—all those great plans are often under a pile of papers or covered in dust.
If you are on track with most of your goals for the year, congratulations! Keep up the good work!
If you still have your list of goals and have fallen behind, there’s no time like the present to rev them up again. My goals are still up on the bathroom mirror. (I just put a reminder on my list for today to take them down!) I am behind on a few, but I know why: my whole house is in disarray due to a move within the next 10 days!
I’m still on track with most of my goals:
Read Bible every day. Check.
Pray daily. Check.
Walk 3-4 times per week. Check.
Now memorizing… Well… I’m still working on Hebrews 12. Last time I wrote a progress report, I had only memorized 2 verses. I have 12 under my belt now. I’m still way behind (I was supposed to be done by the end of February) Unless I select really short chapters from here on out, I may not be able to make my goal of 6 chapters this year, but that’s ok—I’m willing to revise my goal! If you’re interested in memorizing scripture, click here.
If you’ve lost/forgotten/fallen behind on your goals for 2016, fear not!
You can do the following:
Make new goals for the remainder of the year. I have found that some of my greatest earthly accomplishments were attained by making a goal, creating a reasonable plan to achieve said goal and throwing all my energy into getting there. When I was 12, I decided that I wanted to go to medical school, so I made it my aim to earn straight A’s through high school and graduate in the top ten. I achieved both goals (ahem, both latter goals… not med school), graduated Salutatorian, and had an excellent SAT score. I worked myself raw. I would spend hours working on homework and studying between band rehearsals, performances, lessons and practice. I am not a good test taker nor am I a genius so I had to work extra hard. The point is, determination and sweat can get you far. For more on goal-making, read “Setting Goals That Last.“
Adjust your current goals to a more achievable level. As I mentioned earlier, my goal of memorizing 6 chapters this year may need to be revised simply because my situation has radically changed since January. Small adjustments/tweaks are ok. You’re still aiming in a specific direction.
Pray. This list is not ordered by importance, in fact, I saved the most critical point for last. Prayer is paramount, especially when our direction becomes clouded. Lately, all the discombobulation of moving has made me feel “off-center.” When I am “on-center” my mind is fixed on God, my prayers are regular, my study time is full of discovery, my meditation is meaningful, and my heart rests in the peace of God. Because I am still praying and studying, I’m not falling apart or flying off the handle, but I’ve had trouble meditating on God and His Word. I am restless and distracted. I get sidetracked mid-prayer and have to restart. Many of my prayers have been asking God to help me refocus on my greatest treasure—Him! Without committing our works to God both in prayer and action, all the blood, sweat and tears are meaningless. Oh you may achieve a great deal—I’ve read numerous biographies of famous geniuses and giants of industry, many of whom neglected (or rejected) God and family—but you will miss the mark on what matters most. I said above in point one, “determination and sweat can get you far.” They can. But the question is, are you climbing the right ladder? Pray. Daily. Commit it to the Lord and seek Him first.
If daily bible reading, daily prayer, or daily devotional time with your family is among your goals, there’s no time like the present to commit. Today is all we’ve been given—make the most of the opportunity!
One of my goals for 2016 is to develop regular, quality prayer time alone with God.
How do we get in the habit of praying daily like Jesus?
Step 1: Set up a regular time.
If you do not pray regularly at all and are trying to get into the habit, I suggest that you start by praying at meal times because meals are regular. If you are already doing that, it’s time to advance to the next level.
Pray in the morning before going about your daily routine and in the evening before you sleep. This level is particularly challenging because we don’t always hop out of bed. Sometimes we fall back asleep and hit the snooze button a few times. Set your alarm ahead by 15-20 minutes and get out of bed. I know it’s hard, especially when it’s so cold this time of year, but get on your knees and pray next to your bed. If you think you’ll be undisturbed, make yourself a cup of coffee first, have a few sips and then pray. In the evening, try to pray before you lay down so that you don’t fall asleep mid-prayer. Again, this might be challenging. Find a routine that works for you.
Step 2: Setup a prayer minder
The scriptures say nothing about Jesus carrying around a scroll of prayer requests, but we are not Jesus. He had divine insight and power. We are far weaker and constantly inundated with distractions. We need reminders.
When I took Speech 101, the class was encouraged to write the highlights of our speech on a notecard and then give our speech from memory using the note card as a reference. Certain specificities—like statistics—that would be difficult to remember were also written on this card. While prayer isn’t exactly a speech, it is a time when we approach the throne of grace to lay our petitions before the Lord. Imagine if you were to stand before the Queen of England or the President of the United States and bring them a request. You wouldn’t just wing it, would you? You might, depending on the circumstance, but if you had a formal audience with them, I’d bet you’d take time to write it down.
Bring your 3×5 or 4×6 card or prayer journal with your specific requests so you don’t forget to talk to God about them. Sometimes you might be reading your prayer from the cards, but I prefer to think of these lists as the critical points I need to address so I don’t leave them out. I’m going to pour forth what’s in my heart with or without it, but I don’t want to forget that person or two relying on me and other brethren to make petition on their behalf.
Here are 3 types of Prayer minders:
A Prayer Box. My good friend Sheena shared this with me several months ago. This is a regular old index card box with a prayer request on each card and two dividers: Requests and Answered. As the cards pile up behind the answered tab, you’ll see more and more what the Lord has done.
A Prayer Journal. This is similar to the prayer box. Writing down requests, the date you began your requests and writing the date those requests were answered.
A War Room. I absolutely loved the concept laid out in the movie War Room of having a small, quiet space to pray with specific prayer requests pinned to the wall. I, unfortunately, do not have a closet that large, so I will be using one of the other two options this year.
No matter which method you prefer, get one that fits your personality and run with it. The idea is to help you be more effective in your prayers to God.
Step 3: Fight
You may have noticed that this is a step I referred to in my post on Setting Goals that Last. There is a reason I use such a violent word. When we start taking steps to draw closer to God, Satan is going to do whatever he can to stop us. He might bring random distractions, tempt us to sleep, tantalize us with entertainment or, worse still, tickle our pride and cause us to start thinking that we are oh-so-righteous because we pray regularly.
Fight. Fight with all your might.
Fight your weakness, fight your sleepiness, fight the inertia and fight Satan. Prayer is so critical to drawing close to God. Don’t neglect it.
In your Bible study, take time to notice how important it was to God for people to ask Him about things. When the Gibeonites tried to deceive the Israelites, they succeeded not because of their cleverness, but because the Israelities failed to consult with God! In my reading this year in Chronicles this passage jumped off the page: “So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance.He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.” 1 Chronicles 10.13-14, ESV He had ample opportunity to turn back to God, but instead he consulted a phony—a spiritualist! Why didn’t he ask God??
Prayer is not to be taken lightly. Take your decisions to the Lord and ask for his guidance.
Jesus—God’s own Son—prayed regularly and for hours at a time. Take note of that also. God’s own son spent hours in prayer. Do you think there is a reason that such a thing is recorded for us? It tells me that making time for prayer is vital.
Do you think prayer is important? If something is important, make time for it.
How do you plan to make time for prayer in 2016? I’d love to hear your suggestions about what works for you in the comments below. Let’s help each other grow closer to God.
For more guidance on how to pray, here are some older posts for reference:
Reader question: Would you be interested in an e-book on prayer? I was thinking about putting one together in 2016 that used material from the above posts as well as 52 weeks of printable prayer focus sheets (like my effective prayer posts in 2015). Thanks for the feedback!