The Power and Importance of Prayer

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“God, thank you for my life and my family and my little puppy. I ask that you protect us and keep loving us. Also, can you help me to not have nightmares tonight? Amen.”

As a little girl of faith, I prayed this prayer every night. I didn’t venture outside these three lines, but that didn’t stop me from believing that God was listening. While I grew into my teenage years, I began to write out my prayers in journals. The Psalms inspired a poetic voice that lifted up requests and gratitude expressed on paper. Even still, I followed a pattern that “looked right”. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I acknowledged how much I need God’s Spirit in my prayers.

One summer, I had my heart broken by a failed relationship. I couldn’t stop myself from feeling the sting of my heart. Even in mundane conversations my mind would wander, and suddenly I would feel tears welling up in my eyes. I prayed, and prayed, and prayed. I needed Jesus to console my heart (Psalms 4:1). I only had one friend that knew the condition I was in, and I confessed to her daily how hard it was to maintain joy. She was the tool God used to transform my understanding of unceasing prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17). She preached to me the gift of constant thankfulness, while leaning into God with a posture of desperate need for His Spirit. She prayed with fervency, and her prayers were answered with bewildering abundance. She introduced the concept of Romans 8:26, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

Prayer is communication with God the Father made possible by Jesus Christ and the presence of his Holy Spirit. It’s a powerful exchange of humanity and divinity, but even more, it’s the offering of verbally declaring our dependence on God. Our words are not lost in the atmosphere, but delivered at the foot of God’s throne with a scent of sweet incense (Psalm 141:2).

In order for the smell of incense to be released it has to be burned with fire. Throughout scripture, God reveals himself with fire. A few examples can be found in Numbers 16, Exodus 13, 2 Thessalonians 5, 2 Kings 1 along with numerous other places. It’s not a coincidence that incense is the visual representation of prayer being delivered to the Lord. Our offering is not set ablaze by forced fervency; our offering is set ablaze by our calling on God’s presence.

Take a look at Elijah in 1 Kings 18:36,
“36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”

Elijah the prophet humbly acknowledges God’s presence by speaking aloud who God is. He positions Himself alongside the Father by proclaiming his servanthood. He also mentions his historic faith in God’s word. Lastly, Elijah petitions for the Lord’s presence (in the form of fire) to be revealed for the glory of God’s faithfulness to people. Immediately, the fire falls and consumes Elijah’s offering causing the witnesses’ to bow their faces low and worship this God.

Our prayers must invite the presence of God into our lives, or else we’re asking in vain. If our prayers are an offering of incense lifted to God’s throne, then we have to request that He ignites them with his fire. Pray with everything, and lay down your requests as an offering. Jesus graciously lived, died and rose again so that we could communicate with the Lord ourselves. If we began trusting this process, then I believe God would do immeasurably more (Ephesians 3:20). I believe our prayer lives would transform if we asked the Spirit to pray over us (Romans 8:26) while we entreat the throne. It may not look any different than my childhood three- liner, but the trust in God’s presence lifts praise and glory to His faithfulness. Model Elijah, as his request saved the lives of everyone watching him.

View my article where it was originally posted, on the Initiative Website.

Advent Restores a Song for the Suffering

Link to my previously published article on Gospel Centered Discipleship.

“Can you count how many times you have sung the popular Christmas hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”? I can’t, but what is sad is that I often sing the words without meditating on them. It wasn’t until this year that the correlation of Christ’s name and singing these words weighed on my heart. My favorite is the last stanza, which says,

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Emmanuel means God with us, so the words we sing don’t just offer a Christmas warmth and ring, but a true declaration that Christ’s coming will fulfill the redemption of the world. Yes, Jesus came to the earth and was born as a baby. That’s what our Christian culture often celebrates during Christmas, but I want to sing something more this year. Something that speaks to the mission we have because of his presence.

Emmanuel.
God with us.”

Please continue to my full article.

The Unquenchable Longing for the Infinite God

Link to my previously published article on Gospel Centered Discipleship.

“I was young when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. I loved the image of God that my church instilled in me. He was my good and loving Heavenly Father who sent his son to die for me. That was enough for me to trust him for eternity. However, that trust was a commitment far deeper than my younger self could understand. It’s not that my declaration was dishonest; it’s that it was naive. It took me nearly 20 years to realize it, but what I knew of God was not enough. I had to be humbled and broken to realize that I needed more. That realization was the beginning of a search for “more” that I needed that still drives me to this day.

When I reflect on this period as a young adult, what fascinates me about my story is the vast deficiency in my understanding of God, and yet, the extraordinary longing that existed in my heart to understand. With me exists an unquenchable curiosity that would have me stand, mouth agape under metaphorical waterfalls of knowledge only to step out from under the flow and find myself longing for more.”

Please continue to my full article.

The Grace and Mercy of God

Link to previously published article on Gospel Centered Discipleship.

HOLY MOMENTS

My eyes filled with tears as I watched her eagerly wait my response. My pride flared up the a cobra ready to strike. I didn’t have a response. I was short out of words. Wisdom had not yet ventured to this depth.
A few weeks before this incident, I sat with a girl I disciple as she wept over the merciful nature of God. The realization that she had been Jonah this past year, running as far away from obedience as she could, washed over her. I prayed with her as she confessed her broken heart of disobedience and neglect. In a moment birthed out of sinfulness, I looked at her and saw such grace. It was a holy moment, as I witnessed the gospel more alive than I have ever seen it.
The reality, though, was the tears in my eyes revealed my own heart. What she didn’t know was that her words penetrated the defenses I had built before the Lord. I rejected his whispering voice and continued my pattern of self- sufficiency. This girl who I was trusted to pour into was acting as a conduit of conviction and grace for me. Isn’t that the nature of discipleship? As we pour into others, they often pour back into us—even if they don’t knowingly do so. In an act of unknowing honesty, I took in this beautiful moment and articulated what only the Holy Spirit could. I divulged wisdom on repentance and humility, while in secret the Spirit applied it to my own heart…

Please continue to the full article.

3 Counter- Culture Lessons From Elisabeth Elliot

Link to previously published article on Gospel Centered Discipleship.

“I remember embarking on my first attempt to read a book written by Elisabeth Elliot. I figured the best place to start would be her first Through The Gates of Splendor. I sat comfortably on a lawn chair by the pool and a bubbly girl came to sit beside me. I could see her eyeing my book, so I turned towards her with a smile and asked if she’d read it before. To which her smile contorted and she said, “Her husband had a cool story, but it’s just too sad. Their lives were all about being missionaries. After reading some of her book I stopped because I didn’t like the lack of love they shared. Their marriage wasn’t about love, it was all about mission.” I was taken back by the abrasive truth she presented me and spent the next hour reconsidering my interest in her book. If marriage isn’t about love, then why be married?”

Please continue to the full article.

A Beautifully Fractured Heart

Link to previously posted article on Gospel Centered Discipleship

“I will never forget one time when I was sitting in my mentor’s living room explaining how mad I was that a boy hurt me. I didn’t care to reconcile with him because he treated me carelessly. She looked at me in loving boldness and said, “Chelsea, are you saying you don’t want to talk to this boy about how he disappointed you, or that you don’t want to talk to God about how he disappointed you?” Her words convicted my heart. I searched my heart and learned that my intention was not to run away from the boy, but to run away from my Father. My heart has experienced pain because of boys, friendships, and even family. Because our world is broken, we must constantly pursue restoration, but it’s hard to trust our Father with our pain and suffering. Plus from a very young age, we are trained to be strong, courageous, and protect ourselves from hurt. It’s a charming philosophy to preemptively guard our hearts from experiencing pain.
This breaks down because protecting ourselves from hurt directly prevents God’s plan for restoration. We often believe the lie that being strong means we must condemn weakness, forsake pain, and ignore brokenness. This philosophy runs counter to the gospel and ignores the character of God.”

Please continue to the full article.

How Rebellion Leads to Rest

Link to previously published article on Gospel Centered Discipleship

“Our hearts often flee to fear in seasons of waiting. We care more about the comfort of control than we do the uncertainty of steadfastness. Faith becomes doubt in the seasons where we feel like the rain is pouring too heavy and the ground beneath us may sink in.

The natural reaction, as fallen human beings, is to then plant our own foundation that seems more stable than the soggy mess we stand in. So, we look down and become a little more confident after we see that we have built ourselves a little ground of our own. It’s like we prefer a false sense of security more than a genuine sense of dependence. Our hearts yearn for stability; only Truth helps them comprehend why.”

How to Multiply Disciples Like Jesus on Gospel Centered Discipleship

How to Multiply Disciples Like Jesus

Link to previously published article on Gospel Centered Discipleship

“Although mentorship is meaningful, we can’t expect for it to change lives the way Jesus did with his disciples. The disciples walked with Jesus through crowded streets, witnessing people be healed, abandoning their comfortable lives to learn from Jesus. They learned from Jesus so that they could continue his mission. That is a true disciple. And it is the model we should follow.

Meeting once a week for a life update doesn’t lend itself to trust and accountability. We can discuss theology and talk through our struggles and heartaches without ever really experiencing life together. My prayer is that we would disciple by inviting people into our daily lives, schedules, meetings, marriages, and families—like Jesus did. Discipleship must push people towards their calling and mission.”

How to Multiply Disciples Like Jesus on Gospel Centered Discipleship

LISTEN, LOOK UP, AND LOVE

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Link to previously published article on Deeply Rooted Mag

“There’s this scary realization that happens when you’re dependent on God. It’s a realization that makes you feel like a reckless kid that just got bruised up on the playground. Dependence reminds you that there’s no hope in convincing yourself you’re strong. Even more, there’s no hope in trying to convince others of your strength, or even in helping yourself.

I haven’t been very strong during the past several months. I have spent one too many nights lying on my bedroom floor with eyes full of tears and messy mascara. My heart has been tied in confusion about why I can’t just be “happy” again.

Recently, I spent three months living adventurously in Australia, and expected to stay for a semester abroad to gain a fresh perspective on life. But with just one unexpected phone call, finances forced my return to my all-too-comfortable home in Texas. The disappointment and resentment that I felt weighed heavy on my soul. As a result, my mind seemed desolate when I read, but congested when I prayed. My ears were open, my heart eager, but the voice that I was so used to hearing wasn’t reaching me. I knew God was listening to my cries for answers, but there was a disconnect in hearing him. I was stuck in limbo. I wasn’t mad at God, but I was mad at myself. I felt like I didn’t know him, and I didn’t know myself. I wasn’t sure of anything. My heart was broken because I missed him, and in that, I missed myself. It was the first time for me to walk in a long season of dependence, but complete lack of understanding.”

Listen, Look Up, and Love on Deeply Rooted Mag.

Change and Our Steadfast Lord

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[Link to previously published post at CBMW]

“The greatest challenge that accompanies change is the discipline of trust. I have no shame is saying that this is a challenge that receives my frequent failure.

I grew up overseas in a community of expats. This community held the coined title “the place of the revolving door”. We laughed at the truth that this phrase had in our community. Life in a stable location was never guaranteed, and airports offered the hospitality of a second home. A frequent flyer is prepared to board and exit a plane. It is not news to them that they will exit the plane, just as they boarded it. Airports are the source of millions of flights each day. These flights transfer people across the largest seas only to deliver them somewhere else. The expat community has named this a revolving door. Flights come, and they leave. Doors open, and they close. Expats arrive, and they move.”

Change and Our Steadfast Lord at CBMW [Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood]