Tag Archives: prayer

Life’s Perplexities (Guest Post)

Life’s Perplexities

by Steph Beth Nickel

I originally wrote this devotional for HopeStreamRadio, but it may encourage you as well. Be blessed!

Have you ever been disappointed by a brother or sister in Christ?

Have you ever prayed a prayer that God hasn’t answered—at least not as you wanted Him to?

Have you ever read a portion of His Word that left you shaking your head?

It’s fairly easy to understand why others disappoint us from time to time. After all, they are only human—just like we are. When a fellow Christian—or anyone really—lets us down, we must extend forgiveness. This isn’t always easy, but God will give us the desire and wherewithal to do so. We need only ask.

And that brings us to the matter of prayer.

We stand on promises like the following:

Matthew 7:7-11 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (ESV)

Do I believe the promises in these verses? I do. Do I always see them come to pass exactly as I hope? Definitely not. Many, if not most, of you would say the same thing.

I know there are those who say God always answers. Sometimes He says, “Yes.” Sometimes He says, “No.” Sometimes He says, “Later.” I, however, think this is an oversimplification.

When He says, “Yes,” do we remember to thank Him? I do—sometimes.

When He says, “No” or “Later,” we must remain prayerful. Is there something He wants us to do or a spiritual lesson He wants to teach us? Is He increasing our ability to walk in faith despite disappointment and heartache? Is He working for our good and the good of others—even though we don’t see it at the time?

As I mentioned, I think wrestling with these questions and seeking answers that are true to His Word and His nature are sometimes part of the process.

But again, we must not question His goodness, His holiness, His righteousness. Although we can’t always understand what’s going on, it doesn’t mean the Lord’s character has changed. In fact, it never has and it never will.

We can count on Him to fulfill every one of His promises—but not necessarily as we expect or would like.

No matter what the outcome, we must remain prayerful.

And when it comes to portions of the Scriptures we simply can’t understand, portions that may cause us to bristle and squirm, we must learn to “rightly handle the word of truth,” as it says in 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV).

Here are a few things we can do:

In the face of life's perplexities... Pray. Study. Obey.

Pray

We can—and should—pray before we open the Word, asking the Lord to help us understand and apply what we read.

Study

When we come to a difficult portion, instead of skipping over it or deciding it must mean something other than what it seems to mean, we should commit to studying it further. Keeping a separate journal where we keep notes on these portions of the Scriptures could benefit not only us but also others who are struggling with the same passages. We must refuse to put our Bible on the shelf, deciding we’ll never truly understand it anyway.

Obey

We must seek, with God’s enabling, to apply the portions of His Word that are clear.

Philippians 3:12-16 is a wonderful and challenging passage:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (ESV).

In the face of all these perplexities, we must continue to pray, confident that in His time and in His way, He will work all things out for our good, as He promises in Romans 8:28.

Tweetable: In the face of life’s perplexities… Pray. Study. Obey. [Click to tweet]

[English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.]

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Review: Prayer Warrior, by Stormie Omartian

Prayer Warrior, by Stormie OmartianPrayer Warrior, by Stormie Omartian (Harvest House, 2013)

The premise of this book is that if you belong to Jesus, prayer needs to be part of your life. And if you find yourself praying for specific concerns, you’re probably a prayer warrior.

Consider this a training manual. Building on a foundation of knowing the trustworthy character of God, chapters look at the purpose of prayer, regular “training,” and the importance of understanding our spiritual weapons and how to use them. Specific, practical Scriptures are given, many of which I’ve added to my list to memorize.

I appreciate the author’s perspective that simply being a Christian engages us in warfare, so we’re better off to learn how to pray. Avoidance doesn’t take us or our families out of danger from spiritual attack; it just lowers our guard.

Each chapter of Prayer Warrior finishes with a prayer of application, and the final chapter contains specific sample prayers for a variety of concerns, including family members, health, and global issues.

The prayers in the last chapter are invaluable resources for readers beginning to tackle weighty concerns. They’re easy to personalize by inserting the name(s) and details that have prompted the prayer, and they’re chock-full of appropriate Scriptures.

Speaking God’s Word back to Him is powerful, and it also reinforces the pray-er’s faith. These sample prayers will be helpful in developing our own prayers, and they’ve challenged me to be more alert in my Bible-reading time for verses I’ll want to memorize and/or incorporate in intercession.

Overall I found the writing a bit stilted in the book, and repetitious in places (the author is also a speaker, and speakers need to repeat at times for emphasis), but the content is very helpful and has greatly impacted my prayer life.

Definitely a keeper, and I’d like to upgrade my digital copy for a print one.

Stormie Omartian is known for her books on prayer, including The Power of a Praying… series and study materials. To supplement the material in Prayer Warrior, she’s written a companion study guide and a free 7-day devotional ebook. For more about the author, her books, and her prayer ministry, or to share a prayer request, visit stormieomartian.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

How Not to Pray (Guest Post)

How Not to Pray

by Steph Beth Nickel

This post was first written as a devotional for HopeStreamRadio.

Matthew 6:9-13 is a very familiar passage. Most of us know it well. It says, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (ESV*).

The preceding verses, verses 5-8 read this way: “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (ESV).

Praying in Public, Motivated by a Desire to Be Seen and Admired

Where is our focus?

Prayer is about glorifying the Lord rather than ourselves.

Praying in Order to Receive a Reward

If we’re seeking the praise and admiration of others, God says that’s all the reward we will receive. Contrast that to praising Him and asking Him to send His kingdom and accomplish His will. That’s infinitely better than any reward we may receive from others.

Praying in Secret

Although we are to pray with and for one another, by and large, prayer is a personal matter, one between God and each individual. It’s a time to do business with the Lord as it were. A time to ask Him to meet our needs. A time to ask for forgiveness. A time to ask for the desire and the ability to forgive those who have wronged us.

Praying to our Father Who is in Secret

As I was reading these verses recently, the words “who is in secret” caught my attention like never before. Our Father is in secret. What does that mean exactly? Perhaps it means that there are few who even begin to know what He is like. Perhaps it means that only when we are alone with Him can we truly focus on who He is and not become distracted by our environment. Perhaps it means He chooses to meet with those who come apart. It’s interesting to think about these things—and to pray about them.

Image with text: "Pray... confident God hears." #prayer @StephBethNickel guest posting at janetsketchley.ca

Photo: Pixabay

Praying, Confident that He Sees (and Hears) Us

If we pray to impress others, if we pray all the while considering what they think of us, our focus will not be on God. And it’s likely our confidence will be in ourselves. However, if we shut ourselves away where others won’t see or hear us, it’s much more likely that our thoughts will be about Him, that our prayers will be for His ears and not the ears of others.

Praying, Confident He will Reward the Humble

It’s humbling to pray by ourselves. There are many passages throughout the Scriptures that stress the importance of humility. We must acknowledge God’s greatness and our inadequacy to ever earn His favour. Still, we can be confident of His love and His desire to meet our needs.

Praying without Rambling On

As a communicator (that’s a polite way to say I like to talk a lot), I am able to express myself with words—lots and lots of words. And yet, there have been many times I’ve thought about just how inadequate those words are. There is nothing I can say to impress the Lord or convince Him to do what He is not already willing to do. Even so, He invites me to pour out my heart to Him, to seek His intervention in my life and in the lives of those whose paths cross mine. But I must always remember that it’s not because of my many words that He acts. It’s because of His great love.

Praying, Confident that God Knows What We Need

The wonderful thing is that God knows everything we need—even better than we do. As we come to Him and ask Him to meet those needs, we can rest assured that He will do so—not always when and how we want. But He loves us and will always do what’s best.

Praying, Confident that He is Willing to Provide

It’s during those times when things aren’t going as we want that we must remember all of God’s promises are true. He will fulfill each and every one of them. As we come apart to seek His face, may we have confidence in this truth.

I encourage you to take some time to come apart and seek the Lord in prayer this day.

Tweetables

Pray in secret, confident God will reward the humble (click to tweet this).

Pray, knowing God is willing to provide your needs (click to tweet this).

*English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Escaping Captivity (Guest Post)

Escaping Captivity

by Steph Beth Nickel

Because of Jesus... we can escape captivity.Many of us have read books or watched movies in which the main character is taken captive, books such as Janet’s own Heaven’s Prey.

While few (if any) of us have experienced this horror, we have all been held captive at some point. Some such occurrences seem almost too insignificant to mention: that bad dream that leaves us in a funk for the rest of the day for example. Some we seek to keep hidden: that bad habit we can’t seem to shake perhaps.

And what about that careless choice that makes us want to relive even a few seconds that would change the course of our lives for several days, months or even years to come?

Our Response to Captivity

Do we get tied up in knots? Do we obsess over negative feelings or less than stellar choices? Or do we actually believe Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (ESV).

Many Christians have memorized this verse and quote it often. But do we cling to this promise when we’re at a low point?

Do we quote this verse and others like it to reassure ourselves, to pull ourselves out of emotional captivity or simply as a declaration of truth?

Our Response to Truth

If we don’t instantly feel better, will we still cling to the truth?

If God doesn’t “fix” everything in the way we want Him to, as quickly as we want Him to, will we still believe?

Will we allow our captivity to keep us bound in knots, making us ineffective?

Or will we deliberately look for the good in every situation? Will we pray for those involved? Will we see it as one more step on the journey to spiritual maturity, to authentic freedom?

Our Response to Promises

Will we rejoice in the midst of everything? (See 1 Corinthians 5:18.)

How can we, as Christians, escape captivity? We can hold onto 1 Peter 5:6-8 with both hands. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (ESV).

And when we can’t hold on, we can trust that our great God will always, always, always hold onto us.

No matter what happens, whether because of our choices or the choices of others, we can trust God. Even in the midst of apparent captivity, we can live in the freedom there is to be found in a growing relationship with the Lord.

Tweetables:

Because of Jesus, we can escape captivity. (click to tweet)

God’s promises believed bring freedom. (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

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Highly Valued

So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock – his church, purchased with his own blood – over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders.
Acts 20:28, NLT*

Let’s face it, church is a collection of sinners saved by Jesus’ blood, plus those still fumbling toward saving faith. Some are easy to love, but most of us have sharp edges, abrasive surfaces, or other sources of irritation.

We’re in the process of spiritual growth, and what God sees in us is not always visible to those looking through human eyes. But He’s building us into the Body of Christ, and into His Temple.

He sees value in us. Enough that Jesus died to redeem us.

He commands us to love one another. (John 13:34-35) He’s not asking us to do anything He hasn’t done first, and He offers the Holy Spirit within us to produce that love for one another. We just need to choose to obey, even when it’s hard.

Is there someone in your church who’s impossible to love? Pray for him or her. Regularly. If you ask God to grow His love in you – and persistently choose to cooperate with Him – He’ll surprise you.

Most times it’s not that extreme, but may we remember to ask what He sees, instead of focusing on what we see. May we remember the high value He sets on us – as individuals and as His flock.

God our Shepherd and our Saviour, we dare not dismiss any soul You love. Please help us see what You see, and grow Your love in our hearts for each member of Your Body. Show us what You see in us, as well, and help us surrender fully to Your cleansing and growth.

Matt Maher’s song, “Instrument,” made a powerful difference in my life during a very difficult time in my own church life.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: The Menopause Guide, by Danna Demetre, RN

The Menopause Guide, by Danna Demetre, RNThe Menopause Guide, by Danna Demetre, RN (Spire edition, 2009)

I picked this book up years ago from a sale bin ($3 well spent) for reference “someday.” The cover offers help to “manage hot flashes, increase your energy level, understand hormones, reduce mood swings, and live with new purpose.”

What it doesn’t say is that this is a book for Christian women. I was delighted to find, along with the practical physical information, advice that integrated the spiritual dimension of our lives.

Each chapter addresses a relevant topic with compassion, humour, and a sense that the author and/or the women she quotes have “been there” and survived. Chapters end with health tips and a quick checklist where readers can make a note of the one thing that impacted them most in the section. So often we finish a book like this and have already forgotten the things we meant to put into practice.

The book includes tips on vitamins and natural supplements that may help manage various symptoms, always with the caution to consult with a health-care professional before making any changes.

My favourite part of the book focuses on how we may need to change our thinking (and the way we talk to ourselves) – renewing our minds as Romans 12 instructs. New to me was the candid assessment of how long it takes to regularly practice a new thought pattern before it becomes habit. Most of us give up way too soon.

Prayer is also mentioned as an integral part of a healthy journey through menopause. My favourite line:

My personal prayer for this season is to have a heart of contentment and an attitude of surrender at all times. [page 72]

Women struggling with specific symptoms may find help in the nutritional, exercise and supplement information. They’ll definitely find encouragement, a laugh or two, and reassurance that they’re not alone. And that menopause is not a sickness – it’s a natural part of life.

Danna Demetre has a background in health care, personal training and fitness. Her stated mission on her website is “transforming lives: body, soul & spirit.” Visit dannademetre.com for more about the author and her books, and to explore the free content she offers to help women find balance in their lives.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: The Beginner’s Guide to Intercession, by Dutch Sheets

The Beginner's Guide to Intercession, by Dutch SheetsThe Beginner’s Guide to Intercession, by Dutch Sheets (Vine Books, 2001)

What I appreciate most about this insightful and practical book is its emphasis on prayer as a way to draw nearer to God. Intercession rises out of that, but the essence of prayer is relationship with God. It’s not about bringing Him our wish lists.

Through Scripture, personal examples and the experiences of others, the author shares key principles of intercession. This isn’t a “name it and claim it” book, but one that points to the Holy Spirit leading people to pray for those things He wants to accomplish. Some of the stories have miraculous endings – but they’re results of God’s direction in prayer, not formulas to follow to get whatever we want to ask.

Easy to read and understand, each chapter builds on those before. The book challenged and equipped me to deepen the intercession part of my prayer life, and to ask to see what (and how) God is calling me to meet with Him about in prayer.

Dutch Sheets’ website tagline is “Teach – Awaken – Restore”. He’s an author, speaker and teacher, and you can find more about his books and ministry at dutchsheets.org.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Praying Scripture

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13, NLT*

I love eavesdropping on Paul’s heart-felt prayers for the congregations he’s writing to. Sure, parts of his letters are direct to the point of sounding harsh (although always with a motive of love), but in his prayers we see how deeply he cares.

We can borrow these prayers for those we love, or for ourselves. Take this one as an example. We can ask this for anyone who knows the Lord, no matter their circumstances.

We may not know how God plans to work out someone’s particular struggles, but we know this is the sort of prayer that’s always in line with His will.

To apply this verse for a non-believer, we could begin by asking God to reveal Himself as the Source of hope and to give the person faith to trust Him.

Take a second look at Paul’s words. Who might God want you to pray them for?

Holy God, we praise You that You alone are the Source of hope. Real hope, not wishing. You are the Source of joy and peace. And You are trustworthy. Forgive any doubts that taunt us. Help us to trust You fully. Open us to receive the joy and peace You give. Fill us with the Holy Spirit and the confident hope He brings. Fill us to overflowing, and flow through us to reveal Yourself to those who don’t yet know you, for their sakes and for the sake of Your Kingdom.

There are so many songs based on prayers from the Bible. Here’s Brian Doerksen‘s “I Lift My Eyes Up (Psalm 121).”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Guest Post: SURPRISE!

SURPRISE!

by Steph Beth Nickel

Have you ever wondered if God was truly at work in you?

I admit there have been times—many times—when I had my doubts about myself. “If I really loved the Lord, wouldn’t I ____?”

And then SURPRISE! Seemingly out of the blue, something happens and you just know it had to be His doing.

When they offered my hubby the job as church custodian, he wasn’t quite sure how he was going to fulfill the responsibilities, especially considering he has a full-time job already. But he was willing to give it a try.

One day when Dave was at work—his day job, I felt God nudge me to offer to help with the cleaning. After all, with two of us working at it, it would only take half the time.

And do you know something? I was good with that. There wasn’t even the slightest hint of “but I don’t wanna.”

A quick aside for those who don’t know me well . . . I used to write regular posts for one of my blogs called . . . wait for it . . . “Confessions of a Horrible Housekeeper”

Now, I’m not one of those people who says, “Forgive the mess,” and you’re thinking, “What mess? I don’t see any mess.”

Think I’m exaggerating? I once put caution tape across my stairs when we had company. Hey, the main floor was presentable, but if they went upstairs, they would definitely be doing so at their own risk.

And believe you me, things haven’t changed a whole lot—at least not around the house.

But the church? Well, that’s a different story.

I asked God to give me the right attitude as I took on this new responsibility. I wanted to see it as a privilege, a ministry, not merely something to cross of my To Do list—as quickly as possible.

And when He answered that prayer, I knew for sure He was at work in me.

Yes, my back constantly feels as if I’ve done a serious workout, but that’s okay. It is getting stronger. And wow, do I appreciate my bed at night! Plus, as many of you know, there is a real sense of satisfaction that comes after a time of physical labour.

This may not sound like a very spiritual evidence of the Lord at work, but He shows up in some of the most everyday, some of the most surprising, ways. We just have to be on the lookout.

How about you? What evidence have you seen of God at work in you recently? [Scroll down to join the conversation.]

Tweetable: God shows up in surprising, everyday ways. (click to tweet)

~~~

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

True or False

Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.
John 12:10-11, NLT*

You’d think raising someone from the dead would be proof enough of Jesus’ power, even for the priests and Pharisees. The common people could see it clearly enough.

It’s easy for us to say these priests were protecting their own power and didn’t want to acknowledge the truth. That they felt threatened.

That’s likely the case, but these verses make me stop and think.

How often do we deny what’s true because we’re invested in something false? (click to tweet) A belief, a perspective, a plan? Something we’d have to set aside to do life God’s way?

  • I can’t make it to church because Sunday’s my only day to sleep in, to see my friends, it’s the best time to golf…
  • Forget tithing, I can’t give anything at all, because money is tight. Hey, do you want to go out to lunch after the service?
  • It’s okay to sleep with my boyfriend/girlfriend because morals have changed.
  • I’m not bound by the Bible’s words about homosexual behaviour because Jesus would want me to be happy.
  • I don’t need to read the Bible because it’s out of date and confusing.
  • No matter what my friends say, I can trust this particular person. If I have doubts, personally, then I’m not being very loyal.
  • Maybe I shouldn’t complain, but listen to what she/he did!
  • I don’t have to report that money I earned on the side. There’s no paper trail, and the government would only waste the extra tax.
  • And the list could go on for pages…

It doesn’t have to be a big thing. God often teaches us in the small. The point is, we need to be open to see – and to follow – God’s perspective instead of our own. (click to tweet) The best place to start is with reading the Bible and taking time in prayer. Regularly and consistently.

Father God, You see the past, the present and future. You know all things, and You alone are wise. Open our eyes, hearts and wills to what You reveal, and help us to let go of our own cherished perceptions, plans and desires, and to trust You. Because we know You are good and that You love us, we know that Your way is best.

Our song this week is “Thy Word,” sung by Amy Grant.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.