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.

Save $2 on Ebook Pre-orders

A Year of Tenacity: 365 Daily Devotions is finally available for pre-order, and now’s the time to save for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iBooks etc.

Preorder sale details for A Year of Tenacity: 365 Daily Devotions, by Janet Sketchley #ebook #sale #kindle #kobo #nook #ibooks Ends May 30, 2017

Right now, you can get an ebook copy for $2.99 USD / $3.99 Canadian (other international pricing is based on the US price). After May 30 (release date) the price will go up to $4.99 USD / $5.99 CAD.

The print book will be releasing on May 30 as well, for a list price of $14.99 USD. Amazon doesn’t let me specify a Canadian price, so it’ll be whatever the exchange rate dictates.

Details and buy links are on my A Year of Tenacity page.

Updating these devotionals from my blog for the book has been a true blessing for me. It was like God was whispering in my ear, “See this? Remember… and learn it deeper.” We never really “arrive,” do we?

As we continue learning, I’m heading back to work on my Green Dory Inn mystery series. I’ve been missing my imaginary friends!

Review: The Forgotten Way, by Ted Dekker

The Forgotten Way, by Ted Dekker | #Christianliving #meditations #Christianity #faithThe Forgotten Way, by Ted Dekker (Outlaw Studios, 2015)

Most readers know Ted Dekker for his Christian fiction, but The Forgotten Way is a collection of 21 non-fiction meditations on “The path of Yeshua for power and peace in this life.”

With detailed reliance on Scripture, the author invites readers to discover and believe the Truth (about God and ourselves), the Life, and the Way. The readings focus on who God is, how He sees us, and how we can begin to believe His truth about ourselves instead of clinging to our temporal, human perspective. Beginning to believe this helps us live as His beloved children in this world without investing our identity solely in the world. This liberates us from a great deal of fear.

Readers are well advised to take time to read every Scripture end-note as flagged in the text, since they often have additional insights attached. There is a companion study guide, which includes the same Scriptures and a few application questions, but it’s more useful to see these quotations and notes in context of the specific portions of the meditations to which they refer.

The Forgotten Way stretched my thinking, and while I gained much, I’ll be following the author’s closing advice to go back and read the book again for a deeper understanding. There were a few minor points I didn’t entirely agree with, but that may be due to the particular words used. A second reading may help.

I did read carefully, and prayerfully, alert for anything that would lead me astray (although having heard Ted Dekker speak, I already respected him as one who seeks truth). Although the concepts are expressed in a different way than I was used to, there was no sense of treading dangerously. Instead, key points matched what I’d heard stated other ways by other teachers.

The individual study bundle comes with brief audio clips expanding on each day’s meditation, plus a few longer podcasts addressing key topics. I saved the longer ones for the end and haven’t yet listened to them.

The Forgotten Way is available for individual or group study. For more details or a taste of the contents, see theforgottenway.com/welcome. It’s not available in stores, and for those shopping outside the US, the shipping is quite expensive. I opted for the study pack, and while I didn’t feel the study guide book added a lot to the experience, I’ve valued the audio resources, and I’d recommend going for the study pack if possible.

Ted Dekker is a New York Times best-selling author of intense Christian fiction and more recently, historical fiction from the time of Christ. For more about the author, visit teddekker.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

New Releases in Christian Fiction (May 2017)

May 2017 New Releases from members of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW):

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

Amish Brides by Jennifer Beckstrand, Molly Jebber, Amy Lillard — Under bright blue skies, wedding bells ring–fulfilling sweet dreams, impossible wishes, and joyous new beginnings among these three new stories. (Contemporary Romance from Kensington Publishers)


Sprouts of Love by Valerie Comer — An overzealous community garden manager delivers more than the food bank manager can handle. Can love sprout amid the tsunami of vegetables? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Summer Dreams by Delia Latham — God’s love…reflected in the waters of the Pacific, and in the eyes of a young couple who walk its moonstone shores. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])


Right Where We Belong by Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, Courtney Walsh — Three sweet stories of small-town romance by three tried-and-true authors. Whether in a quaint home bakery in Langhorne, Missouri, a cozy boho coffee shop in Maple Valley, Iowa, or a charming lakeside cottage in Sweethaven, Michigan, love grows best in small towns just like this! (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

A Spring of Weddings by Toni Shiloh and Melissa Wardwell — Two Spring wedding novellas, “A Proxy Wedding,” and “Hope Beyond Savannah.” (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit Publishing)


True to You by Becky Wade — Former Navy SEAL John Lawson hires genealogist Nora Bradford to help him to uncover the identity of his birth mother. As they work side-by-side, this pair of opposites begins to suspect that they just might be a perfect match. (Contemporary Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

Cozy Mystery:

What the Bishop Saw by Vannetta Chapman — A fire blazes out of control in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, leaving an elderly, Amish bachelor dead. Bishop Henry Lapp rushes to the scene, and he learns the fire was no accident. When the police point the finger at a suspect Henry knows is innocent, the bishop must decide whether or not to use his mysterious, God-given gift—one he’s tried desperately to ignore all these years—to try and set the record straight. (Contemporary Romance from Harvest House Publishers)

General Contemporary:

A Season to Dance by Patricia Beal — The heart wrenching love story of a small town professional ballerina who dreams of dancing at the Met in New York, of the two men who love her and of the forbidden kiss that changed everything. (General Contemporary from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Looking Glass Lies by Varina Denman — A poignant and relatable novel, Looking Glass Lies captures the war women wage against themselves, and the struggle to see beauty reflected in a mirror not distorted by society’s unrelenting expectations. (General Contemporary from Waterfall Press)

Historical:


Blind Ambition by Carol Ashby — What began as a bored man’s decision to try a different road turns into an emotional and spiritual quest that changes the direction of his entire life. (Historical from Cerrillo Press)

Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette — A broken and bitter Canaanite woman dresses as a man to fight against the invading Hebrews, never expecting that she would live to be captured and married to one of her enemies, and certainly not to find love and healing among the very people who killed her family. (Biblical/Historical from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

Historical Romance:

 
The Secret Admirer Romance Collection by Amanda Barratt, Lorraine Beatty, Molly Noble Bull, Anita Mae Draper, CJ Dunham, Jennifer Uhlarik, Becca Whitham, Kathleen Y’Barbo, Penny Zeller — Shy expressions of love lead to nine historical romances. Declaring one’s love can be hard–even risky–especially when faced with some of life’s greatest challenges. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson — She lost everything to an evil conspiracy . . . but that loss may just give her all she ever wanted. (Historical Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)


My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho: Rebecca’s Plight by Susanne Dietze — It’s a mail-order disorder when newlyweds realize they’ve married the wrong partners with similar names. An annulment seems in order–and fast. But when the legalities take longer than expected, Rebecca Rice wonders if Tad Fordham wasn’t the right husband for her all along. . . . (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

A Love So True by Melissa Jagears — They begin with the best of intentions, but soon the complications pile up and Evelyn and David’s dreams look more unattainable every day. When the revelation of a long-held secret creates a seemingly insurmountable rift between them, can they trust God still has a good plan for them despite all that is stacked against them? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)


Road to Harmony by Sherry Kyle — When Jonas returns to Harmony, Elena’s heart is torn between her secret love, and the storeowner her parents hope she marries. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Hills of Nevermore by Janalyn Voigt — Can a young widow hide her secret shame from the Irish preacher bent on helping her survive? (Historical Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Romantic Suspense:

Fatal Mistake by Susan Sleeman — Each day could be her last…but not if he can help it. An FBI agent must protect the woman who can identify a terrorist bomber in bestselling author Susan Sleeman’s riveting romantic suspense novel. (Romantic Suspense from Faith Words [Hachette])

New Supervillain Novel

No,  I’m not branching that far afield from Christian suspense/mysteries and devotionals…

Some of you may remember the character features I posted for my novel, Without Proof, where my son Matthew Sketchley interviewed the key players. Matthew is now doing a Kickstarter campaign to publish his first novel, and you may know someone in his target audience. (You may be in his target audience — I know some of us read in widely diverse genres.)

So.. for your information, and with encouragement to share where appropriate:

 

 

Cover Reveal: A Year of Tenacity

My new devotional book releases this month, and it’s time to share the cover!

A Year of Tenacity: 365 Daily Devotions #devotional #ChristianlivingYou may notice a similarity to the background of my website. This image of a wild rose growing in a crack in a huge boulder speaks to me of perseverance and… tenacity! Trivia point: the photo was taken at Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, home of a famous lighthouse, numerous tourist attractions, and a colony of extremely large rocks.

I’ll be adding more details to the book page soon, including the release date and pre-order options.

For now, here’s what the back cover says:

365 Daily Devotions to Warm Your Spirit and Encourage Your Heart

“Tenacity” is persistence. Holding on. Not giving up. It’s a quality we need as Christians, and the beautiful thing we discover as we spend time with the Lord is the depth of His tenacity toward us. We may falter, but His hold is sure, His love unshakable, and His grace without limit.

Like the wild rose thrives with its roots anchored in the cleft in the rock, we find life and security when we abide in our Rock.

A Year of Tenacity is a compilation of the best devotionals from the author’s blog, “Tenacity,” freshly updated for this book. Some are short, others fill a page, but each of these conversational-style insights and heart-sharing moments will bless and inspire.

Entries are numbered by day, not by date, so readers aren’t tied to a calendar year and don’t have to play catch-up if they miss a few days.

Honest, engaging, and uplifting, these devotionals are ideal for both long-time Christians and those just finding their way.

 

Review: Sapped, by Emily James

Sapped, by Emily JamesSapped, by Emily James (Stronghold Books, 2016)

The worst way to find out that your boyfriend is already married is to see it on the news. The only way it could be worse than that is if his wife died under suspicious circumstances. [From the book description on Goodreads.]

And that’s how things start for the heroine in Sapped.

Nicole Fitzhenry-Dawes is the daughter of two over-achieving lawyers. She’s a lawyer herself, and although her people skills are an asset to her parents’ firm, she knows she’ll never live up to their expectations.

Now this happens, and she’s desperate to help prove her suddenly ex-boyfriend innocent. Even when her father orders her off the case.

Sapped is a prequel to the Maple Syrup Mysteries series, available as a free ebook for signing up for the author’s newsletter, or in print through Amazon.

It’s an engaging mystery, fast-paced and with a snappy delivery. Nicole’s self-doubts in a world of confident people make her very relatable, as does her desire to uncover the truth. She’s smart, spunky, and has a lot more going for her than she realizes.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and immediately dove into the next in the series, A Sticky Inheritance, in which we see the significance of the “Maple Syrup Mysteries” title for the series. This isn’t a Christian series, but it’s a good, clean read.

There’s more than one author named Emily James. To find out more about the one behind the Maple Syrup Mysteries, and for more about her books or to sign up for your free ebook copy of Sapped, visit authoremilyjames.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

The Journey Continues (Guest Post)

The Journey Continues

by Steph Beth Nickel

"Decluttering is like a weight loss program for your home, heart, and head." #clutter #Christianliving @StephBethNickel

Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (ESV*)

During Lent I participated in Kathi Lipp’s clutter free challenge. It was easy to get rid of 10 items per day. In fact, as well as thousands of other items, I got rid of approximately 400 books and magazines—and if you came to my house, you’d never know it. It was amazing, but I still have a long way to go.

What are some of the things God has been teaching me along the way?

All glory belongs to Him. Although I knew this long before I began the challenge, I was reminded time and again that any success in this or any other area is evidence of His work in my life.

Naturally, I’m lazy—very lazy. But thankfully, God is teaching me to push past my tendency to procrastinate—especially in the areas of decluttering, organizing, and cleaning.

Habits that have taken over 50 years to develop don’t disappear overnight. Unless I continue to declutter and refuse to succumb to old patterns, I will slip back into my old ways. Every sinkful of dishes washed and every item dropped into the box to be taken to the thrift store is a small step to developing new habits.

Community is crucial for any success. There is a reason why God calls Jesus’s disciples “the body of Christ” and distributes different spiritual gifts as He sees fit. We are not meant to go it on our own. The clutter free Facebook group was a safe place to be 100 percent open and honest. We celebrated one another’s victories and encouraged one another when we were struggling. It soon became one of my favourite groups. I’m convinced many of these friendships will endure the test of time.

Self-realization is good. Knowing why we buy what we do and why we keep things we don’t use, don’t love, and wouldn’t replace should something happen to them is eye-opening. (These are the criteria Kathi Lipp uses when choosing whether to keep any given item.)

Like any other form of healthy living, living clutter free is a lifestyle choice. Some days I’ll win. Some days I’ll stumble. And some days it will be a challenge to do much of anything around the house. But that doesn’t mean I’ve failed. It just means, should God give me tomorrow, I’ll have another opportunity to move toward a clutter free life.

Although I have a long way to go before our home is truly clutter free, I’ve discovered some amazing truths already. If you embark on this adventure, you may find these apply to you as well.

Tweetables

Clutter free living is a lifestyle choice. (click to tweet)

Decluttering is like a weight loss program for your home, heart, and head. (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.

 

 

 

 

*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.

Review: Recruits, by Thomas Locke

Recruits, by Thomas LockeRecruits, by Thomas Locke (Revell, 2017)

Seventeen-year-old twins Dillon and Sean have never had a happy home life, but for the past ten years they’ve been imagining this amazing, gravity-defying train station that couldn’t exist on Earth.

Now they discover it’s real – and on another planet. One they can create a portal and step onto.

They may be the first gifted humans found on Earth, and an ex-military human from still another planet is assigned to train them. He, at least, sees their potential. Unlike the Examiner, who’s waiting for a chance to fail them and wipe their memories.

The twins face unexpected danger, and the authorities don’t believe their version of events. Suddenly it’s Dillon and Sean against the adults (with a few exceptions), racing against time to save an innocent man and possibly stop an invasion.

Recruits is a fast-paced, entertaining read that should appeal not only to young adult males but to anyone who enjoys a good, clean adventure. Written by a Christian author, the book doesn’t have a spiritual thread that I saw, and I consider it a mainstream novel.

Favourite lines:

…they probably saw the scar at the same moment, because Dillon dragged in the breath Sean had trouble finding. [page 13]

Baran’s voice was delicate, like he wanted to speak without actually disturbing the air. [page 305]

Thomas Locke is the pseudonym of well-known writer Davis Bunn. The Thomas Locke books are fantasy, science fiction and techno-thrillers, and for more about them and the author, visit tlocke.com.

[Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.]

Get 30% off Without Proof (Kobo only)

30% off for Kobo ebooks: What if the plane crash that killed Amy's fiance was no accident? WITHOUT PROOF by Janet Sketchley. Promo code APR30 good until April 24, 2017. #Kobo #romanticsuspense #ebooksale

*If Kobo isn’t your usual e-reader of choice, you can get the Kobo reading app for free on their website, for your phone, tablet, or other device. And new customers get a $5 credit on their first order 🙂