This is my 25th blog post for the Write 31 Days challenge, which I signed up to four days late. Would you like to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree? See below for how you can go into the draw to win this wonderful prize.
In contemplating what to write on today, I have repeatedly had the topic of prayer come to me, in many different ways. And then I read Robin’s post on the fruit of the Spirit at Living My Portion. It made me reflect on how prayer is us turning to God, so that His Spirit can bear the fruit mentioned in Galatians 5: 22 – 23, namely love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5: 22 – 23):
Luke 11: 13 (NIV)
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
My mother was someone who prayed often and tearfully. As a teenager, I would come home to see my mother bent over the kitchen table, with her eyes closed, praying together with her best friend. They met regularly to pray for their children and husbands. At Mom’s funeral, my Mom’s best friend told me that they had often sat praying for me to have more confidence in life, as I was incredibly shy as a child and teenager and struggled in social situations. She told me that she could see that their prayer had been answered. Mom also prayed that I would meet a man that truly loved me, after she’d seen my heart broken by someone who didn’t. This is a prayer that was also definitely answered!
My Dad also shared of a time when my Mom was heartbroken hearing about young mothers committing suicide from postnatal depression in their town and she stayed up all night praying to God about it. The next morning she went out to go from door to door to meet the women with young children in our street, determined to show love and support to those who could be struggling in similar ways to the mothers that had taken their own lives.
I have also witnessed prayers for me by friends be answered in real tangible ways, as you will have seen in some of the posts I have shared. When my PTSD-induced flashbacks hit, I also had a team of friends lifting me up to God in prayer, something I will always be incredibly thankful for.
I have often written prayers into my journals, as I find it easier to express myself in the written than spoken word. In looking back at these prayers, I also see a transformation occurring: as the prayers are answered, I am led to pray deeper prayers, sharing and asking for things I dared not have voiced before and turning to the Scriptures, such as the Psalms, Lamentations and the Lord’s Prayer to communicate my deepest yearnings. And this is where I’m led to Jesus’ words to his disciples in Scripture, shortly before He was crucified:
John 16: 13 (The Message)
“I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I’ve said, ‘He takes from me and delivers to you.’
Prayer is not just us asking God for something, it is us being in communion with the Spirit of God. It is us being taken “by the hand” and guided “into all the truth there is”, as He leads us to pray for that which is within His will to give us:
John 15: 16
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
And so, when we are led to pray for family members and friends, for the needy in our communities, neighborhoods and those abroad, it is the Spirit leading us in the Love of our Heavenly Father. As His heart aches for His earthly children, His Spirit leads us to intercede for them before the throne of God, just as His Son intercedes for us when we are too broken to utter a word:
Romans 8: 26 (NIV)
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 through wordless groans.
In reflecting on these Scriptures, I am starting to understand why I am so often brought to tears, as I am led to pray for others who are in deep need. It is His Love and His Heartache that is moving within me. But what I also realize, is that the more space I make for Him within me, through quietening my soul before Him, the more prayers I am moved to pray and the more of His Love I am moved to accept and give.
One of the most powerful experiences I have had of this is when I was running in the park close to my house. I ran past an elderly man with a walker, who was obviously struggling, as he slowly trudged forward in his dishevelled-looking clothes. I felt the LORD call me to go to Him. And so after hesitating for a moment, I did. I chit-chatted with him about the weather and then feeling uncomfortable with the whole thing, walked away. And yet as soon as I got running again, it was as if the LORD was physically pushing me back, as if to say: “I’m not done yet.” A little voice in my head said: “Tell him that I love him. Tell him that I see him. Tell him that I see just how tough life is for him.” And so I did, as I placed my arm around him, even though I felt repulsed by his dishevelled appearance and drooling mouth. And as I did so, the tears began streaming down his face. He was visibly moved by the words, by the blessing spoken out upon him. Several weeks later I saw him in my neighborhood. He was running with his walker, really running, with a huge smile on his face, as someone else shouted out: “Are you training for a marathon?” and he just laughed! A few months later I saw him again as I was biking home from dropping my daughter off at school, with my youngest with me. I felt a nudge to stop and chat with him, but pushed the nudge away. To this day, I regret not stopping, not accepting God’s invitation to show His love.
As Jamin Googin and Kyle Strobel put it in Beloved Dust (p.157):
Every emotion, task, relationship and event in your life is an invitation to be with the Lord.
And yet sadly, all too often, I fail to accept this invitation to be in communion with Him, to feel His heart, to hear His voice and to speak His Love for and directly to both others and myself. Prayer, communion with God, is a gift of love He holds out to us all, eagerly awaiting our response, so that we too may bear more fruit in this life He has given us, just as those who have gone before us, such as my dear Mom, have done. May I move to accept this gift with open hands.