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5 Keys to Effective Prayer

For those of us in the U.S., May 2 was the National Day of Prayer, an event first called in 1775 by the Continental Congress, and established by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. In 1952 Congress voted unanimously to establish a National Day of Prayer. The purpose of this day is specifically to pray for the nation and those in authority. According to Paul in 1 Timothy 2:8, we do this so that we will have a peaceable and quiet land.

5 Keys to Effective Prayer.jpg

I believe there are at least 5 Keys to effective prayer for any nation, not just the United States. They are:

  1. Forgive those whose political stance we oppose.

  2. Forgive those of our own political leanings who have not governed wisely.

  3. Forgive the political, media and social groups that have sown evil and discord.

  4. Forgive our family, friends, co-workers, and pastors for inaction, silence, or judgments made relative to the government.

  5. Forgive ourselves for our own inaction, silence or judgments made relative to the government.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray the focus of the prayer Jesus taught them was about the nations and government — on earth as it is in Heaven.  The prayer in Matthew 6:9 begins and ends with reference to the kingdom. Four keys of prayer are referenced: Father God, freedom, food and forgiveness.  I believe that the first three depend on the last one — forgiveness.

Forgiveness was God’s idea and it is only because of His forgiveness that we are in a position to pray to Him as Father.  We are commanded to forgive just as we have been forgiven. Sometimes it is challenging to obey this command when the issue is tied to political and governmental people and issues. Then we find ourselves involved in intellectual debate, questions of right and wrong or righteous indignation.  It may even be difficult to identify our unforgiveness.  However, if we are uncertain, Holy Spirit is able to reveal it in our heart. And it is vitally important to deal with what is in our heart. David said in Psalm 66:18 : “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (NIV) For me that one verse is enough motivation to allow unforgiveness to be uncovered and dealt with.

Holy Spirit, search our hearts. May we forgive as we have been forgiven, so that our prayers will be heard and our nation will be saved.

How's Your Sleep?

Did you know that March 16th is World Sleep Day? I don't think it has been designated as an official U.S. holiday, but perhaps it should be. The statistics continue to show that we are a nation (and world) of seriously sleep deprived people.

Sleeping panda

Two thirds of the people in the U.S. don't get enough sleep. 87% of high school students are suffering from lack of sleep. Unfortunately all the research on the benefits of sleep have not been enough to bring radical change to the statistics. Not only are we sleep deprived, but also quite uneducated about sleep. For too long it has been viewed as something primarily for babies and old people. Most of us think we "get enough" sleep, not having any guidelines about what "enough" really means.

Below is a quick Sleep Assessment Questionnaire. As you go through the questions, count up how many True statements you have, and let me know your current number in the comments section! Look out for my next blog, with tips for better sleep...


Maas Robins Alertness Questionaire

These twenty statements help differentiate between well-rested and sleep-deprived individuals. Ready? Answer TRUE or FALSE.

  1. I often need an alarm clock in order to wake up at the appropriate time.

  2. It's often a struggle for me to get out of bed in the morning.

  3. Weekday mornings I often hit the snooze bar several times.

  4. I often feel tired and stressed out during the week.

  5. I often feel moody and irritable, and little things upset me.

  6. I often have trouble concentrating and remembering.

  7. I often feel slow with critical thinking, problem solving, and being creative.

  8. I need caffeine to get going in the morning or make it through the afternoon.

  9. I often wake up craving junk food, sugars, and carbohydrates.

  10. I often fall asleep watching TV.

  11. I often fall asleep in boring meetings or lectures or in warm rooms.

  12. I often fall asleep after heavy meals or after a low dose of alcohol.

  13. I often fall asleep while relaxing after dinner.

  14. I often fall asleep within five minutes of getting into bed.

  15. I often feel drowsy while driving.

  16. I often sleep extra hours on the weekends.

  17. I often need a nap to get through the day.

  18. I have dark circles around my eyes.

  19. I fall asleep easily when watching a movie.

  20. I rely on energy drinks or over-the-counter medications to keep me awake.

Results: If you answered "True" to four or more of these statements, CONSIDER YOURSELF SERIOUSLY SLEEP-DEPRIVED!

Developed by Dr. James B. Maas and Rebecca S. Robbins of Cornell University

It's Not Too Late for a Fresh Start

What has 2017 been like so far? Have you made progress with the projects you planned to begin, and the new habits you so eagerly desired to establish? I will be the first to admit that the beginning of my year has not been smooth sailing: paperwork, projects and surprise deadlines have all made an appearance in my calendar! And yet, I feel the voice of the Holy Spirit encouraging me that He is an expert when it comes to fresh starts, including this one.

growing

Last year I remember encouraging my followers: February 1st is the new January 1st! As I reflect on how this year has begun, the same rings true. We all need time to prepare, and I have chosen to view February as a month of preparation. It is not enough for me to have great ideas about what I will do this year: I am taking time to get God’s wisdom on how I can move towards the vision He gave me for 2017, one step at a time.

As I talk with my Heavenly Father about the year ahead, I am reminded that fresh starts rarely begin with fireworks and the strike of midnight - as much as I enjoy those things! Rather, they begin with a quiet but confident “yes”, and small steps that take me in the right direction. Our God is not so excited about our big plans as he is about the moments when we patiently choose to keep moving in the right direction. Like the disciples leaving their nets to follow Jesus or the boy who offered his bread and fishes, one small “yes” can result in extraordinary things when we are partnered with God.

Today I encourage you to book some meetings with God. Be honest with Him about your hopes, fears and dreams for this year - he is not intimidated! Then ask Him to show you what small things you can do today to keep moving in the right direction. If you need guidance, why not use my e-workbook Prep7? I think it is a great tool to help you re-focus and converse with God about what He has in store for you. You may also want to talk with your friends and family about their plans for the year. Encourage each other to find where God’s grace is, and take the small first steps.

I would love to hear back from you about how God has helped you to get a fresh start in the areas you need it most. What made a difference for you?

The Waiting Game

Waiting can be the most painful experience any of us face. For children, it is worse than hell itself! The frustrated cry from kids, sitting in the back seat, of "when are we going to get there?" is heard around the world in every language. As adults we may have that same cry, but have learned to use our "inside" voices to impatiently, but quietly, ask God a similar question.

Patience

Another word for waiting is that awful "p" word patience. Whether we like it or not, patience is a character trait that God wants to produce in His kids. It is not an optional extra for a select few. He wants all of His sons and daughters to perfectly imitate His Son, Jesus Christ, who is His exact likeness. It is heartening to know God isn't asking us to do something He doesn't do Himself. He is not an unkind parent who says "Do as I say, not as I do."

God never requires something from us without also supplying His power and strength for success. The Holy Spirit in us is the dynamic energy we need for the development of obedient, faith-filled patience. He lends me His strength for the long ride in the back seat.

Consider for just a minute the extent of God's patience towards the human race. He waited for generations until the fullness of time arrived for Jesus to appear. He is still waiting for us as we disciple the nations and bring Heaven to earth. In the midst of His waiting He doesn't lose hope, condemn, criticize, complain, get depressed, throw tantrums, disconnect, or send another flood and start over. He is always loving, always hopeful, and always patient with us.

Paul gave a character checklist in 2 Peter 1:5-8. Here's the list in the order in which he gave them: "And besides this, giving all diligence add to your faith…”

Virtue
Knowledge
Temperance
Patience
Godliness
Brotherly Kindness
Charity

Patience is the key, the turning point that brings us into godliness from which the greatest commandment to love one another is possible. It is impossible to obey Jesus’ words to His disciples to love God, and to love their neighbor as they loved themselves, without embracing patience. We know that from experience. It is difficult to act in love towards someone who is driving us crazy keeping us waiting!

Recently I was talking with God about some “waiting issues” in my own life. He showed me an image of myself in a waiting room. There was one door and periodically someone from the other side would open the door, call someone's name and usher him or her through the door. There were various responses from those in the room whose names were not called. Their faces spoke, even if their mouths were silent: expressions of discouragement, impatience, and anger.

I asked Him to show me what I could do in the waiting room in order to stay patient and not lose hope. With those who currently receive my emails, or for those who subscribe now, I am sharing my list of 25 Things to Do in the Waiting Room.  I hope this will help if you feel stuck and forgotten in the waiting room!

Hope from History: Resources

Hi friends! To accompany my recent thoughts on getting God's perspective on the past, here is a little list of resources I have used to get informed and increase my level of hope for the future!

...and my talk Hope for the Nations is now available online!

I pray your expectation is stirred and that you experience God ministering to you personally as you explore all that is on His heart for our nations!

Hope from History

Today I want to share what I have been thinking about regarding the power of history. All of us have history. The body of Christ has a history. Each of our nations has a history. But do these stories fill us with hope?

When I think of my past, what do I feel? Thankfulness, satisfaction, amazement? Or do I feel shame, guilt, or regret? How I see the past really matters. If I cannot see God’s involvement in my past, I usually struggle to expect His involvement in my future! If I have not received forgiveness for mistakes I made in the past, I have a hard time living in the blessing He wants to pour out on me today.

Like it or not, having the wrong version of the past holds me back from enjoying God’s plan for my future. If this resonates with you, might you want to take a moment right now to talk with God about your past? Ask Him to show you where He was in the moments He seemed absent. Ask Him to forgive you and reaffirm His love for you in spite of past failures.

I want to take this a step further: what about the Body of Christ? What about our respective nations? The Church has a remarkable history of revival. Likewise, each of our nations - as different as they may be - have stories of how God has intervened and used His people to change the course of history. When I forget God’s involvement in the history of my nation, it is harder for me to expect His involvement today. Yet, God calls me to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12), knowing that “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed”! (Romans 13:11)

I am eager to understand what God has in store for my nation.  It is important for me to increase my expectation for Him to fulfill the promises I read in the Bible. My number one way of growing my expectation is to study what He has already done! For me, that may involve reading about Christian revivals, watching a video, listening to a podcast, or having a conversation with someone who has a longer history with God than I do.  I have found that as I search through history, His glorious acts shine through and fill me with expectation for what He wants to do next.

Click here to see some resources I have used to get God's perspective on the past to increase my hope for the future!