Priority in Prayer

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Photo of our sweet son taken by my darling hubby!

I don’t believe in New Years resolutions. Study after study concludes that they are an ineffective way to set achievable goals and they often work against us, giving us a benchmark for the date of our repeated failures. So when the ball dropped on 2013, my husband and I had no goals set above what we already work towards on a daily basis.

A few days after we welcomed (or perhaps slept through) the New Year I was fortunate enough to go on a date with the man I have been blessed to share my life with. If you don’t know me personally, you just have to believe me when I say I have the most incredible husband!

We do not ‘date’ nearly as often as we want to or should. We are fortunate to have willing babysitters in the form of beloved grandparents but we seem to use those opportunities to serve together in ministry or participate together in something church related instead of pouring into each other. Now I am not saying it isn’t important to serve side by side but I think the date we had prior to our January encounter was early September – like I have said before, we are far from perfect.

While we were at dinner, ironically the same table at the same restaurant as our September rendezvous, we had a wonderful discussion about how we could spur each other on spiritually, what things we wanted to change in our home to make it more Christ-centered and how we could pray for each other better. The night before our date my husband was at work late and I sent him a link to an article I had read for husbands on how best to pray for their wives. As we discussed it over dinner I realized in a lightening bolt moment that this list was intended not for my husband, but for me.

Everything on the list was something I needed to be praying for myself. Of course I know these things are something I should be asking of my Lord, and my husband should be praying as well, but I do not often come with such boldness, such arrow-focused intensity.

Here is the list as found on Desiring God:

  1. God, be her God — her all-satisfying treasure and all. Make her jealous for your exclusive supremacy over all her affections (Psalm 73:24–25).
  2. Increase her faith — give her a rock-solid confidence that your incomparable power is only always wielded for her absolute good in Christ (Romans 8:28–30).
  3. Intensify her joy — a joy in you that abandons all to the riches of your grace in Jesus and that says firmly, clearly, gladly: “I’ll go anywhere and do anything if you are there” (Exodus 33:14–15).
  4. Soften her heart — rescue her from cynicism and make her tender to your presence in the most complicated details of dirty diapers and a multitude of other needs you’ve called her to meet (Hebrews 1:3).
  5. Make her cherish your church — build relationships into her life that challenge and encourage her to walk in step with the truth of the gospel, and cause her to love corporate gatherings, the Lord’s Table, and the everyday life of the body (Mark 3:35).
  6. Give her wisdom — make her see dimensions of reality that I would overlook and accompany her vision with a gentle, quiet spirit that feels safe and celebrated (1 Peter 3:4).
  7. Sustain her health — continue to speak your gift of health and keep us from presumption; it is by blood-bought grace (Psalm 139:14).
  8. Multiply her influence — encourage and deepen the impact she has on our children. Give her sweet glimpses of it. Pour her out in love for our neighbors and spark creative ways to engage them for Jesus’ sake (John 12:24).
  9. Make her hear your voice — to read the Bible and accept it as it really is, your word… your very word to her where she lives, full of grace and power and everything she needs pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
  10. Overcome her with Jesus — that she is united to him, that she is a new creature in him, that she is your daughter in him. . . No longer in Adam and dead to sin; now in Christ and alive to you, forever (Romans 6:11).

By changing the personal pronoun on this list from which it was originally intended I saw hollowness in my current relationship with Christ that I longed to change. I am not saying this has been resolution. But it is a reminder and one that I have kept in my mind since the year began. In fact it was a tool of conviction that my prayer life had been more mundane and self focused instead of passionately Christ focused.

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Never Good Enough

Sunset in snowy Spruce Forest

Is there someone in your life that always makes you feel like you can never measure up? That no matter what you do or how hard you try you will never be good enough for them? Or is it a perfectionist voice in your own head that will not be satisfied? I know that this is not a syndrome exclusive to those in vocational ministry. Most people I have talked to about this have someone in their lives, even themselves, that they either strive to impress or have given up trying to be accepted by. I have some of those relationships too and I will be honest in saying that I perform a delicate dance between trying to earn acceptance and giving up the fight for it.

Talking to my hubby about this helped me put my frustrations and hurt feelings into a more healthy and biblical perspective. Don’t get me wrong, he let me have a good cry before diving into theology.

He said darling, you are not good enough. For the only thing that matters, you simply do not measure up. You were made in the image of God but you are stained. There is nothing that you can do to earn that away. It is by grace alone. And because you have been given grace you must extend it. Even when people treat you badly or when they hurt your feelings or when they make you feel like you aren’t good enough. Extend the grace that you didn’t deserve but were freely given.

Sound theological advice and counsel, given with love. But sooooo hard to put into practice! Not only do I have to extend grace when I self-righteously feel justified in withholding it but I have to find my peace, contentment and acceptance in Christ alone. Its counter-cultural and a battle of the flesh to achieve.

I didn’t think I could get this through my thick, sin permeated skull even though I knew it to be true. So I took some time to read the word and this is what I discovered:

  • Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness.”
  • Psalm 147:11, “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”
  • 1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this [salvation] you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
  • Romans 2:29, “But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”
  • 1 Corinthians 4:5, “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.”

The truth is that the Lord delights in me. ME! Sin stained, imperfect and never good enough me. Not because of who I am, what I have done or am capable of doing but because I find my delight in Him. I won’t ever be perfect but because I was adopted into the family of God by what Christ did on the cross I can rejoice. Not rejoicing in myself but in the God who chose me. Who loves me. Who knows I am not good enough but wants to know me anyways. Who loves me even though I constantly fall short of His standards.

And on days that you feel like you don’t measure up or when you are done trying to earn worldly acceptance, rejoice in the Lord. “May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, ‘God is great!’” Psalm 70:4