". . ., but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. Romans 8:26

I invite you to explore and reflect on the ways that we become more aware of how we can interact with God. I will discuss ways that we can become more sensitive and aware of God's presence in our daily life.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Are you like Jonah?

Last week I led a short Bible study for a women's group using the book of Jonah for a discussion on prayer. Quite a few people, the sailors and the people of Ninevh, end up praying to God and commit to changing their behavior in response to God's mercy and love.

The only person who does not do this is Jonah. He prays and talks to God, but he is too stubborn to really see and accept God's grace for himself.

At the end of the story (4:2) we find out that Jonah fled from the task God gave him because he was afraid that Nineveh would repent and that God would forgive them and spare them. He fails to see that God continued to pursue him because God also wanted to forgive Jonah.

The story could have ended in the first chapter when Jonah was thrown overboard. The disobedient prophet should have drowned. End of story. The sailors now prayed and made vows to Jonah's God, so even his disobedience brought a few people to faith.

But, God was not finished with Jonah. A fish swallowed Jonah, which saved his life. After 3 days and 3 nights in the fish, Jonah prayed to God. He was so stubborn that he avoided talking to God for 3 entire days, while in the belly of a fish! He did not talk to God before then because he did not want to hear what God had to say.

In response to Jonah's prayer, God had the fish spit him out on the beach. Jonah went to Nineveh. He told them about God's judgment. The people repented. God forgave them. Jonah got mad.

He did not want God to forgive them. He sat on a hill to watch the city, hoping that they would do something to make God destroy them. God did not leave him to sulk. God continued to reach out to Jonah.

The story does not really end. The Stubborn Prophet continues to wait and talk to God. God continues to talk to Jonah. God does not give up on Jonah. God is on the hill with him as the story ends.

Have you ever been this stubborn? Without God's mercy and love for Jonah--it would have been a very short book. Jonah argued; Jonah disobeyed; Jonah begrudgingly did what God asked him to do; Jonah got mad when God forgave.

Yet, when the story ends, God still cares for Jonah. God is still reaching out to him with love.

Even when we may not want to pray because we do not want to hear what God has to say to us--God will continue to reach out to us. Remember Jonah. Remember God's love for you. Pray and talk to God today.

I welcome comments at WordsandSigh@blogspot.com

Pastor Michael

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How important is prayer in your life?

We live in a world with many demands upon our time. There never seems to be enough time for many of us to do the important things that we need to do. What happens to our personal time for prayer? Does our time in prayer with God shrink as demands on our time grows?

One way to deal with time demands is to make prayer and time for prayer important. As you fill out your daily, weekly, and monthly schedules and appointments list the times each day that you want to spend in prayer. Fill them in with ink if you still use a paper calendar. Enter the times in your electronic helpers.

This can be an important reminder of how important prayer is to your daily life. You are more likely to follow through if you list time for prayer in your daily schedule.

Martin Luther made a very interesting statement about prayer that may help each one of us keep it in perspective: "When I start each day, therefore, I make it a point to spend an hour in prayer with God. But if I have a particularly busy day, and am more rushed than usual, I make it a point to spend two hours with God before I start the day."

Luther understood the importance of prayer. This statement shows how seriously he took his time in prayer with God. When life became more hectic and busy he realized that he needed to spend more time in prayer, not less.

I have discovered that I am not like Luther. I would not be successful if I tried to begin each day with an hour of prayer, much less two hours. I have been successful when I schedule prayer times throughout the day in ten minute segments.

Each time of prayer has a specific focus: family, congregation members, prayer list from church, specific ministries, etc. I have also found many opportunities for time in prayer when I looked for them. If I am visiting people or attending meetings, I take time to pray after I park the car. While waiting for a dental appointment, I prayed instead of looking at old magazines. Even waiting at the post office to purchase stamps or mail a package can be a time to spend in prayer.

A key step to being successful, is to claim the importance of prayer in your life and then act. Schedule it! Look for opportunities to pray!

Talk to God as often as you can.

I welcome comments at WordsandSighs@gmail.com

Pastor Michael

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Answers to Prayer

Once in a great while someone will approach me and ask me: "Why did God not answer my prayers?".

My first answer is that God did answer your prayers. Perhaps God said, "No!" or "Not Now!". We do not like to think about the times that God may say "No.". But what if God is saying, "Not yet." or "Wait a little longer."? How can we tell the difference?

I found one answer to this difficulty when I read an article in a Lutheran Women's magazine about five years ago that addressed this problem. A woman of mature faith was struggling because she felt that God did not always answer her prayers. She decided to keep a notebook where she would write down her prayer requests and then she would write down the date when her prayer was answered.

After a short time of doing this, she realized that God was constantly answering her prayers. She realized that most of the time she was not looking for God's response to her prayers, so she did not see them. Once she started intentionally looking for God's answers to her prayers--she became surprised at God's creativity and faithfulness in answering her.

This observation has transformed her prayer life. Instead of complaining about a lack of answers, she celebrates all the prayers that God has responded to. She still keeps her notebook of prayer requests and answers. It is now primarily a list of all of the prayers that God has answered!

She was also embarrassed to notice that God even answered prayers that she had forgotten about. God was more faithful to her prayer life than she was.

Try this exercise for two weeks. Keep a list of your prayer requests and write down when those prayers are answered. You will be surprised at how many answers you see once you start to look for them.

Pray and then look to see how God answers you.

I welcome comments at WordsandSighs@gmail.com

Pastor Michael