Intentions of the Heart

I don’t especially enjoy list praying. But I pray lists nonetheless. If I don’t, inevitably something or someone important falls through the cracks. And I don’t want to “sin against the LORD by failing to pray for [the people and concerns God has especially placed on my heart]” (1 Samuel 12:23).

So, especially on weekends when I have a little more time, I pray from a list. My list contains quite a few mainstays—the people and ministries I have committed to pray for. But the list also changes from week to week, depending on what special situations I am aware around the world and in my local church and community.

Anyway, I was praying from this list this past weekend. I got everything covered. But I felt as if I were merely going through the motions. Yes, I loved the people I prayed for. Yes, the matters I interceded about were important. But I felt nothing much except relief that I’d gotten it done.

I felt bad about not being more fervent. I felt as if I should apologize to God for my lack of passion. So I did. He responded by recalling to my mind Romans, 8:26-27:

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. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Thank You, Sweet Spirit, I prayed. Thank You for taking the intentions of my heart and making them into prayers that are acceptable to the Father. Thank You that You don’t hold my weakness against me—instead, You condescend to help me. What a kind God You are.

And then, almost as a P.S., I thought of something I learned only recently. Some streams of the Christian faith have a term they use for specific intercession. They call it “special intention” or “prayers of intention.” How cool is that? God understands our intention—we want for Him to bring His good kingdom into the situations that concern us—but we can only intend. We can’t make any of it happen. In fact, we don’t even know how best to pray. But God sees our intentions. And He works even when our prayers are frail and feeble.

Praying Like Mother Teresa

I always thought that loving difficult people came easily to nuns. I mean, isn’t it something they just naturally do? Surely they don’t struggle with it like I do!

But in the pages of Jan Johnson’s new (and excellent) book Meeting God in Scripture, I came across a prayer of Mother Teresa’s that suggests otherwise. What if it was no easier for Mother Teresa to love prickly people than it is for me? What if she just asked God for help more frequently and desperately than I do?

Here’s the prayer:

Dearest Lord, may I see you today and every day in the person of your sick, and, whilst nursing them, minister unto you.

Though you hide yourself behind the unattractive disguise of the irritable, the exacting, the unreasonable, may I still recognize you, and say: “Jesus, my patient, how sweet it is to serve you.”

And O God, while you are Jesus my patient, deign also to be to me a patient Jesus, bearing with my faults, looking only to my intention, which is to love and serve you in the person of each one of your sick.

Lord, increase my faith, bless my efforts and work, now and for evermore, Amen.*

I need this prayer! I need to see Jesus in the “unattractive disguise” of the sandpaper people I encounter on any given day. I need Him to accept my feeble attempts at loving as ministry offered to Him. I need him “to be to me a patient Jesus.” I need Him to look past my faults so He can see my intentions. I need this increase of faith and blessing on my efforts and work.

So this is another prayer I expect I will be memorizing and praying often.** And though I am quite sure no one will mistake me for Mother Teresa, perhaps, by God’s grace, over time, He will enable me to have more of His own love for people, even the ones who are tough to love.

*I am quoting Jan Johnson (Meeting God in Scripture, p. 185) who was quoting Veronica Zundel, ed, Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers: A Treasury of Christian Prayers Through the Centuries.

**See also

Do Not Be Alarmed

I shouldn’t look at email and social media first thing in the morning. I know this. I’ve even made a confession to that effect in an earlier post. But I still do it sometimes. Actually, I still do it a lot.

Like a couple of weeks ago. In less than 10 minutes, I had a disturbing briefing of conspiracy-theory politics, tainted food warnings, heresy allegations, and gloomy presidential election forecasts.

One email even promised “This will alarm you!”—and sure enough, it did! My thoughts, my emotions, even my body felt agitated.

I left my computer, got my coffee, and went to spent time with God. As I poured out my fears and anxieties—and embarrassment for letting these things trouble me like they did—He gently reminded me that He is still on the throne. He is still working all things, including those I’d been assaulted with that morning, together for His good purposes.

How panic-ridden our culture is—even (especially?) our Christian culture! How myriad are the ways the enemy tries to paralyze us with fear. Even Christian media too often succumbs to rumor-spreading, sensationalism, and fear mongering.

But fear does not strengthen my faith—it kills it. It makes me feel weak, powerless, even hopeless at times. The solution can’t be denial, though. So I asked the Lord to give me a strategy to combat the enemy’s attempts to undo me with fear.

A few days later, I did some personal Bible study. As I meandered through Old and New Testaments according to the map my online Bible tools provided, I was surprised by all the “do not” commands I found.

Do not …

  • fear the people of the land (Numbers 14:9).
  • fear or panic, or dread your enemies (Deuteronomy 20:3).
  • be discouraged (Joshua 1:9 etc.).
  • fear or dread the conspiracies everyone else is talking about (Isaiah 8:12).
  • be dismayed (Isaiah 41:10, etc.).
  • fear the reproach of mere mortals (Isaiah 51:7).
  • fear disgrace (Isaiah 54:4).
  • fear a wicked king (Jeremiah 42:11).
  • be afraid when rumors are heard in the land (Jeremiah 51:46).
  • be afraid of rebellious, obstinate, or stubborn people, or their words (Ezekiel 2:3-6).
  • lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:16, etc.).
  • fear unjust threats (1 Peter 3:14).

And why not? Because of who God is and what He does. Just look at a tiny sampling if it!

  • He strengthens those whose hearts are fully committed to Him (2 Chronicles 16:9).
  • He makes us bold and stouthearted (Psalm 138:3, NIV 1984 edition).
  • He is our strength, song, and salvation (Isaiah 12:2).
  • He strengthens and helps us (Isaiah 41:10).
  • He goes before, with, and after us (Isaiah 52:12).
  • He renews us day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).
  • He gives us a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

Just reading God’s reassuring words encouraged me. But I knew that I would need that encouragement on a regular basis. So I wrote down some of the “do not” reminders on a note card. And then underneath them, I wrote God’s promises. This card sits on my desk, by my laptop where I get most of my news.

I can’t stick my head in the sand and not pay attention to what is happening around me. But I can defend myself from alarm, panic, discouragement and dismay. And what can do that better than the never-changing Word of God?


40 Days of Prayer for America

It dawned on me recently that in spite of everything I’m seeing on social media, the Bible does not actually command us to vote. That’s not to say we can’t or we shouldn’t. But it’s not a command. It reassures me to remember that God worked incredible wonders in kingdoms and empires that did not enjoy the democratic process.

However, the Bible does command us to pray “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:2). And it also offers the principle of seeking “the peace and prosperity of the city … because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7).

I don’t think my vote this November will change the course of our country. But I do believe that my prayers might. So, starting Friday, I’ll be joining thousands of others in a 40-day season of prayer for our nation. Every Home for Christ has spearheaded this initiative. You can choose one of their two excellent prayer guides to lead you through these 40 days. I’ll be using the “Grace for America” prayer guide. But there is also one called “Fast Forward America.”

Interested in joining us? Go to for information and to download a prayer guide.


Traveling Mercies (Notre Dame, Part 2)

While fact-checking about Notre Dame Cathedral for last week’s post, I “happened” across a stunning answer to prayer.

As you know if you read that post, I had the privilege of worshiping in that majestic Paris cathedral September 4.

As you also probably know, France has been a target for terrorist activity recently. With this sobering fact in mind, prior to my trip I had asked a few friends to pray for my safety. I wasn’t worried. I know that God determines my length of days and that I can die just as easily in Colorado Springs as in Nice, Normandy, or Paris. Still, it makes sense to ask God for protection (and there is solid biblical precedent for this; see Ezra 8:21-23).

I was never fearful during my time in France, although it was unnerving to see so many law enforcement officials—outfitted in camouflage, boots, and machine guns—silently patrolling French streets and plazas. But I was also thankful that trained men and women were on the ready, alert to protect innocent citizens and tourists.

Anyhow, as I told you last week, my time in Notre Dame was wonderful. Uplifting. Worshipful. Memorable. Thoughts for my safety never crossed my mind.

Until almost a week later when I was back home in Colorado.

As I said, I was just verifying some basic facts about Notre Dame when I ran across headlines that made my blood run cold. A “commando” of French women with ties to ISIS had just been arrested on charges of a failed jihadist attack at Notre Dame! When had this attack been planned? Sunday morning, September 4, the morning I was worshiping there!

What a close call! Yet I never would have even known if I hadn’t happened to be fact checking last week.

How many times, I wondered, has God protected me from tragedy and I’ve never even known? What stories heaven has in store for us of all the ways God has been there for when and we were completely unaware.

But this time He did let me know. He wanted me to know that He’d heard all those prayers for my safety. He’d answered. And He let me experience the joy of knowing that He answered. I’m still pretty amazed by it all. And it makes me think that praying for “traveling mercies” may be more important than I’d ever realized.




Worship in the Beauty of Holiness

20160904_032837Ordinarily, I worship God in a storefront church. We are über casual. There is no liturgy to speak of—we are an informal bunch. If people want coffee during the service, they get up and get it. And if they have an opinion about what the pastor is saying, they may express it right there, on the spot. In fact, he often encourages such participation. Oh, and by the way, we all speak English at my church.

So it probably won’t surprise you that worshiping at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris earlier this month represented quite a change for me. My French is rusty, and my Latin non-existent. I am unfamiliar with the traditions of a Roman Catholic mass. The 12th-century church is huge and ornate, the atmosphere formal and quiet, and there is no coffee anywhere to be seen.

I anticipated feeling out of place. I expected not to know what was going on. And, frankly, I didn’t envision encountering God there.

But I was wrong—at least about the encountering God part.

As I sat down a few minutes before the service began, I was awed by the beauty. As I gazed at the magnificent stained glass, gilding, pillars, and soaring arches, I was overwhelmed by a sense of God’s majesty. I felt drawn right into the courts of heaven. Psalm 46:9 came to mind: “O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: tremble before him, all the earth.”

This church was built for Your glory, my heart prayed. It was built to reflect Your splendor. Holy, holy are You Lord!

I should have just stayed in that attitude of worship. But I also wanted to capture the moment, so I did the touristy thing: I pulled out my phone and snapped a photo. Instantly, it seemed, an older gentleman sat down next to me and started a stern lecture, in French! I could barely understand the words, but his meaning was very clear: I was not to take photos while seated in the nave. Either I was there as a tourist (not seated in the service, taking photos at will) or I was there as a worshiper. Which was it?*

I meekly apologized, put my phone in my purse, and waited quietly for the service to begin. As other worshipers entered, many faced the altar and genuflected before taking their seats. They were hushed and, unlike me, did not take pictures.

I was impressed by how reverent everyone was. The atmosphere seemed saturated with God’s holiness.

The priest, cantor, and altar boy started their procession down the aisle toward the front of the nave. The cross was lifted high, as was the Word of God. Incense filled the air. The symbolism of this trio of simple, beautiful acts stirred my heart to honor and praise God.

When the service began, there were no upbeat choruses. There was no good-good-Father-Jesus-calls-me-friend vibe. But there were majesty, splendor, and holiness. And there was singing—of Psalms, in French. I didn’t know all the words, but some did stand out to me: Seigneur, souverain, grand et puissant, majestueux, glorieux (Lord, sovereign, great and mighty, majestic, glorious). And they were enough. My soul worshiped along with the assembly and, dare I say? with the angels, too.

My imagination wandered to Isaiah 6 and Revelation 5—scenes before God’s throne in heaven. I could imagine, in a way I usually cannot at my casual, storefront church, what it might be like to be overcome by God’s holy presence.

Hebrews 8:5 says that the earthly tabernacle (later temple) is “a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.” A lot of that has been lost in on modern places and forms of worship. Which is not to say we all need to start new cathedral building programs. All I am saying is that for me at least, a visit to a cathedral once in a while is good for my soul. It reconnects me with the majesty of God and renews my reverence for Him. At least that’s what happened a Sunday at Notre Dame a week and a half ago.

*With a little embarrassment, I am sharing with you the solitary picture I took before the French gentleman’s rebuke. However, my out-of-focus, stolen photograph cannot begin to do it justice!



Coming Home with Words (Repost)

This is the final week of my short vacation from blogging. This time I’d like to share with you something from Christine Wyrtzen, a blogger who frequently writes to my heart.  Perhaps this post will be words “in season: for you as well. 

I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.  Psalm 32:5 King David is clear in today‘s scripture about the importance of words in the process of repentance.    He’s not preaching a sermon […]

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