Lord, Have Mercy

While fires raged in my beautiful city of Colorado Springs yesterday, I was at my late husband’s mother’s funeral in New York State. In the Orthodox tradition, the 90-minute service included many chanted prayers and Scripture readings. By far the most frequently sung words were, “Lord, have mercy.” They were chanted in hauntingly beautiful tones that resonated in my heart for the rest of the day and into the night.

Late last night I watched in disbelief as Internet media sources showed real-time scenes of familiar Colorado Springs neighborhoods—places where I had shared meals, laughter, tears, and friendship—burn in the inferno. It’s hard to be 2,000 miles away from friends when tragedy hits, so I called a friend who is in a (currently) safe neighborhood not far from mine. We prayed for many things—especially friends we love who had evacuated and were likely to lose their homes—but the prayer that repeated most in my heart and spirit was “Lord, have mercy.”

We did ask God for rain, for a shift in the winds, a lowering of the unseasonably high temperatures, stamina, courage, protection, and resources for fire fighters. We prayed spiritual protection. And we prayed for the faith of our friends who were in the direct path of the flames—asking God to strengthen the hearts and faith of these dear ones who are living such a nightmare.

But the prayer that made the most sense to me was, “Lord, have mercy.”  I encourage my own heart with the facts that God is merciful, He is good. He is loving. He is kind. He is strong. He is Lord. And so to His mercy I appeal—not for what I or my city deserves, not for what I think is the best way to “fix” this terrible situation—but for what He as a good and loving God gives. So I continue to sing that prayer in my heart to the Lord and wait on Him.

Please pray for God to have mercy on Colorado Springs—for the sake of His name and the love of His people.

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Listening to God for Others

I visited a friend’s church this past weekend and was blessed. Literally. What I mean is, my friend wanted me to meet her pastor and his wife, so she introduced me after the service. After the usual exchange of greetings, Pastor Mike asked if he, Cindy his wife, and my friend could bless me. Well, I’m never one to pass up an opportunity to be blessed, so of course I said yes.

The three of them laid hands on me then Mike began. “Lord, we’d like to bless Cynthia today. Is there anything You want to say to her through us?” They waited silently. After a minute or two, Cindy, the pastor’s wife, spoke. She had had seen a picture of me tending my garden. I was looking carefully to see if any of the seeds I’d planted were growing. God wanted me to know, she said, that they were indeed growing. That they would bloom, multiply, and bear lots of fruit. She also shared a scripture that the Holy Spirit had brought to mind.

Then Pastor Mike spoke. He had seen a different picture, but it had a similar meaning: The things I have been praying and working for are happening—even if I cannot see them yet. He said the enemy wanted to discourage me so I’d give up, but I must hang onto hope.

Finally, my friend spoke. While Cindy had been speaking, she had heard from the Lord that the seeds I’d planted in one specific situation—one very near to my heart for which I’ve been praying for years—were growing and would bear fruit.

Well, I probably don’t need to say how much these encouraging words bolstered my hope. Each picture, verse, and word resonated with me—these were all things the Lord had been saying to me already. But what wonderful confirmation to hear them from people I didn’t even know!

But wait, it gets better. That afternoon I got as surprise phone call. Casually, the caller told me something my heart has been waiting to hear for years. What he shared showed me that my friend had heard right—the situation so near to my heart that I’ve been praying about for so long—God is working! Big time! I think I smiled for hours after hanging up.

I have to admit that even though I’m a huge proponent of listening prayer, I don’t often use it to bless others. But after being on the receiving end of such powerful ministry, I think I’d like to change that! How about the rest of you? Do you listen to God and bless others with what He shares? I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

Giving God the Desires of HIS Heart

I often hear folks asking God for the things He promises—provision, peace, health, and safety, and the like. I do it myself, and why not?  I’m His child, and He is a good Father, so He gladly concerns Himself with the things that concern me. So if the issue on my heart is something I know that He does and wants to do, then I generally ask Him to do it.

But there is another side to praying according to God’s will: As much as God loves to take care of us, it’s not all about us. God intended prayer to be a two-way conversation. At its best, relationship with God is a mutual, reciprocal friendship. If I take time to listen, God confides His heart in me. He actually invites me to concern myself with what concerns Him. As I get to know God better and better, I care more and more about things He wants—the “His kingdom and righteousness” types of things (Matthew 6:33). Here are some Scripture promises that illustrate what I’m talking about.

“Those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18).

And this one: “You will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed” (Isaiah 49:23).

Here’s another one: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them” (Hebrews 6:10).

Or here’s one I read this morning: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7).

God has shown me how these expressions of His heart apply to specific situations around me—at work, at church, in my relationships, and in my own deepening relationship with Him. These promises express His heart. As I start to pray and lean into His desires, I express love for Him and bring Him joy, just as when He answers my provision-safety-peace prayers, I feel loved and cared for. It’s all part of genuine friendship with God.

I know I haven’t even scratched the surface of promises that express God’s heart. I’d love to hear from you: What God-centered promises are a part of your conversations with God these days?

 

Testing God

It’s relatively easy for me to begin praying with faith and gusto for something huge, even something “impossible.” It’s not so easy for me, however, to maintain that faith and gusto when God doesn’t seem to be doing anything in response to my prayers.

I have several requests that have been on my prayer list for years. Rather, I should say they have been on and off my prayer list for years because, honestly, my enthusiasm for praying about them ebbs and flows.

A month ago, God challenged me about that. I started what I thought would be a friendly, innocuous little conversation with Him. I asked Him if there was anything “fresh” He wanted to share with me concerning our relationship. I heard His reply right away. He wanted me to “test Him.”

In what? I asked. I was curious, but not real thrilled about the idea of “testing” God. I knew it was okay to test Him about tithing (see Malachi 3:10). But other kinds of “tests” made me nervous.

“Test Me in intercession” I seemed to hear Him say. We talked about that for a bit, Him and I. I told Him about the top four “impossibles” on my heart and why they seemed impossible. They all involved imperfect people with free wills who, because He set it up this way, had the liberty to choose something other than God’s will—and who often did. I know lots of you will want to challenge my theology on this, and I welcome you to—but for me, some of the hardest situations for me to pray about are ones where people seem blind or resistant to God’s plans for them. Because sometimes even God won’t interfere with free will, right?

Well, God gently reminded me of Saul on his way to Damascus. He’d interfered with his free will. He reminded me of Nebuchadnezzar whom he had turned mad for seven years until he finally acknowledged the God of heaven. And I remembered other situations, biblical and contemporary, where God had mercifully, miraculously, opened eyes, ears, and hearts that had previously been closed.

Okay, I get it, I said. You want me to ask You to do what seems to me to be the most impossible thing of all: You want me to ask you to change hearts that seem oblivious, self-reliant, or obstinate. Okay, I will. But You know how easily I give up when I don’t see anything happening.

God didn’t give me any promises about time tables, but He asked me to pray every day for four specific situations that I care very much about and have cared about for a long time. He told me that He likes it when I ask Him to do things that only He can do. And when He said that, I actually felt relief because in some of the situations I have felt like maybe there was something I could or should do. I felt responsibility for “helping God” to work in these situations. When I realized that all God was asking me to do was to pray with hope, I felt a complete release from pressure. It felt good.

It’s been a month now. All of the situations I have been praying for still seem a long way from resolution. But to my amazement, in three of these four “impossibles” I have seen undeniable signs of God at work and concrete reasons to be encouraged. Meaningful conversations, unexpected blessings, attitudes softening, situations being clarified—all of which could only happen because of God and that make me think He truly is at work.

I have to be honest, however: the fourth situation only seemed to get worse. I actually did give up praying about it for a few days—not intentionally, it just kind of melted away in the puddle of my discouragement. But when I noticed that I wasn’t doing the “test” I’d agreed to, I asked God for new hope. And He reminded me of the things I had been noticing Him doing in the other situations. And my hope did recharge and I began praying for the really tough situation again.

I’m not sure what specific point I want you to take away from my story, but here are some possibilities:

  • God really does move hearts and wills. Free will? Yes. But winsome, persuasive God? Yes!
  • Looking for signs of God at work—even tiny forward movement—can really encourage faith
  • Persevering prayer makes God happy.
  • God loves to do the impossible. If there’s nothing we can do to help make the situation “happen,” He’s fine with that. Sometimes He even seems to especially like it.
  • If you don’t see God working in one area you’ve been praying about, boost your hope and faith by noticing and praising Him for what He is doing in another.
  • Have fun with God. He likes it when we experiment with Him in prayer and faith.

As for my “test,” it’s officially over now. The month is up. But God has encouraged my faith so much that I think I’ll keep going for another month.

Do you ever do prayer experiments with God? I’d love to hear about it!