Helping women live victorious lives in Christ

Posts tagged ‘Prayer’

Exercise Patience

by Brenna Fields Taylor

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-3, NKJV)

When we go to the doctor, he or she may tell us that we need to start exercising.  Exercising is not an easy thing, and we may not want to do it (because it takes effort, it takes work); but it is required so that we can maintain or improve our health.

During the season in which we’re finding ourselves, I believe God is calling us to exercise patience.  By now, many of us thought that the pandemic would be coming to an end and that we could start returning to our normal lives (and as of the time of this blog post, that is far from true).  And on top of the pandemic, the racial, economic, and political climate is one that we in this generation have never seen or experienced.  And yet, I believe God is calling us to be patient.

In the epistle of James, the author teaches us to consider it joy when we face difficulties. Why? Because it’s going to produce something good in us, and that is patience.  No one likes to wait, but as we exercise patience, we are growing, we are maturing, and our faith is increasing.  So James says that we are to allow patience to do a work in us.

When we engage in physical exercise, the more we do it, the better we become.  Our muscles grow stronger, we can walk or run faster, our bodies function better, we sleep better, and we reap all kinds of benefits from physical exercise.  When we exercise patience, we’re reaping spiritual benefits:  we are growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, our faith is increasing, and we have a deeper relationship with God (we pray more, we trust Him more, we have the peace that passes all understanding).

Look at your life before the pandemic and now: Are you praying more? Are you seeking God’s face more? If the answer is yes to those questions, that’s means we are exercising patience! We have no idea when the situations we face will come to an end.  Until they do, I encourage you to continue exercising patience.  And as we do, watch what God does in your own life as well as in the world and His kingdom.  We will reap the spiritual benefits if we continue to exercise patience.

Hold On

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

by Brenna Fields Taylor

As I write this blog, it is April of 2020, and the world is in the middle of a pandemic called COVID-19, a virus that is spreading rapidly throughout the world, taking the lives of countless people.  Because of the contagious nature of the disease, many communities are living in a complete shut-down (or at minimum, are sheltering in place, rarely venturing outside). As a result, the times in which we are living are unsettling, unusual and unprecedented.  History records that there have been many plagues of diseases that have impacted the entire world, including the flu pandemic of 1918 and a cholera pandemic that ran from 1852-1860.  While the experience of pandemics is new to us, it is not new to the world and certainly not new to God.

In the midst of these trying weeks, I have witnessed God’s healing power restores friends and loved ones, and at the same time I’ve seen when God has chosen to call others home to be with Him.  It has been an emotional rollercoaster!  What we are being told about this current pandemic seems to change almost daily, and a lot of times, we are unsure whose report to believe.  Churches don’t know whether they should meet in person or not, and sadly, there are debates among Christians on faith (or lack thereof), depending on churches’ decisions on this issue.  Vacations, conferences, class and family reunions, and weddings have been cancelled or postponed.  And since no one has any idea of how long this thing is going to last,  our lives seem to be on hold.

Even in the midst of all of this, I want to encourage you (and me) to hold on.  Isaiah 41:10 in the NLT says “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

This virus has many of us hesitant to leave our homes and to be in close proximity to other people, and rightfully so. But this particular passage says that we shouldn’t be afraid.  This virus may have some of us feeling discouraged because we see so much sickness and death around us. I will admit that, even as a minister, I have been overwhelmed by the many prayer requests for healing and comfort, even as my own family deals with the aftermath of death.

But in this passage, God tells us that we don’t have to be afraid and discouraged, because He is with us AND He is our God.  God has given us three promises in this one verse: He promises to strength us, to help us and to hold us up.  I encourage you to lean on and lean into God and these promises, that He will strengthen you, to help you and to hold you up.

What I find interesting about this passage is that it’s not just any old hand that is holding us up.  It is God’s “victorious right hand” that is holding us up.    The right hand of God symbolizes power and might.  It conveys authority and blessings.  Not only is the hand of God powerful, but it is also victorious.  So if God is holding me up with his victorious right hand, he is giving me power, strength, authority, blessings and victory, even in this precarious time.

I know we are overwhelmed, tired and unsure…but hold on.  God has promised to strengthen us, to help us, and to hold us up.  Let’s trust God together.

 

God is Speaking…Listen!

by Brenna Fields Taylor

I was in my devotional time today, and I began to pray for a friend of mine who is going through a situation similar to what I have just recently experienced. I called her name in prayer, asking God to give her bold faith to persevere through this trial. Since I am beginning to emerge from my own circumstance, I’ve come to recognize that my faith in God has increased!   What I’m currently facing seems to be challenging, but I am declaring by faith that God will handle it (I am not worried about the ‘how;’ I just know that He will). This is the prayer I prayed for my friend.

God is an amazing God! After I finished praying, I turned to the daily devotional I read, and this is what the scriptural reference was:

Isaiah 46:3-4 (NLT)

Listen to me, descendants of Jacob,
all you who remain in Israel.
I have cared for you since you were born.
Yes, I carried you before you were born.
 I will be your God throughout your lifetime—
until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
I will carry you along and save you.

Talk about an on-time word! God spoke directly to my situation as well as to my friend’s, and I had literally just called her name in prayer minutes before! If you ask God to speak to you about a situation, trust that He will do it! And it will be unmistakable that it is HIS voice!

What God also said to me in this short amount of time is that when you are listening for His voice and walking in faith (bold faith, I might add), when the fiery darts of the enemy come your way (Ephesians 6), they affect you differently. Yes, the enemy may shoot them, but our faith doesn’t allow them to burn us! Our bold faith, based on the Word of God, is protecting us…we don’t have to worry about what the enemy throws our way. We are aware of the enemy’s tactics and schemes, but we keep moving forward in faith, knowing that God WILL care for us, carry us, and be with us!

Be encouraged, friends! We serve a God who speaks to us and to our specific situations. Ask Him to speak to you and then listen for His voice. And walk in faith!

Be Courageous!

By Brenna Fields Taylor

During a recent difficult season, a friend of mine told me that I was courageous. She explained why she felt that way, but, in the middle of my drama, I certainly didn’t feel that way. In fact, the last thing I believe I was at that point was courageous. Frankly, in that moment, I felt weak and powerless.

Courage

I recently saw an adaptation of The Wiz, and if you’ve seen the movie or the Broadway production, you know about the Cowardly Lion. Although the lion is supposed to be the king of the jungle, this particular lion did not see himself as such, and he wanted The Wiz to give him courage. As the production progressed, although the characters had not yet made it to The Wiz, little by little the Lion began to do courageous things (and he didn’t realize it). As the play concludes, the Lion realized he possessed courage all along.

As I reflect on my life and the challenges I’ve faced (many of them in the last 2 years…most of them ongoing), I’ve started thinking about courage. What is it, really?

To me, courage means stepping into the unknown. Many times, we like life to be stable and predictable. Speaking for myself, I enjoy the regularity and routineness of life. It’s safe, it’s comfortable, it’s orderly. And yet, if you’ve lived for any length of time, you know that life can be far from stable and predictable. Times come when we are shaken out of our comfort and need to move into something different. Sometimes moving into something different is what we want, and other times it’s something we must do (we have no choice in the matter). In either case, when we are stepping into the unknown, the thing we’re facing is different than anything we’ve ever experienced. We don’t know what to expect, or even what the next step will be, but we step. We don’t know in which direction this step will take us, but we step. To me, that is courage.

I also believe that courage is facing a situation you may have avoided for a period of time. I know a person who knew something was going on in his physical body, but did not seek medical attention. He ignored the situation, hoping that it would somehow go away. If we’re dealing with financial challenges, they are not going to magically get better (no money will rain down from heaven). If you’re faced with health challenges, short of a miracle, they will not just go away. Again, if you’ve lived for any length of time, you know that issues don’t just disappear. They must be faced, confronted, dealt with. Courage is recognizing there is a problem, understanding that it is bigger than you can handle, and taking steps to move toward resolution.  Recognizing a problem is looking it square in the eye and acknowledging it exists.  The issue is there, and will not go away until we admit it’s there. Once we’ve honestly acknowledged its existence, we can do things to move toward resolution, such as prayer, wise counsel, research, etc. The issue may not (and probably will not) be resolved overnight, but exercising courage means we are addressing something we’ve avoided.

The last point I want to make about courage is this: being courageous means we are taking a risk. I have a tendency to be risk averse (as I said earlier, I like stability). But being courageous means getting a little uncomfortable and moving forward in the face of fear. Conditions will never be ideal for us to make a move forward, but if we want our situations to be different, we must make a change. The time will never be right to start that business, go back to school, start saving for that house, to rebuild your life. But if you don’t start, how will the thing ever get done?

What have you been procrastinating about? What’s that one thing you desire to do or need to face? Today is the day…be courageous and take one step. After you’ve taken the first step, take the second, then the third, then the fourth. As you do that, just like The Lion in The Wiz, you are exercising courage you didn’t realize you had. Be courageous!

Why Should Christians Assemble Themselves Together?

We live in a world where technology affords us opportunities to do thing quickly and easily, many times with little to no help from others. We have smartphones and tablets that we can use to get the latest information on any given topic, without having to ask anyone. If we want to connect with someone, we can use our devices to do so, and when we call them, instead of just hearing a voice, we can also see them ‘face to face.’   If we want to further our education, we can take online classes (as a student in an online Master’s program, I can relate to this).  And if we want to participate in a worship service, we can live stream many churches from anywhere in the world.

Assemble Ourselves Image

Technology is a good thing, but it has the ability to make us think we don’t need to get together with other believers.   Hebrews 10:25 tells us “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near (NLT).” Since the Word of God is timeless and true, this not only applied to believers during the time this was written, but it also applies to us today.  So the question is: in spite of all the advances that enable us to go solo, why should Christians assemble ourselves together? What are the benefits of assembling ourselves together? I’m glad you asked!

As we come together in worship and praise, we receive encouragement from one another, as the verse in Hebrews clearly tells us.  Each person has had difference experiences during the previous week, and will have to encounter other types of challenges in the upcoming week.  These tests can sometimes cause us to get discouraged, so we are to build one another up as we face them, admonishing each other to “…stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV).  Assembling ourselves together is a way for each of us to get the strength we need to face these tests, “for you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing (James 1:2-4, NLT). The encouragement we can receive coming together and sharing with one another is invaluable (having recently experienced this myself, I can totally relate)!

Also, as we come together, we are given opportunities to minister to others. Worship service is not just about what we can receive individually, but also what we can give to someone else.  God can use us in unexpected ways to be a blessing to others, and we should always be prepared to minister to and bless one another.  Being prepared to minister doesn’t necessarily mean having a sermon or teaching prepared, nor is it just reserved for those who are called to ministry (although every believer has a ministry…that’s another topic for another blog).  We should ask God to send us opportunities to be a blessing to someone, and be open to recognize them when they come.  They can be things as simple as greeting someone with a smile and a hug (not knowing that your greeting is the first friendly one they’ve received in a while), holding the door open for someone, or offering to watch a baby while mom goes to the restroom.  Or you may be called to pray for someone or offer a word of encouragement to a person who’s hurting. Instead of saying, “I’ll keep you in my prayers,” why not stop right then and there and pray for them? What a tangible and real way to show someone you love them and are concerned about them!

Lastly, when we assemble ourselves together, we can learn from one another.  Yes we can certainly listen to a sermon or teaching online, but there’s nothing like sitting next to someone hearing the message or teaching and seeing the light bulbs of revelation come on!  When we’re in small groups or in Sunday School classes, we have the chance to share our personal experiences, which help us to see how the Word of God manifests in real and practical ways. We can ask questions about what we’re learning (something we can’t do over a livestream) and others can help reinforce the lessons in our minds.

Yes, life can get busy, and technology gives us the opportunity to hear God’s Word wherever we may be.  But nothing can replace Christians coming together to fellowship with each other, encourage each other, learn together and pray for one another.  So put your electronic device away, get up and go assemble with the saints of God.  I promise that you’ll be blessed by the experience and will be able to share that blessing with others.   See you in service!

Is Mustard Seed Faith Enough?

Many Christians (I’m sure) are familiar with this passage from the book of Hebrews: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, NASB). Have you ever prayed for something for an extended period of time, but subconsciously given up hope that your prayer would ever be answered?  We say the right words when we pray and we end our prayer with “in Jesus’ name, Amen,” and yet, deep down inside, we just don’t believe that our answer will ever come.  Well, I will confess that I’ve prayed this particular prayer but didn’t believe it would be answered.  Was it because I didn’t believe that God could?  No, to the contrary, as a part of my prayer, I would confess that I knew God was able.  Or, was it because I didn’t have enough faith to truly believe that God would do what He promised?  For me, it was the latter. The fact of the matter is, I’d seen God answer similar prayers for other people (and rejoiced with them when He did), but somehow didn’t think he would answer it for me (although I knew He could).

mustardseed

Then one day, during my prayer and devotional time, the Holy Spirit convicted me, and showed me that the reason I felt hopeless about my situation was because I was living in unbelief about it.  Once I was convicted, I had to pray for forgiveness and ask God to “help my unbelief,” the same thing a father said to Jesus when he brought his son who was possessed by a spirit to Him asking for help. The father said, “if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” (emphasis mine)  Jesus’ responds this way: “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”  Immediately, the father was convicted and says: “I do believe; help my unbelief” (be sure to read Mark 9 for the entire story).  After I was convicted, I asked God to help me and give me faith the size of a mustard seed.  Frankly, I felt like I needed to start small in asking for faith in this particular situation (note: my faith has been great in other situations, but not in this one), because I felt just like that father who brought his son to Jesus.  The small amount of faith I began to ask for is mustard seed faith, which really isn’t a whole lot!

As you can see from the picture, a mustard seed is a tiny thing!  So small that it seems to get lost in the palm of a person’s hand.  Is that amount of faith enough? Shouldn’t I have a little bit more than that?  The answer to the question of whether mustard seed faith is enough, based on what Jesus said, is a resounding YES!  He says in Matthew 17:20, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (NASB)

So, I decided to take a small step and confess that I have this much faith that God will answer my prayer.  Yes, I believe this sized faith is enough, and I’m standing on that belief and walking in faith (and not by sight).  My prayer has not yet been answered, but I now have hope about it (something I’d given up on a while ago).

Why am I confessing this to you?  I’m being transparent because someone is experiencing this same thing as we speak!  You’ve prayed and prayed and prayed, the answer hasn’t come, and at some point, you made up in your mind that it would never come.  I want to encourage you to take heart!  Ask God to help your unbelief and give you just a little bit of faith.  Stand on that little bit of faith and watch what God will do!  While you’re waiting for your answer, He’s working on you to make you stronger, wiser and better.

If you can relate to this, feel free to comment and share your thoughts.  I pray God’s blessings on you as He reveals more of Himself to you during this time.

God Answers Prayers, But…

Yes, we know that God answers prayers.  Those of us who believe in the power of prayer know that He’s there to listen and that when we pray according to His will, He hears us; and because we know He hears us, whatever we ask, we know we receive it (see 1 John 5:14-15).  Many times when we pray, especially for those things that are extremely challenging situations (serious illness of a loved one, difficult marriage, long-term financial strain), where we may not see breakthrough for quite some time, we continue to pray but sometimes wonder when the answer will come.  But the question I want to pose today is…as you continue to pray, are you looking for the answer?

prayer image

 

What prompted me to write this today is the fact that I am praying for a few ‘big’ things and have been praying for quite some time.  And God showed me signs of his answering them all in one day, all in one church service.  But I wasn’t looking for the answers! I was just going along enjoying the worship service, when boom, boom, boom…there were the answers.  Three prayer requests, three answers just like that. The situations are not completely solved, but I can see that God is working (note the present tense) to answer the petitions that have been brought before Him.  And these prayers have just not come from me, but from others as well.  I know that He is going to answer, but I was in awe at how God is working and the timing in which He’s working.  My mind is still blown as I’m writing this the next day after it happened.

 

What’s the lesson for me (and hopefully you) today?  Don’t stop looking for the answers and for your breakthrough to come!  They are coming!  And they are coming in ways and through people that you may not expect or anticipate.  When your answers (or the beginning of the answers) appear, give God praise for them!  For me, what God did yesterday was a reminder for me to keep praying, keep pressing, and to not give up.  God is sovereign and has our situations under his complete control. He is well able to handle them, and I am trusting and believing that He WILL answer (just like it says in 1 John 5:14-15). I encourage you to join me and do the same.

Dealing with Disappointment

Whenever I write, I am writing from my own experiences, and this post is no different. My hope is that when I write, I can bless someone else who may be going through the same thing that I am (or have).

disappointment

Disappointment is a feeling that at some time or another we all experience. We may be disappointed that our favorite sport team didn’t win like we thought they would, or we may feel disappointed when we’re planning a trip to the beach, but the weather forecast calls for rain all day. At the moment, these turn of events negatively affect us, but soon we’re over it and on to the next thing….we continue to root for our favorite team (or change teams) or we change our plans and decide to hit the beach another day. These are what most people would consider minor, but what about those disappointments that are not so minor?

Here are a few examples of the kind of disappointments I’m talking about: the person we planned to spend the rest of our lives with decides he or she no longer wants to be married to us; one of our children didn’t turn out the way we raised them to; the life that we envisioned growing up is not what we’re currently experiencing, and there seems to be no hope for things turning around in our favor. This list can go on, but you get my point. We just don’t ‘get over’ these major disappointments in our lives, but we have to somehow find a way to deal with them. If we don’t what will become of our lives? Will we be in a perpetual state of misery because things didn’t turn out the way we wanted them to?

I don’t believe God wants us to live this way. Just like the title of this site states, I believe God wants us to have a victorious journey. And it’s through Him (and only Him) that we can experience this.

So, how do we deal with disappointment? We can first cry out to God and be honest about how we feel. It’s ok to ask questions and wonder why circumstances didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped, planned and prayed. And certainly, if God created and maintains the universe, then He can handle our questions. Check out the example of David in the Psalms: “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” (Psalm 18:6 NIV) What a blessing it is to know that in our distress we can call out to the Lord, and not only that, we can rest assured that he does hear us. Our cries are not falling on deaf ears!

We can also go to the Word of God to remind ourselves of God’s promises to us. Look at what Peter writes to the early church (this also applies to us): “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”(2 Peter 1:4, NIV) One of the key words in this passage (in my opinion is ‘knowledge.’ We have everything we need for a godly life through the knowledge of God, and we obtain that knowledge from the Word of God (remember this scripture: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”? Romans 10:17)

Lastly, we should trust God and His word. When we are in the throes of experiencing disappointment, this is when our faith comes in. We’ve read the word, we’ve prayed, and now we must trust that God knows exactly what he’s doing. Even if things never change, if we never receive the desire of our heart, we can rest assured that God said he would “never leave us nor forsake us.” (Hebrews 13:5b) This scripture in particular has helped me navigate through disappointment, and it helps remind that God really does have a plan for my life, and that’s it’s in His hands to make it come to pass.

This post is a bit longer than I would normally write, but it’s particularly relevant to me. Although the idea of this topic came to me months ago, it’s very interesting to know that I’ve only been led to write it today, 2 days after Mother’s Day Not having had the experience of motherhood, this particular Mother’s Day was very difficult for me. So again, I’m writing this, not as just glib points, but real life experiences. I may never receive the desire of my heart in this area, but I’m TRUSTING that God’s plan for my life is perfect and that He will not leave me or forsake me.

How’s Your Prayer Life?

At many church services and worship experiences, we are admonished to pray.  We go to prayer meetings where we devote a special time for giving praise and adoration to God, and for making intercession on behalf of those in need.  But I’m sure many of you can relate to the fact that we sometimes feel inadequate when it comes to our personal prayer lives.  I feel this way sometimes too.  We offer up excuses as to why we’re not praying as much as we should…but what can we do to get past the excuses?

Prayer

We sometimes say “my schedule is so busy…work, family, church activities…when am I supposed to get it done?”  There are just not enough hours in the day to do everything on our to-do lists, from work to our businesses to school work to volunteer activities…the list can go on! 

This post is not meant to beat anyone (or myself up), but is meant to encourage.  I want you to see (and I want to remind myself) that even in our busy lives, we can communicate with God on a regular basis. Please don’t see prayer as something to be checked off a list (the planner in me has a tendency to do that sometimes), but as an opportunity to be in the presence of God, no matter where we may be physically.

Psalm 55:17 says that “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.”  Do they mean that literally?  Are we supposed to pray every morning, every afternoon and every evening?    Let’s not get legalistic here….if we put too much focus on the morning, noon and evening thing, we’re becoming more religious and not spiritual.  I agree with what Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible says about this verse: “And now, though we are not tied down to these exact and precise times of prayer, yet this teaches us that we ought to pray frequently and constantly, and that a day should not pass without it…”  At some point in our day, we should offer a prayer to God, whether it’s a prayer of thanksgiving, confession, adoration or petition.

Do you have a commute to work?  Instead of listening to the comedian on the radio or the latest hits, take time to pray during your commute (PLEASE don’t close your eyes lol).  Or do you workout regularly?  How about while you’re on the treadmill or walking in your neighborhood?  How about when you’re preparing dinner for the family? I could go on with ideas on when we can pray, but I think you get the picture.

So what if the issue with your prayer life is the fact that you feel inadequate, not with your time, but with how to pray and what to say?  Let me help you with this verse from Romans:  “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)  And what about this verse: “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Romans 8:34).  These verses tell me that we have help! (Hallelujah) We have Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit interceding on our behalf when we pray.  So since we have help, we shouldn’t worry about how to pray and what to say.  We should just talk to God with a sincere and open heart, knowing that two persons of the Trinity have our back in prayer.

I hope this brief message helps you understand that we can have a vibrant and meaningful prayer life.  Don’t beat yourself about what you haven’t done in the past.  Remember some of the benefits of praying to the Father who hears and answers us: we have a deeper relationship with Him, our faith grows stronger, and we can live more fruitful lives for Him.  Keep pressing in prayer and see what God does in your life!