Practicing Lent: Palms Down, Palms Up Prayer

 

practicing

This post is part of my Practicing Lent series where we will explore Spiritual Disciplines that connect us with Jesus in His Word. If you want to find out more about Spiritual Disciplines you can look here. If you have signed up for the Practicing Lent Facebook group, click here to share your experience with others. If you would like to participate in the group, click here to request to join.

In her wildly popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo encourages her readers to get rid of any belongings that no longer spark joy. That cardigan you loved, but is now worn and pilly? Discard it. Those shoes that took you all over town, but are now looking rather sad? Toss ’em. Kondo encourages us to keep only those things that bring joy. (Note: Kondo’s book is helpful, but I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it because she also talks about treating your belongings as if they are living things.)

I admit that I need to sort through my belongings. There are clothes in my closet that I wish I had never purchased and items that are well past their prime. My books outnumber the spaces on my bookshelves and documents spill out of my filing cabinets.

But even though I should tend to my overflowing possessions, this Lenten season I want to tend to my heart. I want to take the time to sit quietly with Jesus and allow Him to point out what needs to be tossed. I want to ask: Lord, is there a sinful attitude that I’ve been hanging onto? Is there some anxiety or fear that I haven’t let go? Am I still grasping onto self-sufficiency? Or an illusion of control over my life?

So I am using Spiritual Disciplines to guide my time in the Word. I’m using these ancient practices to spend time with my Savior. Spiritual Disciplines have been used by faithful Christians for centuries, even millennia. They are a way to focus our attention on our Savior and to receive His gifts.

Palms Down, Palms Up Prayer

One Spiritual Discipline that has helped me in the past is the Palms Down, Palms Up prayer. This prayer helps me sort out the stuff in my heart. To release what is sinful, harmful, or crippling. And to receive what is comforting and encouraging.

practicingPIN

Palms Down: I begin this prayer by sitting in a comfortable chair and placing my palms down on my legs to symbolize my desire to release my concerns to God. I ask the Holy Spirit to show me what I need to let go. Is there anything blocking my relationship with Christ? What anxieties have I unconsciously been hanging onto?

My prayer might go something like: Lord, You know that I’m concerned about John’s health and about our kids in China. I confess that I have not trusted You completely in these areas. I’m anxious about my work. I’m stressed out about my long to-do list. But I now release all of these concerns into Your loving hands.

Palms Up: After I have released my worries, confessed my sins, and unloaded my self-sufficiency, I turn my palms up to symbolize my desire to receive from God.

Now my prayer might be something like: Lord, I praise You for Your love for me and all those I care about. I thank You for the peace You so faithfully give–peace that passes understanding.

I invite you to try the Palms Down, Palms Up prayer. It’s a simple way to come humbly before God and empty our hearts of our fears and our sins. Turn your palms down and unload the burden of guilt. Let go of anxiety. Give Him whatever is bothering you and whatever is stressing you out. Then turn your palms up to receive God’s forgiveness, peace, love, truth, or rest.

Give God whatever is bothering you and receive His forgiveness, peace, love, and rest. Click To Tweet
Let Go

Maybe, like me, you need to clean out your closets. But even more important than hiring an organizational expert to sort through our closets, is asking the Holy Spirit to sort through our hearts.

Philippians 4:6-7 says:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It is so reassuring that God invites us to give Him all our worries, anxieties, doubts, and fears. He is willing to hold them for us and give us His peace and love in return. And the more we allow Him to carry our bag of uncertainties, the more His peace will guard our hearts and minds from Satan’s attacks.

Let go of your concerns and receive God’s peace.

Next step: For the next five days, practice the Palms Down, Palms Up prayer. Click here for a resource list of Scriptures that will guide your prayers. Experience the joy that comes from unloading the burden of your fears and guilt and receiving the Savior’s love.

 

A Simple Way to Pray When You Don’t Know How to Pray

a simple way to pray

I have to admit. Sometimes I struggle with prayer.

At times the struggle is to simply make time for prayer. Other times the problem is keeping my wandering mind on the prayer.

Sometimes I simply don’t know how to pray. I don’t have the right words to express my chaotic thoughts. Or I’m not sure how to pray about a complex problem. Or I’m feeling defeated in an area of my life.

That’s when I start praying Scripture. Taking my words from God’s Word helps me to focus on His will, His strength, and His care.

A few years ago I discovered a little book that Martin Luther wrote on the subject of prayer. The short volume, titled A Simple Way to Praywas written as in response to his barber’s questions, “How do you pray?” (Interesting topic to be discussing while getting that little bald spot shaved.)

Luther’s “simple way to pray” was to pray Scripture, specifically the Ten Commandments. In the book he told his barber, “I divide each commandment into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands. That is, I think of each commandment as, first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord demands of me so earnestly. Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving; third, a confession; and fourth, a prayer.”

This method can be used with any Scripture. For instance, lately I have been struggling with my mouth again. Too many harmful words have been tumbling out of my mouth. And the verse that came to mind was Proverbs 25:11:

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

My words have not been gold or silver, but more like ashes and dust.

A simple way to pray PINSo using Luther’s model, I prayed:

Father in heaven. Your word instructs me that my words have value. They can be precious to the people in my life.

I offer thanksgiving for the gift of speech. Of all creation, you gave the ability to speak to humans alone.

I confess that my words are not always like gold and silver. Sometimes they are not something to be cherished and treasured, but something to be thrown out and forgotten.

But I want to change. Lord, give me appropriate words for every situation today—words that are as valuable as gold and silver.

When you are struggling with finding the right words to pray–try drawing your words from the well of God’s Word.

It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Martin Luther Click To Tweet

Next step: Pick a Scripture (try Psalm 56:3-4 or Psalm 57:1) and use Luther’s simple method to pray through the Scripture.

7 Habits That Promote Soul Rest: Perpetual Prayer

each whispered wordof petitionor thanksgivingconnects us tothe Giver of soul rest1

This post is part 4 in my series on 7 Habits that Promote Soul Rest. Click to read Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3.

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

The first time I read Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians I was incredulous.

I mean, how could you possible pray all the time? Life demands things like paying attention in a class or writing a detailed report for work. If you have little ones running around you need to make sure that they don’t empty the garbage can all over the floor or feed the dog chocolate. How can you be on your knees and still do the everyday stuff of life?

Paul’s words not only inspired skepticism. It also produced…guilt. Just reading the command made me all too aware of my mediocre prayer life–often lacking in frequency and length. (Which is another way of saying, I’m lucky if I get in five minutes of concentrated prayer daily.)

But I know prayer brings rest for my soul and peace for my spirit. In another one of Paul’s letters he wrote:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

So how can we learn to pray without ceasing and find soul rest?

I realized that when Paul wrote that command in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 he didn’t mean I had to stay on my knees with my eyes closed and my hands folded all day. Praying without ceasing becomes possible when I pray short prayers throughout the day. 

Here are three ways I use short prayers to connect with God:

7 HABITS #3Turn every worry into a prayer. One day I decided to take these words of Paul literally. I realized that when I’m worried about something, I don’t think about it once in the morning and once again at night. It is on my mind constantly. The concern pops into my brain while I’m driving my car or having a conversation with a friend. So what if I turned every one of my worrisome thoughts into a prayer? 

I would be praying without ceasing.

Pray short prayers of thanks. My worries became the catalyst for my first experience with short prayers. But soon I began to add short prayers of thanksgiving to my repertoire of short prayers. When I saw a beautiful sunset, tasted an exquisite strawberry, or heard the sweet song of a bird, I whispered a quick prayer of gratitude to my awesome Creator. When I found my lost keys or got a string of green lights on my way to an appointment, I said, “Thank You, God.”

Use Scripture prayers. Recently I’ve begun another way to use short prayers throughout the day. I choose a short prayer from Scripture that I whisper back to God whenever the Holy Spirit prompts me. The first prayer I used like this is called the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.” At first, I felt uncomfortable with this prayer. I didn’t like reminding myself that I am a sinner, but every time I spoke this petition, I felt peace. I knew God answered my prayer with His grace. I felt soul rest because that prayer reminded me how much I need my Father and how little my own efforts mattered in the grand scheme of eternity.

Here are a few more short prayers from Scripture that you can use:

Not my will, but Yours be done. Luke 22:42

Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on You. 2 Chronicles 14:11

Show the wonder of Your great love. Psalm 17:7

We find soul rest in perpetual prayer because each whispered word of petition or thanksgiving connects us to Jesus–the Giver of rest, peace, and soul stillness.

Each whispered word of petition or thanksgiving connects us to Jesus--the Giver of soul stillness. Click To Tweet

Next step: Choose a short Scripture to pray throughout the day. Click to get a free resource of 15 more short Scripture prayers. Write the prayer on a card to carry with you. As you pray this prayer in small moments of your busy day, it will become a habit. And this habit will draw you closer to God–the Provider of soul rest.

 

 

What to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Pray

Learn a simple ancient prayer that your heart can pray when you don't know how to pray.

Sometimes I struggle with prayer. How to pray. What to pray. When to find time to pray. And how on earth can I accomplish prayer without ceasing?

Recently I discovered a short prayer that has been used for centuries. This short prayer is derived from the words of Blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:47 and the tax collector in Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:13. The prayer is simply,

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner.

This short prayer expresses the heartfelt need of God’s grace. It voices the confidence that Jesus, the Son of David and Son of God, can pour out His mercy upon us. It is a prayer to be prayed in times of great need and in small ordinary moments of the day.

I read about this prayer in several books about Christian spirituality. A couple of friends told me how praying this prayer throughout the day kept their thoughts centered on God. But I bristled against this prayer at first. Reminding myself that I am a sinner didn’t seem particularly comforting. But in breathing out this prayer I remember I can do nothing without God’s grace. Offering this petition opens my heart to receive the mercy and love I so desperately need every minute of every day. Author John Kleinig’s words in his book Grace Upon Grace makes this clear:

In our spiritual life we are much like helpless babies…Apart from Jesus, we can accomplish nothing spiritually…However, unlike babies, we do not outgrow our helplessness before God…If there is one thing we discover as we grow older and gain in experience, it is that before God we are nothing but beggars…we can only cry out to Jesus, as beggars did in the ancient world: “Lord, have mercy!” (p, 182-183)

The more I use this prayer, the more my spirit soars to the love of Christ. The more I repeat these words, the more I realize how vast God’s mercy truly is. The more is plead, “Have mercy on me” the more I realize there is nothing I can do to earn the Father’s mercy. It is all a gift. I can stop striving to get it. He longs to give it to me. I only need to open my hands to receive.

Just as we can do nothing physically without breathing, we can do nothing spiritually without Jesus. Breathe in your Savior’s name and breathe out a desperate prayer for grace. Receive what you need in the moment.

Luke 18-13

What prayer do you pray when you don’t know how to pray?

Three Steps To Take When Life Punches You In The Gut

LifePunchesYou

What do you do when life delivers a devastating blow?

2014 was a joyous year for us. Our son got married to a wonderful young woman. Our daughter and her family flew from China to join in the wedding. They spent two months here in the states–we had abundant opportunities to play with our grandchildren.

Then 2015 arrived–with news of cancer. My husband John was diagnosed with lymphoma. We are still reeling from this punch. Sometimes life hits you hard and you are totally unprepared.

I know that we are not the only ones who have been hit hard. Some of you have experienced your own illnesses, chronic pain, job losses, and financial difficulties. Maybe even all of these at once.

This leg of our journey is still very new, but this is how we’re handling this devastating blow so far. In addition to finding the best doctors and medical care I am:

1. finding comfort in God’s Word. I’m searching through Scripture, hunting down all God’s promises of His presence and peace. Some of my favorites right now:

  • May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him. Romans 15:13
  • My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. Exodus 33:14
  • Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24

2. calling on others to stand with us in prayer. It has been hard to tell people this difficult news. We often break down into a puddle of tears. Yet we have felt incredible love and support from our church, our family, and our friends. One couple invited us over for chicken soup with a side of prayer when we first heard the news. Church members gave us innumerable hugs. A simple request for prayer on Facebook drew 100 comments.

3. taking time each day to focus on what really matters. Each year I choose one word for the year. Ironically, this year I chose the word focus. Well, there is nothing like shocking news to make you focus on what is truly important. For now, this is as simple as just sitting with my wonderful hubby and holding his hand. It’s as uncomplicated as sitting quietly and soaking in God’s love.

I pray that our heavenly Father will strengthen you in whatever you are going through today.

Romans 15-13

If you would like to learn more about avoiding distractions and living a focused life, check out a FREE lesson that shares the one habit that changed my life more than any other. 

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Discover a Simple Way to Pray

ASimpleWaytoPray

 

I have to admit. Sometimes I struggle with prayer.

At times the struggle is to simply make time for prayer. Other times the problem is keeping my wandering mind on the prayer.

Sometimes I simply don’t know how to pray. I don’t have the right words to express my chaotic thoughts. Or I’m not sure how to pray about a complex problem. Or I’m feeling defeated in an area of my life.

That’s when I start praying Scripture. Taking the my words from God’s Word helps me to focus on His will, His strength, and His care.

A few years ago I discovered a little book that Martin Luther wrote on the subject of prayer. The short volume, titled A Simple Way to Pray, was written as in response to his barber’s questions, “How do you pray?” (Interesting topic to be discussing while getting that little bald spot shaved.)

Luther’s “simple way to pray” was to pray Scripture, specifically the Ten Commandments. In the book he told his barber, “I divide each commandment into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands. That is, I think of each commandment as, first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord demands of me so earnestly. Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving; third, a confession; and fourth, a prayer.”

This method can be used with any Scripture. For instance, lately I have been struggling with my mouth again. Too many harmful words have been tumbling out of my mouth. And the verse that came to mind was Proverbs 25:11:

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

My words have not been gold or silver, but more like ashes and dust.

So using Luther’s model, I prayed:

Father in heaven. Your word instructs me that my words have value. They can be precious to the people in my life.

I offer thanksgiving for the gift of speech. Of all creation, you gave the ability to speak to humans alone.

I confess that my words are not always like gold and silver. Sometimes they are not something to be cherished and treasured, but something to be thrown out and forgotten.

But I want to change. Lord, give me appropriate words for every situation today—words that are as valuable as gold and silver.

 

When you are struggling with finding the right words to pray–try drawing your words from the well of God’s Word.

simple way to pray

Question: What verse will you pray today?

Pray Without Ceasing

1 Thess 5-17

“Pray without ceasing.”

 1 Thessalonians 5:17

I don’t know about you, but I have always struggled with the apostle Paul’s command to pray continually. It always seemed like an impossible request. How could I possibly pray without ceasing?

Then a few years ago, when I was worried about a situation in my life, I thought of how that concern was on my mind all the time. I didn’t simply think about the problem once in the morning and once before I went to bed. It was continually weighing on my mind. Then I thought: What if I turned every worry into a prayer? I would be praying without ceasing! (Well, almost anyway.)

Awhile ago I read Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst where she talks about her struggles with healthy eating. Lysa used a similar prayer tactic: Whenever she had a yen for foods that she had eliminated from her diet, she talked to God about the craving instead of giving in.

We can also use this tactic with our words. Use ordinary events in your day as reminders to pray.

Before our husbands come home from work, let’s pray that our words will build them up.

Before we meet a friend for coffee, let’s ask God to guide our conversations.

Before our kids come home from school, let’s pray for listening ears and loving hearts.

Use times of everyday conversation to trigger a prayer for lips that bless the people in your life. It will be a step toward more conversations with God and better conversations with the people you love.

Question: How do practice prayer without ceasing?

A Simple Way to Pray

I have to admit. Sometimes I struggle with prayer.

At times the struggle is to simply make time for prayer. Other times the problem is keeping my wandering mind on the prayer.

Sometimes I simply don’t know how to pray. I don’t have the right words to express my chaotic thoughts. Or I’m not sure how to pray about a complex problem. Or I’m feeling defeated in an area of my life.

That’s when I start praying Scripture. Taking the my words from God’s Word helps me to focus on His will, His strength, and His care.

A few years ago I discovered a little book that Martin Luther wrote on the subject of prayer. The short volume, titled A Simple Way to Pray, was written as in response to his barber’s questions, “How do you pray?” (Interesting topic to be discussing while getting that little bald spot shaved.)

Luther’s “simple way to pray” was to pray Scripture, specifically the Ten Commandments. In the book he told his barber, “I divide each commandment into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands. That is, I think of each commandment as, first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord demands of me so earnestly. Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving; third, a confession; and fourth, a prayer.”

This method can be used with any Scripture. For instance, lately I have been struggling with my mouth again. Too many harmful words have been tumbling out of my mouth. And the verse that came to mind was Proverbs 25:11:

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

My words have not been gold or silver, but more like ashes and dust.

So using Luther’s model, I prayed:

Father in heaven. Your word instructs me that my words have value. They can be precious to the people in my life.

I offer thanksgiving for the gift of speech. Of all creation, you gave the ability to speak to humans alone.

I confess that my words are not always like gold and silver. Sometimes they are not something to be cherished and treasured, but something to be thrown out and forgotten.

But I want to change. Lord, give me appropriate words for every situation today—words that are as valuable as gold and silver.

 

When you are struggling with finding the right words to pray–try drawing your words from the well of God’s Word.

Question: What verse will you pray today?