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Tuesday, December 4, 2018 Fourth Day of Advent: The Gift of Prayer

Before you read today’s post, let me apologize for the errors in yesterday’s post! After years of editing documents, you’d think I’d know to read three times and edit four times!

Enjoy today’s post!

I consider prayer a gift from God. Some people consider it a privilege and I understand why they feel that way. It is a privilege and honor to come into the presence of the Almighty God and talk with Him. Some people consider it an obligation. There have been times, especially in the last few months, when I was not where I should be spiritually, and I’ve also considered it an obligation. But truly, it is a gift. One that we do not take advantage of—or at least I don’t—often enough.

Prayer is a gift because it allows us to come into the presence of God and communicate with Him. Prayer allows us to share our innermost thoughts, desires, and needs, which deepens our relationship with Him. But it is much more than that.

The Gifts inside of the Gift

Have you ever received a Christmas gift and opened it to find another wrapped box inside? You open that box only to find another wrapped box. You continue to do this until you get to the smallest box and there is the actual gift. I find prayer to be like this.

These “gifts within the gift” are best illustrated through what we know as The Lord’s Prayer. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He gave them this prayer as a guide:

Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13 New King James Version)

Inside this gift of prayer, not only do we find the gift of praise and adoration, but we also offer our gift of praise and worship.  In The Lord’s Prayer, “hallowed” means sacred, holy, revered. We must recognize God as sacred and holy. And we must always revere Him.

Forgiveness is a gift found through prayer. “Forgive us our debts (sins) as we also have forgiven our debtors (those who have sinned against us).” God’s forgiveness is a gift given to us as soon as we ask to be forgiven. Inside this gift of forgiveness we find that once God has forgiven us our sins, He remembers them no more. Note the caveat here: we must forgive those who have sinned against us, so that God can forgive us. (The Gift of Forgiveness will expound on this, to be posted on December 7, 2018.)

A third gift of prayer is praying for our needs and the needs of others. “Give us this day our daily bread.” There are those who feel guilty praying for their own needs. They may think, “There are so many people who are worse off than I am.” That may be true and you can certainly pray for them. But in this verse, God is telling us to pray for our needs, too. Others might say, “But God already knows my needs. This is truth, but He wants us to ask in faith and trust that He will answer our prayers in His own way and in His timing.

Protection is also a gift of prayer. “Deliver us from the evil one” is praying for protection against all that the enemy of our souls might try to bring against us, our loved ones, our nation.

Once again,  we find praise and worship in the last verse. This tells us that our praise and worship are important to God. Our praise, worship and adoration are sweet to His ears.

I am thankful for the gift of prayer.  There is nothing more enjoyable than spending quiet time with God, communing with Him through prayer.

Oh, Abba Father, how sweet is your fellowship. How wonderful it is to spend time with You. You alone, O God, are worthy of all praise and honor. You alone are worthy of glory. During this Advent Season, may we make the time to spend with You, the Holy Child and the King of Kings. Amen.

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Ashamed to Pray by Guest Blogger Jennifer Slattery

I am delighted to have Jennifer Slattery back as my guest blogger today. Jennifer writes with the gentleness of the Holy Spirit, yet her words will convict, inspire, motivate and encourage you. Be blessed as you read today’s blog!

August 30, 2012 by Jennifer Slattery

Each day, we are engaged in a cosmic battle, a battle over self. It is a war between entitlement and sacrifice, between self-love and sacrificial love. And each day, God gives us a choice–to squelch His Spirit, His love, His still small voice as we fight for our rights, or to lay it down, allowing Him to reign and love others through us.

Are we aware of the consequences–of what’s at stake? When we’re consumed with self, we don’t even notice the woman in the grocery aisle, the man at the gas station, or perhaps our spouse coming home from work discouraged and exhausted.

In each encounter, God is whispering, tugging, urging us on as His embassadors. If we’re not careful, if we’re not continually focused on our Savior, our inner voice of self-love may scream louder.

Two weeks ago, our family took a trip to Odenton, Maryland to visit family. It was a wonderful time of fun and exploration–a time for me to see my brother, whom I hadn’t in over five years. But amidst our fun, I soon found myself on a cosmic battleground.

All week, God had impressed on my heart the need to lay myself down, to seek not my own glory, not my will, but His. To be like a wildflower tucked in a nook in the valley, ever-growing, reaching for the sun, even if no one notices.

And then Friday came–our last day in Maryland. I started the day at a surrender zenith, ready to die to myself and be an active instrument of God’s mercy and grace. I was determined to live out the truth God had showed me one morning in 1 Peter chapter four.

“So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. 2 You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2, NLT). (Emphasis mine.)

As I read the passage, I thought of a dear sister in Christ dying of brain cancer. She’s going through a rough time. She’s lost her sight, and her speech has become difficult. But through it all, her heart remains centered in Christ. Each day, her life shouts out His praises and points everyone around her to the cross.

I wanted to be like her! To praise God regardless of what I faced, to be so surrendered to Him, so focused on His love and purposes, that my life radiates His love and glory.

My determination was quickly undone, not by a fight against cancer but instead, something as trivial as crab cakes. And because of my quickly rising self-love, I tainted Christ’s name.

That afternoon, we decided to begin a search for crab-cakes. My husband had heard Baltimore was famous for them. This was the one thing he’d been looking forward to, the one thing he longed to do before we headed home. Being the loving, supportive, self-sacrificing … (uh-hem. I shift uncomfortably and avoid your gaze) wife I … long to be, I wholeheartedly agreed, and we all climbed into vehicles and headed downtown.

Stepping out of the van and into a dingy and smelly parking garage, my grumble meter sky-rocketed. When we reached street level, things–and the smell–got worse. A quick glance told me we weren’t in the best part of town. I clutched my purse to my chest, and my sister and I exchanged glances.

“Can we go somewhere else?” I’m sure my voice held a pleading tone.

All the women agreed. So, we clamored back into our vehicles and drove to the harbor, filled with numerous clean restaurants–any one of which would mesh well with my germo-phobe preferences. Yes, I was pleased. This would do quite nicely.

But unfortunately, we kept walking, leaving the trendy harbor area with its cute shops and alluring smells far behind. Memories of the area we’d just left still fresh in my mind, I watched the clean–did I mention clean?–restaurants fade behind us, my agitation growing. Snippets of my morning devotion came to mind, calling me to die to myself, embracing each moment (bacteria and all) in full surrender. Relinquishing all rights and expectations.

But I wasn’t listening. I was too focused on me.

The restaurant we ended up at was anything but five-star. The bathroom smelled as if it had been doused in urine. The carpet looked as if it’d been splotched with car grease, and the menus needed to be soaked in sanitizer. It was three o’clock, well past lunchtime, and I was starved, irritated … and a bit queasy, as my germo-phobiness waged war with my hunger.

Sitting with a firm scowl, arms crossed, nose wrinkled … Okay, so maybe I didn’t behave that badly–on the outside, but my heart was pretty grungy. Grungier than the floor, and needless to say, I didn’t hide my disgust well. Oh, what a role model I was for my daughter!

Then it came time to pray.

The reality of my witness–or lack there of–hit me in the gut. I thought of the waitress who watched me, frumping, longing to be anywhere else but there. Did I want her to know I was a Christian? Or would it be better, for Christ’s sake, if she didn’t?

Last Thursday, Nikki Arana asked a powerful question: Would you share your faith if it cost you your life. (You can read her post here.)

I’ve often wondered about that–how I would respond if I lived in a country filled with persecution. If, because of my faith, I faced unemployment, physical pain, or even death. I don’t have an answer, but I do know, in the day-to-day when I am called to *live out* my faith as Christ’s ambassador, I often fall short. Not in the face of extreme danger, but instead, in the face of self, over something as trivial as crab cakes.

Lord Jesus, help me to die to myself, not just in the big, courageous moments, but in those day-to-day encounters–standing in line at a grocery store or eating at a dirty restaurant. Help me, in all things, to be alert to my witness. Help me to radiate your sacrificial love–the love that drove you to a cross, for me.