I don't know about you, but most of the Christians that I know talk a lot about prayer. "I'm praying for you" is a very common phrase that to many has lost it's reverence. You say "I'm praying for you" when you really mean "I feel sorry for you" or "I'm thinking of you." We promise to pray, and then forget about it. I wonder how many people are actually praying when they say that they are. I don't think they're trying to be deceitful, it's just easy to get wrapped up in our own lives and forget that other people are hurting. We need to break that habit.
Over a year ago I ran into a friend of mine. When I asked how he was doing he looked at me, and with hurt written all over his face asked "Will you pray for me? I can't tell you why, but please pray for me." I was a bit shocked at first over his emotional response, then said "Yes, I will." When I said that I meant it. I prayed when I walked away, I prayed while driving home. And when I got home, I got down on my knees and for a long while earnestly prayed for my friend. I prayed for God to give him wisdom, comfort, and strength. I prayed for him like I would want him to pray for me if I was the one hurting. God gave me little reminders for weeks afterward to pray for that friend. One day I was driving along the interstate and saw about a dozen signs for a college of the same name as my friend. God was reminding me of how important it was not just to keep my promise to my friend, but also to truly pray without ceasing.
I am ashamed to admit that there have also been times when I promised to pray for people and afterwards didn't even give it a second thought. I deeply regret that. I know people who are battling all sorts of diseases, financial trouble, and emotional scars. They ask me to pray, and I say that I will. I could just close my eyes for a second and say "God please heal them" and go on with my day. I prayed, right? I can check off 'pray for friends' from my list of Christian duties. Is that enough, or does God want more from us?
What if God wants us to set aside everything else in our life and just talk to him?
Sometimes praising Him and other times pleading on behalf of a friend. I know that if I was battling cancer, I would want to think that my friends were on their knees praying for me. Sometimes people that are hurting can't pray. They may be so tired and scarred that they are having trouble trusting God. They need our prayers.
Don't ever underestimate the power of prayer. James 5:16 says "Confess your faults one to another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Your prayers are important, and they will never go unheard. God may not answer your prayer right away. Part of the benefits of prayer is that God gives us comfort and wisdom. Through prayer we learn to hear God better. He can then give us wisdom in how we can physically help people.
So I have a challenge for you. It is simple, but it's hard.
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
Pray... Pray when someone asks you too, and pray when they don't. Pray for your friends, and pray for those who have hurt you. Pray for others and pray for yourself. Pray while you go about your daily activities, and set aside a time to dedicate 100% to prayer. Let's start praying as much as we talk about praying. Nothing could ever replace prayer, don't forget that.
My youth pastor recently preached a sermon entitled "The Next Big Thing." Long story short, I was convicted. He talked about how we look so forward to the next big thing coming up. Living for that one event every year, and we forget about how important today is.
To often we 'can't wait' for something. I can't wait to graduate; I can't wait to have a boyfriend; I can't wait to get married; I can't wait to have kids. We can get so consumed in anticipating the future that we forget to invest in the present. We should prepare for the future, but we shouldn't be so focused on the future that we waste today. So what is important for today?
- Honoring your parents.
Maybe you dream of being a parent some day. How do you treat yours? I know, your parents aren't perfect. NEWSFLASH! Neither are you! You aren't a perfect child, and you won't be a perfect parent either. Learning to honor and respect flawed people is a trait that you need to begin today.
- Be a witness for Christ.
When Jesus said "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." He didn't mean someday, He meant today. "Go" is a direct command. If you aren't being a soul winner now, when will you be?
Brighten someone's day, make them smile. You may be the only smile in their life. You can change their life starting with a smile and a compliment. Don't throw away that amazing opportunity! Encourage someone today.
- Learn to be sweet and kind.
It sounds simple, but it takes work. It's not easy to keep your mouth shut when someone says something offensive to you. It's not easy to bear someones burden when you have so much else to do. I have a list written on an index card of attributes that I want to have. I want to become a godly woman, so I am starting today. Being kind takes work, and crucifying your flesh is necessary if you want to be a loving person.
- Focus on your relationship with Christ.
Galatians 5-6 tells us a lot about living the Christian life. The fruit of the spirit... I don't always have that. Not being weary in well doing, doing good unto all men. Those don't come naturally to me. They only come through the Holy Spirit inside us. And we don't become like Christ without spending time getting to know Him. You won't be a good Christian someday, unless you start today.
- Be the person you want to be tomorrow.
If you want to be a wife, practice being patient and forgiving. If you want to be a mom, volunteer in your church's nursery, or babysit for a friend. If you want to be healthy, eat healthy and exercise today. If you want to be intelligent, study and learn today.
You will not be perfect tomorrow, you will not be happy tomorrow. Every day is important. It's important to put your all into life today, and not wait until tomorrow. Today is your training ground, today is when you become a better person. This is the only way you will ever be happy. If you waste today, when will you learn? You can't expect to wake up tomorrow and be perfect. God gave you today to live for Him, to encourage others, and to prepare for tomorrow. So how about getting up tomorrow morning praising God. Read your Bible, pray, be a witness. Don't just look forward to tomorrow, prepare for it, and don't forget about today.
January: The clean slate. Promises made that will never be kept. But you really mean it this time. I don't know about you, but I always want to do better. Last year I was determined that I would: be able to do the splits, become more confident, befriend more people, and overall make a difference. Today I still can't do the splits, (but I'm still working on it!) and I'm not the social butterfly that I once wished to be. (and I've decided that's ok.) But I have improved a lot, or rather God has improved me. He has made me stronger and braver than I ever though I could be.
It is still a mystery to me, but God has done amazing things in my life. I learned to lean on His strength, because that is the only strength that I have. I am not all that I want to be, and if I though I were then something would be wrong. God has given me the courage and guidance to do things that would have scared me to death a year ago. God has given me incredible friends who have been an incredible blessing to me. But God has also taught me that sometimes I need to do things alone, with Him as my sole support and strength. God has brought me a long way, but there is so much farther to go.
So this year I resolve to grow closer to God through personal prayer and devotions. To seek to please God only, not people. To be a better friend and a better sister. And yet again, to be able to do a split.
As I was writing this post, an old hymn came to my mind. I Am Resolved. The lyrics describe exactly what I am resolving to do this year, and for the rest of my life. And what I also want for each one of you who take the time to read this. Who will join me? Drawing closer to God, following Him, and leaving the world behind...
I Am Resolved
I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world’s delight,
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.
I am resolved to go to the Savior,
Leaving my sin and strife;
He is the true One, He is the just One,
He hath the words of life.
I am resolved to follow the Savior,
Faithful and true each day;
Heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth,
He is the living Way.
I am resolved to enter the kingdom
Leaving the paths of sin;
Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me,
Still will I enter in.
I am resolved, and who will go with me?
Come, friends, without delay,
Taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit,
We’ll walk the heav’nly way.
I Am Resolved Words: Palmer Hartsough in The Praise Hymnal (Cincinnati, Ohio: Fillmore Brothers, 1896).