fbpx
Finding the Voice of God

Finding the Voice of God

Language is beautiful, and powerful. We use our words to communicate in all sorts of different ways: story telling, songs, poetry, text messaging, even in our work emails! But what happens when you cannot communicate in those traditional ways? Does that mean we lose connection to those around us?

During my ten years as a teacher in special education, I saw how communication extends beyond simply speaking and listening. Teaching the deaf and hard of hearing, I had students whose communication style did not match my own. They relied on their capabilities and strengths to communicate and connect with those around them. Here are a few examples:

  • “A” was completely deaf. She was born into a family that communicated through American Sign Language (ASL) and utilized interpreters, when they were available, to communicate with others who did not know ASL. 
  • “B” had a body that was severely limited by disability, and was able to communicate when utilizing a cochlear implant to hear and used his eyes to look between two choices.
  • “C” was impacted by multiple disabilities including hearing loss, autism, and Down syndrome. This meant utilizing multiple forms of communication including picture pointing and a picture-based speech generating device. 

These are just a few examples of the many different communication modalities my students would use. A modality is the specific method, procedure, or way something is expressed or experienced. No two people communicate exactly alike and there are so many different modalities of communication. My world of communication was broadened and deepened so much by the students I worked with each and every day. I was challenged to learn new ways of connection, meeting my students through their choice of expression. Regardless of the modality my students used, each one had genuine rich connections with family, friends, and school staff. Communication extends beyond the words we speak or the messages we send, and leads to the beautiful connections and relationships these students so boldly displayed. 

 

The Word of God

My students broadened my experience of communication and it had an unusual side effect. I began thinking about my communication with God, wondering if I was limiting my experience and connection with him because I was trying to use my modalities and not his. What modality does God use to communicate? 

2 Timothy 3: 14-16 (ESV) But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (emphasis mine).

Scripture itself tells us that Scripture is how God communicates with us. 2 Timothy says the sacred writings, the Bible, is “breathed out by God” for us. God spoke, and others wrote down his words. God wrote me a book. He breathed out all of Scripture to talk to me. As a teacher and book lover, this thought stopped me in my tracks. God, the Creator, wrote me a book. It is like having a dedication line at the beginning of the book that says: 

“For Allison, My beloved daughter, this is for you.”

I love to peruse top book lists, see what others are reading, and maybe choose a few to put on my own reading list. The most sold book in the world is the Holy Bible, but it is shocking to hear that we cannot even pinpoint the exact number of units sold. The current best estimate from research that was done by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 2021 says that number is between 5 to 7 billion copies. There is a reason there are so many units sold, and that is because the book isn’t just dedicated to me. Open your Bible and you won’t find my name in it, but yours. God wrote you a book too, with a dedication just for you.

 

The Voice of God

I have never audibly heard the voice of God. I believe people have, and will audibly hear the voice of God, but at this point in my life, I am not one of them. I do not get to sit at a coffee shop and talk with Jesus like I might with a friend or colleague. I don’t even get to use another communication modality like ASL, pictures, or eye gaze to directly form that connection. Communication with God looks different from my day to day form of communication. But I have experienced Jesus through the Scriptures, and Jesus will bless us for our faith without sight. 

John 20:29 Jesus said, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.’ 

No longer do I have to wonder where God’s voice is. I know where to find it every time I need it. He wrote it down for me in the Bible, which I am so blessed to have. It is a challenge reframing my view of the Bible as more than just a book to be read, to be viewed rightly as God’s voice being transcribed for me. This is not a one and done learning moment. It is constant training of my brain, each time I am searching for God’s voice, to remind myself I know exactly where it is and how to find it. 

 

Into the Word Together

Journey into God’s word written down for us in the Bible. This is not a natural or easy thing to do alone, but once you are a part of God’s family, you not only have a book dedicated to you, but brothers and sisters who will walk beside you on the journey toward Christlikeness. So join me and others from Christ Community and engage with theFormed.life to daily equip ourselves to be formed by God’s word and God’s ways with God’s people. We study and wait together, in anticipation of the day Jesus returns. One day we will be in the physical presence of God. No more will we have the barriers or lack of sight, sound, and touch. To that I say, come Lord Jesus, come. Until that day, join me in seeking God’s voice, through the Bible, the book he wrote for us. 

Pray More, Worry Less

Pray More, Worry Less

“Pray More; Worry Less”. In our kitchen we have a spoon rest that sits to the right of our stovetop with this simple phrase printed on it. I see it when I cook,  wipe the counters, or whenever I am in the kitchen. Sometimes it’s the first thing I read in the morning. It was a gift from a friend that I didn’t like at first but has become one of my favorite items in our house. It reminds me throughout the day what I often forget: we have God’s listening ear at every moment.  We have God’s presence every moment, and his vast and unsearchable knowledge includes knowing about every moment of our lives. 

I am definitely prone to doing the opposite of the spoon rest. When something is troubling me, I almost automatically worry more and pray less! If you’re like me, you might  worry about upcoming dates, deadlines, people’s opinions, letting people down (again), and what might happen if loose ends are not tied up. You might worry about how your friends are doing, how your kids are doing, how your parents are doing, your siblings, or your spouse. You might worry a lot of the time; maybe even more than anything else you do.  

You might also worry about things that are gut-wrenching and impossible to solve. Those worries lurk and cling to the insides of our hearts: divorce, sudden tragedy, a child’s future, illnesses and diagnoses, a job we need but don’t have, a spouse’s death, someone else’s traumatic hardship, or underlying guilt or shame.

Probably the hardest thing for me about these kinds of thoughts and feelings is that they demand an answer. I feel the need to get to the bottom of them, quickly, or things will not be alright.  In this sense, at least for me, they are powerful. When I worry, my thoughts line up and follow their favorite leaders: it’s up to me and it will not be ok. My tone of voice, my actions, my interactions with others follow suit. And when a larger group of people is worried about something, it is a strong environment indeed. You can feel it. 

But an even more powerful, truer and better way of living is praying, as the spoon rest so humbly states. Here are some words from the Bible that I believe connect to this: 

 “Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life….Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?  Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying?”  Matthew 6:25-27  

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6 

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  Colossians 3:2

For he knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust.  Psalm 103:14 

…the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:4–5 

When I read these verses, I am reminded that the truths we stand on are not our own ability to find solutions and solve problems, or threats that things may not be ok. The truth is that things will be more than ok; they will be blessedly, amazingly, and overwhelmingly GOOD. An almighty God reigns and knows about our concerns. We live in God’s universe, and because of Jesus, with God’s own presence. God’s own presence. We have something besides ourselves to count on. 

Even so, it sometimes just seems too hard to pray when I’m worried. I think this is in part because I try to clear my mind of burdens first before I start to pray, which is impossible for me! Another challenge when I am anxious, concerned, or worried is not feeling strong enough to “take every thought captive to obey Christ”.  I have so many thoughts, and so many are often out of line with who God is. So many are “raised up against the knowledge of God”!  I question the truth of his sovereignty and assert my own control and my own agenda over my life.

So, I’m practicing stopping for at least a moment to acknowledge God’s presence as my mind races or when it is fixated on something unsolvable. I let the worries come but think of them moving toward him instead of toward myself. I ask for clarity for what needs to be addressed and what doesn’t, even with the concerns that I feel are most pressing. Sometimes I write them down or talk out loud like I would to a friend. What is God’s agenda for these items? What is his vantage point? 

After driving away from a time of prayer with a family facing a heartbreaking situation, I was amazed that the feeling of our prayer time together was the same as when I pray for smaller things with my spouse, or my friends, or community group.  It was a feeling of rest that our worries had been given to the one who can actually carry them. Maybe, God really is worthy of our trust. Maybe you and I actually can believe that we are dust, but he is King.

God’s Presence in Suffering

God’s Presence in Suffering

By Natasha Layman 

The call came on a rainy, chilly afternoon when I was preparing for oral surgery the following day. A woman who had mothered me as a young adult and continued to love me generously and steadfastly collapsed suddenly and was on life support. I took a deep breath and turned my attention to Jesus, placing myself in his loving presence. Another phone call came a few hours later. She had passed away. In this loss, I experienced as I never have before the safe, strong, and deep tender love of God as he held me close and invited me to run to him and feel. God invites us to experience his presence tenderly and powerfully in our suffering, grief, and loss. 

This was not my first experience losing a loved one. My dad passed away in my mid-twenties after a short-lived battle with cancer. I was there when he died, feeling the last pulse that went through his body. My relationship with my dad was tenuous at best, and I had no framework for how to sit with a mixed bag of emotions and grieve the losses. I detached and dissociated because that is what I knew, and it felt safer than sitting in the grief. I frequently asked God, “Why?” Why did my dad die? Why did we have such a distant and rocky relationship? I felt alone, angry, and bitter toward God as I tried to make sense of my suffering. A friend graciously recommended a counselor who listened and taught me how to engage with my feelings, my history with my dad, and all the wounds that were part of that story. But something was missing in this process. 

Fast forward a decade and a half to the moment I learned of my friend’s death. How was this time so different? How did I experience God’s presence and comfort in my suffering now? Because of my relationship with my dad, I’d envisioned God as distant, uninviting, and rather cold. I invite you into my past year’s journey, as God has rooted out my flawed views of him to form a deeper, more beautiful relationship between us.  

About a year ago, after years of longing to experience God, and not simply more head knowledge or good theology, I started leaning into habits to create space to meet God. I began sitting on my couch each morning for 5–10 minutes and imagining God sitting next to me, his face lighting up with joy at me. This was hard work—I was easily distracted, my mind prone to wandering. Yet God met me there, gently bringing me back to his presence when I wandered. He began to lay a foundation of joy, delight, and trust. In my daily prayer time, I experienced God’s presence. God fully knows me, my limitations, my wounds, and wholly loves me. In this time, God brought healing to deep wounds as well as freedom, laying the groundwork for deeper trust in him. 

As I prayed during the weeks leading up to my friend’s death, God brought me from a beautiful image in prayer of a safe, secure garden, walking with him, resting with him, and knowing his loving arms that held me, to an image of Jesus inviting me to follow him into the wilderness. The wilderness? When this shift happened I didn’t know what the wilderness held, but I knew God was trustworthy, and I could follow him. Days before my friend died, while in prayer, God gave me an image. I was scared and weeping on the side of a trail, with Jesus sitting next to me, arms around me, comforting me. He comforted me with his presence, not words. This image was at the forefront of my mind the day the call came that my friend had collapsed. God’s immediate invitation was to come, lament, and grieve with him

My journey of grief and lament began immediately. I wept tears that felt like they would never stop. The following day, I sat with God in prayer through the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. The verse that the Holy Spirit highlighted for me was verse 4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Jesus was gently telling me that he didn’t say we will not mourn, but we will be comforted. I wept more, with the image of Jesus weeping with me. I grieved that there would be no more hugs from my friend, no more sitting with her and hearing her stories. Most of the time I spent lamenting and grieving, there weren’t words, simply God’s presence; the intimacy of being fully loved by the God who knew my human experiences and limitations and loved me just the same. Jesus didn’t distance himself from me but held me in my woundedness with his scarred hands. The same hands that knew the pain of death were tending me, holding me with gentleness. 

God invited me to sit and lament with him several times in the week and a half following my friend’s death. I knew healing, wholeness, and knowing Jesus more deeply would only flow from continuing to come when he invited me, even when it was hard. In a podcast I heard author Tish Harrison Warren describe a concept from St. Thomas Aquinas as an “arduous good”. The word arduous means requiring great exertion; laborious; difficult. Lament is an arduous good. Lament requires that we be present to our pain and be present to God. Like so much else that God calls us to, lament is a process

My grief over my friend’s death will not disappear this side of eternity. Every room of my house has reminders, large or small, of her influence on my life. Yet, as Curt Thompson so wisely said during his time at Christ Community, “We discover joy finds us in suffering because community is sitting with us in the midst of it.” That journey starts by being present with the community of the Holy Trinity in my suffering and in Christ’s body, the Church. 

As I grieve, I have the hope that Jesus will return and set to right all that sin has broken. But there is a more pressing hope for this life right now. Our loving Lord Jesus, whose face lights up with joy and delight at us, is also sitting next to us, arms around us, holding us in all the storms of our suffering, grief, and loss. He invites us to grieve with him, just as he did with Mary and Martha over the death of Lazarus—death is not how it ought to be. He will not leave us in our suffering because he is “Love Loving,” in the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola. He is inviting us to come to him and abide, even in our sorrows. 

Before my friend died, as I was processing the news of her collapse, I was interrupted by an image. My friend was running with joy and delight into the arms of her Savior. She no longer bore the frailties of her body in this life but was whole, healed, and at peace. The wounded hands of Jesus held her as a beloved daughter. We are his beloved, and he is inviting you and me to experience his presence in our suffering. 

 

Additional Resource:

Comer, John Mark, host. “Luminary Interview: Tish Harrison Warren.:” The Rule of Life Podcast, Sabbath season, episode 5, Practicing the Way, 2022. 

Comer, John Mark. Practicing the Way. Waterbrook, 2024, 

 

Searching for Words to Pray

Searching for Words to Pray

I’ll be honest with you: there are times I have found it hard to be honest with God. The strange thing is, it’s not because I want to be dishonest with God. Sometimes it’s because I am stressed and anxious, and my prayers are fast-paced and emotionally disengaged. Sometimes it’s just because I am angry, and due to my personality and whatever else is going on inside me, I struggle to address my anger and I avoid it. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have the energy or the focus to center myself on him for a long time. 

 

Searching in the past

Here’s another reality: sometimes, when I am praying I am unable to conjure up the words to say what I really want, or what I really need to, in order to be honest with God. Even when I have a strong desire to be with God in prayer,  I can struggle with words. For someone who loves poetry and all forms of literature, that’s hard to even admit. 

Over the years I have taken great comfort in the fact that God can use my silence; my silent mouth and body that is just sitting and seeking to be close to him. Conversely, I take great comfort in the fact that I can trust God listens when I just ramble on and purge out all my random cares. But even more satisfying and expressive of my own feelings are prayers of the saints of old. These are prayers that seem holier than me, prayers that when I pray them, I feel like I’m standing on the shoulders of Christians who lived faithfully. 

When people ask me what my prayer life is like, I often respond with a simple truth. I typically have a mantra going on in the back of my head throughout the day. It’s the Jesus prayer; it is my quickest access point, my default, the groove I often fall back into when I pray. It goes like this:

“Jesus Christ, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen.” 

This prayer, over and over, is a place of honesty for me. It’s raw. I find great comfort in it. 

 

Finding in the present

And yet, recently I really felt a desire bubble up in me for more words. And not just the easiest, accessible ones, and not ones from the ancients. I want words that correspond to my modern life, but still have real depth. That get at the heart of my distractions, my anxieties, my fears, my thoughts about God, and my thoughts about myself. 

In my searching I’ve stumbled into some modern prayer books that have given me fresh language—new words to pray. As someone who often celebrates the ancients and their faithfulness to God in prayer, I have been surprised at how, through these fresh prayers, I can enter into real, honest moments with God. In fact, these prayers have given me the words that I desire but don’t have, that my heart feels and needs. 

In Living Like Monks, Praying Like Fools by Tyler Stanton I found a prayer by Ted Loder. He passed away recently, but he was a longtime pastor in Philadelphia, and spent much of his life writing prayers. I don’t agree with him on all things, but there are a few of his prayers that have connected with me in the past months. If you are anything like me, the prayer printed below offers words that correspond to my world, my lived reality, and offer it up to God in a comprehensive way. 

 

“There is Something I Wanted to Tell You” 

Holy One, there is something I wanted to tell you, but there have been errands to run, bills to pay, arrangements to make, meetings to attend, friends to entertain, washing to do… and I forget what it is I wanted to say to you, and mostly I forget what I’m about or why. O God, don’t forget me, please, for the sake of Jesus Christ…. 

Eternal one, there is something I wanted to tell you, but my mind races with worrying and watching, with weighing and planning, with rutted slights and pothole grievances, with leaky dreams and leaky plumbing and leaky relationships that I keep trying to plug up and my attention is preoccupied with loneliness, with doubt, and with things I covet and I forget what it is I want to say to you and how to say it honestly or how to do much of anything. O God, don’t forget me, please, for the sake of Jesus Christ…. 

Almighty one there is something I wanted to ask you but I stumble along the edge of a nameless rage, haunted by a hundred floating fears, of war, of losing my job, of failing, of getting sick and old and having loved ones die, of dying, and I forget what it is the real question is I wanted to ask and I forget to listen anyway because you seem unreal and far away and I forget what it is I have forgotten. O God, don’t forget me, please, for the sake of Jesus Christ…. 

O Father in Heaven, perhaps you’ve already heard what I wanted to tell you, What I wanted to ask is, forgive me, heal me, increase my courage, please. Renew in me a little of love and faith, and a sense of confidence, and a vision of what it might mean to live as though you were real, and I mattered, and everyone was sister and brother.

What I wanted to ask in my blundering way is don’t give up on me, don’t become too sad about me, but laugh with me, and try again with me, and I will with you, too. What I wanted to ask is for peace enough, to want and work for more, for joy enough to share, and for awareness that is keen enough to sense your presence here, now, there, then, always. Amen.

The Joy Of Prayer: 5 Ideas to Cultivate Joy in Your Prayer Time

The Joy Of Prayer: 5 Ideas to Cultivate Joy in Your Prayer Time

What is the first image that comes to your mind when you think about prayer? Someone on their knees with their hands clasped together toward heaven? The prophet Daniel praying three times a day with his window open toward Jerusalem in defiance of the government? A monk or a nun in deep contemplation? Or, is it someone falling asleep out of boredom? I get it, some days prayer is rough, particularly in the afternoon after lunch!

But what if I told you that prayer is joy? What if I told you that prayer is movement and breath, a labor of love in the presence of the One who is with us in lament and in dancing, in painful sobs and belly laughs, when the spirit groans and when it soars with delight? Would you believe me? In case you don’t, let me share with you the image that comes to my mind when I think of prayer.

When I think of prayer, I remember a former pastor of mine with fondness, particularly the way in which he nurtured his prayer life and intimacy with Jesus. I often saw him pacing back and forth talking to God, and if you happened to find yourself next to him during a long drive, you would hear him murmuring as he talked to God. He woke up early to read the Bible, journal, and pray for an extended period of time before he went to his office at the church. At the elder meetings we prayed for a while before we did anything else. And on Tuesday nights at 6:30 PM you would always find him at the weekly prayer meeting.

I learned much from watching my pastor and other servants of the Lord tend to the presence of God with such diligence and delight. The strength of their faith, their zeal for the Lord, and their desire to be with him was evident. They always wanted more time to pray because they never get enough of Jesus! I am indebted to these saints, intercessors, and prayer laborers for everything they taught me as they shared their prayer lives with me.

What is the “secret sauce”? How do they do it? How is anyone able to cultivate a consistent prayer life and find joy in it? Building a consistent prayer life is not always joyful. It starts with discipline! One minute seems like an eternity when you are trying to concentrate in prayer but the mind keeps wandering. Did I switch off the stove, add detergent to that last load of laundry, will I ever finish that project at work, will God ever bring Prince Charming? Don’t fret, keep at it; this is all part of learning to give God our full attention. Over time you will notice that discipline has turned into joy and time begins to fly in the space of prayer. Here are some things I have learned throughout the years that have helped cultivate joy in prayer.

 

1. Establish rhythms of time and place

Luke 2:37 says, “[…] She did not leave the temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers.”

That is what the evangelist tells us about Anna, a widowed prophetess, who had spent all her life serving God in prayer. I imagine she fervently interceded for the coming of the Messiah, whom she was now seeing with her very own eyes as a babe being blessed by Simeon. I imagine everyone knew exactly where to find Anna at particular times of the day. If anybody inquired about her around the temple, one of the priests might have said, “You know, this is her regular prayer time, so she will be at her usual spot, follow me. But you better brace yourself to wait a few hours because it’s gonna be a while before she is done praying.”

You and I need regular rhythms of prayer in order to be consistent. Pick a time of the day when you are most alert and a quiet, peaceful place to pray. Make this an appointment that you cannot break, and always show up. Do not concern yourself with the length of your prayer time, focus on being with Jesus.

 

2. Devise a strategy

It can be daunting to arrive at our prayer appointment without an agenda. It can feel like staring at a blank page on a computer screen with the cursor flashing, reminding us that we haven’t written a single word. In order to avoid that sensation of being stuck without anything to say, make a plan for your prayer time. Here is a basic outline of my prayer times.

A schedule will help you focus and avoid exclusively self-centered prayers that ignore neighbors and the work of God’s kingdom. Note that a schedule serves as a guide and is not written in stone. The Holy Spirit will often change our plans by reminding us of someone’s name, or bringing to mind a particular situation. Follow the lead of the Spirit! There is no need to be legalistic about the schedule. This is how we learn to listen to the voice of God as we pray, obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

 

3. Bring your Bible to your prayer appointment

1 John 5:14-15 says, “This is the confidence we have before him: If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked of him (emphasis mine).”

John tells us that one of the keys to effective prayer is to pray according to the will of God. How do we know the will of God? The will of God is written in the sacred Scriptures. Thus, knowing our Bible is the most productive thing we can do to cultivate joy and effectiveness in prayer. When we pray Scripture, we pray God’s very word back to him!

How do we pray Scripture? The epistles are filled with rich prayers. One of my favorites is Ephesians 1:15-19, as Paul prays for a Spirit of wisdom and revelation, for an opening of spiritual eyes, so that the church would understand the nature of the marvelous inheritance they have in Jesus. Ephesians 1:3-14 tells us that such inheritance is nothing less than “every spiritual blessing.” In Christ we have been chosen, redeemed, adopted, forgiven, and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Paul was praying that God would grant understanding to his church, so that she could grasp the glorious gospel she had received in Jesus!

In addition, the Psalms are a treasure trove of ancient, liturgical prayers that often feel as relevant today as they have felt throughout the history of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Psalms give language, voice, and imagery to the whole range of human emotions. In joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, in mourning and in dancing, in lament and in praise, we can pray the Psalms. These poems help us say to God the things our heart knows but cannot speak. They communicate that which our souls long for but cannot name.

 

4. Incorporate a variety of prayer types

Isn’t it fun to experience a variety of foods throughout the week? One of my favorite things about going to my mom’s house in Puerto Rico is that she cooks all my favorites when I am home. Oh the flavor, oh the variety…what a gift! If you sense your prayer life growing stale and each day it feels like a burden rather than a joy, try a different prayer type. For instance, instead of interceding, try contemplation: spend time worshiping God and thanking him, pick a passage of Scripture, meditate on it, and pray it back to God. I like to employ a variety of prayer practices in one single prayer time. It takes me a while to get to a space of stillness in prayer because I am usually thinking about the many tasks ahead of me so, during the first few minutes of my prayer time I listen to worship music, praise God out loud and thank him. Other times I sing until it turns into prayer. Then, I start interceding. Other times I write in my journal or type in my computer.

Recently, I arrived at one of my prayer appointments during the week and my soul was heavy; all I could do was cry. And when I say cry I mean ugly crying, shaking violently, snot coming out of my nose, deep sobs crying. I think, perhaps, the Holy Spirit was interceding through me with “unspoken groanings” (Romans 8:26). I could not utter a single word. At that moment, I felt compelled to type on my computer, and God was gracious in granting me language to give voice to the things that were in my heart but I could not express. Don’t be paralyzed by a long list of prayer requests; incorporate variety in your prayer time and let the Holy Spirit carry you!

 

5. Be creative

I think one of the reasons prayer sometimes appears boring is that we have a narrow view of what it looks like. There is no need to be inside a room, still, and on our knees when we pray. Stillness in prayer is a posture of the heart, not the body. I routinely pace while I pray. Yes, I look a little crazy, but the movement helps me stay focused when I am tired, and it reminds me that prayer is not a static activity. When we pray, we accomplish the work of God’s kingdom and the angels get their marching orders. Prayer is movement! This is why long walks, which are a favorite pastime of mine, are a fantastic time to pray.

Another way to add creativity to your prayers is to write them. I write them in my journal or type them on my computer. Slowing down to write my prayers helps me think carefully about the words I say to God, the theology that is in my heart, and my deepest desires. This practice also allows me to encourage those for whom I intercede with the words God lays on my heart to pray on their behalf.

There are many other ways of engaging the discipline and joy of prayer. I know some people like to draw as they pray and others engage art as a way to cultivate their imagination. Do not let the thought of a bland room paralyze you and rob you of the joy of praying, and growing in depth of intimacy with Jesus.

May you pray earnestly and freely, in mourning and in dancing, in lament and in praise, at home and at work, for you and the world. May the Lord grant you peace as you pray, and may you know the deep joy of keeping company with Jesus in the space of prayer. Amen.

Demystifying Mentoring

Demystifying Mentoring

Mentoring is a word that has been getting a lot of attention, yet It seems to be shrouded in mystery and confusion. Most have an understanding that mentoring involves an experienced individual willing to advise or support someone less experienced in a particular aspect of life. But then the questions arise: How do I engage in mentoring? Am I capable of being a mentor? Is this something I should pursue? And, of course, Where can I find a mentor?

Historically, church mentoring programs have focused on the Titus 2 ministry as a role designated for older women mentoring younger women. However, as we look more closely at Scripture, we see that it is not exclusive to women. It is a broader concept.

 

The Biblical Example of Mentoring

There are many Old Testament examples of mentoring for guidance and support. Jethro mentored his son-in-law Moses, showcasing how mentoring can have a familial dimension. Moses, in turn, mentored Joshua, who went on to mentor the other army leaders. Mentoring is an integral facet of good leadership. Eli mentored Samuel, who in turn mentored Saul and David. Eventually, David became the king of Israel and extended his mentorship to Solomon. Mordecai mentored Esther, who God used to save his people. These are just a few Old Testament examples that show the transformative power of mentoring. Similarly, the New Testament is rich with mentoring examples, especially from the disciples and early church members, from which our present-day discipleship and spiritual formation classes come.

Ordinary people see a need and answer the call to make a difference in the lives of others. A succession of mentoring relationships can have a domino effect. Mentoring changes lives, and not just the life of the one being mentored; it can have a profound impact across generations. 

Mentoring is a call for spiritually mature men and women to journey with those younger in their faith and pour into them. While it can take the form of a structured program, it certainly doesn’t have to. Mentoring is doing and sharing life with those God has placed in your path. Some of the best mentoring happens in simple moments over a cup of tea or a casual conversation in the midst of everyday life. It is becoming the person you needed when you were younger. Sometimes our mentors may be years ahead of us, other times they may be just a step ahead. This is a call for every age. A younger person can be a mentor to an older person.

 

We All Need a Mentor

No matter how put together we are or think we are, we are all broken, and broken people do hurtful, stupid, and sinful things. We are all in need of a Savior in Jesus, as well as at least one faithful friend and a mentor. What does mentoring look like in your life? It might be helpful to reflect on the influence mentors have had on you. Whether we realize it or not, we have all experienced the impact of mentors, and we have all served as mentors in some way. Sometimes it can be a friend willing to ask the hard questions or someone less connected to us who shows us another viewpoint from their life experience.

I am profoundly grateful for those who looked at the messy, younger me and chose to pour into me anyway. While they could have chosen to gossip or criticize me, some chose to roll up their sleeves and walk alongside me, helping me become the woman I was called and created to be. I honestly do not believe I would be who I am today without these dear souls. 

One example is an older woman who poured into me by teaching me the value of studying the word of God for myself. She took me to my first Bible conference. We had many cups of tea together as I grew spiritually. In many ways she was my spiritual mom. She is now home with Jesus and I often wish I would have asked her why she was willing to spend so much time with me. The shape of her life now intertwines with mine. Her mark on my life is evidenced in so many ways: my love of studying the word of God, joy in teaching others, gardening, and even enjoying a good game of baseball.

Sometimes mentoring isn’t about Bible study, but sharing practical information.  A woman heard that I wanted to learn to make jelly. While this might not seem important to some, it was a big deal to me. One day she showed up at my door with grape juice, jars, and all the things necessary to make jelly. That afternoon, as I learned a new skill, we talked about parenting. She measured, and I talked. I poured the jelly into jars, I listened. When she left, I had a dozen jars of jelly, a desire fulfilled, a new skill, and so much more.  

These are just two examples of women who have poured into me over the years. Women who made me feel loved and valued. Some have been in my life to teach me a single concept, while others became lifelong friends.

 

A Change of View

Being mentored has also shaped how I view other women. Now I see them as mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends. If we look through that lens, there is no room for competition, judging, or gossiping. It leaves space for growing together in community. We talk about wanting to leave a legacy, and mentoring offers a fresh avenue to do that, all in the name of Jesus.  

One might wonder if they have what it takes to be a good mentor, if they have anything of value to offer others, or if they are spiritually ready. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to mentoring. God has uniquely shaped each of us for the individuals he intends for us to mentor. 

For the believer, having a faith walk and an ongoing prayer life are essential. Without these foundational disciplines, we might attempt to rely on our own strength. And that “strength” can lead to issues such as pride that are not God-honoring.

 

Called to Mentor

While mentoring is a call for everyone, there are specific requirements. The first step is simply to respond to the need. The second is to have an open heart that is willing to listen—really listen—to others before speaking. Listening is so important and is a great way to begin mentoring. Too often, we jump in with advice or throw around Bible verses before we know someone’s story.  

Another essential skill in successful mentoring relationships is a willingness to be vulnerable with others, vulnerable enough to share your story when appropriate. Men and women are waiting for us to be willing to show up and be there for them, and each of us have life experiences that uniquely shape us to pour into the lives of others. A good mentor sees what someone needs and is willing and available to accompany them through life. 

 

An Unlikely Pair

Trying to find a mentor or finding someone to mentor can feel overwhelming because of our tendency to overcomplicate things. Go where the people are! If we are praying and show up, God will direct the right people to our path—those whom we are to mentor or those who are to mentor us. 

In the movie Four Feathers, a British soldier goes through a devastatingly hard time, leaving England in disgrace. In hopes of regaining his honor he goes to the Sudan. A desert prince finds him and is instrumental in helping him put the pieces of his life back together. An unlikely pair. When the soldier is ready to go back to England, more healed and whole, he asks the prince, “Why did you help me?” His response sums up mentoring so beautifully, “Because God put you in my way. I had no choice.” An unlikely pair that only God could put together. The beauty of mentoring is that God puts unlikely people in our path, to help grow them, grow us, and ultimately glorify himself.               

If you want to be mentored, begin with prayer. Then, when you find a brother or sister you want to learn from, be vulnerable enough to ask. Asking doesn’t mean they will say yes, and even if they agree, the relationship might not always flourish. If it doesn’t, keep trying and trust that God has the right people walking with you at just the right time.

 

Mentoring Boundaries         

Being a mentor does not mean being someone’s everything. Rarely will you teach/mentor someone in all areas of their life. Each of my mentors brought something different into my life, influencing me in specific ways or areas of life. 

Healthy boundaries also need to be part of any mentoring relationship. A healthy boundary could be as simple as no calls after a certain time. Boundaries help foster a respectful attitude toward each other’s time, and this part of healthy mentoring is a two-way street. While one might be the mentor and another is being mentored, we need to remember that there is wisdom to be gained from each other. Younger individuals grow and stretch us in ways our peers might not.  

When I was a younger woman, I longed for older women to encourage, guide, and come alongside me. God was gracious and answered those prayers. Are you willing to let God use you as an answer to someone’s prayer? 

That is what a mentor is—an answer to someone’s prayer.