On The Prayer That Never Fails…

Hi friends!
This blog is a re-post from a while ago. But I have referenced “the prayer that never fails” with three different friends in the past 72 hours.
So it seems I needed this reminder – and maybe you do, too.


I hailed a cab the other day in a new-to-me city.
I gave the driver the address and settled in to the seat.
But then I leaned forward and said, “You need to take 2nd Avenue across the river, turn left at the third stoplight and then make a left onto Delaney Street.”
The driver peered into his rear view mirror.
“Lady, that won’t get you where you need to go.”
But I ignored him, settled back in my seat and waited for him to follow my directions.

I had surgery the other day.
As they wheeled me into the operating room, I grabbed the surgeon’s gloved hand, stopping the progress of the gurney.
I said, “OK, Doc. The incision has to be less than four inches and this operation needs to only take an hour and half, no matter what. You have to use the scalpel I provided and be sure to only give me the medicine I brought with me. You got all that?”

I boarded a flight the other day.
As I shuffled through the line at the door of the plane, I noticed the captain standing there, greeting people.
I stepped out of the line and cornered him.
“OK, sir, here are my instructions. Takeoff cannot be too steep because I don’t like them steep. I know we are in the middle of a city and you have to avoid some tall buildings, but I am confident you can get us off the ground at a more comfortable angle. After we are in the air, I expect absolutely no turbulence. And when we land, you need to make sure that there is very little bumping when then wheels touch down. I will probably be dozing and it is in my best interest if you make it as smooth as possible. I know you’re capable of all this – you have an amazing track record. So I’ll keep believing good things about you – if you meet all of these requirements. Have a nice day!”

Ludicrous examples.
Completely made up.

I have taken cabs in strange cities and gotten to my destination without telling the cabbie where to go or how to get me there.
I have had half a dozen surgeries in my life and never once told the surgeon how I expected him or her to do the job.
And I have flown thousands upon thousands of miles without ever giving the pilot my specifications.

Do I want the cabbie to take the best route, the quickest one, the least expensive?
Of course.
Do I want the surgeon to do his or her best, using the right tools at the right time in the right way?
Of course.
Do I want the aircraft pilot to give me a smooth flight with as little inconvenience to my sensibilities as possible?
Of course.

But I know that they know more than I do.
Have experiences I do not have.
Possess abilities I do not.
But even as I put my faith in these folks, I also realize they are human.
Capable of mistakes.
And perhaps even dishonest in their dealings.

And yet I often put more faith in them than I do in the Living God.
That truth shows up when I pray.

When I pray, I tend to tell God what to do.
Demanding what must be done.
Instructing Him on the future.
What is best for me.
For others I know.
Giving Him detailed instructions to follow and then getting mad if He doesn’t align Himself with my desires.

When I pray that way, I am forgetting.
Forgetting that He is not me.
He is “not a man that He should lie”. (Numbers 23)

Forgetting that He is all-powerful.
He is outside of time.
He sees the end from the beginning.
He is all-knowing.

Forgetting His deep love for me.
That He sees me as His precious child.
That He has an un-thwartable plan and a purpose for me.

When I forget all of that, my prayers turn into laundry lists of demands.
I may even glorify those demands by claiming that I am claiming.
His promises.
Declaring His Word.

But I’m not.
I’m not really claiming a promise when I am doubting that He knows what He is doing.
And showing that doubt by enunciating what His next move MUST be.

I am not declaring His Word when my motive is to escape as much pain as possible.
Showing that I believe life is about me. My comfort. My ease. My pain levels.

I am not trusting Him for Who He is when I am treating Him like a vending machine.
Showing that I think He thinks like me, acts like me, is like me.

I’m not honoring Him or His Word when I make prayer an equation.
My Faith + A Bible Verse + Earnestness = My Desired Result

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, the first thing He taught them to do was to give glory to the Father. “Our Father in heaven, Holy is Your Name!” (Matthew 6)

And the very next thing He taught them to say – to pray – was, “May Your Kingdom come; may YOUR WILL BE DONE here on earth as it is in heaven.”

In the prayer that Jesus taught, first came the acknowledgement of Who God is.
Next came surrender to HIS agenda – and not just His agenda for me, but for His Kingdom.
After that came the asking.
But not before.

I understand that “Thy will be done” is a terrifying prayer.
If God is not Who He says He is.
If He is not to be trusted.
If He is not all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present.
If He is not good.
If He does not love you with a sacrificial, merciful, undying love.

Then it is a terrifying prayer.
And you better not pray it.
You better give Him a laundry list of expectations because you are better than Him and know more than what He knows.

But if He is completely good, it is the safest prayer to pray.

If He is the All-Powerful, Most High God, it is the most freeing prayer to pray.

If He loves you so much that He would send His Only Son as a substitute for the punishment due you, it is the most grateful prayer to pray.

If He is your Daddy, who delights in you and rejoices over you with singing, then it is a life-giving, worry-smashing, joy-causing prayer.

It is the ultimate declaration of Who He is.

Don’t get me wrong.
I am not telling you to stop talking to Him about your needs, your desires, your pain.
Or that of others.
But do it in the right order. With the right heart. The right attitude. The right surrender.

Because there is one prayer He always, always answers.
In the best possible way.
Even if it doesn’t feel that way at the time.
Even if the end result differs from what I want.
Author Jan Karon calls it, “The prayer that never fails.”

“Thy will be done.”

Because of what You know, Thy will be done.
Because of Your great love for me, Thy will be done.
Because You are You and I am me, Thy will be done.
Because of what I have seen You do in the past, Thy will be done.
Because I can trust You with my future, Thy will be done.
Because You are for me and not against me, Thy will be done.
Because of Who You are, Thy will be done.

Do you have the courage to sincerely pray “the prayer that never fails”?
I dare you!
Take God at His Word.
And see what happens.

On Wearing Glasses…

I wear glasses for astigmatism and I also need them reading.
Without my glasses, I cannot see clearly.

But I also have a variety of other glasses that I wear daily, without consciously putting them on.

Some are a part of my hardwiring.
I am a girl.
So I am always wearing my pink glasses.
Meaning that I generally see the world from a feminine point of view, in all the ways men and women think differently and respond differently. My default setting is femininity.

Another part of my hardwiring is my culture. I am always wearing my American glasses.
They make me think that freedom is a given.
That I deserve things like clean water, electricity on demand, and central heating and air.
That I have a voice in the political process and freedom to express my views without fearing for my life.
And that I am not a wealthy person.
Those things are not truth for most of the world.
But all of them are the way I view the world by default.

I am also hardwired to wear my white glasses.
I am of European descent, a white woman.
Therefore, those are also my default glasses.

Call all of those – my feminine, cultural and racial glasses – whatever you want.
Call them privilege or responsibility or unfairness or prejudice or rights – but they are what they are. They are my default settings for viewing the world.

Those glasses stay firmly on my face unless I choose to replace them with another pair.
To see things from another point of view.

For example, at work I routinely put on my blue glasses because I work with mostly men.
My communication with them is much better if I remember that we are hardwired differently, to express ourselves differently and that we often view the world differently.
So I often intentionally take off my pink and put on my blue to see things as they see them.
It usually doesn’t change the point I am trying to make.
But it does open the doors for better communication, simply because I am willing to look at it from their point of view.

Same thing for my cultural and racial glasses.
I can choose to take them off – my “Americaness” and my “whiteness” – and attempt to see the world through different eyes.
To hear what the other person is saying.
To remember that their point of view is as valid as mine.
To hear past rhetoric and see the hardwiring and experiences they have had that drive their hearts.
To love them even if we disagree.
And to have the discussions that enable me to see the world as they see it.

But then there are other glasses that I often wear.
Pairs that I consistently choose to put on my face.
Some that I definitely should.
And others that I have no business wearing.

First, the deceptive glasses of comparison.
This often starts with me simply being happy for you, rejoicing with you over your blessings.
But then I slip these on and they quickly skew my vision.
I hold up your blessings next to my life and find that I have come up short.

I forget that I am only seeing the icing on the cake of your life.
Yes, you took an amazing vacation.
But perhaps it came at the price tag of you never seeing your husband since he is always working overtime to pay for such things.
Yes, you have gorgeous children in perfect outfits, smiling at the camera.
But it probably came at the price tag of you losing your mind for two hours during the photo shoot.
Yes, you have a stunning house, perfectly decorated for Christmas.
But maybe it came at the price tag of your peace as you pressured yourself to get it all done.
Or maybe it didn’t.
But either way, when I compare my life to yours, I am usually only seeing what you allow me to see. And I am usually only showing you what I want you to see.
Wearing the glasses of comparison is dangerous. Foolish. And only leads to sin.

Another set that I have to take off?
The glasses of what I expect you to do. To be. To say.
Another very dangerous, even deadly pair.
They are similar to comparison – but they have even heavier lenses called “I deserve”.
Instead of me looking out for your best interests, I only focus on mine.
Instead of me choosing to love you for you, I love you for what you can do for me.
Instead of me being grateful for all the good you bring to my life, I focus on what you have not done that I think you should.

The question:
What do I do with all these glasses?
How do I manage to live – and to love – beyond my hardwiring?
How do I make sure that I am seeing things from the proper perspective?

By replacing ALL of my glasses with the one set that will give me clear vision:
The mind of Christ,
as revealed in the Word of God
and illuminated by the Holy Spirit.

It is only when I put on His glasses, eternal perspective glasses, that my vision is corrected.
Paul lays out the prescription in Philippians 2.

He starts out by telling us who should be wearing them.
They are for those of us who have found:
“encouragement from being united with Christ”
“comfort from His love”
“common sharing in the Spirit”
“any tenderness and compassion”.

He then tells us what these glasses will enable us to do. They will cause us to:
“be like-minded”
“have the same love”
“be one in spirit” and “of one mind”
“do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit”
“value others above ourselves”
“not look to our own interests but…to the interests of the others”.

Yes, please! I want that kind of vision.
Imagine the kind of place this world would be if we all had that!

And then Paul tells us the prescription – how to get ALL of that.
He says, “Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus”.

Next he unpacks what that means. He says:
Jesus humbled himself.
Became a servant.
And chose to do the will of God above his desires.
He chose to love you more than himself.
He chose to lay down his rights as God Incarnate so that he could die in your place.
And He rose from the dead so that you have the power to live as He did.

So – what if you and I chose those glasses?
What if we chose humility over pride?
Gratitude over grumbling?
Serving over expecting?
The will of God over our own desires?
The best interest of others over our needs?

What would our world look like if we did that?
May you choose your glasses carefully.
With the right ones on, you can change the world.

On Window Seats, Turbulence and Faith…

I had a so-called “window seat” on my flight last week.
Except I had no window.
Because the airlines have squished more and more seats onto the plane, I had a nice piece of plastic to look at for the flight.
And for the most part, I did not care.
I dozed off and on, earphones in, music soothing my soul.

It was a bumpy flight – but those don’t bother me much.
I have logged thousands upon thousands of miles on planes.
So all was well – with or without “my” window.

Until we started out initial descent.
And then I suddenly “needed” to see.

The captain warned us that it was going to be a bumpier than normal descent.
Winds gusting – and I mean, really gusting – from the north.

And out of the blue, I had this overwhelming need to check things out.
How high are we?
How much time before wheels down?
When will he signal for the flight attendants to strap in for the landing?

By the way, it didn’t help that I have landed at this airport, in this flight pattern, many times before. You would think that would be beneficial. But sometimes knowledge – or memory – work against us.
You see, I know these things about landing at Reagan National when flying in from Alabama:
1. You come in from the south, flying straight up the Potomac. Great views – and the feeling that the wheels are going to touch the river before they touch the runway.
2. The descent has to be steep, simply because we are landing in the middle of a city, complete with tall buildings and lots and lots of traffic.
3. I have a vivid memory of the news reports and stories of Air Florida Flight 90 going down in the Potomac when I was a child. On a cold, windy, icy day long, long ago. Something that crosses my mind every time I have to fly into or out of Reagan in cold weather.

So suddenly, all these things made it imperative for me to SEE where we were.
And I couldn’t.
Because, not only did I not have a window, but the ones in front of me and behind me were closed.

I thought I was going to lose my mind.
And it made me laugh at myself.
Because I had no idea that this was something I do.
I avidly watch our landing, mentally checking off that things are going well.

So foolish to think I have so much control over the aircraft!
Or the weather conditions
The pilot’s skill
Or the mechanics of the plane.

Yet I apparently believed that I could make a difference in how this landing went down. Which is laughable because my brain knows these Truths:
1. God is in control of all things.
2. My days were numbered before one of them came to be – and if that number was fulfilled last Friday, so be it. Heaven is my destination and it is going to be glorious!
3. Seeing does not change what I can or cannot do about anything. I can pray either way – and that is the only thing I can do. Period.

But in that moment, Truth was not in control.
Instead, I was desperately trying to be.
And my rational mind was laughing at me.
While the Holy Spirit was trying to remind me of what I know to be True.
Even as my emotions were ramping up.

It. Was. Ridiculous.

As I battled the irrational, foolish part of me, the Holy Spirit said, “This is a metaphor for life. You have to “walk by faith, not by sight”. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
Or, rather, fly by faith, not by sight.

Sometimes in this life, I have a window seat with an open window.
I can clearly see where I am and what is coming – or at least, what I think is coming.
I have great views.
The flight is smooth.
And I am relaxed.

But more often than not, I do not have a window seat on my life.
Or, if I do, there is fog.
Or darkness.
Or cloud cover obscuring my view.

Sometimes, the weather is clear.
Smooth sailing.
No turbulence.
And a gentle landing at my next stop.

Other times, the flight and the landing are both bumpy.
Buffeted by the winds of trials.
Temptations. Tests.

But regardless of my circumstances – and what I can or cannot see – the Truth remains the same.
1. I am not The Pilot of my life. I am not even the Co-Pilot. I am not God enough to be either.
2. I am not in control of the plane. Or the weather. The landings. Or the take-offs.
3. The only thing I can do from my seat is trust the Pilot. Constantly talking to Him in prayer. Whether I like my current conditions or not. Whether I can see or not. Doing anything else is wasted energy and wasted emotion.
4. I do not have to see for us to have a safe landing. I do not have to understand in order to trust Him. I have logged thousands upon thousands of hours of “flight time” with Him. And as the Psalmist wrote, I have “seen in (my) history the faithful love of the Lord”. (Psalm 107:43, NLT)
5. My memory of past pain – like remembering Air Florida Flight 90 – does not determine my future with a good, good Father. He may allow troubling circumstances to come – but I have His promise that He is working those things – “ALL things” – together for my best interest and His glory. (Romans 8:28)

So after the longest 30 minutes in my recent history, the wheels bumped down and we rocketed to a stop, safe and sound.
Even without my help.
And without my sight.
Imagine that!

Will I still ask for a window seat? Of course.
Will I open the shade as we land? I am sure I will.
But I hope that the next time I have to land without seeing, I can do a better job simply trusting.

That’s always the goal – to do it better the next time that test comes around.
Not to earn His love.
But because He has lavished His love on me already.
And I know I can trust the Pilot. He’s proven that time and time again.

On Tornadoes, Trust and Who Is Truly In Control…

I am super sleepy this morning and it is my own fault.
It’s all about giving up control.

You see, I am currently on vacation in Alabama, staying with dear friends.
Dear friends who happen to live in Tornado Alley.

Severe storms were predicted for last night and by the time we went to bed, they had already wreaked havoc in Louisiana. But my friends are used to such things and have a plan, a system, a way of being safe. The town has a sophisticated tornado warning system and this happens frequently enough that my friends have safety down to a science. So they told me that they would come and get me if we needed to take shelter in their “tornado closet”.

But, foolishly, I decided to leave the volume on my phone turned up instead of turning it way down or muting it like I usually do.
And so I was startled awake every time a notification came in.
The junk e-mail.
The weather alert that said it was going to start raining soon.
The e-mail from a friend who is a night owl.
And yes, eventually, the tornado watch and warning that came.

Thankfully, I was able to go back to sleep each time.
But in the harsh light of a morning where I cannot keep my eyes open (and I am a morning person), the truth hit me.
I was not willing to give up control.
I could have easily muted my notifications.
But that meant I would have been completely trusting my friends to keep me safe.
And, more than that, completely trusting God as well.

I have absolutely no reason to distrust either of them, my dear friends or my Beloved God.
My friends have been in my life for almost 20 years.
We have walked many, many perilous paths together.
They are some of the most trustworthy and faithful people I know.
And they would never let anything happen to me if they could prevent it.

And I have even less reason to distrust God.
He has proven Himself faithful time and time and time again.
I know that “my life is in His hands”. (Psalm 66:9)
I know that my “days were numbered before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16)
I know that He knows when the sparrow falls – and I am worth far more than a sparrow. (Matthew 10)

Or, I should say, I know those things in my head.

But last night, I chose to not apply what I know to be true.
And today I am paying the price.
Which, in His mercy, is simply sleepiness.

But how often do I do this same thing in life?
I say I trust God – but then I take matters into my own hands.
He is not moving fast enough for me – I have to help Him out.
He is not doing what I want Him to do – I have to figure out how to change things.
He is not coming through for me like I think He should – I have to rely on my own resources.

How foolish!
How insane!

The God of the Universe knows my name.
The number of hairs on my head.
My thoughts before I think them.
The good works He has prepared in advance for me to do.
The plan He has for my life.
The number of days I will live.
Every word I speak before I speak it.

The God of the Universe gave His one and only Son to be my Savior so that we could be in relationship.
Proof positive that He is there for me, is looking out for me, is worthy of all my trust.

And yes, His ways are not like mine.
He is often mysterious.
And often does not do things the way I think He should.

But He is good.
Oh, so good.
And I know that He is worth trusting.
Worth believing.
Worth acknowledging in all my ways.
Worth resting upon.

Because that is the bottom line in all of this.
I can choose control.
Or, more accurately, the illusion that I am in control.
Or I can choose rest.
Letting go and trusting Him to be a far better God than I could ever be.

Last night I chose control.
And forfeited rest.
Foolish me.
Sleepy me.
And yet forgiven me.

Thank God, His mercies are new every morning!
OK, Lord, let’s try this again…