With Honesty and Thanksgiving

My favorite person to hear pray is a lady by the name of Nancy Mullins.

She attends a church that I used to go to, and she is one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet. Whenever she would pray for me, I would just sit and listen to her. Nothing but loving words and genuine feelings came out. I felt comforted. I felt so much love. And it felt like God was standing or sitting right there with us, hanging on to her every word. She wasn’t worried about impressing me or God. She didn’t sound like a thesaurus or a grand guest speaker in a packed arena. She sounded like someone who cared about me and who knew how to get in touch with God.

Honestly, that’s all I care about when someone prays for me. If you want to sound eloquent and poetic, that’s cool. Go for it. The English major in me will love it. But your prayer, regardless of how it sounds, has to be honest and genuine. It won’t move me if it’s not, and most importantly, it won’t move God if it’s not.

I find it odd how people have an issue with being honest with God. I don’t really understand the hesitation. Do you think you’re going to tell God something He doesn’t know and shock Him? Do you think you’re going to ruin the way He sees you? Do you think you’re going to hurt His feelings? Let me tell you something that God has shown me recently: if God didn’t want you to be honest about it, you wouldn’t be going through it. When you talk to God, you’re just telling Him things He already knows. He’s glad to hear it though. It’s like when you know your friend is going through a hard time and then they open up to you about it. You’re not surprised at what you’re hearing, but you’re glad they’re telling you about it. They’re confiding in you, they’re showing they value you, and they’re acknowledging that they know you care about them. That’s exactly how it is when we pray honestly to God.

And if you’re concerned with your honesty causing God to love you less, you’re wrong. God and I both love you, but you’re just wrong. There is nothing, not anything, not a single thing in this universe that you could do to make God love you less. Sometimes that’s hard to remember or even accept, but it’s the truth.

We have some outdoor cats at my house, and one of them is a little odd and very spastic. The other cats like human contact; he does not. He doesn’t really hang around much. (He could live a double life for all we know. He could be an agent like Perry the Platypus.) But when he’s around, he cracks me up, so I love this cat. Plus, I tend to have a special place in my heart for weird beings and things.

Some of you may think I’m making this up, and some of you will fully believe what I’m about to tell you, but I looked at this cat one day and said, “My love is like the love of Jesus. It’s there whether you want it or not.”

And it’s true that the love of God is there whether we want it or not. Whether we feel we deserve it or not and whether we accept it or not.

So why is it so hard for us to communicate with God? Because that’s exactly what prayer is – communication between us and God.

I will be the very first person to admit that I don’t pray as much as I should. It’s a terrible truth, but a truth nonetheless. I guess at the end of the day, as I lay in bed and feel happy as sleep comes to greet me (For those of you who don’t know, I love to sleep, and I’m very good at it.), praying just feels like a chore. A little superfluous almost. God knows what’s happening in my life and I’m tired, so why tell Him when I could just go to sleep already? And I’ll chat with God whenever I need something, but it seems like I hardly ever pray just to be talking to Him.

That sounds lame, and it is. How ridiculous is that? The Creator wants to talk to me and listen to me, and I won’t give Him the time of day (or night, obviously). I have the chance to converse with, vent to, hear from, and receive advice from the One who loves me most, more than anyone or anything else in this world loves me, and I repeatedly refuse it.

It’s just that simple – talking to God. People have this remarkable ability to take the simplest notions and concepts and turn them into something more complicated. God wants to hear from you. It doesn’t matter how big or small the subject is. It doesn’t matter how fancily you speak. It doesn’t matter if you think it or say it aloud. God just wants you to come to Him.

Imagine if you were in a room full of people, including your very best friend. You go up to them and say hi. They respond with a hello and ask if you could get them some punch. You gladly go get it and bring it to them. They mumble a quick thank you then walk off. You see them interact with awful people. You see them talk to people you know only want to hurt them and their heart. You see them talking to other friends of theirs and yours. But they don’t talk to you for the rest of the night and just leave like you were never there.

I don’t know about you, but if that happened to me, I would cry. Really. I would be so depressed and wonder why they didn’t like me anymore and try to remember what I could’ve possibly done to make them hate me. I would be a mess.

But that scenario isn’t dissimilar to what we put God through when we don’t pray, especially for extended periods of time. While He doesn’t have a meltdown like I would, it doesn’t exactly put a smile on His face.

Often when we do pray, it’s purely us asking God for things. That isn’t always bad. If you have problems, God wants you to turn to Him. He encourages it. 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” But if the biggest problem you have is that you’re not driving your dream car, you might want to change your tune and your prayer a little bit.

Colossians 4:2 (NLT) says, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” When you pray, is your heart one of “God, give me this,” or “God, I know You’ve done so much for me already, but please let me ask for one more favor”? It makes a world of difference in your prayers and in your life.

And prayers of nothing but thanksgiving should also be a part of our prayer lives. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before or not, but one thing I love about the book of Psalms is it covers such a range of emotions and actions. The psalmists weren’t afraid to ask God where He was or why things weren’t going their way. But there are also psalms that just magnify and glorify God and psalms of praise. If there can be entire psalms dedicated to praising and thanking God, some coming from a man after God’s own heart, surely we can send up a few prayers of the same nature. It’s not all about us; it’s about God, and only asking Him to give us things without thanking Him for them seems a bit skewed.

I’ll close by expanding on some advice that a nice lady at an antiques store gave me a couple of years ago. Two friends of mine and I walked into this little shop in Maggie Valley, and we were just browsing. While we were in there, we chatted with the lady who was working there. She was very sweet, and I think it made her happy to see such young girls interested in such old things. As we were leaving, she said, “Bye, girls! Remember to say your prayers at night.”

It was a refreshing reminder. Some of the best advice I’ve ever received, especially from a stranger. I would like to encourage you to not only say your prayers at night, but to say your prayers anywhere and anytime you feel compelled to. When you wake up, while you’re driving to work (just please don’t pray with your eyes closed), on your break, during halftime of the basketball game. It’ll make a world of difference, and you may not even really know why. Maybe just the act of communicating with God does a soul good.

By Carrie Prevette

The Chatterbox: Turning Off the Noise

Pastor Alan Parsons said Sunday morning in the final sermon of The Chatterbox, “The best way to preach is by example.”

The words struck me because I’ve had a feeling recently that I was going to have to give some background on why The Chatterbox has meant so much to me.

On Sunday, Alan went on to talk about how difficult his week was and how he had listened to the Chatterbox and let it discourage him. And I would like to take a moment to commend him for speaking so honestly. It was something that most people don’t have the boldness to do. Alan also went on to attest to how everything changes when we hand our situations over to God and listen to Him instead of the Chatterbox.

Now I suppose it’s my turn to demonstrate the very same thing.

The weekend of the first Chatterbox sermon, I was depressed. I wasn’t just sad or bummed out. I don’t remember the last time I had felt as purely awful in my heart and soul as I felt that weekend. I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but I’m typically pretty loud and happy. That Sunday, I was quiet and I couldn’t even really bring myself to smile.

I felt entirely pointless. I thought about everything I do, and I couldn’t think of a single way that I wasn’t replaceable. The ways I volunteer at church, my job, what I do around the house, everything. I started feeling like all I did well was get on everyone’s nerves and take up space. I started questioning God, asking Him what I was even doing here because I could not see what function I was serving in the grand scheme of things.

The ironic thing is I’m usually the one trying to encourage other people and let them know how loved they are by God and by others, telling them that they have a huge purpose in this world. But no matter how much I thought about it, I couldn’t seem to believe it about myself, at least not in that moment. I wasn’t just listening to the Chatterbox. It was the only station I thought I could pick up.

I can guarantee you that there wasn’t a single person who needed to hear about how much God loves and accepts them more than I did that Sunday. So I’ve been drawn to this series because I needed to hear it and because I fully believe that everyone needs to hear it.

Isn’t it amazing how God orchestrates everything?

The reason this series helped me turn off the Chatterbox is because it forced me to hear what God was really saying about me. It showed me reasons to love God and praise Him. It shifted my focus from being on my misconceptions and disappointments to being on God’s love and greatness. And honestly, it’s hard to listen to the Chatterbox when all you see is how perfect God is.

I was reminded of God’s truths about me and promises to me, and I was reminded that they’re just as present and accurate even in the moments when I don’t believe them.

I’ve said it plenty of times before (I’m sure I’m not the only one), and I’ll say it again: God is faithful even when I’m not.

Isn’t that remarkable? The one who’s bringing everything to the relationship is completely loyal to the other. I’m the one that messes up. I’m the unworthy one. I’m the one who needs Him just to make it through the day. You would think that I’m the one who would cling to Him, regardless of my changing world or whatever circumstances I find myself in. But it’s the other way around. God’s the one who’s always there for me, whether I ask Him to be or not. He picks me up, helps me out, listens to me rant or cry or babble away. He’s my Savior, yet He’s the one that’s head over heels in love with me. I give up on God more often than I care to admit, but never – not for a second – has He given up on me.

Nor has He ever given up on you.

I’m lucky that my depression lasted only a few days. Some people go through it for years. Maybe you’re one of them. Maybe while you were reading about my experience you found yourself thinking, “Yes! I know exactly what you’re talking about. I feel that way every day.” And people always say to those who are struggling that things will get better. I say it myself. I’ve actually had one girl tell me that people say that all the time, they’ve been saying it for years, but she still feels empty. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times, and you’re probably tired of it. But let me tell you, it will get better. I know it will.

“But how do you know that?”

I know it will happen because God is faithful.

God knows you’re struggling. God knows that there are times when your faith isn’t just running low, it basically doesn’t exist. There are moments when you turn from Him and seek help or shelter elsewhere. But the thing about God is that even though He knows you’ll do it to Him, He won’t do it to you. He’s right there with you. He’s not leaving you, He’s not giving up on you, and He isn’t done with you.

Hebrews 10:23 (NRSV) says, “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.”

Don’t give up. God certainly won’t. And imagine how much better you’ll do if you work with God instead of working against Him or being apathetic about Him.

When you truly want to turn off the Chatterbox, and you can’t find a single other thing to praise God for, praise Him for just being there. Maybe you don’t see Him. Maybe you wish He would be more active. Regardless, don’t doubt for one minute that He’s with you, and don’t doubt for one minute that He loves you. And remember that even the smallest bit of praise can begin to shut off the Chatterbox.

By Carrie Prevette

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