Deliver Us

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:13, KJV)

“And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13, NRSV).

“And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13, NLT).

I love reading different translations mostly because I love words.

My wonderful mom tells me from time to time that I’m very good at finding the perfect way to say things, the most accurate way to express something. And sometimes when I’m talking to someone else who doesn’t know me well, they’ll respond to something I say with, “You mean _______ ?” And I reply, “No. I chose my words.”

The truth is, I read a lot and talk a lot. I try to listen a lot. But I also think a lot, and I think in different ways. One of those ways, obvious as it may sound, is in words. If you’re someone who thinks in images (which I also do sometimes), think of it less as my mental self scanning a dictionary and more of her sitting under a tree looking up at the sky contemplatively. I’ll not deny that God has given me the gift of being able to string words together well, but it’s also that between all of these things, I spend a lot of time with words.

So let’s talk about the words in these three translations. We’ll start with the first part.

Two of our three versions say “temptation” while the other says “trial.” The two words aren’t synonymous, but in a spiritual sense, they might as well be. We have eternal, heaven-bound souls in mortal, sinful flesh. If we’re honest, all of our spiritual trials involve temptation. The temptation to doubt or to return to our former ways or to try something we shouldn’t for one hollow, fleeting moment. So I do feel that these two words are connected in a very specific way.

Trials of other varieties exist too, though, and I don’t want to dismiss that or downplay that. Stuff happens in our lives physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, and in so many other ways, and it can really push us or stretch us thin. But I don’t want to downplay the impact that can have on our spiritual lives either. Hurt, anger, bitterness aren’t contained to one place no matter how hard we try to keep them there. They bleed through to other parts of our lives, sometimes while we’re unaware of them. They climb over the walls we construct in attempts to compartmentalize, and they spread. Trials of all kinds can become spiritual problems if we don’t handle them correctly by trusting in God.

In the KJV, Jesus asks God to “lead us not into temptation”, but the NLT has Him asking God not to “let us yield to temptation.” This is confusing, right? Because in the former, God is wholly active, and in the latter, we are equally active. Confusing as it is, I think these two are saying the same thing; it’s just that the NLT is doing a better job.

James 1:13-15 (NRSV) says, “No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.”

James identifies the source of our temptation as our fleshly desires. Our desires are played upon by Satan, not God, hence why each version of Matthew 6:13 either asks God to deliver us from the evil one or from evil itself, which is brought by and personified as Satan.

You know, we give Eve a lot of flack for the whole forbidden fruit thing, but look at all the stuff Satan tempts us with to get us into trouble.

So God does not actively lead us into temptation. I think Jesus is more asking that He not let us be led into trials where we are tempted by Satan proding our desires.

Now, let’s discuss the elephant in the room: why does the KJV have that extra line at the end of the verse?

Alan informed the congregation on Sunday, that this last bit, which isn’t included in more recent and more accurate translations such as the NLT and NRSV, would have been said at the end of prayers in Jesus’s day. This means it would have been a given to Matthew’s peers and audience, which would explain why he didn’t write it down, but it wouldn’t necessarily be a given to the people of King James’s time or ours.

What a beautiful way to end a prayer!

This shifts our focus back to God and who He is. He’s the powerful king who deserves all the glory and who loves and listens to us. We aren’t praying empty words that won’t leave the walls around us. We’re praying to a mighty and caring God.

And it’s important to remember just who God is after talking about our problems because that has the potential to emotionally drain us or give us anxiety. But in turning our focus back to God, we can gather ourselves and see that our problems, regardless of what they are, are nothing compared to God.

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us how to pray, but it also shows us a lot about God and His heart for us. It proves to us that a relationship with God is exciting and requires our effort. God is infinite, and we can only discover new things about Him by engaging Him in His word and in prayer.

By Carrie Prevette

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Daily Bread

“Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:11-12, KJV).

Much like Oprah, I love bread. Toasted, warm wheat. Fluffy or flakey biscuits. Sticks of bread covered in salt and/or garlic (and preferably served alongside a salad at Olive Garden). Brown and served with some butter to spread on it. I’m starting to make myself hungry, so I’m going to stop now, but I think you get my point. Bread is good.

Bread is also pretty fundamental. Some restaurants serve bread as a free appetizer. Back in my day, when we learned about the food pyramid in health class, carbs and grains (i.e., bread) made up the biggest section, holding up the rest of the pyramid. And when we say, “That’s your bread and butter,” in regards to a craft, it means that it’s part of the foundation of what your doing and that you’ll be doing it frequently.

Jesus petitions God for bread because it’s critical to His survival. It was what He physically would’ve needed. He could’ve asked for a side of marinara sauce or asked that the bread be served as a side to a meat and two veggies, but He didn’t because they weren’t as necessary.

It’s not to say that we shouldn’t ask for what we want. It’s to say that we should put our needs first. This seems like common sense, but I work at a bank and can tell you that people don’t always do this. God doesn’t want us to have a bare minimum life, but He wants to provide what we need first and foremost. He wants to bless us, but that doesn’t make Him a genie meant to fulfill our endless wishes.

Jesus calls it “our daily bread” not only because we need to eat daily, but because we should seek God and His provision daily.

Before my first car died and I had to get another (RIP Bartholomew. Gone but never forgotten), I didn’t have a car payment every month, so I had more expendable income. I was also on my mom’s car insurance instead of having my own, so that was even more money that I had to play with. I was by no means wealthy, but I didn’t feel the need to pray to God every day for provision. But now that a pretty decent chunk of my monthly paycheck goes toward my car and car insurance, I do seek and thank God for His provision daily. And don’t get me wrong: I know that the fact that I can afford the things I’m complaining about in this example makes me more fortunate than a lot of people, and I’m very grateful for what I have because I know I wouldn’t have it without God’s provision and blessings.

My relationship with God has to be a daily thing. If I call Him my Lord and Savior, if I rely on Him and look to Him and am thankful for Him, I need to do and express those things daily. Not because of what might happen to me physically. God loves me and is faithful even when I’m not. It’s about what that could do to me spiritually. Before long, one day turns into one week turns into one month, and I haven’t talked to God once. It creates space between me and God, which leaves room for other, more destructive things to come into my life.

In the same sense, damage is done to us when we withhold forgiveness from others. Both hold us back from our best.

In Luke 7, Jesus is eating at Simon the Pharisee’s house when an uninvited woman comes in and washes Jesus’s feet with her tears. She dries them with her hair, kisses them, and anoints them. Simon gets mad, saying that if Jesus was who He says He is, He’d know He was being touched by a sinner. Jesus tells him a short parable of a creditor who forgave two debts, one ten times as much as the other. He then asks the Pharisee which would love the creditor more. He says the one who owed more, and Jesus tells him that he’s right.

“Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little” (Luke 7:44-47, NRSV).

Like this woman, we’ve been forgiven of so much. Every single one of us owed a debt we could not pay. Then Jesus stepped in and paid it all for us.

How could we who have required so much forgiveness not extend it to others?

And the love that we feel for the God who forgives us, we’re not to store it up and hide it for ourselves. We’re to let it show and spread. God sees it, and others see it, and they see it through our actions and interactions. And that love and strength that we receive from God is evident in nothing more so than our ability to forgive.

People hurt us. People owe us. But there can never be a debt as big as the one God forgave us.

At this point in the Lord’s Prayer, we start getting into things that affect our everyday lives. It addresses our physical lives– asking God to provide what we need to survive and forgiving the people around us– and our spiritual lives– seeking God daily to know Him more and to find forgiveness. It’s about the things that run over from our relationships with God into our relationships with everyone.

By Carrie Prevette

As It is in Heaven

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10, KJV).

This was probably the easiest part of the Lord’s Prayer for me to memorize because it rhymes, but it’s the hardest part of the prayer for me to live.

Dave mentioned a couple of options for what “Thy kingdom come” could mean in his sermon on Sunday: a reference to the Second Coming and a reference to our true citizenship being elsewhere. The way I’ve always thought of it relates to the latter, but is much more specific (and weirder, so hang with me here) way.

As we established last week, we are children of God. As children of God who exist in a world outside of that kingdom, we are ambassadors for God’s kingdom in this world. If we believe that God has called us to certain things, this means we will change part of the world through those things, and as ambassadors of God, those changes will cause the world to look more like God’s kingdom. His kingdom comes here, to Earth.

Not that this is easy. I recall being in a volunteer meeting once and Pastor Alan talking to the greeters, saying something about how a lot of people’s first impressions of God would be based on us. That all but made me sweat just thinking about it because I am not always a shining example of God’s love and grace.

So, no, people won’t always see God in us because we’re human, and there will be times that people won’t believe that we have a place in God’s kingdom or that His kingdom will come through us. So it is up to us to pray that His kingdom comes anyway, that we would not hinder it. It is up to us to seek God so much that the moments we do are fewer and farther between as we grow closer to God.

It makes sense that Jesus would follow this with asking that God’s will be done if He’s wanting Earth to look more like heaven, like God’s kingdom.

My will gets in the way. It’s self-seeking and based on how I see the world, which is a very limited view. I don’t see as God sees, so my will often hurts others as well as myself. That is not the way of heaven. God’s will is perfect and complete, even in the moments when it doesn’t feel like it, and that is heaven’s atmosphere.

Heaven is a place where everything works in harmony to glorify God. It also rests our souls. All of that is a result of God’s will, but it’s also part of life in God’s kingdom. Praying for His kingdom to come and for His will to be done means that we set ourselves up to experience part of heaven in our lives here on Earth. It brings us peace and rest, and it brings God glory, and it changes our world for the better.

The point of this part of the Lord’s Prayer is to turn our hearts and minds to God and His kingdom. That we would long for its perfection and want to bring it here. That we would strive to share it with those who don’t know it. That we wouldn’t take our positions as ambassadors lightly. That we would recognize our own faulty nature and pray prayers that overcome that nature through faith in God. Because we could all benefit from Earth being more like heaven.

By Carrie Prevette

Our Father

Before I read Slaughterhouse-Five for the first time a couple of years ago, it seemed like everyone else on the planet had read it. Since then, I’ve discovered that is not the case, so I’ll give a brief summary.

Billy Pilgrim is an eye doctor. He was drafted into World War II, and he was taken prisoner during the war. He says he was abducted by aliens, Tralfamadorians, and lived on their planet for a while. Tralfamadorians do not see time as a linear thing, and Billy Pilgrim doesn’t either after interacting with them. He spends the entire book going back and forth in time.

Billy says:

They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever. When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is “So it goes.”

For those who have never seen it or noticed it, tattooed on the top of my wrist is “So it goes.” That’s because I love this book, and I really like the way the Tralfamadorians view death, so much so that the first time I read that passage, I cried and read it over and over again.

I don’t consider this tattoo to be in honor of my dad, but I do think of my dad sometimes when I look at it. It gives me a great sense of peace because even though my dad is no longer alive, he’s alive in my memories, he’s alive through me now if I live out or impart things he taught me, and he’s alive in heaven, in eternity, where I will one day join him. He’s alive in so many other ways and moments.

I love my dad, and I miss my dad, and I am so thankful for the 20 years I had with him. I’m proud to be his daughter. Mostly, I wish my dad was still with me, but I can see how my life has changed in positive ways that it wouldn’t have if he were still here. And I feel no guilt in saying that because I know my dad would understand, in part because I’ve grown and found people and things that make me happy, many of which are a result of following God and receiving His blessings.

I’ve always viewed God as a Father, but losing my earthly dad changed the dynamic of my relationship with my Heavenly Father a bit. My dad was fantastic, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. And my dad certainly shaped who I am as a person. But God is perfect, and in my dad’s physical absence since his passing, I’ve relied more on God and grown closer to Him, and that has shaped who I am and how I see the world more than anything.

I understand why Jesus taught us and the disciples to address God as “Father” when we pray. Jesus says in Matthew 6:9 (KJV), “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”

Jesus could’ve addressed God but any role He plays in the universe: Creator, Alpha and Omega, I Am, The One True God, etc. And all of those roles certainly affect us, and those roles show how big and powerful God is. But Jesus identifies God in a way that reflects His relationship with us, and in doing so, He proves how intimate prayer is.

Being children of God, our prayers are heard and listened to by our Father. We can go to Him at any time, in any place, with any situation and any state of mind, and He hears and responds to us, whether we can see that response or not. The God who formed everything into existence and who has always been and always will be cares about us and communicates with us. He’s adopted us and made us royalty within His kingdom.

And Jesus acknowledges us as children when He says “our Father.” He doesn’t say, “MY Father because I’m the real Son of God…” or “Dear Father of the Messiah, Jesus Christ…” He includes us. He recognizes us as children of God as well.

Jesus follows this display of intimacy by showing reverence to God: “Hallowed be thy name.” In doing this, He recognizes who God is as an entity, not only in relation to us. He is holy, and His name should be respected for His holiness.

This duality, familiarity and reverence, are hard for us to grasp and maintain. In my experiences, most people gravitate to one side of the spectrum or the other. For example, I tend to see God in such a personal, familiar light that I often lose sight of how mighty and holy He is. I love that He’s my Father and my friend because those are usually the roles I need Him in the most, but it causes me to forget how grand He really is. Other people are really into how holy and powerful God is, so much so that they lack a lot of intimacy with Him. Jesus shows us in Matthew 6 how to balance this duality by being aware of and acknowledging both aspects.

God is a perfect Father, one who loves you, accepts you, disciplines you, and stays with you. There’s nothing you, child of His or not, could do to make Him love you less. As His child, you have access to Him in ways that others don’t, and this is only possible through the blood of Jesus. Because of what He means to us and because of who He is, we should show reverence to Him and His name through our interactions with Him and others. Demonstrating that respect will draw us closer to Him and impact those around us.

By Carrie Prevette 

From Within the Belly

This is the blog post where you find out how much of a dork I am.

Sunday’s guest speaker, Dave Caswell, told of his dismay when he discovered that the second chapter of Jonah was poetry. He is, evidently, not a fan of poetry.

But that’s okay. I’m a big enough fan for the both of us.

I can’t pinpoint when I started liking poetry, but I know I began to embrace that enjoyment in the sixth grade. I’d like to give a special shout out here to my sixth grade English teacher, Mrs. Reece, for letting me select the Shel Silverstein poems for our poetry unit. It allowed me to really embrace poetry and to realize I was good at it. By “good at it,” I mean that when I write poetry, which is seldom, it’s sort of mediocre, but I can analyze a poem to death, break it down and separate its parts.

Dave mentioned a poem he really understood in high school that he didn’t entirely remember. He mentioned a part of a line and the name “Prufrock.” I looked for this specific line, and I can’t seem to find it, but there is a lot of talk about eating and drinking in the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot. (I’m going to keep looking for that specific line, though, because now I’m curious.) I stopped Dave before he left church to tell him I knew of Prufrock, and I ended up telling him about 90% of what I know about Eliot (not much), telling him who my favorite Romantic is (Percy Bysshe Shelley) and how excited I was to get his complete works for Christmas this past year (thrilled).

Finding out there was a poem in the middle of this largely unfamiliar scripture made me happy and eager to read it and then write about it. And hopefully I can make it interesting for those who may read this who don’t like poetry.

Since this scripture is all the more a piece of literature, I’m going to use my favorite translation, the New Revised Standard Version, for all direct quotes. (For fellow English nerds, the NRSV is my favorite overall translation because of its tone and diction. It’s easy to read, but it’s also a pleasant read.)

In the last verse of chapter one, we’re told in the most casual way that a large fish ate Jonah, and he survived in the belly of that fish for three days and three nights.

Then chapter two says, “Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, ‘I called to the Lord out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, “I am driven away from your sight; how shall I look again upon your holy temple?” The waters closed in over me; the deep surrounded me, weeds were wrapped around my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the Pit, O Lord my God. As my life was ebbing away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Those who worship vain idols forsake their true loyalty. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the Lord!’ Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land” (Jonah 2:1-10).

There’s a lot in Jonah’s prayer, and each part attaches seamlessly to the next. So instead of going through every bit of it, I’m going to hit the parts that stick out to me.

Jonah thought this was it for him. Jonah didn’t think he was going to survive the belly of the fish. (Who would?) The images of waves and depths and floods show the physical turmoil of Jonah. He also says he felt his life “ebbing away,” which references both the sea and the life leaving him.

Jonah feels separated from God. Being cast “into the deep” and “at the roots of the mountains” are visuals of being low and isolated. Jonah even goes so far as to say that he was driven from God’s sight. He says he was in “the belly of Sheol,” which means he was in the underworld. There isn’t much of a feeling of closeness to God until the end when Jonah remembers God and resolves to worship God despite all of this.

Jonah’s reverence for God has been renewed. Every image from the sea to the mountains to the earth closing around Jonah points to God as a large force that is in control. Jonah finally realizes that it is not where he’s running but who he’s running from that matters here.

Ultimately, it takes Jonah almost dying and feeling like he certainly will to be afraid of not losing his life so much as losing God. He’s afraid he won’t be able to see the temple, which is a symbol here for God since in Jewish tradition that’s where God is. And as Jonah thought he was dying, he thought of God and how loving and loyal God had been to him. It starts off as a pining sort of remembrance and turns into a beautiful, steadfast tribute.

There’s a song by Disciple called “My Hell,” and the chorus goes, “This was my Hell, living without You here. / Even Heaven is Hell if somehow You were not there.” It’s the idea that even the loveliest place is terrible if God’s not there, and I think Jonah would agree. And maybe Jonah realized in the belly of that big fish that the opposite is true too: How bad can a place be if God is right there with you? If you’ll notice, there’s not one mention of Nineveh or its people in the second chapter of Jonah, and I personally believe that’s because the fear of going to Nineveh with God beside him paled in comparison to being anywhere without Him.

On Sunday, Dave said, “Everything we’re involved with as human beings should point us to God.” Through his running, Jonah’s compass to God broke. It no longer mattered who God was or where Jonah was going so long as it wasn’t where God wanted him to be. It was in the fish, facing death that Jonah’s compass to God was reoriented and fixed.

Last week, I sort of asked if you could relate to Jonah the Runner. This week I ask if you can relate to Jonah the Broken.

I’ve felt distant from God before through the fault of no one but my own. It’s the worst feeling. I felt like my prayers disappeared in the air around me, never reaching God’s ear. I felt scummy and hopeless. I felt like a failure, and my self-worth was non-existent.

How did it get better, you ask? It’s pretty simple. I kept choosing to turn to God. I could’ve stopped. That would’ve been easy, but it wouldn’t get me where I wanted to be. I went through the motions with all the heart I had, not just for the sake of going through the motions, but trusting that God hadn’t given up on me and determined not to give up on Him. I prayed and worshipped and went to church and read my Bible because I had to reorient my compass to point me to God.

I get the feeling that Jonah could relate to that. If you can too, I encourage you to go to God. Run to God instead of from Him. He’s always pursuing us, but we also need to pursue Him, to choose Him, to make our love for Him greater than anything else in our lives. That might take some work on our part, but that’s okay. To quote the song “Hard to Please” by State Champs, “It only matters if it’s worth it.” So is it worth it? And just think, it could be worse. At least you aren’t being eaten by a big fish.

By Carrie Prevette

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

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