Beliefnet
Prayer, Plain and Simple

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).

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What do you say to a friend in pain, to someone who’s lost a loved one, or been diagnosed with a terminal disease, or who’s been struck with something devastating? Do you offer advise? Small talk? Or perhaps avoid them altogether?

We can learn a thing or two from Job’s famous friends. Better yet, we can learn from their example what not to do. Job’s life was in shambles; his children had been killed in a severe storm, his health had deteriorated, he seemed to be on the next train to his grave, and he had nothing left to live for, save a wife who didn’t seem to be a lot of help, dealing with her own grief and pain as she was. In all this, Job did not abandon God, though his wife seemed to suggest that he do so.

Job had a handful of friends who surrounded him. At first they sat with him in silence, they listened to him, and they might have quit while they were ahead. Instead, after a time, they opened up their mouths to offer their opinions freely, comprehensively, ad nauseum.

Not a single word was helpful.

Unless you’ve been through a time in your life where you’ve been tempted to pray Psalm 22: “My God, why have you forsaken me?” you’re probably not going to be able to walk beside a friend who feels abandoned by God without some coaching.

Job gave his friends some very helpful insights as to what his emotional needs were at that point. We would do well to heed his advice, for we never know when we will need it – when our friend will need us. Our words will either be helpful or not. Let’s shoot for the former. Let’s take Job’s advice to heart, so we can be true friends to those in need.

“If only you could be silent! That’s the wisest thing you could do.” Job 13:5

Job politely asked his friends to quit offering advice. A person dealing with trauma doesn’t need to hear your chain of consciousness nor your great solutions. You just aren’t qualified, and they know that. They simply need to know you’re there. Just a squeeze of the hand, a moment of eye contact, a look of empathy will go far beyond words of advice or even consolation. Sometimes there simply is no capacity for consolation.

“What makes you keep on talking? I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off criticism and shake my head at you.” Job 16:3-5

Job’s friends were gloating; their religious notions led them to believe that when bad things happen, the unfortunate recipient must deserve them. Their words had a critical edge. Their body language bespoke pride; they looked down on this unfortunate friend, pleased as punch that it was he that was suffering and not they. They assumed that Job must deserve this medicine he was forced to consume.

When we encounter a friend who is grieving, we must never assume their problems are their fault. We must never look down on them for having them or criticize them in any way. Our body language should never be that of impatience or intolerance for their current situation. It must be the only the Spirit of Jesus, which is love…peace…kindness…and gentleness.

“But if it were me, I would encourage you. I would try to take away your grief.” Job 16:5

Here Job gives us the best possible advice for helping our friends who are struggling:  offer genuine encouragement; seek to lighten their load rather than add to it, as Job’s friends unfortunately succeeded at doing.

Encouragement can come in both verbals and non-verbals. Encouragement is offering and enabling courage in the heart and soul of another. But, remember, we don’t need to say much. Encouragement can be most effective in small doses. Like too much salt, too many words – even encouraging ones – can wreck the recipe.

Do you have a friend in need, but you have no idea how to help? Perhaps you have been avoiding him or her, for fear of how to broach the subject of their pain. If so, pray this plain and simple prayer with us today…

Father,

Jesus modeled friendship in the very best of ways. He is the closest friend of the broken-hearted. Lord, my friend’s heart is broken, and I just don’t know how to help, so I’m coming to You, the giver of wisdom. I want to be the heart and hands of Jesus to my friend, but I don’t know how.

Give me a heart of humility. Correct any false notions or prideful thoughts that what they have encountered is somehow due to their own folly. Folly! It is not my job on the planet to understand those things!

Put a guard over my mouth. Help me to say only what is helpful for building my friend up. As Jesus only said what He heard the Father say, I wish to say only what the Holy Spirit whispers in my ear.

You know my friend much better than I. Please tell me what to say and how to say it. Help me to bring encouragement, to lighten the load, and to offer whatever I can do to bring help in their time of need.

As I wait on You now, I am trusting You to speak clearly to me, and I will follow Your instructions.

In all this, Lord, I lift my friend up to You in prayer. I ask that You would grant him/her comfort, consolation, and relief from pain and anguish of soul. Use me in this endeavor, Lord.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

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“Then what should I do with Jesus…?” Matthew 27:23

Antoinettes Yoga Garden

It was the best of Fridays. It was the worst of Fridays. It was the sleepy, early morning hours of the first Good Friday – the “real” Good Friday. Pilate wondered what in the world he was going to do with this man named Jesus, hated by the Jews whom Pilate was obliged to appease politically. Pilate was now confronted with executing this innocent man. His wife awoke and begged her husband to release Him; her nightmares ruffled her enough to want nothing to do with Him whose case was laid at her husband’s doorsteps early that morning.

Jesus was in Pilate’s hands. Pilate’s question is profound. It is one we should ask ourselves today and, indeed, everyday.

“What should I do with Jesus?”

C.S. Lewis said there are three possible ways of viewing Jesus:

  1. He’s a liar
  2. He’s mentally incompetent – a lunatic
  3. He is Who He says He is

What, my friend, are you going to do with Jesus? Who is He to you? Open up the gospels, and do some research. Who is this man? What did He come to do? Why did He die? What does that have to do with you or me?

In a sense, Jesus is in your hands. What will you do with Him?

If you are curious about Jesus, pray this plain and simple prayer with us.

God,

Please show me and teach me who Jesus is. Who is this man? How can I understand His importance? And what does His life have to do with mine?

What should I do with Him? Or even better yet, what does He want to do with me?

I want to start this journey of faith; please open up my heart to comprehend who He is and what He wants to do in my life.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Photo credit: Robert Bejil Productions via Foter.com / CC BY

“Kiss me and kiss me again, for your love is sweeter than wine” (Song of Songs 1:2).

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If you were an alien and you landed on earth just in time to observe two people kissing, what would you think? Such a strange phenomenon! Why do two people connect themselves at the lips? It isn’t a necessary part of procreation. It’s just for fun. But why?

Where did kissing originate?

An old set of Bible story books written decades ago by Arthur Maxwell  (we read them to our kids for years) has an interesting theory. In the Genesis story the author states that God performed the first kiss when he breathed life into Adam’s nostrils. It makes sense. With a kiss, God breathed His breath directly into Adam.

Try breathing into someone’s nostrils from your nostrils without kissing. Nose-to-nose practically assumes mouth-to-mouth. If this is true, then we have discovered the meaning of kissing:  it is sharing our spirit with another. A big deal, I might add, and one we take all too casually. But that’s beside the point at present…

“Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person” (Genesis 2:7).

When Mark kissed me for the first time, he shared his life, his essence, with me. I, in turn, shared my breath with him, and our love grew deeper. Today, when I kissed him as he left, we shared a bit more of our lives, renewing our determination to stay connected at the deepest level of life.

If God kissed Adam, will He kiss me? Is He still interested in breathing His Spirit into ours?

Absolutely. As children desire hugs and kisses from their fathers, so can we from our Heavenly Father God. As a bride desires hugs and kisses from her groom, so can we from our Heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus.

Do you need a fresh breath of the Spirit of God? Is your soul longing for intimacy with the giver of life? Pray this plain and simple prayer with us today…

Creator God,

You breathed life into Adam and made him a living soul. My soul seems to be on life-support. I need a fresh touch from You. I need to remember that You are real. More real than anything I can see or feel or taste or touch….

Or kiss…

As I lift my face to You today, I ask… Would you kiss me? Would you please breathe your breath into me, resuscitating my wilting heart, giving me Your energy, Your Holy Spirit, Your life that makes life worth living?

I receive it in faith, for Your Word states that You are not a “respecter of persons.”  You don’t love me less than You loved Adam. I need Your Spirit at least as much as he did. I breathe You in today. With my faith, I receive the kiss of the Son.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

“And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled” (Romans 15:4).

“The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9).

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Not many years ago new fathers weren’t allowed in the labor and delivery rooms of hospitals, so they had to feverishly pace the floor of the “Waiting Room” until the nurse came with news of the Baby and Momma.  A lot of fidgeting was done in those waiting rooms, a good deal of sighing, a lot of cigarette smoking, a lot of nerves on edge.

Nowadays, Dad is welcome right there with Mom, encouraging her on in the process, trying to say the right thing at the right time and give support where it is most certainly needed. Dads are now given something to do while they are waiting.

Waiting has never been a strong suit for most people. Once we have an idea in our minds of how things should be, we will do anything to achieve that goal. Sitting and waiting isn’t one of them; it doesn’t feel progressive, productive, or like we are propelling the issue forward when we just sit and wait.

So we honk our horns, we get mad, we give up, we move on to something else.

But, as it often is, Scripture is counter-intuitive when it comes to waiting. When our waiting is intentional, when it signifies surrender to a better plan, a better timeline, a higher calling, then we are waiting with purpose.

“Let’s think of something to do while we’re waiting.” ~Mister Rogers

Scripture gives us something to do while we are at a stand-still. We can run to Him, to Jesus, and sit at His feet, express our love, and experience His. We can open up His Word and read His promises, making them our declaration day by day.

The alternative is to complain that our mountain doesn’t seem to be budging. To whine that our problem is bigger than we can handle. To grumble that God must not be hearing my prayers.

No, my friend. He hears every one. The intricacies of our miracle-in-waiting are much more delicate than we can comprehend, than we can see through our minuscule peek-hole into the universe.

So, while we wait, we remind ourselves and every living thing around us of how good God is, of how strong He is, of how powerful His promises are, that He meant every one of them, and that they are for me. For me! Not just for others!

Are you waiting around for a miracle, for help in a desperate situation, for God to move a stubborn mountain in your life? Don’t pace the floor in frustration. Pray this plain and simple prayer in the Waiting Room:

Father,

Help me to learn to wait well. It has never been my strong suit, but that’s because I foolishly thought that my agenda and my timeline was ultimately best. Now I see things differently. Now I see that in the real scheme of things, I really know very little. You know all things.

Dearest Father, teach me to wait patiently at Your feet. Just to sit with You, to enjoy Your presence, to soak in the light of Your love, to be fed at Your table, to drink at Your fountain of mercy.

As I wait I will review every promise You have given me. I will declare those promises over my situation. I will rejoice over Your promise, for it shall be fulfilled, for You cannot lie. You are incapable of exaggeration. You are unable to distort the truth, for You are the Truth.

Thank you for teaching me to quiet and still my soul like a weaned child with its mother. I lay it all down, this whole situation. I lay it down at Your feet. I leave it there. Then I simply sit and smile, soak in Your peace and comfort, and rejoice that I am held by You.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

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