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Prayer & Praying

Our Pastor preached on prayer and praying recently. It wasn’t what he’d planned on preaching for that service . . . God had other plans, and faithful as always in going where God leads, Pastor went with God’s plan. Interestingly, to me, prayer was something God had been speaking to me about in the day before this service.

On the night that Pastor preached on prayer, he wondered what our services might be like if more people attended the prayer meetings that are held fifteen minutes before every Sunday evening service. There hadn’t been very many women or men in the prayer rooms on any given Sunday, or on this particular night. He asked if maybe we might be more fired up and open to God’s Word if we were in the prayer meeting, opening up our hearts to God and praying for each other and our lost family members, our sick family members, our grandchildren, our children, etc. He also wondered what some of the reasons were that a woman or man didn’t attend prayer meeting, and he said he’d like to hear, privately, the excuses we might have.

Notice that I said what excuses WE might have and not what excuses THEY might have. In that service, God was talking to every single person in that room. The words were coming from our Pastor, but they were words placed on his heart by God. I was one of those that God was speaking to, but I know that I wasn’t the only one in that room that felt like they were the one the words were being directed to.

Just for the record, I’m not good at out loud prayer, or group prayer. Prayer has always been a personal thing to me in how it is done. I do pray, on my own, daily, nightly . . . often several times during the day. My prayers are short, like: God, be with my son and his family as they bring home the new baby. Help them navigate the short nights and long days that a new baby brings with peace, good humor, and love. Or God, help me to be who and what you need me to be today. Or even, God, if I’m supposed to do something for you today, help me to see it, and to do it so that you are glorified. Your will God, not mine, be done. Some people, however, are super good at praying; they can pray at length, they can pray out loud, they can pray as soon as they’re asked to and don’t seem to be at a lack for the right thing to say. I’m not one of those.

The day before the above-mentioned service I was listening to another pastor and he said that one time the prophet Daniel had been praying and fasting for twenty-one days. He said there are several reasons why Daniel may have been praying at that time, and one of those reasons may have been because he longed for the Lord to reveal additional truth to him about the future of Israel. For three weeks he’d been praying but there seemed to be no answer to his prayer. Why would the Lord not immediately answer the petitions of His beloved Prophet?

Then, after twenty-one days the Arch Angel Gabriel appears before Daniel and tells him that his prayers had been heard. He tells Daniel that it had taken him those twenty-one days to reach him because he’d had to fight “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” – an evil angel – whose job was to see that Daniel’s prayers didn’t get answered. It took Gabriel and the Arch Angel Michael together to win the battle so that Gabriel could get to Daniel. At that point in my listening, the thought came to me that when we pray and don’t hear or see the answer we are looking for – could it be because the angel sent to deliver our answer is fighting battles designed to keep us from getting it?

Imagine the battle that goes up in the spiritual world when we pray. The angels for good are dispatched and the demons of darkness have to try to stop them. Now, to be fair, maybe our prayers don’t seem as big, to us, as what Daniel was asking God for – a vision for the future of Israel. Sometimes the answer to our prayers is just no. We don’t like to hear that, but sometimes it just is a plain and simple no. Sometimes, it’s the fact that our timing is not God’s timing. Maybe we’re asking for Him to heal our friend/family member, and nothing happens. Perhaps that’s because although God didn’t send that illness, God is using it to reach someone else; someone who needs to reach out to God.

Our Lord Jesus took the reality of Satan and his demonic forces seriously, and so should we. There is a spiritual war going on around us all the time. If Satan feels the necessity to send his forces out to try and block God’s responses when we pray, that right there tells us that prayer is power. Doesn’t that alone lift prayer out of the level of a side thought or something we’ll get to later, and show it to be one of our strongest and most important spiritual weapons? That brings what Pastor was preaching that night into crystal clear focus. How might WE aid our church services if WE used the power of our prayers in the minutes before service? How might WE aid the angels dispatched to answer our prayers for our friends, family, and others by using the power of prayer, together in God’s House?

Some who read this, might think that the Pastor preaching about prayer, and me hearing another preacher preach about prayer the day before, is all a coincidence. I say, think again. God speaks to us through others. The people he puts in our lives to help us through a hard time. The pastors in our churches that preach the Word as it is written, whether it feels good or not. If you’re hearing the same thing, over consecutive days and weeks, try thinking about what might be happening in your life that God may be trying to help you with. The problem is whether we’re listening or not. If you’re not a believer, you won’t see the connection because you’re not listening or looking for it. If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, you’ll be listening for that gentle nudge, that stern, loving sermon, that word of love or hope from a friend.

The fact that I’ve been hearing about prayer a lot lately tells me that God is warning us that we need to pray. Our land desperately needs healing. Our people desperately need healing. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 God says, “If my people who are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” We need to be listening. We need to be praying.

So, to bring this back to the last part of Pastors sermon that night, and his question regarding what excuse someone might have for not going into the prayer room, here’s mine:

I don’t go into the prayer room before service on Sunday nights, because a lot of times I don’t get to church until right before service. I have a lot I take care of at home, and I do my best just to get to church on time. That, however, is not the at heart reason. The main reason is that I haven’t felt that my presence would contribute anything in the prayer room. I’m not comfortable with a lot of different voices praying, like when Pastor opens up the service with prayer and everyone starts praying out loud. It’s very confusing to me. It’s taken me a long time to get used to hearing more than one voice pray during service, and it’s less confusing to me than it was, but I still have to focus on one voice and close out all the other voices as best possible.

So, if you’re wondering if after all of this, would I go into the prayer room now if I could be there early enough? The truth is that if MY God, who is very much present and moving in our church, puts it in our Pastors’ heart to speak of prayer, then I should listen . . . WE should listen, shouldn’t we? The truth is also that while I still may not be comfortable with it, and while I may still be confused in there and my praying may be silent . . . in my desire to see God’s will be done, I will go into the prayer room.


Heaven and Hell

In the span of two weeks, the same passage in God’s Word was preached to me and my fellow church members. At the same church. By two different preachers that were not in correspondence with each other. Each preacher gave the message according to their particular style of preaching, but the message was the same. The verse they both preached on was Luke 16:19-31.

That’s not a coincidence.  That’s God. He wants to reach everyone that He can, to show the way to eternal life with Him.  We, that believe, are His church.  His church is not a building made of brick and mortar, but of PEOPLE who HEAR His message and can share it with others in the hopes of bringing another soul to heaven.

Luke 16:19-31 talks about the Rich man and Lazarus, the beggar.  The rich man lived in extravagance every day.  Food, clothing, shelter, wine – you name it, and he had it. He ate good food, he wore fine linen clothes, he was warm, dry, and comfortable.  Lazarus, the beggar, who the bible tells us was full of sores, laid at the rich man’s gate every day hoping for the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table.

The bible says, it came to pass that Lazarus died and so did the rich man.  Lazarus was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom (this was not heaven but was a place where souls that believed in God went before Jesus died to give us a way into heaven); and that the rich man also died and was buried.

The rich man, the bible tells us, entered hell and was in torments.  He lifted his eyes and saw that Lazarus was in Abraham’s bosom.  He cried out to Abraham and asked for mercy.  He asked that Lazarus be sent down with just a drop of water to cool his tongue for he was in torment in the flames.  Abraham tells him that he can’t send Lazarus because there is a great gulf between them that is fixed so that those that are in Abraham’s bosom cannot pass into hell and those that are in hell cannot pass into Abraham’s bosom.

The rich man then pleads for Abraham to send Lazarus to the house of the rich man’s father where he has brethren so that Lazarus could testify to them so that THEY did not end up in hell – the place of torment that he was now in.  Abraham tells him no; they have Moses and the prophets that they should listen to. The rich man responds with, “No father Abraham, but if you were to send them one from the dead, they will repent.”  And Abraham says, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead”. (Interesting choice of words back then – before Jesus.  Jesus hadn’t come yet, but he was coming, and he did rise from the dead and he has testified – and how many people to this day, still won’t HEAR?)

The rich man was not sent to hell because he was rich. He was sent because although he had heard the Word of God through Moses and the prophets, he believed them not.  This isn’t a message about being rich or being poor.  It’s about belief and non-belief.  It’s God trying to bring us back to HIM because He loves us.  It’s God giving you free will to make a choice but he’s letting you know what’s behind each choice in the hope that you will choose eternal life with Him. When we die, our bodies are what give out.  Our physical heart stops.  But our soul and our spirit continue on.  Where we continue on to is the question.  There are only two places.  Heaven and Hell.  This world is already condemned to hell.  We chose that when Eve listened to Satan in the Garden of Eden.  That’s when humans fell from God.  And HE has been trying to reach us ever since and give us a way to get back to him.  To do that, HE sent Jesus, his only begotten son, to be the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Do you believe in Heaven?  Do you believe in Hell?  Does your unbelief make either of them not real?


Does my belief make either of them real?


They are real because God says so, in HIS Word – The Bible.  I have no doubt that if you don’t believe there is a hell, you WILL believe after a few mere seconds there.  The sad part is it will be too late to do anything about it at that point. 

Do you know what NO mercy looks like?  I don’t because God grants me mercy every day.  Mercy is God not giving us what we deserve.  The punishment that we deserve for our sins.  The punishment that Jesus took upon himself on the cross.  I don’t want to even imagine what it would be like with no mercy.

Luke 16:24 says the rich man cried out and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

But it was too late for mercy.

In Hell God isn’t there.  There is no God there to grant you mercy.  Your friends and family that have gone before you, that didn’t believe in Jesus, . . . they’re there, but they aren’t just waiting for you to get there so you can have a party with a keg of beer. No, they’re like the rich man . . . in torment and wishing for a drop of water . . . and mercy.  If they could send someone to you, to tell you to repent and to believe . . . they would.

But THEY don’t have to because GOD already did.  God sent his only begotten son so that WE might have eternal life in heaven with HIM. He sent Jesus to die on that cross for you, and for me.  Can you imagine, even for a second, giving up one of your children to die on the cross for your neighbor? For the man that stands on the corner begging for change?  I couldn’t.

God did. That’s Grace.

The tomb where Jesus was laid stands empty to this day because Jesus rose and defeated death for you and for me. Jesus lives. Jesus saves. And Jesus loves every single one of us. 

Do you have family members or friends who are lost, like the rich man? Have you heard the Word of God through someone in your family or a friend, but choose to not believe?

Where you spend your eternal life IS important. We don’t have the luxury of saying “I have my whole life ahead of me to make that decision”, because we don’t.  Eternity is one last breath away.  One last heartbeat away.  Eternity is an inch away from your nose as you drive down the highway to work each day. The choice of where you’ll spend eternity needs to be made here, and now, because once this body dies, if you haven’t repented and accepted Jesus as your savior – it’s too late.

Don’t be like the rich man, who lives on even today in hell wishing for one drop of water. Seek God – Choose Heaven over hell.

Conviction and Squirrels

At church this year, in several of my Pastor’s messages, he said we needed to use our gifts for God. So, I said okay I’d love to use my writing for God. The problem was that I didn’t want to write about what I didn’t know and understand, and I didn’t want to just throw something out there. So, I figured I’d just pray about it and tell God that I’d love to write for His Glory, but I needed to know that what I was writing was coming from Him and not me. I didn’t hear any response, but I didn’t expect God to say, “Well it’s about time, Tamara…now write this”. What I did do, however, is what I’ve learned we should do, and that’s to just keep praying about it and being open to hearing God. I prayed and I did bible study in the meantime, growing in my understanding of God’s Word.

Here’s where I’d like to tell you a little bit about me, because it might help you understand me, and this. I rescue things…which is why I have 5 dogs (I used to have 6), and 7 cats. I also rescue rodents, and insects, and birds from the cats if I can. I even have a bird I rescued in 2016 in NM. I’m a sucker for a cute furry face and yes I think mice and even rats are cute… to an extent. I stop the car and move turtles to the side of the road, I drive slower (sometimes) to make sure I don’t hit a deer, racoon, possum, turtle, or squirrel.

To me, squirrels are sweet, cute, fun little creatures. I remember feeding them peanuts as a kid at my grandparents’ house. They’re adorable. Maybe there are some of you that don’t see them that way and feel they are pests. I get that they can be. In a lot of ways though, they’re like people. Some are better behaved than others, some are shy, some bold, and some have a mischievous way about them. One thing about them that you can be sure of is that if they’re going to cross the road and a car is coming, they vacillate between going the way they are headed or going back the way they came from and they aren’t always quick to decide which way to go. Often, the decision is taken away from them by the car. I get very sad when I see a squirrel lying in the road. I get sad when I see possums, deer, racoons … anything lying in the road, but I speak specifically of squirrels because they are important to what I’m sharing with you today.

God speaks to each of his believers if we are listening. Sometimes it’s a quiet, gentle nudge of a thought, sometimes it’s a firm reprimand, and a lot of the times it’s like a good friend sitting next to you, making an observation. That’s how it was this time.

On my way to church last week, a squirrel almost darted out in front of me and at the last minute didn’t. Thank you, Lord. And then a little further up the road there was one laying in the road that had been hit. I saw it again when I went home, and again when I went back for Sunday night service…where another of our Pastors talked about conviction. And then on my way home I saw the dead squirrel in the road again and God said, “People are like squirrels in their conviction.”

You might be saying “HUH?, and some of you might already have an idea where God was leading me with this. God requires us to make a decision regarding HIM. We have free choice to make whatever decision we want, but we must decide. God wants us to choose Him and follow the path He has set out for us, or we can choose to continue down the road we’re on that guarantees a death much like the flattened squirrel in the road. Our time for decision making can be taken away from us in an instant; in other words, if you vacillate between making that decision, that decision will at some point, be taken away from you; by a car, or cancer perhaps – something. That was the other thing he shared with me, that we don’t know how long we have. It could be 10 years, a few weeks, or a day. I know the older we get, the more we know this, but when we’re younger we don’t necessarily see it.

Anyway, I hope that now, when you see a squirrel after this, you might see them differently, or at least be reminded of what I’ve shared. Hopefully you’ll slow down a bit and not be the person/car to make the final decision for that squirrel if it happens to run this way and that in front of you. More importantly, if you haven’t been convicted in your decision for Christ, perhaps you’ll see a squirrel and remember that time is running out. Don’t be a squirrel. Don’t vacillate on the road of life between Jesus and the path you’re on now without Him. Just like for the squirrel, when that decision is taken away, there is no second chance.

Choices and Consequences

Recently (within this last year) I had someone say to me “I can’t even imagine doing to my family, what you did”.  It might come as a surprise to that person that before I made the choice to do what I did, I too, could not imagine doing what I did.  The thought of having an affair was not something I felt I’d ever do. I always believed that I would choose the higher ground, and make only the “best” choices.  After all, I always believed I was a person of good character and integrity.  In the end, I was human and imperfect.

So, did I explain all of that to the person who was attacking me with their dagger of judgement? No.  In the heat of that moment, with all of the intensity of emotion that was in play, my thinking was not as quick or concise as I might have hoped it to be.  But this isn’t about me. 

This is about someone else. Someone else who made a choice to turn to someone outside of her marriage for affection because of the verbal abuse and emotional neglect she was experiencing at home.  With alcohol fueling the abuse from her husband, and a mother who beats her down with words of negativity, and no thought to her daughter’s safety, she feels lost and unsure of whom can she turn to.  She’s dulled her pain with alcohol, but that didn’t heal anything. She was lonely and hurting and in need of someone to tell her that she mattered; that she was important. 

“Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see? Or does anybody even know she’s going down today?” Casting Crowns – Does anybody hear Her?

So she made a choice.  Should she have made a better choice?  Definitely. Is she a ‘bad’ person? No. Is she a person of good character and integrity? Yes.  Slightly tarnished, perhaps, but my answer is still yes.  But when we’re drowning, we reach out and grab onto the first thing we see, or that one something we think will help us cope.  Booze.  Drugs.  Another person. 

“She is yearning for shelter and affection that she never found at home. She is searching for a hero to ride in, to ride in and save the day.   And then walks in her prince charming, and he knows just what to say.  A momentary lapse of reason, and she gives herself away.”  Casting Crowns – Does anybody hear Her?

We imperfect humans make choices, many times bad, based on emotions, and life situations. All choices have consequences; and many of those consequences span years.  For the person in this particular situation one of those consequences is that her husband caught her with the other person.  Not a good consequence, perhaps? On the other hand, she can start making better choices. 

God is working in her life.  HE is the only one that can bring about the healing that is badly needed in her marriage, in her, and in her husband.  To close her eyes to the fact that God is inviting her to let HIM work through her, she will remain in an unhappy, unfulfilled, miserable life.  Or she can accept the invitation from God and let God do what only HE can do.  Does inviting God in mean that the consequences of her choices will only be good?  No.  There will still be tears and raw emotions and a lack of trust, on both sides.  There will be much looking ‘within’ to find the hurt inside that needs to be dredged up, understood, accepted and then given over to God for healing. There might even be a parting of the ways for her and her husband.  In the end though, there will be peace and the unconditional love that only God can provide. 

The choices we make in this life, and the experiences we have through those choices, are what make us who we are.  Life is about learning how to make good choices, and being taught to be fair and honest, and kind; of good character and integrity.  It’s about wanting to, and trying to be those things.  It’s about realizing that sometimes, despite our best intentions, even people of good character and integrity make bad choices. It’s about understanding that choices aren’t always made when we’re in the best shape emotionally.  It’s about seeing a person through their actions and not just the bad choices. It’s about seeing the atonement made for their mistakes. It’s about learning to forgive.

And, to really know how to forgive, one must know God and comprehend the depth of forgiveness and love that HE encompasses through the giving of HIS Son on the cross.

Faith and Doubt

“The funny thing about doubt is you can’t control its comings and goings.  But faith is stronger than doubt because you control faith.”  Gene Ho, Trumpography 2018

So if God gives us what we need, even when we fight it every step of the way, why doesn’t that include an abundance of faith.  I mean, we need that, don’t we?  For me the answer is double sided. No HE doesn’t just give us faith; we have to seek him for it, and then once we do, Yes HE will give us an abundance of faith. 

We ask God for a lot.  We ask HIM for security, health, (for us and others), safety, joy, peace, no more pain, healing . . . etc. 

God asks one thing of us: To have faith that HE is there and loves us, forgives us, and will answer our prayers. Within that faith, HE expects us to live by his rules, even when he knows we most likely will fail.

You’d think that with all we ask of HIM, we should be able to have an abundance of faith once we seek him out.  But we don’t, at least not at first, and sometimes even after we think we do, something traumatic happens in our lives and we lose our faith, or turn away from it because we’re hurting, angry, and mostly because we don’t understand.  We question God.  How could HE let this happen?  We feel HE has failed us, or let us down.  We trusted HIM with our faith, but what good is our faith if HE’s going to take our loved ones, or let something horrible happen.

So why do we question HIM?  Where did that warm fuzzy, wonderful feeling of joy in our new found faith go?

I believe that because God gave us free will, HE can’t just reach down and give us an abundance of faith.  Instead HE wants us to come to HIM through Jesus, and in that journey we learn more about our God.  As we learn more about HIM our faith starts out like a seedling, breaking through the surface and feeling the warmth of the sun, and it feels marvelous. Some of us stop there . . . we’ve accepted Jesus into our hearts and we have faith that it’s going to be all good now. 

God doesn’t want us to stop there, nor should we.  Instead when our seedling feels the warmth of the sun, we should keep striving to learn more.  As we learn more, our faith gets nourishment from God, and it grows taller and stronger. So God doesn’t automatically give us faith, but when we strive to know HIM, faith weaves itself into the fabric of our being, and is strengthened by HIS nourishment in our lives.

Satan casts doubts, like acid on our faith, in an attempt to turn us away from God. We can’t control what Satan throws at us, nor can we control when.  Satan is always whispering, especially to those he feels are close to God, and we may not hear that whispering every day, but then wham – his whispers get louder and suddenly those acidic doubts start making us feel less than.  We can, however, control our faith.  When doubt is cast into our life, that’s the time to draw even closer to God; using our faith as a shield against our doubts.

I believe Satan has been working overtime casting doubt within me lately about a certain thing in my life.  It doesn’t matter what the specific thing is, but it’s a big part of me and the doubt has been fairly intense.  Because of my faith in God, I remind myself that the doubt Satan is casting is false.  I am in control of my faith.  I have placed every part of my life into God’s hands and God will decide the outcome.  Satan doesn’t get to. 

Self Forgiveness

I was watching a show the other day and one of the lines resonated with me.  When I say that, I mean I felt a response within me – that “Oh Wow” moment.  I wasn’t sure where it would lead me but finally, here it is.  I hope that in some way my response to it resonates with someone out there.  So what was the line?

            “It always amazes me . . . God knows what we need and will give it to us, even when we fight it, every step of the way.”

There are several different ways, in my opinion, in which this line could have taken me.  In the end, because of a story I saw on social media, I felt moved to take it in the direction of forgiveness.  Not forgiveness of others, but forgiveness of ourselves.

Have you ever done something that ended up being the wrong thing to do?  Have you fallen for a con, when you were sure you were smarter than that?  Have you ever made a decision where you wish you could go back and make a better one than the one you made?  There are probably a hundred different ways I could ask the question, but in the end the main question that all of the above (and more) make up, is this:

            Have you ever needed to forgive yourself for something . . . anything?  I’m talking about forgiving yourself for something where people were hurt;  Lives were changed. 

It’s okay – you can answer honestly while reading this.  No one can hear you.  I have several things in my life that I need to forgive myself for.  One of those things happened way back when I was a junior in high school.  To this day I regret what I did.  I asked forgiveness from the other person, and was given it.  I believe God has forgiven me.  But I haven’t forgiven myself.  

That begs the question of whether I think I’m better than God.  God is the creator and is above everything, so how, if He can forgive me, can I not forgive myself?  I think I’d fall back on the answer of, “I’m not perfect (obviously) like God is.  He’s the parent that can see how His child could, and did, make the bad decision and all He wants is to let us know we are loved so much.  Loved so much that He forgives us, if we ask for his forgiveness.

How am I even worthy of his notice, especially after I’ve hurt someone or more than someone?  He says I am worthy, because He made me and He doesn’t make unworthy people.  We can choose to be unworthy by the decisions we make and the paths we choose to walk that aren’t His paths for us, but unless we choose to sell our souls to Satan, we are always worthy in His eyes.  Even IF we sell our souls to Satan, we are still worthy in God’s eyes, and He weeps for us as we fall.  HE weeps for us!

Yet we still have trouble forgiving ourselves.

I still have trouble forgiving myself. 

I’m working on that.  It doesn’t happen overnight, or even over forty five years in some cases (think junior in high school).  As I attempt forgiveness of myself, I remember another scene from a movie called “The Shack” where the father is attempting to forgive.  He keeps repeating, as he carries his murdered child, “I forgive . . . I forgive . . .” So too, do I repeat that mantra. 

So to bring this around to the line in the show – God knows what we need, and will give it to us, even when we fight it, every step of the way.  I guess therein lies the path to forgiving ourselves.  Stop fighting it every step of the way.  Let God’s grace be the path you take in forgiving YOU.