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Last week I also mentioned the book and a Kickstarter campaign to help fund its publication. If you're not familiar with Kickstarter, it represents a way to fund independent projects - art, music, publishing - by what's called "crowdsourcing." It's not a new concept but it's only recently been taken to the web. Basically, a project is presented via blogs, email, word of mouth, and people are invited to participate financially in helping produce it. It's an "all or nothing" proposition - if I set a goal of $6,000 and more than that amount is pledged, we move ahead. If only $3,800 comes in, nothing happens. It ought to be ready to roll within a week. I'll share more details about the book's content then too. But in the meantime, please pray that God will allow us to share our story and encourage others.
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One of the things I try to do on a consistent basis is thank people for praying for me, especially over the last seven months. I know there have been family and friends, people from church and in the business who have been faithfully praying for God's will to be done in every aspect of this journey. I've received letters, cards and emails from people I don't know but who have come to know me through the radio or music; from a children's Sunday school class at a church in Pennsylvania to folks who stopped by the hospital unannounced and asked if we could pray together.
I've heard from old friends I haven't seen or talked with for, literally, decades. When I'd ask how they knew what was going on they'd say, oh remember so and so? Well his brother works with so and so and someone at their church asked for prayer for you and...and it blows me away to see the way God brings those seemingly random connections together. (Imagine that - people talking with each other - the original social media.) The result is we are all stronger as a body of believers because of those bonds, those threads that God weaves together.
That's why I've come to believe that while prayer is essential in our lives, what's even more important is persevering in prayer.
When Paul says we should "pray without ceasing" (1 Thes. 5:17) he obviously doesn't mean that we should literally try to be in prayer 24 hours a day. The passage refers more to a mindset than a specific instruction. We should always be reverencing the Lord; our attitude should be of gratefulness and surrender. Humility. The acknowledge-ment of our sin and the magnitude of God's grace and forgiveness. Persevering in prayer is about our attitude toward God and the needs we see around us.
For years I thought prayer was a daunting task, something that only the "pros" like a Finney or Spurgeon or Billy Graham could do well. But as I've journeyed on this path of faith I've come to realize that persevering in prayer is something within the grasp of every believer. Not only does it deepen our faith but it enriches our relationships and keeps us ever mindful of the needs - big and small - of those around us.
There's one thing though that's always bugged me about how we approach prayer - how quickly we move on from one prayer request to another and seldom 'look back' to see what's happening with things we prayed for yesterday or last week or last month. There are some instances where we do - in serious, ongoing health issues like I've experienced or broken family relationships. But how often do we pray for a situation and the next day move on to other needs and the next day... I don't know if it's our ever-shortening attention spans or the sheer volume of prayer needs we face, but sometimes I think we're too quick to move on and, without realizing it, forget what was important yesterday.
That's not to say that we should be compiling a list of requests and still be praying for something that came up in 1984. But sometimes keeping a prayer journal helps us be focused and mindful of those things God placed on our hearts, needs that may very well still exist. So as I look at prayer and our prayer habits I see it in two complemen-tary ways; first, persevering in prayer means having a prayerful mindset, not how many minutes a day you pray.
Second, as the Lord leads, persevering in prayer means not moving ahead too quickly and being mindful of those things we prayed for in the past. Prayer is not like an assembly line in a factory - we're not building Ford Fusions here.
We look at life from such a finite perspective that we forget God has time. Time to move. Time to be silent. Time to respond to our prayers in the way we hope for. And time to do something different that may surprise or confuse or anger us. He's God. I know that probably sounds trite but simply put, he is. Persevering in prayer is our lifeline to him. It makes us shift the focus from ourselves to others. It knits us together as his Body. And it makes our witness for him grow stronger and shine brighter against the darkness.
Father, we are humbled to be able to come
into your presence - not only to commune with you
but to share the deepest burdens of our hearts.
As we each grow in our relationship with you,
help us to realize how powerful and beautiful
prayer is. Show us the joy and the glory of
persevering in prayer. And keep us
ever mindful that we are only who we are
because of who you are.
We ask these things,
trusting in your goodness
and in faith, believing. Amen.