Friday, June 16, 2006

Everything I know about . . .prayer

Since I've found it so hard to think up topics to post on, I've decided to do a series on Everything I Know. We'll start with prayer and see where that takes us.

The first thing I've learned about prayer is that you learn it "on the job." If you commit to being an intercessor (someone who prays for other people), God will show you how as you go along, especially if you ask Him. Remember when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray and He responded with an example of a prayer--the Lord's Prayer (See Matthew 6:9-14).

One thing God will do is He'll impress upon you what He wants you to pray in a given situation. He leads us in prayer, just like He does in other areas of our lives. Ask Him, and then get really quiet. He'll show you what He wants prayed. For example, my mother prays a great deal for our ministry. We had a new convert recently and when my mom read about it on my husband's blog, she felt led to pray that this young believer would have a strong confirmation of the certainty of her salvation, that no one in her family would be able to dissuade her from her decision. So, we're all praying that for this girl.

Another thing God will do is give you "prayer assignments." Some people call this a "prayer burden", because that's what if feels like-a real heaviness of heart about someone or some situation. It's almost like being worried about something, without the anxiety. Just a feeling that you must give your attention to the situation. If that happens to you, then pray and pray and pray until you no longer feel the urgency, or heaviness. This happened to me a few months ago in regard to some of our mission leadership. I felt that "burden" and began to pray. God led me to go to the internet and do a particular search to get more information (Yes, I am aware of how bizarre that sounds, but it's true :). I found the information I needed to know to pray and I began to pray. For about 2 months I felt this need to pray for this situation. I prayed morning, night, and whenever I thought about it during the day. Suddenly, about 9 weeks after I was given "that assignment", the burden went away. Just as quickly as it had come it was gone. I knew I had prayed enough on that situation. This is often referred to as "praying through" (I guess it's like going "through" a tunnel, you come out the other side). Often, when we no longer feel the urgency to pray, we feel guilty. We feel we should still keep praying and should still feel the urgency. That's when we need to just thank God for the opportunity to participate in His work and move on.

Those are some things I've learned about prayer. I'll continue this next post with some thoughts on the role of empathy and emotions in prayer and the importance of discretion in our prayer lives.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The ONE Thing I'm Learning This Year

We've been in Porto Alegre for 9 months today. As I look back on those months, I can see one certain lesson that God seems to be wanting me to get. It's been repeated over and over and over since we got here, not in scripture, but in my life. That lesson is "Hard things get easier with time and practice."

Blake started 1st grade here this year. This was a surprise to us since we expected him to be in kindergarten. You would believe how difficult those first few weeks of first grade were! Take spelling, for instance. He got a 10 on his first spelling test. Every Monday, we had spelling homework to make a sentence with each word. It would take over an hour, I'd have to sit there and coach him in sentence ideas. The first month he cried every Monday. I didn't know if I could face 9 months of that. Now, he makes a perfect score on every test and is writing his sentences without our coaching.

Blake is in physical therapy for his "toe-walking." Basically, we're doing stretches and strength-building exercises on his calves. Each time he gets a new stretch, he yells and cries and protests in agony. After a week or two, he's saying, "No problem, that's easy!"

When Blake saw us setting up our blogs, he decided he needed one of his own. Those first few posts were absolutely ARDUOUS! It took FOREVER for him to think up 3 sentences on a topic. Now, with just 9 posts under his belt--he writes them all by himself, I just come in and quickly correct his spelling--30 minutes max.

We're walking a lot here. We live in an apartment that's close to lots of things and close to bus routes. One day, shortly after our arrival, Parker and I decided to walk to the Blockbuster. It was SO FAR that about half way there, I really regretted the decision to walk. When I got there, I was ill. I didn't know if I could make it back. Today, as Blake and I were walking to physical therapy, we breezed past the Blockbuster and I wondered if someone had moved it closer to our house!

Housecleaning and cooking on the field were the same way. First term, I ruined about 2 out of every 3 dishes I made. Now, suddenly, I'm a pretty good cook. I thought I'd never be able to keep my own house clean. I was exhausted for the first four months we were in PoA. Now, a schedule has evolved, I work the schedule and it's done!

What's hard for you right now? I have two things right now. Blake's Portuguese homework frequently leads to tears, not only for him, but for me as well! Also, there's the whole dinner/bath/bedtime chaos that every American family knows so well. Jeff's ministry is taking him out more and more nights and I'm on my own for the challenge.

So, what do we do? We dig on our heels and do it hard and everytime we do, it gets easier. Remember how much closer the Blockbuster is now.