(Unedited segment of Chapter 3 Unmasking the Myths: Is This Prayer? to be published 2020. Unmasking the Myths is the first of three books on prayer containing over 70 interviews from people around the globe. Their stories and experiences give insight to the power and effectiveness of prayer.)
|“All along, prayer has been the Holy Spirit
planting love in me for Jesus.”
As young as seven years old, Kevin wondered if God was real. Even though he went to church and took communion, Kevin felt there was a huge distance between God and himself. As a young boy, whenever he had trouble falling asleep, he would reflect on God. Yet, he felt confused.
By the time he turned 16 the confusion had turned to fear. Though he assumed he was a Christian, he honestly didn’t know what that meant. Only three years later, he was heading in the wrong direction fast.
“Back home from my first year of university, I was working for the town. However, Because of a severe spinal injury from playing hockey, I couldn’t do anything without being loaded up on prescription pain killers. When I came to the end of that summer, I had no money left. I was drinking daily and spending every penny at the local bar. I was on a destructive path.
Here I was a 19-year-old guy who couldn’t even stand up straight or sit down. I was depressed. I didn’t want to go back to university the way I was. Everything was on a bad track, although I maybe wasn’t aware of it at the time. My family had been set free from alcoholism. However, I was on my own journey of recovery after being raised in a dysfunctional home.
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Being responsive may be easy for some people, but it is difficult for me. Responsiveness forms the foundation for any thriving relationship. God responds as we look toward Him. But how will we respond to God’s invitation to come into a mutual relationship with Him?
The dictionary meaning of “responsive” is “to react quickly and positively, to respond readily and with enthusiasm.”
Here is my present reality. I want God to respond “quickly and positively” to my cries for help, yet expect His grace allowing me to hesitate, to evaluate, or even procrastinate in my response to Him.
“Do two walk together
unless they agreed to do so?”
Responsiveness gives agreement to each other.
Disappointment, betrayal, rejection or brokenness form wounds within relationships, Wounds create callouses, a hardness of heart, that often makes responding difficult.
God gave Hosea the overwhelming task of marrying a prostitute, knowing she would be unfaithful. He had to overcome personal pain to woo her back.
“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor
a door of hope.
There she will respond
as in the days of her youth.”
Broken bruised hearts struggle to respond to love. But God leads — even in “the wilderness”, in “the Valley of Achor” (Valley of Trouble). God turns this dry place of trouble into “a door of hope.” Even when hope vanishes, God leads the way!
Here beyond hope, “she will respond.”
Hosea speaks of Israel’s stubborn refusal to respond “quickly and positively” to God.
Israel’s arrogance testifies against them;
the Israelites, even Ephraim,
stumble in their sin;
Judah also stumbles with them.”
The phrase “testifies against” translates from the same word for “respond.” Refusal to respond epitomizes defiance against our Redeemer and Lord.
Even our faintest response to God’s open “door of hope” releases a transformational change.
“‘In that day I will respond,’
declares the LORD —
‘I will respond to the skies,
and they will respond to the earth;
and the earth will respond to the grain,
the new wine and the olive oil,
and they will respond to Jezreel.'”
Envision it! Our little response to God releases a supernatural reproduction. Creation breaks forth on the wings of human responsiveness to God!
“I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called
‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called
‘Not my people,’
‘You are my people‘;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.‘”
This same word “respond” weaves through the Song of Songs, veiling the responsiveness between the Lover and His Beloved
“My beloved spoke and said to me,
‘arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
come with me.'”
Singing and Shouting Erupts
Some versions translate Hosea 2:15 as “she will sing there” in “Valley of Trouble.” The Psalms often express this way of responding.
“May my tongue sing of your word,
for all your commands are righteous.”
“The LORD Almighty has sworn by himself;
I will surely fill you with troops,
as with a swarm of locust,
and they will shout in triumph over you.”
Here “shout in triumph” is translated from the Hebrew word for respond.
Responsiveness refers mainly within the context of covenant relationship. Perhaps that is why I appreciate Hosea so much. He experienced the deepest breach of covenant — the pain of adultery.
The Valley of Trouble leaves enduring scars — visible remnants of broken trust. Everyone faces the sting of betrayal to some degree. Recovery cannot be forced. How does a bruised and wounded heart respond again?
By God’s grace alone! David’s says, “I call out to the LORD, and he answers me.” (Ps 3:4) He assures us, “God will respond to your need.”
“May the LORD answer you
when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help…
and grant you support.”
The word “respond” is hidden within Psalm 20 multiple times — responsiveness between God and His children in need. “Help” and “support” are essential to restoring trust. The decision to respond, not just to God, but to those around us, rests upon our security in the Lord’s Presence rather than trusting people to show value and dignity.
“I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.”
God delivers and covers the bruised one from fear and the betrayed one from shame within the responsiveness of covenant love.
Jonah avoided responding by running and hiding.
“But Jonah ran away from the LORD…
he went down to Joppa…
After paying the fare, he went aboard…
to flee from the LORD…
Jonah had gone below deck,
where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.”
Refusal to respond “quickly and positively” to God’s voice carries a heavy price. The journey leads ever downward into deepening disengagement from God, others and even ourselves. “The fare” costs far more than any realize.
Though Jonah eventually did what God asked, his heart never turned fully to God. He remained hard within the crusty shell of self-sufficiency (4:5), self-pity (4:8), and self-righteousness (4:9). Nineveh repented. Jonah refused.
There is only one man known for his responsiveness to God’s voice.
“Because your heart was responsive
and you humbled yourself before the LORD
when you heard what I have spoken…
and because you tore your robes
and wept in my presence,
I also have heard you, declares the LORD.”
2 Kings 22:19
Josiah was the man! Though imperfect, Josiah responded to God’s voice with humility and repentance.
The bible is filled with examples of those who responded well and those who didn’t. They either received a blessing or ended life as a faint shadow of their potential.
God responds to our slightest movement in His direction. How will we respond to His leading, timing and call? Any slowness in our responsiveness delays
God’s presence and power,
intimacy and communion,
and the supernatural results of living
in fellowship with Him.
God waits patiently, but hopes intensely, for us to “quickly and positively” respond to the whisper of His voice. As difficult as responding often is for me, my heart truly wants to leave hesitation, evaluation and procrastination behind. I’m sure you do too.
I want the grace of responsiveness to permeate my life, both with God and with those around me. Every day requires choice. Will I shrink back or move into responsiveness?
Jesus patterned vibrant examples of relationships fundamental to boosting emotional and spiritual health. There are three relationships we all need and key reasons for each.
We need the relationships of brother/sister, a child, and a father/mother – continually and simultaneously.
Brother/Sister – Shoulder to Shoulder
The sibling relationship is “ friend for life“. These are those who “do life” with you. Teammates who stick by you in the best and the worst of times. They may not always like you, but they love you enough to never give up on you.
Here are shared confidences, often above any other relationship. Maybe that is why I especially love this verse:
“I no longer call you servants,
because a servant does not know his master’s business.
Instead, I have called you friends,
for everything that I learned from my Father
I have made known to you.”
Jesus chose to be known as Friend, walking shoulder to shoulder with those who were doing life with Him. I think that is incredible – beyond my comprehension.
Child – Carry in the Arm
Ever notice how babies disrupt life?
Children are captivating
vibrant, sometimes plain crazy
questioning, always changing
needy and dependent.
Children bring out the best and worst in us. We had five boys in just under 9 years. Life was always in flux, sleep lacking, and routine difficult to establish. Never a boring day!
These boys had the uncanny ability to draw the deepest love and affection, attitudes of commitment, self-sacrifice, tenderness and compassion. They also exposed in me every weak and immature area I otherwise wouldn’t have been aware of.
More than anything, they taught me the importance of persistent prayer. With children comes a deep sense of responsibility. They teach us much about the loving heart of Father God.
“Love your enemies! Do good to them.
Lend to them without expecting to be repaid.
Then your reward from heaven will be very great,
and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High,
for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.”
I’m not saying children are our enemies, however these phrases certainly apply to raising children. As a natural or spiritual parent there is a lot of doing good and giving without expecting in return. The young at times can be unthankful and even wicked. Reward is in the future; sacrificial giving marks the daily attitude of caring for the young.
We learn this quality of parenting from Father God Himself, as we imitate His heart.
Jesus purposefully chose twelve disciples (children) to walk with him day and night.
Father/Mother – A Shelter
Of all relationships, I have found this the most difficult to cultivate in my life. The relationship of a father/mother in the faith is a mentor.
This is someone who has the authority to speak the deepest in my life
confronting attitudes and issues
exposing hidden agendas or beliefs
sometimes pushing me beyond self-made boundaries
often pulling back the reins of over-enthusiasm
praying for me consistently
loving me deeply.
Just as we need a child young in the faith to help along the way, we also need someone who is over us. We give a mentor both permission and authority of accountability in this relationship.
Here is Jesus’ example:
“…Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself;
he can do only what he sees his Father doing,
because whatever the Father does
the Son also does.”
The young always think they are ready to tackle the world; a mentor knows when they are really ready.
A mentor also is vulnerable enough to pattern life for us through their own personal successes and failures. In strength and wisdom they position themselves with us in our own personal battles.
This relationship will propel you the farthest, enabling you to fulfill your highest calling.
Lord may I consistently
seek out the young to pass the baton of faith to,
a friend to journey life with,
and someone to submit to and follow after.
Thank you, Jesus, for your example
sharing, giving and teaching.