Unmasking The Myths; Is This Prayer? Childlike Faith

(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.” 

– Meg

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.

I met Merodee and beyond a question fell in love with her at first sight. She and her sister were crossing the street right in front of my oncoming vehicle. I slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting them. We held eye contact as she passed by.

Shortly after that, I invited her to a football game. Merodee brought some Christian music with her and without saying anything she took my music out of the cassette player and put her in. We listened to her music all the way to the football game and back again. Since she left those tapes in my car, that’s all I listened to for the next couple of days. I was so enamored by Merodee that her music absolutely captivated me.

A little while later, I drove out to an old country church and parked outside the locked gate. I sat there, a nervous wreck, feeling very emotional.

All of sudden, the palpable presence of God entered my car.

I started to talk to God and He started to answer me. I knew at that moment, without anyone ever telling me, what to do to be in a relationship with Him. Confessing my sins, I asked Him into my life. It was such an incredibly emotional experience I couldn’t even drive. I probably sat there for half an hour, unable to leave.

I didn’t understand anything, except I knew it was God and that He wanted to have a relationship with me. When I cried out, He was immediately there, closer than anything I had ever felt. I don’t know if I had any other impression except knowing that what I needed was God.

That was the beginning of prayer for me when I felt the presence of God for the first time. Looking back, I can close my eyes and still see everything and feel the same feeling, though not with the same emotion. Before that, I didn’t even know if I believed in God. Yet He revealed himself to me in an unforgettable way.

I’m a little naïve to what the Lord delivered me from. I can’t imagine where that track would have led if I hadn’t encountered God in that particular season.

Afterward, I phoned Merodee and told her what had happened. She yelled into the phone, ‘You’re saved!’

‘What does that mean?’ I asked. I didn’t even know.”

*****

Yoge began her relationship with Jesus while living in her home country of India.

“When I was young, my grandmother was experiencing many problems. Someone welcomed her to church and told her about Jesus. They said, ‘If you pray there, everything will be all right.’

As a result, my grandmother was the first one in our family to accept Jesus and become a secret worshiper of God. When I was about four years old, she started taking me to church too, but I didn’t realize what was going on. Maybe God chose me then, but it took many years for me to come to Him.

In India, our work also determines our religion and cast. My private math tutor belonged to our cast. He was the one who helped me realize who Jesus was. If he wouldn’t have been from our cast, I wouldn’t have listened to him when he said, ‘You need to know that you aren’t worshiping a real God, but worshiping idols instead. You shouldn’t do that.’

I thought, ‘I know you. Why are you saying that our god is not a god?’ I asked, ‘What happened to you? What made you convert to Christianity?’

He said, ‘No, it’s true! We are all idol worshipers.’

‘Okay, let it be an idol.’ I said, ‘We’re living a sophisticated life, doing what we want to do. Compared to other people, our standard of living is very good. What is there to blame this god for?’

He said, ‘It isn’t the idol that is giving this to you; it is your living Father who is providing for you.’ 

‘How can you prove it?’

He continued, ‘What if you have a kitty and think your pet is a god? One day the pet dies. You cry because you aren’t ready to believe that your pet is dead. You say to the dead kitty, ‘I feel hungry and don’t know what to do.’ You’re asking something dead to give you food. Will that dead pet give you food or your mother who is listening to you cry? Who will give you food?’

‘Obviously my mother,’ I said, ‘the dead pet can’t give me food.’

‘Yes!’ he said, ‘The Living God is the One who provides all these things you’re asking for. Still, you believe that your dead kitty is giving you food. It is not the dead kitty but your living mother who feeds you. In the same way, when you are worshiping and praying to an idol, your living Father God in heaven listens to you and provides you with all the good things that you ask for. It is the living God not dead idols that give you all these things. Your Father in heaven is watching you, knowing what His daughter needs, but sees that she doesn’t know who to ask.’

While he was talking to me, he was weeping bitterly. He spoke a simple word but it was completely anointed. His weeping touched me deeply as I carefully listened to his words. God gave me the understanding that I had been praying to an idol, while He, my living Father, was beside me providing whatever I asked for.

As I walked home, those thoughts rewound in my mind. I closed my eyes and started crying as I realized what I was doing when I worshiped our god. I knew that what I was doing wasn’t good and asked forgiveness from my living Father in heaven. ‘I’m not going to worship idols anymore.’ I said, ‘I am going to live my entire life for You.’

I started going to church every Sunday, but soon my Dad discovered that I was worshiping Jesus. One day when I came home from church, he was ready to throw a brick at me to kill me. Because we were religious leaders in our cast, he said, ‘I will definitely kill you. I won’t allow you to live as a Christian.’ He also threatened to pour kerosene on me and burn me. The second time, he did pour it on my head, but my grandmother came and saved me.

Before going to church each Sunday,
I was mentally prepared for the beating
I would get when I returned home.

From the day I became a worshiper of Jesus Christ, I was crazy about God. I literally felt like He was sitting right beside me, talking to me. People wondered what happened and told me to limit my worship and devotion to God, but I never wanted to.

I couldn’t believe that all this time I had worshiped lifeless idols. When I came to God, I knew, beyond a doubt, that He was alive, sitting with me and talking to me. I felt Him moving all around me. Whatever I asked for in prayer happened. How do you deny that? No one can deny it!

That’s how my journey with Jesus Christ began.”

*****

For Shelly prayer was a natural overflow of the relationship she entered into with God. She tells her story,

“I had made so many bad decisions that eventually landed me into an abusive relationship with someone who completely isolated me. I had never felt so much hatred. Feeling devastated, I didn’t know there could be so much darkness. I would wake up thinking I was in a nightmare, but it was real. To him, it was a big game; he was grossly unfaithful. It was like I was trying to get out of my own skin and away from the pain, but I couldn’t get free.

In desperation, I made an appointment to go through the steps of freedom through a ministry called Freedom in Christ. It was during those sessions that I received Jesus Christ as my Savior and began a personal relationship with Him.

After two sessions lasting nine hours (spending most of that time on forgiveness), I forgave him and everyone else in my life. It was like everything dropped off me. In its place, I could feel God’s love being poured inside me.

As God’s incredible love overwhelmed me, I instinctively knew that a relationship with Jesus Christ was where I wanted and needed to be forever. Looking back, I remembered experiencing that same kind of love when I was four years old.

I walked away totally changed—no longer consumed by hatred but overwhelmed by God’s love. I had all kinds of grace for this man, tried to help him and prayed for him. But I got out.”

*****

As a child, Rachel moved to Canada where she became a Christian.

“I was born in China and lived there for eight years before coming to Canada. We didn’t hear about the name of Jesus or Christianity in China. There were posters about evolution everywhere. I was afraid that one day I would turn into a monkey in a cage instead of a human being.

In China, school is very competitive, but you are supposed to be friends with everyone in your classroom. One week before we left China, I was involved in an argument with a classmate over an origami crane I had made. She found my crane and turned into a frog. When I discovered my crane had disappeared, I became angry. Normally, I wouldn’t start a quarrel, but this time I did.

In China, if a dispute arose, a class monitor would come to the class to help settle the problem. The girl told the monitor that I lost my crane out of irresponsibility, so when she found it she made it into a frog. She kept crying and won the sympathy of the class monitor. I ended up having to permanently leave school because of the argument.

‘Okay, I will leave,’ I thought, ‘but where will I go.’

Actually, God used this incident to prepare me to move away. Right after the dispute, I discovered that my Dad and I were soon leaving to live in Canada. My grandmother, the first Christian in our family, had been praying for us to receive Christ.

God, by His sovereign will works through people in unusual ways. We had a friend from China who enrolled at Trinity Western University because a consultant who did not know Jesus specifically told her to go to this Christian University. It was there that her favorite memories developed and that she first learned about Jesus. Even though we don’t always understand how God moves, whether through arguments, class monitors or unbelieving consultants, God is working in our lives.

As a child, I would believe whatever my Dad told me. When I was little, he told me that Buddha held the earth. We didn’t know about Jesus then, but when we came to Canada, Dad became a Christian. Dad told me about Jesus and why He had to die for our sins. Until then, I thought Jesus was a rebel. When God started to speak to me through my Dad, I considered becoming a Christian. I didn’t ask Jesus into my heart yet though.

My first impression of Jesus was that He was like Santa. You could ask Him for something and He would give it to you. Later, I found out that He is bigger than that. He is God and works the big picture. He desires for us all to come to Him so He can give us His grace.

I started to change when I was nine years old and Jesus became personal. I began to pray, but at first, my prayers were self-centered. Then I realized my parents also had needs. I started to pray for people to be healed and began to understand Jesus’ love for others.”

No matter what age, stage or circumstance of life, the prayer of committing one’s life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is the most powerful, miracle-working prayer anyone could pray.”

*****

Unmasking the Myth

The myth that declares that any god will do has kept many people from committing their lives to Jesus Christ and finding the love Shelly spoke about. 

“We can always have a non-god to go to instead of God.”
– Karin

Only Jesus can create the profound change Charlotte, Kevin and millions of others have experienced. Jesus desires for everyone to come to know the one and only true God.

“Now this is eternal life; that they know you,
the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
John 17:3

This same intimate relationship with God that these people have spoken about, is available right now to any who will sincerely come to Him.

“He longs for everyone to embrace his life
and return to the full knowledge of the truth.”
1 Timothy 2: 4 TPT

God is waiting for everyone to embrace Him and the life He offers. God loves us and has an incredible plan for our future, regardless of our past (Ps 139:16). He desires for us to have a fulfilling exciting life right now and forever—a life connected with Him (Jn 10:10).

Kate asked,

“Does any other god communicate back to you? What other god responds to you like the Lord God? Does any other god give you life? Can another god forgive your sins?

Jesus Christ is life. He gives us an unbelievable life now. Eternal life! Life is found in Jesus Christ alone. In Him is everything I need to exist—love, joy, peace and so much more. I don’t want to look anywhere else or to anything else. Time is too precious to waste pursuing other so-called gods.

God is a life-giving Spirit. When You know that your spirit is made alive by God’s Spirit, that’s it! You don’t need anything else.

The ultimate, Almighty God, is available. He is the One and only living true God. Until you meet Jesus, you don’t know what you are missing.

To communicate with Almighty God is incredible.
Knowing that He wants to have
fellowship with us is very humbling.
It is the ultimate relationship to have.”

Only one thing keeps us from experiencing this vital relationship with Him. God is holy and perfect. Only those who are without sin can come into His presence and enjoy His wonderful plan and experience His presence. Every one of us has sinned and comes far short of God’s perfect standard (Rom 3:23).

God provided the solution for restored intimacy with us through Jesus Christ, his perfect Son. Jesus died on the cross to take our punishment and pay the price for our sins (Rom 5:8). It didn’t end there! On the third day, Jesus rose from the grave as the giver of life for all (Rom 6:23).

The Bible says that by repenting and confessing the Lordship of Jesus, we can then live in a relationship with God. It sounds too simple for such a complicated problem. (Rom 10:9-10) However, God said that by personally accepting His provision and committing our lives to Him, He makes everything new.

The root of every prayer journey
is a relationship with Jesus.”

– Jan

Like a baby begins to walk by taking small steps, we begin the fascinating journey of faith through a seemingly small prayer spoken from sincere hearts. If you want to take that life-changing step today, He is only a prayer away.

*****

“Dear God, I confess that I have sinned against You and others. I choose today to believe that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins. I turn from the way I have been living to follow You. Please forgive me and come into my life. I trust in You and desire for You to be my Lord and Savior from this day forward, in Jesus Name (Rom 10:13, Jn 20:31). Thank You Lord, for all you have done for me. Thank You for Your love and the gift of your saving grace.”

*****

“Only one prayer causes jubilation in heaven and mourning in hell. That one prayer is asking God to come into our lives.”
– Meg

 

Responsiveness! God Responds to Us. How Will We Respond to God?

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?”
Amos 3:3

Responsiveness gives agreement to each other.

Difficulty Responding

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.

God asked this humble prophet to live in a way that visibly demonstrated Israel’s betrayal of their God — the Bride’s betrayal of the Bridegroom.

“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.”
Hosea 2:14-15

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.”

Rebellion Blocks

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.”
Hosea 5:5

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.'”
Hosea 2:21-22

Envision it! Our little response to God releases a supernatural reproduction. Creation breaks forth on the wings of human responsiveness to God!

Love Initiates

Jezreel means “God plants.” The seeds of responsiveness bloom and grow, producing a love that initiates — fully and continuously responding.

“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.‘”
Hosea 2:23

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.'”
Songs 2:10

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.”
Psalm 119:172

Such joyous response of singing or triumphant shouts over our enemies, represent quick, positive response. Listen to God’s decree over Babylon.

“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.”
Jeremiah 51:14

Here “shout in triumph” is translated from the Hebrew word for respond.

Covenant Facilitates

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.
Psalm 20:1-2

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.
Psalm 34:4-5

God delivers and covers the bruised one from fear and the betrayed one from shame within the responsiveness of covenant love.

Responding

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.”
Jonah 1:3-4

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.

Positive Outcome

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?

**********

3 Relationships We All Need and The Reasons Why

Relationships

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.

Friend - Relationship

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.”
John 15:15

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
energetic, enthusiastic
vibrant, sometimes plain crazy
endearing, frustrating
questioning, always changing
needy and dependent.

Baby - Disciple

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.”
Luke 6:35

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.”
John 5:19

Mentor - Father - Mother

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.

Relationships

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.