I wrote this almost six years ago on what to do when we have prayed everything we know to pray. I post it again today for a friend who is feeling that way.
Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.
Sometimes that is the only prayer I have – and it is enough.
When I’m waiting for an answer that doesn’t come and I know no more prayers to pray, I utter His name — Jesus.
When the night is long and I can’t sleep, I whisper — Jesus.
When I’ve lost my way, I cry out to the One who has not lost me. I pray — Jesus.
When I’m tired and I can’t see rest ahead, when all strength is gone, I breathe His name — Jesus.
When I am in pain, I remember the One who can heal, and I plead — Jesus.
If I’m afraid, I bear in mind that I have a Shield whose name is — Jesus.
He is my Savior and my Lord, my Shelter and my Comforter.
He gives me sanctuary under His wing and supplies me with restoration and peace.
He is the Holy Lamb of God, the One who comes with compassion and new hope.
He is my Faithful Friend and the Radiant Light on this earth’s journey.
He is the Way of all righteous, the ever-abiding Truth, and the Life of love and joy.
He is the Mighty and Eternal God
Many of us are familiar with the comfort received when we personalize Psalm 91. In verses like 3, we replace “He will deliver you” with “He will deliver me” and we go on in that manner of making the scripture our own. As we face our own trials and fears, we pray back to God the inspired scripture of Psalm 91.
I learned about praying Psalm 91 over myself from a woman long devoted to constant prayer. I was quite ill at the time. Then when my daughter became gravely ill, I taught her to use it in the same way. Sometimes I would read it over her, entering her name throughout, and she found strength and calm in God’s care for her.
There is another psalm that I use even more as a prayer and that is verse 4 of Psalm 6: “Turn, O Lord, and deliver my life; save me for the sake of Your steadfast love” (ESV). Everything we need is in that one sentence. We call on God’s mercy and grace for whatever is our need; we ask Him for deliverance because of who He is and not because we in any way deserve such Love.
There are times when a scripture seems to jump into our vision. The words will magnify as if bolded. I consider these times as God reaching out in a personal way, giving us a scripture to claim in a time of need, and I encourage you to do the same. Thank Him for it. Write it down and pray it frequently. In so doing, He will inscribe it on your heart.
I especially love Psalm 6:4 because it is easy to remember and because it fully encompasses everything. I pray it over friends. For example, I will say: “Turn, O Lord, and deliver Christy’s life; save her for the sake of Your steadfast love.” I use it for our nation: “Turn, O Lord, and deliver our nation, save us for the sake of Your steadfast love.” It is a prayer we desperately need to pray in these days.
The word “steadfast” is an English translation from the Hebrew word “hesed.” Depending on the translation of your Bible, it may also read everlasting, kindness, or mercy. I have read different counts as to the number of times it is used, but all accounts have given it 200 times or greater, with the most use in any single book of the Bible found in Psalms, the scriptures used as the temple hymnal and devotional guide for the Jewish people.
There is great wisdom in praying the scriptures. We engage ourselves with God’s Word, we commit scripture to memory, and we pull power into our lives from the breathed words of God. Can we not imagine the delight of our Father when He hears us speak to Him in His language? He has declared a covenant with us and when we communicate with Him in this manner, we are claiming and agreeing with what He has said.
All scriptures of God’s love are for for us, yet I believe that if you search the scriptures that tell of His steadfast or everlasting love, you will find something that God will lift from the pages and personally give to you. I hope you will give it a try.
Here is a beautiful song about God’s everlasting love from Terry MacAlmon.
I have continued to ponder the subject of relinquishing prayer and there are a few more thoughts I would like to add this morning. Thank you to those who gave feedback; it has helped me to sort through what I said and hopefully respond more fully.
First of all, to relinquish something to God doesn’t mean you must never mention it to Him again. Most likely you will continue to pray about what you relinquished, but you will pray differently. The “relinquishing” part is to accept what God gives, to be in agreement with Him even if it is contrary to what we want to happen. It is a step in greater trust.
I know the scriptures that say to persevere in prayer and the respected teachers who say never give up; neither do I argue with them. But I also know when Jesus prayed in Luke 22:42, He prayed a prayer of relinquishment: “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (NASV). I suspect most of us will at one time or another come to a place where this is the prayer that should be ours.
We must be sensitive to the Spirit to know how God wants us to pray. If we come to a time when we feel we are to relinquish a particular matter to the Father’s hands, our prayers may then turn more to words of trust and thanksgiving. When the concern comes to mind, rather than petition as we have, we thank Him for His mercies shown us throughout life. We thank Him for being the good, loving Father that He is. We thank Him that we can always trust Him, no matter what. And we certainly want to thank Him for the peace that I believe He always gives when we relinquish our will to His. We might pray like this: “I know that you see things I cannot see, that Your thoughts and ways are far higher than man’s. Your word tells of your steadfast love and mercy and I thank you that I can count on such love and mercy. Keep me in Your perfect peace and my eyes fixed on you, Lord. I love you and relinquish my will to yours and count it all joy to do so.”
Until and unless you come to a time that you feel led to relinquish the way you are praying. I encourage you to continue asking and seeking and knocking at the door of heaven. Always pray as the Holy Spirit leads. If you stay close to Him, you will know in your spirit how to pray. Pastor David Cross, First Assembly Memphis, says, “If you love Him and stay near Him, you will hear Him speak to you like never before.” Prayer is conversation with God and the Holy Spirit lives in us to guide how we are to pray.
Dr. Charles Stanley, In Touch Ministries, says “God’s primary goal is our ultimate good, not our comfort or short-term happiness—He wants what is best for us in light of eternity” (In Touch Devotional, October 8, 2016). Everything in this life is short term. May we strive for the eternal in all our living and praying.
Your will, O Lord, is the safe place, the joy place, the glory place.
There is power in relinquishing prayer. Power and peace. When we’ve prayed all we know to pray and the answer we want just doesn’t come, there is one more prayer to pray: “Father, Thy will be done.” And that is the prayer of relinquishment.
Catherine Marshall’s experience with this is one of the most memorable for me. She had been sick for six months with a lung infection that kept her bedfast. Medical treatment was not working. She had exhausted every approach to prayer she knew and nothing happened. So she said to God that if He wanted her sick and to spend the rest of her life in bed, then she would accept it. But with that prayer of relinquishment to God’s will came heavenly power and her recovery began.
Pastor David Cross of my church, First Assembly Memphis, tells of his being on a treatment table to receive radiation for a golf ball size cancer on his neck. As he waited, he prayed. Actually, he worshiped. For Pastor David didn’t petition God but said “Even if you don’t heal me, you are still my Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals.” He unconditionally relinquished his self-will to God’s will and at that very moment he knew healing had happened. He felt his neck and the tumor was gone. “I’ve been healed!” Pastor David cried out. “Yes, you certainly have,” declared the Radiation Therapist with tears in her eyes.
I had my own experience with relinquishing prayer when I thought my daughter was dying. For years, I had pleaded with God to heal her of health problems that had stolen so much from her. Then one day, her body began to shut down. In my car, headed toward the other end of the state and not knowing if she would be alive when I got to her, I gave it all to God. I told Him I was through pleading for her health and if it was His will to take her, I accepted that will completely. It was my relinquishing prayer. Immediately, peace poured over me—and she did not die.
When we can get to the place of total relinquishment, we honor God. We stop questioning. We cease struggling. We simply step away from all attempts to control what we never could control anyway. We believe in God’s love for us however He decides to give it. We accept His will. Sometimes relinquishing prayer brings exactly what we prayed for. Other times, we don’t get the answer, but we do get peace. My child lived, but she still has health problems; yet the complete peace God gave me in 2012 has solidly remained.
When we desperately want something, it is hard to relinquish. Most of us pray for long seasons of time for things we are desperate to have. Our prayers are at first relentless, not relinquishing. But when we can finally reach the place of giving unanswered prayer to God, we will know peace that only God can give. And with that peace is the power to accept whatever is the will of God.
Jesus prayed in Luke 22:42 Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (NIV). May we do no less.
English pastor Samuel Chadwick (1860-1932) was a highly regarded teacher of prayer. He said this: “It is in the secret place we learn that silence is the best speech and listening is the best part of prayer.”
Drawing near to the Lord in solitude and quiet is a discipline—and not an easy one for many of us to acquire. Chadwick said he took nothing but his Bible when he withdrew into that alone place with God. No hymn book, no list of prayer needs, no list of people who needed intercession. It wasn’t that he didn’t sing to the Lord and pray as he had committed to pray, but when he went into his secret place, it was to listen and not speak.
Years ago, I served on a board with a woman who would suddenly leave our group and go away somewhere. I would see Ellen quickly stand and leave our gathering, never while we were convened in meeting, but in other times when we were together. I asked Ellen about this and she said sometimes she would feel an urgent need to hear God on a matter that was troubling her and she was scurrying away to find a place of solitude where she could be alone with Him and receive direction.
When I was a college student, there was a chapel in the basement of our library, which was right next to my dorm. The chapel was quite small and the entrance was secluded. I found it to be an ideal place to spend alone time with God.
In hospitals, chapels are provided for those hurting over what loved ones are experiencing in illness. Or, maybe they are afraid of a coming diagnosis or prognosis. When only miracles will do, we visit God with greater fervor that when life is going along well. Probably, we are never more surrendered than when we are frantic regarding an outcome.
Andrew Murray gives five essential elements of prayer:
The heart’s desire
The expression of that desire in prayer
The faith that carries the prayer to God
The acceptance of God’s answer
The experience of the desired blessing
Of the five essentials, perhaps it is the fourth one that we deal with most effectively when we have learned to draw near to God in solitude. This will require practice. The desperate heart wants God do as is asked and will make the case to God for why that answer should be a certain way. But it is the one practiced in intimacy that will be able to give all over to God’s will and trust that His will is the very best possible answer. It is that child of God devoted to time alone with the Father that will find peace in accepting God’s answer.
“In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there” (Mark 1:35 NASB).
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
Psalm 100:4 (NKJV)
I belong to a ladies intercessory prayer group that meets each Tuesday. One morning as we readied ourselves to pray, Ann said the Lord had impressed upon her heart that we don’t spend enough time thanking Him before we begin our petitions. We corrected our order of prayer that morning. This was years ago, yet I remember often what Ann said and how guilty I stand all the time.
Most of us probably fail with the time we allot to prayers of thanksgiving. We have no trouble remembering what we want from God for ourselves, those we love, or those who have asked us to pray. We compile lists and tuck them into our Bibles. We note our needs and desires in prayer journals and faithfully go over each one when we pray. We wake in the middle of the night with some concern and begin petitioning God about the thing that has us anxious. But as our standard with prayer, how good are we at giving thanks? Coming to our Father and spelling out the ways He blesses us every day?
The miracle of feeding a crowd of 5,000 with only five loaves of bread and two fish began with Jesus giving thanks (see Matthew 15:32-39). Let us not miss that first part of the miracle–giving thanks. God was extravagant in His provision that day and He still is today if we provide the atmosphere for such blessing.
What happens when we give thanks? I believe we see our own increase; we see the many ways God pours out the abundance of his love on us.
The increase could be in simple awareness; we may see what we’ve missed before.
It could be that God will trust us with more because we are faithful to recognize His grace.
It could be in seeing that, we know how to progress to another level of receiving.
It could be in recognizing what we’ve been given and then giving it back to the Lord, He multiplies.
It could be God blessing us with more because we honor His giving to us.
While developing this blog, I decided to set aside a full day of asking God for nothing; rather,making it a day of remembrance with thanksgiving. It is my custom to pray throughout the day on things that come to mind and when I would catch myself about to ask God for something, I changed the prayer into one of thanksgiving for His faithfulness in the many ways He has taken care of me through the years. I thought on His sure hand of protection, His guidance, and certainly His deliverance. When a friend called asking that I pray for her, I told her of my commitment for the day and we turned her prayer request into one of remembering how God had provided for her in the past and thanked Him for how we knew He would take care of her present need. She was as happy as I to approach God this way.
As my day came to a close, I felt such peace. Through hour after hour of thanksgiving, I had experienced the joy of just loving on God without asking for a single thing. I plan to make this a new design for my prayer life–setting aside a day to do nothing but give thanks–and I enthusiastically invite you to give it a try. I challenge you to do it for one day and see if it doesn’t draw you closer to God. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (NAS). May we hasten to be about His will.
. . . take root downward and bear fruit upward.(Isaiah 37:31 ESV)
My grandmother’s Bible was a treasure beyond any price. I had hoped as her oldest grandchild that I might inherit it, however I never discussed that with my grandmother or my mother and so in the end it didn’t come to be.
What made Mama’s Bible so revered? She poured and prayed over its words daily. Her gentle, but sure hands caressed the pages. She wept and rejoiced, she trusted and she practiced. She did what Isaiah said: took root downward and bore fruit upward.
I’ve never known anyone that Jesus was as real to as He was to Dulcie Spencer. She sang songs to Him throughout the day and talked to Him as if He were right at her elbow. I’ve walked into her home and overheard her talking and thought she had company, only to find out it was no visitor but her best friend and permanent resident: Jesus. Mama relied on Him completely for every matter and that reliance gave her a radiance that cannot be duplicated by anything of this world. Mama had a heavenly glow.
My grandmother had no earthly riches. She lived a simple life, but a life marked with beauty because of how she lived it. Mama’s standard was to do exactly as God’s Word said for her to do: she loved God with all her heart, soul, strength and mind; she loved her neighbors as herself; and she believed God’s word that when we trust Him completely, He will never forsake us. Mama’s family saw and respected that trust. I believe we were all, in fact, hugely affected by her rock-solid trust in God. My earliest memory of Mama is of her kneeling by her bed for prayer at end-of-day, long dark braids falling down her back and over her homemade gown. Mama always prayed aloud and just as I have visual remembrances of Mama, I have auditory ones, too.
When I married in 1989, Mama wasn’t physically able to be with us so she sent her Bible to me for the ceremony. I can’t think of better representation of this woman that I loved more than ever I could express.
Though I didn’t get to keep the book she loved above all others, she did give me her faith and for that I am eternally grateful. Mine isn’t as beautiful as hers, but it is as confident. And what she passed on to me, I passed on to my daughter Kristi. I know because I have witnessed it.
I truly cannot imagine my life without this great woman’s influence. I have often said if I could choose to be like anyone in the world, it would be my grandmother. I wish I could say I had lived a life like hers, but I can’t. My journey has been one of much stumbling, failing, and starting over, however no one’s persuasion of faith has had a greater hold on me than that of Dulcie Spencer. I thank her for showing me a Jesus she never doubted and pointing the way to heaven’s door. You are my crown jewel, Mama.
Here are a few lines from a letter Mama wrote to her children not long before she died in 1991 at 91 years of age: The dear Lord has been so good to our family. I can’t thank him enough and that he lives in me all the time. I’ve prayed to him all my life and He answers my prayers day and night. Please don’t grieve after me when I’m gone for I’ll be safe with our dear Lord and all my loved ones in heaven.
Sometimes I think about the day my grandfather was told he had a terminal illness. Daddy had called to let me know Papa was being admitted directly from his doctor’s office to the hospital. I told Daddy I would meet them there.
When I got to Papa’s room, he was sitting on the side of the bed, still wearing his hat. He looked so tired and I encouraged him to lie down. He did without a word of protest, but with his shoes still on. I slipped them off his feet. My grandmother stood quietly by, grave concern etched on her face. Mama and Papa had been married 65 years—since they were 16 and 18.
We didn’t have to wait long for Papa’s physician. He came into the room, sat down in a chair near Papa’s bed and gave us a diagnosis we didn’t want to hear: acute leukemia. Papa’s physician said that without treatment he would live maybe two months. With treatment, he might live two years, but there would be no quality of life and he personally could not advise that route. If Papa wanted treatment, he would refer him to a specialist.
Without hesitation or questions, Papa said “I’ve lived a good long life and if it’s my time to go, I’m all right with that, I’m ready.” It was a clear statement of his faith; he had no fear in dying.
A picture made when Papa was so sick. One of the rare times he was out of bed. Mama stands between their two oldest children, J. B. and Louise.
Papa left that hospital bed for one at home where his children and their spouses took care of him, never leaving Mama to do it alone. He lived shy of a year—nine months I believe it was, but longer than the two months predicted. His doctor said it was his strong body that gave him added time. Papa had been so healthy all his life; he had never seen a doctor for anything but the annual renewal of his barber’s license.
To remember Papa is to remember how tender his heart was toward God. I never heard him pray without crying. He just couldn’t get to the “amen” without emotion spilling over. Both my grandparents deeply loved the Lord. Jesus was as much a resident of their home as Papa and Mama. They trusted God implicitly and gave God all the thanks.
When Papa died, Mama wrote in her journal “Jim went home to be with Jesus today.” Simply and accurately put. They never doubted where they would spend eternity. And to their credit and as best I know, none of us, children or grandchildren, has doubted either. Jim and Dulcie Spencer made sure of that.
Jim and Dulcie Spencer, my cherished grandparents.
So, when I remember Papa, I remember first his love for the Lord and a faith that let him say, when it’s my time, I’m ready. I give thanks for this man’s life and the rich heritage he gave to me.
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. –Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)
Scriptures in Matthew 14:13-21 and Mark 6:30-44 tell the story of how Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Only men were counted in that day, so we know significantly more than 5,000 people were fed. We can be sure that Jesus didn’t leave the women and children hungry. And after each person was filled, there was enough bread and fish left to fill twelve baskets.
Let’s think in the fullest sense of this miracle and not hurry over a story we have known since childhood. The truths of God need to settle into our minds and hearts and form a solid foundation of faith for the trials that come to all of us. There is less sting in our trials when we can immediately reflect on who God is and what He can do.
Scripture tells us after feeding of the thousands, Jesus immediately sent the disciples on ahead by boat while He went alone to a mountainside be in prayer. We know He was there for hours because scripture talks of “when evening came” (John 14:23 and Mark 6:47). Then we see another reference to time when it says Jesus went to the disciples “during the fourth watch of the night” (John 14:24 and Mark 6:48). The fourth watch of the night was between 3 and 6 a.m.
The disciples were far out on the sea when it became storm-tossed. The Greek word used for measuring distance was stadia–an eighth of a mile or 660 feet. Some Bible translations say “many stadia” or “over a mile.” My intention here is to have us see how physically far away Jesus was from the disciples when they found themselves in trouble and how they probably thought Jesus was unaware of their plight. Surely, they must have felt alone and without hope—just as we sometimes feel today. Yet . . . Jesus knew! There is never a distance so great that we are separated from the Lord when we are His children.
These stories reveal to us quite a few things:
God has great compassion for every child of His.
There is nothing He cannot do.
We need quantities of time alone with God: to ponder what He has done for us, to give Him more than a nod of thank you, and to be strengthened for future trials.
Time alone with God should be a priority, as it was with Jesus.
We should not rush our alone time with God, but rather, linger as long as we can.
God is never skimpy with His love. When His answers come, we can count on added blessing.
No one is overlooked with God. He has no partiality with stations in life as man does.
We are not to waste what God has given. Our leftover fish and bread may be in sharing the struggles of our life and how God saw us through. Never fail to share how God provides.
We are never alone; He always knows where we are and will come to us at just the right time.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. — Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)
At 10:30 each Tuesday morning, women gather in Room 144 of our church. We come happy, grateful, and expectant. We arrive for one purpose and one purpose only: for intercessory prayer.
For the most part, we are members of First Assembly Memphis. But there is a sprinkling of ladies from other churches who are just as faithful to Tuesday morning prayer time. We are a diverse group, yet beautifully united in our commitment to intercessory prayer each week. We love the Lord and believe He is a miracle-working God, eager to hear our prayers.
Always before we pray, we worship through music our leader, Kathy Cobb, has prayerfully selected for the morning. It is a drawing music, one that ushers us into the presence of the Holy Spirit. We still our minds and let the music wash over us, preparing us for prayer. We sit, stand, or kneel; it happens however each one is personally led to embrace these preparation moments for spending time with our King. We have checked our pride and reserve at the door. We have come to worship, to pray, and to believe.
Up until a year or so ago, we prayed for an hour. Then, as our group grew, so did our prayer time. Now it is 90 minutes or longer. We leave when we feel we have covered every need brought to us. Always, we pray for our nation and its leaders. We pray for Israel. We pray for schools, both our church school and others in the area. We pray for family needs, financial needs, job concerns, and for those who need healing. Many times, people come to us especially to be prayed over for healing. Whatever the need, we are there to pray. We have a basket where some write their requests rather than speak them and at the close of our gathering, we pray over the basket.
So much happens in our church’s designated room for prayer: Scripture is read. We sing to the Lord. We share praise reports. Every attempt is made to control lengthy talks and keep the focus solely on worship and prayer.
Kathy Cobb, our prayer leader, center. Gail Spiller, original member of the prayer group on right. I am on the left. What a privilege to be a part of this group of believing women.
The Hour of Power prayer group welcomes all who need prayer or wishes to join us as an intercessor. We realize some are not comfortable praying aloud and that is not a prerequisite. Just come and agree with us by your presence and your love for the Lord. Being in a disposition of prayer is the only requirement we have for anyone’s presence. We invite you to enter in.