Labor in Prayer

While I shared on my last post how I ceased praying for one whole night, today nothing will stop me from writing about prayer and its power in our lives. Ceasing to pray doesn’t necessarily mean we have become unbelieving. It may just mean keeping quiet to listen and be guided and instructed by the Divine. Or for our souls to be renewed and refilled with fresh dose of prayerfulness, stronger and more purposeful than ever before.

I made this quick dabble before midnight but I love how it turned out, do you think so, too?

I made this quick dabble before midnight but I love how it turned out, do you think so, too?

Truth is, we cannot live without prayer for a long time. For me, prayer is the sturdy thread that knits every moment of everyday making it into one whole beautiful tapestry. Prayer prevents the unraveling of this tapestry even when there’s pain. It’s like a cement that binds sand and gravel together to build a strong foundation. Prayer reminds me of my position before God: low and humble and on bended knees.

Prayer repairs my relationship with God when there has been a breach. It reinstalls me into His love and grace. Prayer is a refuge when fear tries to capture my heart. It is what strengthens and steadies my heart. Praying is living in deep faith in God, knowing and believing that He hears every prayer, whether long or short, calm or desperate, loud or silent.

For me, to pray is to live and to live well.

I do not pray for the sake of fulfilling a necessary task, of just uttering sentences because I need to. I pray because I am in need. And because of this need – need to be delivered, healed, helped, protected, blessed – I pray with purpose. I pray believing that God is listening and He is going to do something. That He is going to act on my behalf and act mightily. I pray without wasting a word. I do not pray idly.

Because I believe in a God that is almighty, all-powerful, miracle-working God who promises great and mighty things and moves mountains, shakes the earth, puts a thousand to flight, calms the storm, heals the sick, and raises up the dead – I pray with these in mind. I pray, telling Him that I know what He can do (and He can do all things!) and what He has promised and nothing is impossible for Him.

Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. (Jer. 33:3)

To pray in faith with confidence and power, it is expedient to know the nature and character of God and we can only do that through His Word. It’s important to know the One we’re entrusting our lives to. If we know and believe that he is trustworthy and faithful to His promises, we will pray in full faith without a shadow of doubt.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Heb. 11:6)

My daughter Hannah’s fingernails had been breaking at the roots and peeling for a few months. It’s not normal. She had to wrap each finger with Band-Aid so as to avoid the peeling nails from being touched (because it was painful) and to protect the new, tender nails that were growing. I talked to her and reminded her that she might not be doing God’s will or she might have shortcomings.

When the nail of her big toe began to peel also, I was greatly alarmed. One day, she bumped the peeling nail on the edge of the bed, it bled and she writhed in pain. It was then that I called her to a serious prayer. Before I prayed, I told her not to feel fidgety if she thought my prayer was long. I told her that when I pray in the Spirit, I wait for His intercession, for that point in agonizing prayer where He directs the words and I would know that I had been heard.

So, I prayed over my daughter. I presented all the details. At some point, I prayed à la Hezekiah, begging Him to remember how Hannah has been serving Him faithfully from Children’s Choir and now in Youth Choir. Fat tears clung to my chin then fell into my lap. I prayed not only with words but with tears. I labored in prayer and I knew I had been heard.

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Rom. 8:26)

The Lord Jesus healed Hannah’s fingernails and her big toenail is now also healing well. Hallelujah!

I am not a naturally calm, fearless, anxiety-free person. In fact, I’m quite the opposite. I get worried (a lot!), nervous and very anxious it’s punishing. Ever since I had this illness, I would also experience anxiety and panic attacks. I get so nervous that my heart beats so fast and it’s hard to breathe. My hands and feet become so cold and clammy. It’s cruel. These happen when I get worried about something, like when my husband travels abroad or I can’t contact a child when he or she is away from home. I guess this is because I am ill and weak and can’t do anything, being homebound.

Last week, Tim went to a 2-day leadership camp outside of Metro Manila. No parents allowed. I wanted him to experience camp without his dad for the very first time so I had to forsake my fears. (Actually, he left me no room to “think about it”. He was so fired up in going that he would have disowned me had I tried to talk him out of it 😀 ).

A week before his camp, I prayed everyday for his protection and for me to not get worried or anxious. Very detailed prayers, fervent, and purposeful. I labored in prayer for both of us, days before, during travel, whole-day activities, night activities, and travel back. I drenched him in prayer that I was sure heaven was deafened and I was heard.

Laboring in prayer makes me strong and confident in God. It holds fears and worries at bay. Tim came back home tanned and bouncing with joy and stories! Praise God!

I have also developed the habit of praying even when in the middle of doing something whenever inspiration strikes or when the Holy Spirt compels me and I can’t wait for that quiet time when chores cease. Putting on wool socks to warm my cold feet, doing my toiletries, eating, having tea, fixing my night table. Believe it or not, I can carry on a prayer even when talking to somebody! It’s praying without ceasing.

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The Beauty of Obedience

I am in awe of the faithfulness of the Lord through His Spirit that He has given us. He speaks to us through His abiding Spirit, even of the minutest detail of our lives. That is, if we are constantly attuned to His Spirit’s whisperings. If we foster an unbroken fellowship with Him and are continually connected with Him through worship, prayers, His Word, and a keen awareness of His hovering presence, we will see the radiance of His light ever guiding us. And it is beautiful. His whisperings of reminders and teachings to obey Him in all aspects of life will be a source of joy. And our obedience itself will not be a burden but a delight to us. But most of all, to Him.


Obedience in the Little Things

These are the things that happen in our hearts and minds and are almost indiscernible to other people. These are little decisions that we make deep inside us even before they are manifested outwardly. And although we may think them as simple and small, they mean a lot to our Savior. That’s why the Holy Spirit whispers to our hearts about them. These are decisions we make moment by moment, like:

Not criticizing and judging others in our hearts.

Not comparing ourselves with others and harboring a teeny weeny bit of pride.

Telling the truth as it is without exaggeration or flattery.

Keeping quiet when our silence is needed.

Not talking too much  for In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise (Prov. 10:19).

Being careful in choosing our words that they may minister to the hearers.

Choosing to encourage rather than crush a person’s spirit.

Choosing to be gentle, patient, and kind when provoked.

Not gossiping or talking about other people in a negative way (or if we don’t feel a genuine concern for the other person’s improvement or development).

Being grateful instead of complaining and grumbling.

The list above proves that God is concerned even in our most private thoughts and emotions, what compels us to think, speak, and act as we do. His sole purpose is our total sanctification. Therefore, we cannot ignore the voice of the Spirit that speaks within us.

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:15-16)

If we walk in the Spirit, being aware of His constant nearness, day by day, moment by moment, our hearts and minds will be attuned to His still, small voice, ever whispering, ever guiding. We obey with gladness and our spirits are buoyed up. Maintaining the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God (1 Pet. 3:4) then becomes a joy and inspiration to us, a gentle peace settling in our souls, as if God’s river of life courses through our very being.

Obedience in the Big Things

This often requires our commitment and sacrifice. Sometimes they could bring pain. But being determined to be victorious in Christ compels us to obey and trust that God will recompense us for it. These things may be:

Not to worry or be anxious but to trust God completely.

Commit our hearts, minds, souls, time, and energy to worship God. To give of ourselves to Him unreservedly.

For us parents to commit our lives in bringing up [our] children in the training and admonition of the Lord (see Eph. 6:4), being consistent to lead and set a good example for them to follow. To not become lax and complacent in our God-given role.

Still, a few other things under this could be:

Obedience in Prayer

There is an enduring beauty in giving of ourselves to true prayer, not the rushed, half-hearted, half-minded kind. Prayer is talking to the King of kings and Lord of lords, the God Almighty. It should involve the highest and complete reverence, awe, and humility. Praying is talking and asking God in full faith, believing without a doubt that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (see Heb. 11:6). If we pray with this knowledge in mind, we will not be blabbering away with vain words that we ourselves think are ineffective.

We will be praying in faith, every word we utter has its own weight, believing that whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight (1 John 3:22).

Growing faint in prayer may happen every now and then. But the Lord has commanded us that [we] ought always to pray, and not to faint (Luke 18:1) and even supported it with a parable to bring this home, leaving us no reason to dwell in that discouraged situation.

In fact, He encourages us to be consistent and to persevere in prayer, even in the face of difficult circumstances that conspire against us. It is a command we need to obey and in our obedience with faith at the forefront, it just cannot be that nothing good will come out of it.

Obedience in Forgiving

For Christians, we cannot afford to harbor unforgiveness for long. We do not want to provoke God’s displeasure towards us and so, we obey His command to forgive others so our heavenly Father will also forgive us. We pray to be able to forgive not only in words, but from the heart. That is hard, that’s why we need to pray for it until it happens. But it doesn’t end there. He also teaches to love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Mat. 5:44).

Love our enemies! Yes, those who have deeply wronged and hurt us. Forgiving them from the heart is one thing, loving them is entirely another! But it is a command we need to obey. How can we love them then, especially when they are not at all repentant? I have written about my own painful and difficult experience of forgiving and loving despite of. You can read it here.

It is more excellent to just humbly obey and surrender everything to Him: our pride, resentments, and hurts. We give it all to Him for He said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” (see Heb. 10:30). Our obedience will bring Him pleasure. He will right the wrong.

Obedience in What Delights God

Sunday is the saddest day of the week for me. Sounds ironic, considering that it is a day to worship the Lord. But because I cannot travel to church, only my family goes and I am always left behind. These six years. There were seasons when I was very sick, yet they had to leave for church because “Seek ye first the kingdom of God…” and all those teachings we honor. And our children sing in the choir.

Since December last year, my son Tim has gone up to the Children’s Choir (from Cherubims Choir). He’s happy there. He loves the new songs he’s learning. On February 14, our Church celebrated its 41st anniversary. It was a huge and very special celebration and worship service. Such occasions usually last until around midnight (starting at before noon). Tim’s supposed to stay at home with me, and in fact, he expressed his fears in going and singing in the expanded Children’s Choir (other outreaches joining, filling up the risers up and down, center, left, and right).

“Mom, what if I get lost in the crowd?” He asked me. He also went to his Dad with the same concern. Our main church holds its worship service in a stadium. I, in particular, didn’t want to accept defeat, although it would have been more peaceful in my heart and mind that he stayed home. But we wanted to be victorious in the Lord. So, we came up with a plan that Tim would not be “lost in the crowd” as he (and I also) had feared.

For the first time, Tim sang in the Children’s Choir on our Church’s anniversary and we were all glad for our family’s victory.

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Faces of the Enemy

Meditating on Psalm 140.

Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men;
Preserve me from violent men,
2 Who plan evil things in their hearts;

Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
Preserve me from violent men,
Who have purposed to make my steps stumble. (vv. 1,2,4)

Often in the Psalms, we read David’s cries for deliverance from his enemies. Being king and warrior, he had accumulated enemies, including one who came from his own loins. We read how he fled from them, how he pleaded God to subdue them for him, and punish them. He’s greatly distressed by them.

We may not be kings and warriors in this present age like David had been, but we never run out of enemies ourselves, including and most of all, our own selves. We did become warriors for the Gospel and God’s kingdom. And I believe that’s equally challenging. The enemy of God comes in many different guises to try to tempt us and make our lives miserable. He could be a neighbor, co-worker, or classmate who spreads lies and nasty rumours about us; a disease that makes us suffer; an affair that shatters a marriage and family. (A dear friend of my daughter had to face the “enemy”, being introduced to the woman and baby half-sister who wrenched her dad away from them. She said it was indescribably painful to the point of you just want to become numb. For a 13-year old to face her enemy like that… It’s beyond words).

I believe the hardest enemy to conquer is oneself. When we wrestle against unforgiveness, envy, bitterness, pride, lusts, disappointment, loss of hope. There are countless ways the enemy of our soul can attack us. That’s why like David, we are to watch unto prayer. He trusted in God in every difficult situation. He made God his strength, defense, a mighty fortress. All through his travails, he bathed his cause with zealous prayers ad supplications. We do have an enemy and he comes in tricky guises. The Lord knew this that’s why He warned the disciples:

“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mat. 26:41)

The Lord in His faithfulness will deliver us from the works of the enemy in our lives. What we need to do is pray unceasingly and with tears that He will crush our enemies: annihilate our diseases, heal our bleeding hearts, lift us up. Let Him take up our cause, fight our battles, defend and hedge us all around. He can and will do all that for us and more.

I know that the Lord will maintain
The cause of the afflicted,
And justice for the poor.
13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks to Your name;
The upright shall dwell in Your presence. (vv. 12,13)

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