Archive for the ‘prayer’ Category

Prayer why?   Leave a comment

I know, in our culture praying is often presented as an excuse to not take any action.

But that’s not what we see in the bible. Over and over, people call on God. That’s prayer. The Bible is full of prayer itself, in the Psalms and quoted elsewhere, and in the New Testament, we get a plethora of encouragement to pray. And of course, as you probably already know, even Jesus prayed. He’d get away to pray, and when he was facing his final hours, he cried out to God for mercy and for some other way. That’s prayer.

So it follows that there is not only a reason to pray (maybe opening our hearts more to God and being led by him) but there is a purpose.

Sometimes we’ll see the answers. And sometimes we won’t. So often we won’t know the purpose. But what we do know is that God wants us to talk to him, tell him everything, thank him for what he’s done, and ask him humbly to take action where only he can take the action. The amazing thing about all this that follows logically is that our prayers are part of what God is doing. We don’t know why or how that could possibly be the case, since it’s not like he needs us to accomplish his perfect and loving will, but he asks us, encourages us, even commands us to pray and work with him. Pray without ceasing, as we go about life. All of this means, he’s hearing and responding to our prayers, and they–make–a–difference.

Our prayers are part of the plan. They do good when we can see the outcomes, and even more when we can’t. We can’t know exactly what part of the plan they are, how we are praying with the Holy Spirit and in alignment with God’s will, but the panoramic view of history says we’re part of God’s plan.

Of course, I’m not advocating inaction for needs you see that God calls you to step up and answer. Not at all.

I’m just saying: don’t underestimate what your prayer is doing. From what I can see, it appears it is the foundation upon which God’s work in us and in the world rides. “If you remain in me, and I remain in you, you will bear much fruit, for you can do nothing without me.”

Posted January 10, 2021 by swanatbagend in prayer, waiting

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The Problem with Answered Prayer   Leave a comment

The problem with answered prayer is that it raises more questions.

That is one reason why it is difficult to keep asking for things, while at the same time I’m glad to receive the kindness of God’s hand.  But I don’t know how to answer the questions.

I hesitate to even bring the pain up.

I don’t feel that I have the right to broach this subject, as it jabs relentlessly at the agony of unanswered prayers and the losses that have no explanation.  I don’t have the right.  I’m too small, I don’t know the answers, and I haven’t suffered the cruel losses that others have suffered.

But these are my questions.

Why does God answer small prayers that don’t appear to have any great significance in the universal scheme of things?  But he does.

Why would God bother to answer prayers like this when there are many larger issues that need prayer and that presumably we want his attention drawn to?

What happens to my worldview when important prayers don’t get answered?  obviously I know every prayer for finding a lost item or passing a class is not going to get answered, but what about the big prayers that really need to get answered?

Is a non-essential prayer getting answered rubbing dirt in the faces of those whose prayers haven’t yet been answered?

What do I do with a situation that is horrible, evil, tragic, the ones in which we wonder why God allowed it in the first place?

I have to come to terms with these questions if I am going to confidently claim that God answers prayer.

But how can I do that?  I’m finite.

And I think that is why in some ways it is easier to just not ask, to assume that we are not supposed to be asking.

If I stay quiet and only pray some general “bless you and keep you”, if I just back off and don’t actually ask God for anything, then I don’t have to wrestle with these intolerable questions, the ones that are very difficult to just sit there and contemplate.

If I go ahead and ask, and it doesn’t happen, and if other people’s things don’t happen–I know that everything one person wants isn’t going to happen.  All I have to do is look around to see that is true, in my life and other people’s lives, and in the world at large.  When obstacles exist that stop our wishes, that’s because we all have choices.  We have the choices to love God or not; he doesn’t force us, because then it wouldn’t be love.

And yet, God invites us to partner with him in prayer; somehow we’re a part of what He’s doing.  He wants us to be interceding, intervening for others for all matters that are important to us.


Posted June 13, 2020 by swanatbagend in prayer

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Fearless   Leave a comment

After approximately 30 hours driving a minivan fully loaded with the belongs of six adult sized people, pulling an also fully loaded pop-up camper on our trip across the country to California, I felt pretty confident.

In a lovely series of clichés, it had been a marathon whirlwind insane time.   We had loaded up for the trip, immediately following birthday season at our house, plus starting school, plus daughter starting some college classes, plus younger son spraining ankle, and then we had successfully driven all the way to the Pacific ocean and almost back.  We had left behind older son to go to grad school, which was the motivating factor for this odyssey.

And it had all happened.

Despite all the stress and insanity, there had been joy, and no one had been killed or even injured.  I had even become accustomed to the logistics of driving with the pop-up, although it wasn’t something I had enjoyed in the past.

I had been hoping I’d find one of my current favorite songs on the radio.  I hadn’t been able to download it to my MP3 player before we left.  As we were sailing through Kansas I finally found it.

Am I good enough? Do I measure up?  Seems like a war I can’t win.  But I wasn’t given the spirit of fear, I was given the power of love.  Everything I’ve been fighting against I’m gonna lift it up.  I wanna be Fearless.  No holding back no backing down.  Fearless, because I believe you’re with me now.

Bring on the unknown.

Lead me and I’ll go.

Come set me free, God, I want to be–fearless.


I am tired of being a fearful person, and this particular song came to my attention around the same time my youngest successfully completed participation in an outside activity, which for many years was something that wasn’t possible.  I want to choose confidence and trust, even though it is not my natural tendency to be fearless.  It never has been.  I am easily distressed and worried about a hundred different things.


We’re flying home down I-70 and I am rejoicing over our survival so far.

Flying across Kansas was Friday.  Monday at 8:30 I’m home, frying bacon and pancakes, sorting through mounds of bedding and laundry and sorting through the pile of things in my mind, when my husband calls and says, “I just got laid off.”

From a good job.  One he’s had for years and loved.  One we thought would not stop until he wanted it to.  And the money and the medical coverage will last just eleven more days.

My heart is beating a million miles an hour as I sit there on my bed and listen.

When he hangs up, I go back to the kitchen and fry more pancakes.  I sort the laundry.  I do the next thing.

And I remember.  I remember what I had just sung, what I had just said, what I had just decided to do.  How could it be I would be called upon so soon to apply what I had just chosen to do and asked to be?

The only logical thing to do was to just do it.  So, every time I felt afraid, when I wondered how to make things work, when I feared we would have to move and leave our connections and move all six members of our family to a different place, I just said, “God, you’ve got to take care of this.  I know you will.  We’ll go with what you provide.”

This process of turning back to God every time I worry has been amazing.  He’s made me different this time.



And thanks to Jasmine Murray for her song.


Posted November 27, 2017 by swanatbagend in prayer, transitions

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On the Other Side of the Equation   1 comment

Have you read about George Müller?  He’s the one who ran an orphanage but never solicited funds or food or clothes from the public.  He just kept running it and praying for provision.  His prayers were answered to the point that when there was no food in the building and they prayed for their need, the baker’s wagon broke down in front of the orphanage and he came to do the door and offered all the bread in the wagon for the children as he had to get rid of it in order to get the wagon towed and fixed.

I’ve often wondered what it was like to be the person on the other end of the prayers Muller was praying.

I think I just found out.

Some people we know went to another country a few years ago as missionaries.  We don’t contribute, but we do get their prayer newsletter.

They have small children so haven’t had to deal with education in the past, but now their oldest is ready for some school, so they had ordered homeschooling curriculum.  Unfortunately it got stuck in customs somehow due to not being labeled correctly, and they would have to fill out a lot of paperwork to straighten out the mess, plus pay many fees.

They were already over a month behind their planned start time for school and to make matters worse, the order also contained a friend’s materials as well.

They didn’t ask for help, just prayer, but I was almost attacked by a desire to help.  I’m a homeschooler and I can’t imagine having to wait that long for materials.  So I offered to pay for the fees to get the boxes of books out of customs.

She didn’t know what the total amount of fees would be yet, but I did not want to wait until they did know, because I didn’t want them to have to wait for a reimbursement, so I told her I’d just go ahead and make the donation.

I asked God to give me an amount that would cover it all.  And a certain figure appeared in my head, I sent it off, and yesterday I found out it covered it all with a bit to spare.

I could say that I just felt sorry for them because as a homeschooler and a parent, I could imagine the situation they were in.  And I did, because they’d had a really rotten week when they shared this particular situation.

But this time I think it went further.

It’s pretty wild being on the responding end of a prayer.

Posted June 15, 2016 by swanatbagend in prayer

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I Asked the Lord   Leave a comment

Seems like the answers to what you need come in a way you don’t expect.

The past 10 months have been a season of physical weakness, which for me invariably leads to emotional and mental challenges.  Honestly, I don’t know if I should call them challenges.  It hasn’t been horrible; it’s just been an ongoing small simmering fog of not feeling as up to my regular routine as usual.

Anyway, the text of one of the songs from a Christmas gift CD has addressed a question of the heart.  It’s by John Newton, the same who wrote Amazing Grace.

I asked the Lord that I might grow in faith and love and every grace

Might more of his salvation know And seek more earnestly his face

And you know, I have asked that.  Sometimes, when I’m really feeling great, I really mean it, I really do want it, and I have asked that.  I don’t want to be halfway; I want to be serious about my faith.  But here’s what happens.  I assume that the answer to this prayer and the others I’ve prayed for healing or freedom from sin will be immediate, instantaneous and complete.  It’s like when I’m at a good spot in life, I can’t imagine things being bad again.  My mind just doesn’t even go there.  My current emotional status is reality; nothing will change.

Of course, that’s not true.

My mood always changes; the only thing that’s constant there is change itself.  So as when I’m in a solid spot and think that this is what life really is, and how it is going to stay, I assume my straightforward prayer for deliverance will be answered straightforwardly, and in the way I think it should be.

I hoped that in some favored hour At once He’d answer my request

And by His love’s constraining power Subdue my sins and give me rest

I don’t know about you but I definitely have felt at times that the more I try to get myself and my life in order, the harder it is to do.  It seems that he “crosses the fair designs we scheme.”

These inward trials I employ From self and pride to set thee free

And break thy schemes of earthly joy That thou mayest seek thy all in me.

It’s not that we aren’t given gifts of earthly joy; it’s not that they are all removed.  Nope, there are many.  But when I hit the chronic struggles, I see that it is in this way the prayer gets answered.  This way, I’m always seeking him.

And that is the goal.

Is it cruel for him to foil our plans, and to not just fix our problems outright?

No.  It isn’t.

Life is full of challenges and suffering for every person.  In this world it cannot be avoided.  How much better to know that it orchestrates and guides our path closer to the one who knows us and loves us in a way which can never change.

And how alone I’d be, ultimately, if I didn’t ever struggle.  I’d think I could handle life by myself.  Wouldn’t you?


Posted February 15, 2016 by swanatbagend in prayer

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A Tale of Dried Cranberries   Leave a comment

Last summer, our family had the opportunity to go camping in Colorado in conjunction with a celebration near Breckenridge in honor of my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary.  That was a great celebration and both fun and amusing having fourteen very different people sharing one house and one (albeit large) kitchen.
So after several days of festivities with extended family, we set out again, for another week of sightseeing and camping.  Among our destinations was Rocky Mountain National Park.  The kids had never been there, and I would guess it had been almost twenty years since my husband and I had visited.  We had fond memories so were glad to go back.
On my birthday, we picked a hike in the Moraine Park Basin that looked do-able and would be enjoyable for all four of us.  It led along a creek, through woods and an amazing boulder field.  All went well, and when we reached our destination, The Pool, we all felt like that hadn’t taken long at all.  We ate lunch while listening to the roar of the circling waters of the Pool under the bridge we had just crossed.
Afterwards, I suggested that we go on and try to make it to the waterfall further up.  So far the trail had been basically level.  I felt great, despite not being in the best of health in general, but no altitude sickness or anything.  Everyone agreed and we started up the trail.
It was a lovely hike, through a burnt area with shocking pink fireweed, overlooking a rapidly tumbling creek below.  But, of course, after a while, it certainly seemed that we ought to have reached the falls by now.
My husband and son finally decided they definitely wanted to turn around, but I was determined to make the falls, which some hikers we asked said were really not that much farther.  I was just hot, tired and sweaty, so what of that?
Unfortunately, something about that last tenth of a mile did not agree with my entire body, and while we were sitting admiring the wonderful view of the waterfall, I started feeling light-headed and spacey.
I rested and drank water.  My daughter and I started back down.  Some nice gentleman offered me some of his water.  Now that I think of it, I must have looked like I needed a drink, but I didn’t want to take water from someone who was still going uphill, so I didn’t accept any.
My intention was to return to where the guys were sitting and get something to eat from the pack.  However, when the girl and I got back to that rock — they weren’t there.  Apparently they had done what we had agreed they might do and started back down; we’d catch up.
So now I had to manage without what was in the pack until I caught up.
We rested, I breathed deep.  I wasn’t really dizzy.  I just felt really weird.
If I could just have taken my next dose of medication, which was of course in the back-pack, I knew that would help.  Or a potato chip might help.
Honestly, though, chocolate was what I really wanted!  But I hadn’t brought any.
We continued down the trail.  As I kept feeling waves of weird, I put one foot in front of the next, was thankful my daughter was with me, and glad it was downhill at this point.
I prayed, “Lord, please get me off this mountain.”  This prayer was completely sincere.  I was concerned that if I fainted we’d be looking at ranger evacuation by helicopter or something crazy — and I really did not want to put my family through that, nor spend my birthday that way.
We finally caught up with the backpack and the medication.  I had my next dose, and had some potato chips thinking that carbs would help.  But I still really wished I had candy, chocolate, something with sugar in it (note to self: always take candy on hikes).
We took a rest back at the Pool, where we had lunch, and I ate a few more bites, and told my husband I needed to sit for a few minutes.  I didn’t tell him how badly I actually felt.  After a bit I felt I could go on, still wishing I had chocolate.
Imagine my amazement when I saw something I had never seen before on a trail: a spot of bright, cheerful, cranberry red.
It was a dried cranberry on the path.  I stopped and picked it up.  If it had been chocolate, or if there was any chocolate on the trail, I wouldn’t have been able to spot it in the dirt.  I brushed it off, and put it in my mouth.  My daughter chimed in, “Mom, don’t you know you shouldn’t eat things you find on the ground?”
I laughed and said, “Ah but this is an emergency.”
That cranberry tasted awfully good.  I thought to myself, what are the odds that there are any more?  Not too good I thought, but I kept looking as we hiked back toward the van.
There were two more.
By the time I swallowed the third one, I kid you not, I was feeling better.
You know how much sugar there is in those dried cranberries? Like 24 grams per 4 tablespoons. It was just what I needed, and there it was, waiting for me.

Posted February 6, 2016 by swanatbagend in prayer

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Asking the Impossible?   1 comment

I’ve been trying to be more specific when praying.  In general I tend to be too general, and that makes it harder to see if anything got answered.

I also know that I tend to be too focused on my needs and those of the people I’m around.  I know I need to be looking for the Big Picture and be praying for the issues that affect the nation and the world.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t pray hard enough for the huge stuff, but I’m working on that.

I do know that asking for specific things, while doing my best to wait with open hands for whatever comes, has been a refreshing new direction.  Assuming that God is involved and active and living that way is a good change.  I have seen some wonky and weird little things come to pass during this process that I did not expect.

Seeing specific prayers get answered also leads to bigger questions, and I will be working through those in a future post.

For now, the story.

My son attends university and is pursuing an entomology degree.  He’s amazing with bugs and many other little critters like them.  He wants to do research and look for new bugs.  We’d like to see him do this also.

But first, since he is in the sciences, he is required to take a hearty dose of math and science courses, including calculus, statistics and multiple sections of chemistry that come with extensive labs and are worth large amounts of credit hours.  I was an English major and never took a course worth more than three credit hours.  But these chemistry courses are both incredibly difficult and a huge chunk of any semester a student takes.

So hard as they are, what would be even more difficult would be having to retake them.  Five more credit hours.  Difficult and beyond tedious.

Last fall our son was in his second semester of chemistry and midway through made an alarming grade on a midterm.  He conferred with the professor, and found that yes, in order to pass the class, his remaining exams would have to be good, not just average.  This was an understandably daunting goal to achieve in the midst of other course work and outside responsibilities, and with difficulty finding a tutor who was regularly available.

However, as per my policy of praying specifically for things, because of “him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” I regularly prayed that our son would pass the class.  I prayed that if it were truly not best for him to pass, and if he really did not comprehend enough of the material to move on, that he would be able to retake the course without too much hassle and really benefit from the time spent.  But–all things being equal I spent more of the time on this topic praying that he would pass.

I felt fairly confident that he did understand the majority of the material, and I decided to pray that the format of the remaining tests, particularly the final on which he obviously needed to do well since it’s a large part of the course grade, would be different in a way that was better for him.

It’s really kind of a stupid prayer, because we knew that the odds were not good that he would pass, and he told me there was no point to keep praying.  And why on earth would the professor change the test format?

When I arrived to collect him for Christmas break, however, one of the first things out of his mouth was, “There’s a chance I may pass chemistry.”

A few days later, I heard him make a funny noise in the other room that was not him about to be sick (my initial reaction), but a huge sigh of relief when he did more than pass the class he had been so concerned about.

Further details were that the chemistry department had jointly decided this year, for the first time, to replace tests compiled by each individual instructor with an industry standard test for all students in all sections of the course.  This would presumably make final grades among the different sections of the course more fair for all students.  The test was put together by the American Chemical Society (I think) and if they don’t know what they’re doing as far as a chemistry exam, who does?

Regardless, my son did much better on the final than he had expected to, and this is a part of the reason why he passed the class, when it had looked impossible.

Why does God answer prayers like this?

I don’t know why, but He did.


Posted January 16, 2016 by swanatbagend in prayer

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Heart or Help?   2 comments

I used to pray “Dear God, please help me to be patient with my children today even though I’m really tired and feeling depressed” or

“Dear God, help me to get to the end of this to-do list I’ve got to get through”

or “Dear God, help me not to be afraid of this event coming up” or

“Dear God, please help me to reach out to the people around me who need your help.”

I don’t pray that way any more–or, at least, when I find myself doing it again, I stop and do a quick eval to determine if that is really the most effective way of praying about a problem.  Sometimes it is, because don’t get me wrong, obviously what I need, and a lot of the time, is help with a capital H.

However, the problem with asking God to help me was the burden was still on my shoulders even when I was done praying.

If God was helping me, I still had to do the work, it still felt impossible sometimes, I was still in charge of the plan, I was still stewing about the subject.

I finally realized I needed to go far, far beyond asking God to help me.

I don’t need help.  I don’t even need Help, really.  I need Transformation.  (Or would that be TRANSFORMATION!!?–as Manny the mantis chants in one of my favorite movies, A Bug’s Life.)

So now I ask, “God, please drive this fear out” or “God, give me your strength.”

Or most powerful of all, “God, give me your heart for my children.”  Or for the person I’m thinking of, or the people who are frustrating me.

I have found in the short time since I started praying this way that much to my surprise, prayers like this get answered.  I guess it takes the burden off of me and puts it on the one with the power to really get it done?  I guess, maybe, I can’t pull lovey feelings out of a hat?  I don’t know.  I don’t have it, but that is OK, because God is the one with the heart vastly bigger than the universe and all unknown universes.  And when I ask to be made like him, he answers.

Posted October 1, 2015 by swanatbagend in prayer

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