(Reading List Theme 1.4)

Prayer is communication with God. This communication goes beyond the words we say, to the motivations of our hearts, and the kind of lives we live. Being joyful, considerate of others, prayerful instead of distressful, simple instead of complicated, fixing our minds on what is true, honorable, and right, pure, lovely, and admirable, excellent and worthy of praise. Then we will have peace. Sounds simple, right? Just run through the list, and *poof* – all my cares blow away like a pile of dry leaves in the autumn breeze.

Maybe not.

This is a good time for me to be reading this passage, because last night I was more surrendered to the worrisome questions around me than the peaceful Holy Spirit within me. I think my prayers sometimes reflect more a tornado than a peaceful breeze. Instead of watching my cares be taken away by the Spirit, I watch them cycle around and around me, causing havoc and destruction on the territory of my heart. “What about this? What about that? How long do I have to do this? Should I be doing that instead? Will this dream ever be fulfilled? What if you have a different dream? I love this part of my life… but it also frustrates me, and I feel guilty for it. Should I surrender to this situation, or do you want me to fight it? Where should I go? How come so-and-so gets this, when I only get that? I know this is working now, but what about later? How do I get ready for later? What am I missing? I am unhappy. I shouldn’t be depressed; I should be filled with joy…now I feel guilty again…”

It’s exhausting just to write it. Why did I do that for a few hours yesterday?

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for what he has done.” Simple, not complicated.

**God, I need to be a good mom and wife. Please help me to be patient, loving, attentive, firm when needed, compassionate when needed, and know when to draw the line. Thank you for the amazing gift of my family. I would not trade them for anything in the world.

**Lord, we need to provide for our family. Help me to be content, as Paul was, in every situation, whether with plenty or with want. Help me to sort out my wants from my needs, and surrender the wants, to focus on the needs without anxiety. Thank you for the way you have provided jobs, and the space to live with my parents for a season. Thank you that you will provide greater income when the need arises, and when it is your timing for us to move out. Thank you for always providing for us. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for providing our daily bread. I would like to know where our bread will come from in the future, but thank you that your grace is sufficient, and that I can do all things through you who gives me strength… I can even surrender the certainty of the future.

**Lord, I need to stay focused on what is important. Help me to hear you, be led by you, and prioritize appropriately. Thank you for showing me how to live, when I take the time to listen instead of just talk. Thank you for being the center of the tornado, the eye, the calm spot where I can find peace amidst the tumult around me.

Ah that feels much better. Maybe it IS that simple. Maybe prayer is not about receiving all the answers, and learning what is down the road, but finding peace for the journey. Finding joy, the ability to be thankful, and the awareness that I BELONG to Christ Jesus (1 Thess 5:18).  The fact is, I don’t know the future. I may have a sense of God’s leading, his personal promises, and the dreams I feel he has put in my heart, but I don’t know what will happen. I can pray for what I want, but I won’t always get it. Sometimes God has something better for me, that I’ve never considered. Sometimes what I think I want is not what I need, or even what I really want. In everything on my list, I won’t always get a “Yes” from God. But when I pray according to HIS WILL, I will get a “yes!”

I need peace. God says, “Yes, I can give you that.” I need to have my character shaped. God is eager to help with that. I have physical needs. God will meet those needs in his own way, though it may not be the way (or when) I would choose. God says yes all day long, when I ask according to his will.

My mom is leading a Bible Study on thankfulness at our church, based on Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. In the video for the small group study, the author says, “Every time I surrender to stress and worry, aren’t I advertising the unreliability of God? That I really don’t believe?”

Yikes! I think she is right. If I BELIEVE God is the eye, the peace in the storm, the center of my heart, and I KNOW this to be true based on his great faithfulness over the years (both to me and to those in the Bible)… then why do I surrender to worry? I probably realistically can’t avoid worry, but I should not surrender to it when I feel it rising. The only way to re-center myself on God is to thank and praise him, to get my eyes back on him and not on the unknowns in my life, or my feelings of fear, failure, and frustration. “Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil 4:9)