Every Day with God

Is Prayer A One-Way Conversation?

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[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen we pray, do we expect God to respond? I don’t always. I certainly didn’t used to.

I grew up in a Christian family. It was pretty normal to pray before dinner, give thanks for my family when I went to bed, that kind of thing. I supposed that sort of normalised praying every day. I can still remember thinking at some point though, ‘Does God ever talk back?’

Prayer is more than just a form of meditation. In the Christian faith, prayer isn’t simply a way to express our thoughts or to gain clarity on our inner being. Christians believe that prayer actually changes things – little, everyday things as well as the big stuff.

When I think about my day-to-day life, the thing that has the most impact is prayer. What do I mean?

I mean that if I pray when I am in my car on the way into work then my day will go better than if I hadn’t. The other day I had a presentation that I had forgotten about until my manager reminded me just after I arrived in the office. I got into the meeting room a few minutes before everyone else and I prayed. I invited the presence of the Lord (God) into that meeting room.

Not only was I then able to put together the presentation slides in almost-record time, but the presentation went remarkably well. I felt inspired to deliver it in a particular way, and to say certain things in it. It turned out that just before I was about to stand up and present, my Managing Director walked in. I didn’t know he was going to be there, but he was! He was impressed by the presentation, how prepared my slides were (!) and the way I delivered it, as well as the passion with which I spoke. Off the back of that presentation my manager was so impressed she gave me more responsibilities within the team. I don’t think that would have happened if I hadn’t prayed beforehand.

I suppose there are two responses to prayer that I see in my own life. I’m gonna call these a response and an answer.

A response would be where there is a conversational response from God. This might be an audible voice or in a vision or a dream. This happens a lot to people in the Bible, but maybe not so much in our lives. Another way could be a Scripture coming into your mind at a particular moment. Jesus said that this was one way that God would communicate to us by the Holy Spirit: He would remind Jesus’ followers of the things He had said. Jesus said that His sheep would hear His voice. If we are His sheep then it makes sense to practice this.

A practical suggestion is to remember to read the Bible. It sounds obvious, but it’s so easy to not do it! In the Bible we are reminded that ‘faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.’ As we build our faith by reading and listening to God’s Word, we become accustomed to hearing His voice.

The other way God responds to prayer is to answer by granting our requests. Sometimes this happens in ways we don’t expect, or at times when we are not looking for it.

I have so many answered prayers in my day-to-day life (at work, at home, when I’m out and about), that it is difficult to remember them all. The main problem I have is to remind myself to give thanks after having a prayer answered.

One other time that prayer was answered in my life was when I was on holiday. Me and my friend had gone for a bike ride on a very hot day, and we had not brought enough water. We were getting towards the top of a very tall hill. I hadn’t even prayed, but my friend had. I had just very much wanted water. When I got to the top of the hill, my friend had gone ahead of me. He was sitting above some steps, and sitting next to him were two, 1.5-litre bottles of water – completely sealed!

God loves answering prayer. Why don’t you pray to Him about the challenges and struggles you are facing today? Maybe you don’t pray. Start. Ask for His help. Thank Him for what He has already done. You will find that your list of things to be thankful for just keeps on growing.

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Every Day with God

The way out of “burnout”

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[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter I finished studying full-time, I got a job. No big surprises there. Lots of people do.

What did surprise me was how tired I got. I guess I thought that I’d worked pretty hard before then. I’d studied pretty well and used to do homework in the evening when I was at school. What hit me when I started work though, was how full-on it was. You didn’t have as many breaks as you did at school. You didn’t finish at 3:30. There were expectations to be met, and those were higher than simply whether or not you’d completed an assignment or revised for an exam. They had real ramifications.

On top of that, I was doing more with church. I was helping to run a small group and was involved in the worship team. There was a lot to balance, and I had no idea how to prioritise it or how I was supposed to cope.

Someone gave me some advice soon after I started working. I had asked how I should balance it all: work, church, family, friends – how do you do it? I had just started working, and I was struggling to keep up. How was I to establish patterns that wouldn’t leave me burning out?

They said that I should never take on anything that wasn’t part of my ‘calling’. Just because something needed to be done (like the washing-up rota for teas and coffees at church) didn’t mean that they should be the ones to do it. There were ways that they could (and should) serve, but those might not necessarily be the ones that people always talked about.

How was I supposed to know what God was ‘calling’ me to do? I would already know, they said.

I realised that there were some things that I had just been doing because they were there, because I had been asked to do them, or out of a sense of obligation. I was tiring myself out doing things that weren’t really mine to be done. They were distracting me from the things that were actually important.

I stepped back from playing music in the worship team at church. I knew that leading worship was something that I didn’t feel peace about doing. I was feeling exhausted after worship practice and it wasn’t helping me on my personal walk with the Lord.

That wouldn’t be the right decision for everyone, but it was for me. It freed me up to serve at church by welcoming people at the door – and I enjoyed that a whole lot more! It was fulfilling, it was ‘me’, it lined up with my gifting, and it didn’t tire me out in the same way that the music had done.

It’s of course really important to understand that some things that you need to do are hard work. You will have responsibilities that you need to meet. Of course you do. Everyone does. But the important thing is to make sure that you are carrying your burden, doing the things that God wants you to do, not taking things that He has lined up for someone else.

Practically, I find that prayer is massively helpful in this process. It puts things into perspective and helps me avoid burning out. Often, I pray for peace about choices ahead of me, and God shows me pretty clearly what is the right thing to do. Other times, I speak to the wise people around me that God has provided me with.

Now, I’d like to say I get that decision right every time. But I don’t. I’m still pretty young, and I’ve got a lot of learning to do, but following God every day is an adventure and it’s one that I wouldn’t trade in for the world.

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Mental Health

Purposeful Perspective

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he times in my life when I have found myself the most depressed and in mental anguish have been when I’ve been drifting without purpose, or feeling like I have failed to achieve a goal that I set myself.

In these times, the best thing I can do is surrender. Surrender is not letting go of your desires, but letting go the belief that you can only be happy once that desire has been fulfilled. I am called to have hopes and dreams and desires, but equally my happiness is not built on things falling into place just where I need them.

My life changed when this became my reality. I look at it this way: I’m not giving away my power of how I live to things that are outside of my control. For example, neither you or I have to kill our desire to get married for example. We can’t just decide that God doesn’t love us and that we cannot be happy until then. Before surrender, I based all of my hope on something external and said, “I will know that God loves me when I find a spouse”, but the problem is that I don’t know when that is going to happen! More than that, if just believe that God wants me to feel unloved until then, I am living in hope deferred — which isn’t the hope God gives us.

For me, it all goes back to “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). It’s easy for me to so often just focus on the “all these other things added to us” bit. We can often forget about the seeking first. That’s the important bit — surrendering to God’s design for this world by seeking him and putting him first brings with it a life brimming with purpose, hope, peace and joy.

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Mental Health

Stepping out of Fear

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“Darling, step onto that plane with courage, believing that you have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and of a sound mind. You might have planned your own journey in life, but He is the One directing your steps.” – My mother

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap] overthink, a lot – not great; but I have improved. My future has always been a ‘big deal’ for me and a couple of years ago I was not sure where I was heading. I had a vague idea – I was in a relationship, I was expecting to go to university and I hoped at some stage to get married. But this relationship ended and with it, all my plans.

I had booked flights to move away from home and embrace this idea of “future”. But as I saw the idea disappear, I was full of doubt. With doubt came overthinking, and with overthinking came an overwhelming fear. I only had 14 days left until I had to jump on that plane, and I had no clue of what to do. “Should I just cancel my flight? And if I go, then what? I haven’t heard back from any university?” I could not sleep at night. Every day till my departure was filled with tears and the emotional pain I was going through seemed greater than any physical pain I had ever felt. I am not going to lie; the pain of heartbreak and the fear of my future was significant enough that thought of ending my life crossed my mind.

I believed there is a God – I knew this to be true even through it all. I believed in Him because I knew there was more to life on this earth and this brought me hope; a hope to live and step out in faith.

The day came, and as I was walking up the airplane steps my mind was just analysing all the possibilities, all things that could go wrong and I found myself AGAIN overthinking, not good – fear crept in. I had to step down and quickly think through things. In that second all I had was my luggage and one hundred pounds; then suddenly, as I remembered what mum had just told me before saying our goodbyes, an unexplainable comfort that could only come from my faith that God was there. That comfort and the hope for the future that came with it helped me get on that plane.

That period of my life was a very daunting time that I hope never to experience again, but looking back on it, I can see God’s grace and hand on my life, and would not change a thing.

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Mental Health

Help Me

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he last few years I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression. I’ve always been the sort of person who keeps my feelings to myself, masking them from everyone — even those closest to me. Recently, however, things got to the point where I couldn’t contain the way I felt. I couldn’t hide it anymore. I couldn’t deal with it myself. I had to seek help and admit that I was struggling…

God. The obvious help right? Yet, he felt distant. In the midst of anxiety and depression people can easily feel distant. My relationship with God was no different. In just the same way that I made a conscious decision to reach out to those around me to ask for help, I had to do the same with God. To draw near to him, to be honest with him, and choose to trust him in faith believing that he is good and loves me.

People. God’s given me wonderful people and I’m so thankful for those that love me. I had a choice to make — do I reach out and be honest and vulnerable with them, or do I put on a mask? I was so reluctant to be honest and vulnerable with people. It was a humbling experience. It was a real challenge at first, but then I realised that God had provided these people as tangible expression of his love towards me. They could wipe away my tears, comfort me, and walk through it all with me – it was like he was right there with me.

Circumstances. These have had a large impact on my depression and anxiety. For me, it was so easy to base my identity on what I could and couldn’t do. I found it really difficult to be unable to do all the things I loved and unable to do the things I felt God had called me to do. However, its been eye opening to see how I have wrongly placed my worth and identity in what I can do as opposed to who I am in God’s eyes. Whether I can take on the world or can’t even get out of bed, I’m learning that my worth and identity is fixed in God, not in how I feel or what I can or cannot do.

My anxiety and depression has taught me so much about my need for a Saviour and God’s goodness and love. Though often hard to understand and difficult to deal with I know that I can always look to him for my help.

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 2 Chronicles 20:12b

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