“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
It takes courage to hear God speak: we are afraid of God.
It takes courage to go where God sends: we are afraid of the unknown.
It takes courage to do what God says: we are afraid of failure.
It takes courage to be a Joshua generation expanding the kingdom of God on earth. But why not here? Why not now? Why not us? It just takes courage.
Today is our first post in a new weekly addition to our blog! We’re going to share the lesson in our children’s ministry. Check back every week to see what the kids at St. Paul’s have been learning during Seedlings!
This week, Jeff and I taught the kids about what happens when we pray and ask God for good things in our lives. To illustrate, I told them a little story about a girl who liked to play dress up with her friend. She liked dressing up as a princess/queen, and had all the accoutrements, but was missing one thing: rings! So she asked her mom and dad (who love her very much), for rings for her birthday.
At this point, I took out some wrapped gifts and handed them to the kids and asked them what they thought was inside. Everyone said: “Rings!” So they were a little taken aback when they opened the presents and instead found rubber bugs. After remarking how this was kind of weird, I said: “That’s a joke; here’s the real present.” And they opened the real gifts, and found the rings.
I explained that when we pray to God, it is like when we ask our parents for good things. We read Matthew 7:9-11, and talked about how when we ask our parents for good things, they give us good things, so that’s what God does for us. It would not make sense, for instance, if we asked our parents for food, and they then gave us a rock or a snake to eat. God gives us good gifts because he loves us, even more than our parents love us.
Then, we went through our prayer journals and wrote down 3 things we are thankful for, and 3 requests, and then we prayed as a group.
Here’s what I write in my Journal:
“Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I am thanking God for… [here I write down in list form at least three things]
“Cast all your anxiety unto him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
I am asking God for… [here I write down in a list form at least three things]
I use my prayer journal to thank God for what He has done and ask God to do something He hasn’t yet done. This helps me keep frustration and worry at bay. And I have found that the simple practice of writing prayers down has helped me tremendously.
Congratulations! You’re on the prayer team. Sunday we kicked off a six month prayer strategy to transition the church and transform the people. We handed out prayer journals to everyone. And we’ll be carving out time in every service and every small group to use them. So let’s see what God can do in our lives and in the life of our church!
From Emma Liddle
From our church’s prayer for leadership:
Jesus, I invite you to do as you please here in my life for you have my best interests at heart.
Keep, change, add, prune: Lead me Lord Jesus.
On Sunday, when Vince had us all stand up and read aloud the prayer of leadership for our church and for ourselves, I did it, but I felt a little bit uncomfortable. Mainly, I was uncomfortable with the whole: “God, you have my best interests in mind, and I give myself over to you to change, add, or remove the things you need to take care of.”
That prayer is full of big implications, mainly because God isn’t a vending machine full of candy; when I say: “God, I submit to your leadership; you want what’s best for me,” I’ve found that what happens next usually is upsetting or disruptive to my life. I’ve started to think that what God wants, and what is best for me in my life, and what I am comfortable with, what I think is best for my life, and what I want are not really one and the same. When I say: “God, you have my best interests, and you want to give me what’s best,” that may involve some pain, uncertainty, discomfort. In fact, in the past five years or so, I’d say that is exactly what has happened to me. A lot of cutting, some adding, a lot of hurt.
This isn’t to say that what God wants isn’t for my best interest. But for a lot of my more recent experiences, it’s been about instability, vulnerability, uncertainty. And I know a lot of other people who are in the same boat: they’re following God, they’re submitting to Him, but as a result, they’re experiencing a lot of hardships.
Because when you submit to God’s leadership, you make yourself vulnerable to change and possibility.
I think a pretty good analogy for this would be the ways dogs submit. In my experience, for the many different dogs I’ve owned (and even a few cats), the way they show they are in complete submission to me is by rolling over onto their backs and showing their bellies. My dog Dori does this often in the mornings, almost like a greeting, wagging her tail a little bit.
But when a dog does this, it’s taking a chance. It’s expressing loyalty and affection, but this is a very vulnerable position for it to be in. But there is a pay off: belly rubs from the owner (hopefully).
This interaction between God and us is probably a bit more complicated, unfortunately. You may find yourself in a submissive posture for a long time without the pay off. And that sucks. It is not fun to struggle, or suffer, or wait.
But here’s the flip slide: unless the dog is laying on its back in submission, it can’t get those belly rubs. It must submit first to the owner to get that pay off.
So we need to trust that our submission to God is not only a good thing to do, but a necessary thing to partake in the good things God has in store for us. We acknowledge that God’s vision for our lives is bigger than us and our vision, and we submit ourselves to Him, even if this means some vulnerability and discomfort as God makes the changes necessary for us to get there.
And we lift our prayers and submit to God:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.