And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:1-8
I’ve often thought of the parable Jesus taught regarding the widow and the unjust judge. For years the Lord told me that when I prayed for my husband to be saved that I was like the persistent widow, who refused to take no for an answer. However, the Lord just now gave me a deeper perspective on that story, and I believe it is for all of us.
I always assumed that the unjust judge was God in the story, but what if the unjust judge is the lost person and the unfortunate widow is us, and Christ is the ever present “go between”.
If we consider the story from that perspective I believe we can see how our persistent prayer for the lost person prompts Jesus to act. After all it is Christ who does the speaking to a man’s heart. And the more time He spends speaking to that person, the more likely that person will eventually give in, which in turn brings the justice the widow is seeking. And that justice, of course, is Christ, who carries justice against sin upon his own body for the widow and the unjust judge. Wow!
I am absolutely blown away by the thought of this. Our prayers are of paramount importance! We must indeed be the persistent widow. Pray pray pray! Our persistence is powerful in the work of Christ to save the Lost. We must never give up on seeking justice, even from the unjust judge. He needs justice so desperately, and only Christ can truly give it.
Our prayers have power, and so do our words. We must spend our time learning and growing in Christ, through prayer and petition, knowing that our prayers are being answered even if you never see the evidence of it.
I know first hand how hard that is. But God is so gracious to give us the faith we need to trust Him in these things. Our secret prayers. Our audacious requests for the salvation of many, will never go unread or unheard by God. Instead, our words, spoken in private to Our Daddy, bring about a gathering of angel armies to stand against the forces of evil that keep the Lost from hearing the truth. We have that power within us by the Spirit of the Living God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21
Twenty-six years ago I was a Christian but had never had any discipleship. I had no growth. I had no spiritual maturity. I barely knew the Bible. I was a good person. I knew Jesus as savior and when I met a man who seemed to love God more than anything else in the world I married him. And then I learned that the man I married was so zealous for God he was willing to do anything to prove it to him. I married a zealous jihadist Muslim with a lust for martyrdom.
Two years later he came to Christ.
And that’s always what people remember when they hear our testimony. See, I got so desperate for my husband to know Jesus as his savior, that all I could do was pray. I literally had nowhere else to turn. I had no background in apologetics. I had no mentorship in my walk with Jesus. I had nothing but the Holy Spirit of God within me and a passion to see my husband saved from eternal death. So I prayed. And I asked everyone who made eye contact with me to pray, too.
That’s what people hold onto. That’s the part they remember about me. They call me a mighty prayer warrior. And a godly saint who prayed her husband to Jesus.
Yes, I did that. But that’s not what I want people to know about me. That’s not my story. It never has been.
My story is about a girl who fell in love with Jesus when she was 5 years old but never learned anything beyond that. My story is a girl who in desperation sought the Lord and He answered her.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4
I had nothing else. Nowhere to turn. No argument. No help. I had nothing but desperate pleas to the only One who had any power to do anything to help me: Jesus.
I knew I’d made a mistake when I married my husband. And no one ever wants to hear that part. People who hear our testimony see the beauty that came from our ashes, but they don’t want to look at the ashes. They want to see a hero when they see me. They don’t want to see the broken girl that had nothing more to offer God than a broken and repentant heart and a desperate cry for help.
Sadly, stories come to me all the time from women who want to date or marry Muslim men in the hope that they can be like me. This breaks my heart. It should not be!
Those two years before my husband’s salvation were the most painful and agonizing years of my life. Dating a Muslim man or woman (or anyone who doesn’t know Jesus) is not the way to win them to Jesus. It is arrogant and foolish. You have no power to save anyone. And neither did I. It wasn’t me who saved my husband from Islam.
Repentance and prayer. That’s what invited my Lord into my problem. That’s what got my Lord’s attention: I came to the end of myself. I gave up trying to fix the problem on my own. I had a desperate need for His intervention. I admitted I was wrong and I asked Him to fix it. And He did.
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In repentance and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling Isaiah 30:15
I was willing to admit there was nothing I could do. But so many people are unwilling. The Isrealites referenced above were unwilling. Humbling yourself is hard. It means admitting you were wrong. It means admitting you can’t do it on your own.
But I beg you to try! Humble yourself and recognize your helplessness. If you can’t humble yourself, ask God to help you! Only the Lord can save you. Not only does He save us from our sin, He rescues us from our mistakes. He guides us out of the pits we throw ourselves in and restores us when we put our trust and hope in Him.
That’s what I want people to know about me. That’s how I want to be remembered. I’m the girl who was willing. I’m the girl who realized I could do nothing without Jesus. I’m the girl who cried out for forgiveness and asked for help. I’m the girl who trusted Jesus and I’m the girl who trusts Him still.
People call me a deeply spiritual person. A prayer girl. A friend of God. Someone who is praying continuously. I’ve been proud of that. I like that about myself. And I suck at it.
I get angry. I get irritated. I get frustrated. People are stupid and most of the time I throw my hands up in the air with aggravation rather than deal with them. A problem comes up and I try to handle it with love and kindness. I try to be a peacemaker. I really, really do. Yet, I fail at it miserably all the time. Because people are stupid. And so am I.
I’m not nearly as spiritual as I think I am. I’m not near as good of a friend to God as people think I am. I’m not continually praying, even when I think I am. I get distracted by emotion. I get distracted by myself and my circumstances. I turn into a victim or a tyrant or even a peacemaker and forget to bring God into the conversation at all.
No wonder I fail miserably so often!
12We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle,c encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise prophecies, 21but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22Abstain from every form of evil.
23Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22
The other night the Lord said something to me that I can’t stop thinking about. With all the kindness and tenderness of the sweetest southern gentleman, the Lord asked if I would invite him into the conversation. The Lord asked me! Wow. The King of the Universe lovingly asked me if He could be a part of my conversations. All of them.
He didn’t ask me to be quiet. He didn’t ask me to stop getting frustrated or angry or self righteous. He just asked me if He could be part of my conversations. No judgement. No criticism. Just a gentle request.
I know I don’t invite Him in because deep down inside I think I’ve got it all figured out. Either that, or I think He won’t like what I have to say, or He’ll stop me from having a voice at all. He’s the Creator of All Things. He doesn’t need me or want my opinion.
What a filthy lie.
The truth is, the God of the Universe made me in His image to be His friend. And He loves me! He doesn’t want a silent slave. He wants a full fledged son with all the rights of inheritance He has given His Son. All of it.
And He had to ask me to invite Him into the conversation.
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
Jesus, I confess that I’ve not been very good at inviting you into my conversations. I’ve tried to figure things out on my own. I’ve lived huge parts of my life only letting You in occasionally. And I didn’t even realize I was doing it. So, I’m sorry, Lord. I’m sorry for not inviting You in. I took Your forgiveness and neglected Your wisdom. Please forgive me. Help me to do better. Destroy my fear and insecurity. Destroy my arrogance and any power I think I can manage without Your input. It’s all Yours, God. Every bit of who I am You designed. It’s Your DNA that made me. Will You show me how to invite You in and still be me? Will You show me what freedom in sonship looks like? Will You teach me how to be in You more fully and trust You more deeply so that You are always a part of my conversations. Always. I love you, Jesus. Help me act like it. Amen.
My doctor told me I was going to die if I didn’t have surgery. He said that the surgery was very risky and there was a high risk of complications and even death. What I heard was: it was likely death either way. Surgery was scheduled less than a week later.
The day before the surgery the pain in my abdomen became excruciating. An ambulance took me to the hospital. My daughter said she could hear me screaming from the waiting room as they wheeled me upstairs after being admitted.
I woke up two weeks later still in the ICU. There had been complications. I’d been on a ventilator for ten days. My lungs failed. My kidneys failed. I got pneumonia. And finally sepsis. From what I understand from the story, I should have died multiple times. But instead of dying I lived. Miraculously. Doctors were flabbergasted.
My poor husband. It had to be so hard to be pulled into a private room and told I likely wouldn’t survive the night multiple times. How horrible.
Our God had different plans. People began to rally prayer for me. I had people praying on six different continents! As I’ve recovered, multiple people that I didn’t even know have come to me to introduce themselves and tell me how God had laid me on their heart in a powerful way to pray.
A friend of mine at church organized prayer in her home and enlisted people to pray everywhere she went. There was a 24 hour prayer vigil. They put my picture on the screen at church and had a special prayer time for me every week. Streams of concerned people came to the hospital to pray over me and my family. A doctor even asked my husband who I was that so many people kept coming to pray for me.
Who am I? I am loved by the Creator of the Universe. I am His.
I’m recovering well now that I’ve been home for a few weeks. My wounds have been healing at a miraculous rate. The wound care doctor was blown away by the speed of healing. And my strength has returned quickly. That’s God for you. Because of God’s mercy and because of the prayers of the saints, I am alive. When, at the Lord’s leading, people come together to pray, miracles happen.
I am so thankful for the Lord’s mercy and for His hand over me. And I am humbled by all of those who prayed for me without ceasing. Thank you. I’m alive.
I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.
It seems that I’ve had a running theme in my blogs lately about how much things “suck”. Pain, brokenness, being wrong. All of it sucks. But there is a lesson in it, right? And the lesson is faith. The pain we endure brings a harvest of faith. Faith is born from things that suck. I have to chuckle at that even as I write it.
God builds our faith as we endure trials.
2 And the word of the Lord came to him: 3 “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 4 You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 5 So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. 6 And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. 1 Kings 17:2-6
I have been contemplating Elijah again. After he prophesied the drought, God sent him to a specific creek where he would have water to drink and crows would bring him food. Elijah obeys. Wow. God told him birds would bring him food and Elijah didn’t laugh, he said, “okay.” That’s serious faith.
7 And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land. 1 Kings 17:7
The creek dries up. Because there’s a drought. And droughts mean no water. How easy it would have been for Elijah to raise up his hands in frustration and not faith and question why God would bring him to such a bitter end. But that’s not what happens. Elijah has faith that God will continue His faithfulness to His servant, and the word of the Lord does indeed speak to him.
8 Then the word of the Lord came to him, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” 11 And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12 And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” 1 Kings 17:8-12
So Elijah ends up in a town asking for an impoverished widow to take care of him. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Aren’t God’s people supposed to take care of widows and orphans, and not have them take care of us? But Elijah obeys. Elijah doesn’t question it, he just obeys the word of the Lord.
Sure enough, the widow obeys Elijah and by proxy obeys the Lord, she brings Elijah water and makes one last cake with the handful of flour and oil she had left. Bread and water. I can’t help but see Jesus here. Jesus is the bread of life and the living water. This obedience to the Lord’s request brings Elijah and the widow both a picture of Jesus as salvation. The bread and water would keep them alive. God would bring them salvation, and keep the flour and oil from running out. God brings salvation to the widow and Elijah.
13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” 15 And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah. 17 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18 And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!” 1 Kings 17:13-18
The widow’s son dies. Ya. And the widow’s son, by her cultural perspective of the time, was her only chance at life with someone to take care of her. Without her husband, all she had was the hope in her son to provide for her. And he dies.
This would have been a really good time to give up. And the widow does! She’s devastated. But Elijah decides not to give up.
19 And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed. 20 And he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” 22 And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 1 Kings 17:19-22
He takes the boy upstairs, out of view of the widow, to have a private pleading moment with God. He begs the Lord to bring life back to the boy. And God listens! The boy’s life is restored.
This miraculous moment of resurrection further reveals the promise of Jesus. The son, the widow’s only means of salvation and life, is resurrected by God to show her that He will provide for her salvation.
23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” 24 And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” 1 Kings 17:23-24
The widow’s faith is built up. She sees the power of God revealed in a tangible way, not just in the life returned to her son, but in the life that God provided for her, first with bread and oil, and then with the life of her son.
Elijah’s faith brought faith to the widow. Faith brings faith.
As we suffer and overcome, our faith expands and through that expansion, the people we are in contact with have their own faith built up. It may be the faith to finally trust in God, or perhaps it’s just the faith to endure, but as our faith is strengthened it has the power to multiply the faith in others.
Lord, help me trust You that my faith may be built up by the trials I endure in this life. Let my faith be a testimony. Build up my faith so others may be built up in faith. Let my faith produce more faith, that Your Glory may be revealed.
Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy! 2 Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan, 3 because of the noise of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked. For they drop trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me. Psalm 55:1-3
I listened to a sermon tonight about prayer and it got me thinking about the legacy of prayer that has followed me since my childhood. From the time I was a little girl I can remember falling asleep every night talking to Jesus. I wasn’t necessarily taught to do that, but from the time of my salvation at 5 years old, I knew that I could call upon the Lord and He would answer me. I wasn’t raised regularly attending church, and by my adolescence I had revolted defiantly against organized religion and church attendance, but I still had this intimate ritual of conversations with the Lord before I fell asleep. It was my only safe place at times. When the angst of teenage life overcame me, I could feel the Lord beckoning me into His lap and opening His ears to my every cry and complaint. I never doubted it.
I realize now what a gift from God that was. That’s not how things should have gone for me. But God didn’t care what “should” have been my story, but instead cared about me and the plans He had for me from the very beginning. He knew that prayer would be my only life line at times. He knew it would shape me into the woman I have become. And He knew that without that prayer life, my husband never would have found Jesus.
If you know me, or you regularly read my blog, you know that I got married during a time in my life where I wasn’t walking with God at all. The man I married did not know Jesus, and instead was a devout Muslim from Saudi Arabia. I think that may be as opposite of Christian as it gets.
But I call to God, and the Lord will save me. 17 Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. 18 He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me. Psalm 55:16-18
And that’s what I did. I cried desperately out to God for help. I knew that without God I had nothing. My trust in Jesus grew as my relationship with the Lord was rekindled out of desperation for my husband’s salvation, and with my growing faith I grew bolder and bolder in my requests to God. I became desperate for my husband to know Jesus, and no amount of arguing would sway him. I had no recourse except to admit to God that I had been foolish and brought myself into that anguished place of falling in love with and marrying someone who didn’t know Him. What else could I do but pray?
In those days, my husband was not a good person. At times he was cruel. His words tore at my heart. His arguments waged a war on me that tore me down to the very bones. He was relentless in his attempts to convert me. His barbs of persuasion drew spiritual blood on a daily basis. I don’t know how I survived it, except that the Lord had given me this gift of prayer intimacy that drew me into His arms when my world seemed darkest.
My companion stretched out his hand against his friends; he violated his covenant. 21 His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords. 22 Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
My husband had become a cruel tool of the enemy, but the Lord heard my pleas for help and answered me. When the war raged around me, I sought comfort in the arms of the Lord. It didn’t take long for me to be stirred to invite others into my mission to pray for my husband’s salvation. I was desperate and prayer was all I knew. Prayer and John 3:16. That was my entire Christian resume. And it was more than enough. After enlisting thousands (really!) to pray for my husband, the Lord granted my request and spoke boldly into my husband’s life and he found salvation.
God hears our prayers. He never needed me to be a grand apologist or theologian. I didn’t need arguments or clever words. All I needed to do was cast my burdens upon the Lord and have faith in His love for me. I knew one thing for certain: Jesus loved me, he loved my husband, and together, through prayer, we could bring my husband into the Presence of God. It truly was a miracle the day my husband came to Christ. Only God can bring revelation to a proud and stubborn Arab Muslim from Saudi Arabia who grew up with the nickname “the little Imam”.
Prayer has power, not because it is some sort of magical spell to invoke the Spirit of God, but because our God is a God of partnership and promise. He promised Abraham that the world would be blessed through him, and God has kept that promise. He kept it with me, and He’ll keep it with any who would trust in Him. So, don’t give up on prayer. And don’t give up on those you love who need Jesus. Partner with the Lord in prayer as I have done, and see what partnership with the Creator of the Universe can look like.
Lord, I pray for faith to trust You more. I pray for all who are struggling with prayer and the fear that their prayers never get past the ceiling. Renew hope in those who are suffering and doubting. Give them Your peace and call them to prayer. Show us how faithful You are, Lord Jesus! Show us Your salvation through prayer and petition. Teach us to pray more. And teach us to trust and obey You in all things. Thank You for saving my sweet husband. And thank You for the powerful anointing in ministry You have given him, all because I asked for him to know You. You invited him in and he accepted You. But You didn’t stop there. You gave more than I could ask or imagine. You give good gifts to Your children when they ask You. And You gave me a beautiful gift that day that You showed my husband Your face and invited him into Your family. Thank You, Jesus. You are Salvation for all who believe. Thank You for the faith to believe You over and over again. I love You, Jesus. Thank you for teaching me to pray.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21