A story of prayer

9 01 2009

Since the last time I wrote, some time has passed and many diapers have been filled.  Sometimes I think my new daughter is an undercover agent for Huggies.

On December 17th, our daughter Megan Elizabeth was born, and our lives changed again.  I have many thoughts, emotions, and anecdotes about the labor, birth, and life with the baby, but I will leave most of that to my wife.  I wanted to share here a special interaction I had with God during the birth of my new little girl.

Coming into December, my wife was getting more and more uncomfortable everyday, and the doctor scheduled an induction for December 17th.  We were looking forward to the day, but with each day came more and more ominous reports from the weather folk of a horrible storm coming.  The storm was going to bring feet of snow to all of western Washington and everyone should take necessary precautions.  This did not help my wife’s state.  This could be bad in a lot of ways; my Mom (who was going to watch our boys) might not be able to get to us, my Mom might not be able to bring the kids to the hospital to see their sister, Michelle’s family might not be able to come.  Really the biggest and most important concern was getting Michelle and baby safely to and from the hospital.  I neglected to take that “Emergency Childbirth” class in college, though I am trained in CPR… which probably wouldn’t have come in handy.

I tried not to think about it and just resolved to wait and see.  Then, on Sunday the 14th, I woke up slowly and started praying as I sometimes do in the morning.  As I was laying there, verses started coming to mind such as James 1:6-8, Matthew 17:20, Hebrews 4:16, and especially James 5:16b:

“…the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much”

Right then I started praying for God to hold the storm back for us.   Read the rest of this entry »


Merry Christmas

25 12 2008

On this glorious Christmas day, I hope these words of prayer and reflection resonate with your heart.
May you have a wonderful and worship time with family and friends, rejoicing in our Lord who stepped so low to rescue us and raise us up to him!

“My heart melts at the love of Jesus,
my brother, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh,
married to me, dead for me, risen for me;
He is mine and I am his,
given to me as well as for me;
I am never so much mine as when I am his,
or so much lost to myself until lost in him;
then I find my true manhood.

But my love is frost and cold, ice and snow;
Let his love warm me,
lighten my burden,
be my heaven;
May it be more revealed to me in all its influences
that my love to him may be more fervent and glowing;
Let the mighty tide of his everlasting love
cover the rocks of my sin and care;
Then let my spirit float above those things
which had else wrecked my life.

Make me fruitful by living to that love,
my character becoming more beautiful every day.
If traces of Christ’s love-artistry be upon me,
may he work on with his divine brush
until the complete image be obtained
and I be made a perfect copy of him,
my Master.”

from “The Love of Jesus” in The Valley of Vision

Thank you, Jesus.

Psalm 32 part 4 – Faithfulness Beyond Forgiveness

20 09 2008

I am working through Psalm 32 in an attempt to share it’s depth with you as well as help my endeavor to commit it to memory.  Read my thoughts on the previous stanza here.

Psalm 32:6-7

Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him.
You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble;
You surround me with songs of deliverance.

I see a “therefore”… let’s see what it’s “there for”!

The prior stanzas speak about the blessing of forgiveness, the chastisement of the unrepentant, and the faithfulness of God to forgive.  Now it’s talking about praying to God and relying on Him for deliverance.  Does it seem like a subject change?  I don’t believe so.

David just asserted that when one comes to God seeking forgiveness, forgiveness will be given.  But then what?  Are we caught up in the sky to sin no more?  Does God impart holy Scotch Guard to our souls?  If you are human, you know that sometime after being forgiven, sin will come knocking at the door again.  If we have any maturity at all, we understand the peril our souls are in.  I believe it is temptation and sin that is being described in this stanza in the imagery of calamity.

In light of this, it is interesting to note that the “godly” are not those who are capable of perfection, but those who know well enough to run to God when sin is preying on them (see Romans 12:9).  After the last couple of years of tsunamis, Katrinas, and Gustavs, the reference to a “flood of great waters” is a little clearer to me.  Think of those disasters where whole houses, cars, and people were just swept away.  Now imagine a towering stone pillar on the coast of this onslaught, impervious and unphased by the cascading storm surge and the harrowing winds.  Would you rather be in the stone fortress… or in a pup tent on the beach? Read the rest of this entry »

My Gospel “Dream”

5 09 2008

A couple of weeks ago, I had the most amazing experience in my life at a workplace, from a spiritual perspective.  Here’s what led up to it…

My manager is in a leadership development class and is reading a book called “The Dream Manager”.  The summary of the book is that the best managers are the ones that strive to make their employee’s dreams come true, whether it be career dreams, personal dreams, community dreams… whatever kind of dream.  My manager has become very excited about this concept and brought it to our team.

She approached me and let me know that we were going to have a team meeting coming up in which the plan was for everyone to share a dream of theirs with the group.  Participation was voluntary, but if we would go along with it, the team would brainstorm ideas for how we all could help each other reach our dreams.  I was initially reluctant, but I told her I would give it some thought.

I considered what it was I would really like to do or see happen; visit Europe, raise my kids the right way, get a new car.  Then it hit me that the most important thing I could dream for was much more selfless than anything else I could think of.  I would like all my coworkers come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior!

The thought of sharing that at an official meeting of 10-15 colleagues and my supervisor sounded exciting and scary.  I consulted with my “Christianity in the workplace” guru, Chris, who thought it was a cool idea, but suggested that I be “less specific” in describing my dream.  His thought was that if I was a bit more vague, it would encourage more questions and be less likely to throw up a dialogue-stifling wall.  I admit I didn’t agree with the idea, but since Chris is an elder at my church (and has generally proven himself to be smarter than me in most aspects), I decided to take his advice.  This turned out to probably be the best advice I’ve gotten from someone in recent history.

The day of the meeting came and I wrote down on a post-it note “My dream is for my coworkers to have the same relationship I have with the one true God”.  The butterflies started buzzing around my stomach.  I keep a copy of Evantell’s very effective “May I Ask You A Question?” tract in my jacket and started reading it over and over.  I was pretty nervous. Read the rest of this entry »

The Gospel and Broken Cars

12 08 2008

One Friday a month I travel about 30 minutes from our church to preach at a senior center.  However, this last Friday I began to wonder, as I drove down the road hearing various “odd” noises coming from the car, if the group of seniors would be sans preacher.  By the grace of God I made it there, and as I sat in the parking lot I went to prayer to prepare (and settle) my heart.

However, the thoughts of my vehicle situation kept invading.

The car I was driving is old (over 177,000 miles), but new to me.  I was recently given it when our second car, a Saturn we have owned for years, died.  As I sat there in the parking lot wondering what I should do about my car dilemma, I began to talk with the Lord about it.

I wasn’t very long into the conversation asking God for help, when my conscience jumped in and quickly pointed me to my failings as a car owner.  Honestly, I’m not very good with cars.  I personally wouldn’t want to be a car I own. You see,  I don’t take very good care of them.  I don’t have them serviced often enough (if ever), I don’t give them regular check-ups, or even keep them very clean.  I use them and abuse them.  Nothing I’m proud of, I’m just sharing the truth.

Well, all of this truth (the “You know, its your own fault you’re in this mess!”) stopped my prayer for help dead in its tracks.  My conscience was right- it was my fault.  My brain started reviewing all of the things I should have done better and why I really didn’t deserve God’s help.  With each accusation, I had to agree.

But then something else cut into my depressing meditations- God’s grace.  God’s Spirit brought to my mind that I haven’t deserved any of the blessings God has given me!  Over and over again, I have “messed things up,” and yet He is still merciful and kind and hears my prayers.  God stopped my conscience with the Gospel.  It was as if He was saying, “Ryan, you made a mess of your life and you certainly didn’t deserve your salvation, yet I gave you that.  So, what if I choose to answer your prayer for help with your car even though you don’t deserve it- isn’t that my way?”

Now, don’t misunderstand me- I didn’t hear a voice or anything.  God just reminded me that His answering my prayer is always about His grace and never about my deserving.  The sad truth is that I (and I don’t think I’m alone here) often forget this… at least I act like I do.  I fall into the “blessings through works” trap and forget about how grace enters into the equation.  But, in the parking lot last Friday God reminded me of His grace and His prerogative in blessing (the “prerogative” part also means He might not help me with the car the way I asked or in a way I might like!).  In that moment my mind went from anxiety about my car situation and conviction over my failures to rejoicing in the God who so graciously saved me in spite of my many failures.  I thanked Him for giving someone as undeserving as me blessings above and beyond what I could ever have dreamed.

Needless to say, the time of prayer was effective even though it followed a different course than I anticipated.  I went from those moments of prayer in a broken car into that senior center, excited about preaching and eager to share the message about a God full of grace.

Listening to My Older Brothers Pray

2 03 2008

Years ago I was given a copy of The Valley of Vision  by my Pastor.  He gives me a lot of books, so I didn’t get to it right away… actually, it sat on my book shelf for two years!  But it didn’t sit there forever.  I still remember the day I finally opened it up and began reading.  I was blown away.  I quickly went and apologized to my Pastor for my negligence and then began reading daily through this wonderful collection of Puritan prayers.  Since that day (several years ago now) this little book has become an integral part of my daily devotions.  It is how I begin my daily time of Bible reading, study, and prayer.  God has used the prayers in this book to help get my focus where it needs to be and quiet my heart for feeding from His Word. 

This week, the two prayers I have been reading and meditating on have been centered on the act of prayer itself and have really challenged me in my own thinking about this crucial part of our new life.  Here are a few quotes from what I’ve been reading (these are the ones I wrote in my journal) and pay specific attention to the way prayer is described:

“Let me know that the work of prayer is to bring my will to thine, and that without this it is folly to pray.”

“When I try to bring Thy will to mine it is to command Christ, to be above Him, and wiser than He: this is my sin and pride.”

“Teach me to live by prayer as well as by providence.”

“Urged by my need, invited by Thy promise, called by Thy Spirit, I enter Thy presence, worship Thee with godly fear, awed by Thy majesty, greatness, glory, but encouraged by Thy love.”

“I bring Jesus to Thee in the arms of faith, pleading His righteousness to offset my iniquities, rejoicing that He will weigh down the scales for me, and satisfy Thy justice.” 

Is that the way you look at prayer?  Is that what comes to your mind when you think of spending extended amounts of time in prayer?  Often, it is not what is coming into my mind.  These pictures of prayer (especially the last one) have convicted me that I often think too little of the greatness of prayer.  

Here are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself this week, as I brought my prayer life into comparison with the pictures of prayer given to me this week from the Puritans:

How often don’t I “live by prayer”?  How many moments and decisions pass by without a word to my Father or any confession of my weakness and need? 

How often do I see those moments in prayer as a time to have my will conformed to God’s?  How often do I allow it to become the exact opposite?

How often do I view those moments before the Throne of Grace as a time of worship, a time to rejoice in the sacrifice of so loving and gracious a Savior?  How often do I delight in His sacrifice and see it as the sole merit I bring?  How often do I, instead, try to manipulate God by focusing on my own merits? Click Here to Order a Copy!

These are just a sampling of what God has brought to mind as I have spent time this week listening to my Christian “older brothers” pray.  I praise God for these wonderful men whose words He is using to teach my what it truly means to be a man of prayer. 

“Pledge a Picketer”

15 02 2008

“Pledge a Picketer”Pray for Life
Those were the words printed on a banner that hung outside the Planned Parenthood I prayed in front of on Monday.  Apparently, Planned Parenthood has a program where their donors give money based on the number of “picketers” that stand outside their abortion clinics.  It turned my stomach to think that the leadership of Planned Parenthood is using people’s care and concern for the unborn as a means to raise profits for their own assault on life.  Their perversion of something good reminded me of God’s judgment upon Israel for their own twisting of righteous actions: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter…Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw and as dry grass sinks down in the flames, so their roots will decay and their flowers blow away like dust; for they have rejected the law of the LORD Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 5:20, 24).

I don’t share this to dissuade anyone from praying against or protesting what is going on inside those clinics.  Actually, my time of prayer on Monday greatly encouraged me to do more in the fight against abortion.  I met a dear older brother named “Bud” who had been praying outside Planned Parenthood clinics for over 23 years.  He regularly participates in “sidewalk counseling” (encouraging mothers, who are on their way into the clinic to have an abortion, to reconsider and choose life) and the more time I spent with him, the more I praised God that a man like him (with a loving heart and a kind way about him) had been called to plead with those who were in that desperate place.  He shared that over the years he had helped save 60 babies!  He lamented that the numbers weren’t higher, but I praised God with him for those 60 children and their parents who were spared the horrors of abortion.  

Bud shared with me how the particular clinic we were praying outside of had closed its doors and moved 3 times.  Each time he and others like him found the new location and again took up their post outside the clinic doors to pray and encourage those visiting the clinic to choose life.  His is a powerful testimony (God brought this Roman Catholic to Himself through the reading of the Word and Bud now describes himself as a “born again”) and it was wonderful to see a man like him committed to this issue.

But we need more.  

My plan is to go back and again pray and sing and share the scripture outside that place.  I’d love to have others join me.  I’d love to have a hundred others join me and see a generations of men and women like Bud rise up and honor God.  As for the “Pledge a Picketer” campaign, I don’t care about their dumb sign or their wicked pledge program.  No matter how much money they raise, it will never come close to the value of those 60 lives saved.


For more information on 40 Days for Life or to find a prayer vigil in your location click here.

For the truth about Planned Parenthood, go back through this post and click on the Planned Parenthood hot links; but be prepared, the truth is shocking.