Praying for Guidance (2)

“I’ve been praying about it, and I just really feel like this is what God wants me to do…”

Have you ever heard someone say something like this? If so, how did you respond? If you’re anything like me, maybe you thought, “Wow, this person must have a really strong prayer life! They have such a close relationship to God that they can just go to Him whenever they are unsure in life and He will show them which way to go. I wish I had that kind of prayer life.”

But, even though prayer is an important part of decision-making, and even though the child of God can rightfully follow a sense of calling or direction in his or her life, I think hearing people say things like the statement above is one of the things that has often led me to pray with the wrong mindset.  It made me think that if I had a strong enough prayer life, if I only prayed often enough, long enough, hard enough, good enough, etc., God would somehow reveal some secret knowledge about His plan for my life. When facing difficult decisions, I would ask God to guide me, to show me what I should do, expecting to suddenly have this revelation that others claimed to have experienced. But, praying like this usually only left me frustrated or confused.

So, how are we to pray for guidance? To answer this question, let’s look at how Christ taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer. The third petition He teaches us to pray is, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Based on this petition, here are three guidelines for how we are to pray:

#1 – Concerned with God’s will of command, not His will of decree

There are two ways in which we speak of God’s one will: first, there is the will of His eternal decrees, His sovereign decision in eternity for how and when all things will happen. Secondly, there is the will of God’s command, that is, His decision for how His creatures are to rightly live before Him. Since the will of God’s decrees is sovereign and everything will happen exactly as God has determined in eternity, it is especially the will of God’s command that we must be concerned with when we pray, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”

So, when we pray for guidance, we are not to pray expecting God to reveal to us His eternal decrees so that we can know what decision we must make. We shouldn’t worry about “stepping out of His plan” or making sure we remain living according to His will of decrees, because His plan is sovereign and there is no decision that we could make that would cause us to “miss” God’s plan for us.

Instead, we must make decisions based on the will of God’s commands. When we pray for guidance, what we should really be praying for is wisdom to subject our decisions to God’s commandments. Instead of trying to figure out whether a certain choice is along the lines of God’s eternal decrees, we should ask ourselves whether it would cause us to sin or put us in a position that would tempt us to sin, or whether it would put us in a position where we can best love and serve God and our neighbor.

#2 – Practically, not abstractly

When we pray for guidance, it is easy to fall into the habit of making abstract requests and vaguely asking God to guide us or show us His will, but never going deeper than that.  But the petition “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” is a very practical request to renounce our will and obey God’s commandments. And if we want to obey God’s commandments, we have to know them!  We can’t just pray the words of the third petition and leave it at that – we also have to study God’s Word and grow in knowledge of His commandments so that we can understand how to obey them.

#3 – Driven by submission, not our own desires

In a way, this aspect ties in with my last post, which stressed the importance of putting God, not ourselves, first in our prayers. When we pray, we often want to immediately express our desires and requests, but Christ teaches that we are to first humble ourselves and submit to His will.  It is only when we have renounced our own sinful wills and desires that we can truly pray “Thy will be done” and submit ourselves to all of God’s commands, even the command to submit willingly and thankfully to His unfolding plan in our lives.

Amy Kaiser

Preparing Our Hearts for Worship

As Christians there is nothing better, nothing sweeter than going to God’s house with fellow believers, hearing the words of Christ spoken, singing Psalms of praise to our God and experiencing the communion of saints. Question 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks us, “What is thy only comfort in life and in death?” It is followed by the answer: “My only comfort in life and death is that I belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” Only through Christ can our true comfort be found, not in things, not in other people, but in Christ. We are not alone. We belong to Christ. We are God’s eternally. We are His precious possessions and He wants us to praise and honor Him.

Going to God’s house is a weekly occurrence that we as Christians do and love to do. Unfortunately, sometimes it can become such a routine, just a habit that it becomes an activity we just do. God calls us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. How often have you thought about the preparations we must make to worship Him?

What we sometimes do.

In getting ourselves ready for worship we can oftentimes prepare everything but our hearts. We have our car gassed up, our collection ready to go, our outfit figured out. But before we arrive at church our minds are on the trivial things of life-the dishes we left in the sink, all of the preparation we have yet to do for lunch, did we leave the stove on? When we are in the pew-on the family sitting in front of us, the baby crying in the back, if it’s too hot or too cold in the sanctuary, the test we have to take on Monday, or the fun things we will be doing that week. Our minds can usually be on everything and anything but on the One whom we came to worship.

Sometimes we may even come ready to serve. Maybe we teach Sunday school, usher, or like to seek out people to talk to after church. We come ready for those things, anticipating those things, all the while forgetting why we do those things. Sometimes maybe that can be where we get our self-worth or significance. We can put too much emphasis on the activities of church and be prepared for those, but forget to be ready to worship God.

Oftentimes we can come with an attitude that says I’m here for me. I’m here so that I can feel better about myself; I’m here so that I feel fulfilled, so that I feel like a good person. I need to walk away with something that I “felt.” With this kind of attitude we can oftentimes feel disappointed-disappointed in the minster himself. When it comes down to it, church can become a place for me rather than God. Is it really always the minister’s fault when I come away saying that there was nothing in that sermon for me? Was it because I was uncomfortable? Maybe it was a hot day. Or was it the way we worshiped? do I think we need to sing more songs that go with today’s culture, or hear more jokes to make me get more out of the worship service? OR is the real reason because I didn’t come with my heart prepared?

How we should do it.

First of all we need to realize, what a privilege it is that we get to gather as fellow believers, go into the house of the Lord, and hear God speak to us. We have no fear of persecution as other believers might, we have a place to worship God, most of us even get to go with our families, these are only a few of the blessings we have been given! Because of this we should be coming to church with a heart of thankfulness. “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” (Psalm 100:4).

We also need to comprehend who we are coming to church to worship. “For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him” (Colossians 1:16). Or the words of David in 1 Chronicles 29:11 “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine; Thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and Thou art exalted as Head above all.” How great is our God, and how wonderful is it, that we as sinful people, get to come before Him, not only on Sundays, but each and every day! Hebrews 12:28 says “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” This ties into realizing how great and powerful God is. When we come to worship Him we need to do so reverently and with great awe.

There are many ways to prepare our hearts for worship. Prayer is one of the best ways. Pray and ask God to prepare your heart for going to worship Him. Ask Him to make you ready to listen and want to listen. Pray for God to forgive your sins so that you don’t come to church separated from Him. There are practical ways of preparing our hearts: making sure we are well rested, going to bed early and getting up on time so we are able to get ourselves ready. Sometimes even reading the sermon passage beforehand so that we are in the right mindset can be helpful.

Preparing our hearts doesn’t need to be done JUST for attending church either, it needs to be done whenever we spend time worshiping God with our family or alone. Anytime we bow before God in prayer, we need to be in the right mindset–once again realizing how great and powerful the one with whom we are speaking is.

Worship isn’t easy, it takes work. It’s not about me, it’s about hearing God. Worship isn’t deemed “successful” if I come away pleased; it’s successful if God is praised and honored. If we come with hearts ready to worship: sins confessed, no hatred for the brother and thankful hearts, we will leave satisfied. We will come to bless God, but go away being blessed ourselves in the end. “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:1).

We will also be satisfied and assured. 1 John 1:7 says: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”  Jesus Christ’s precious blood washed our sins from us and that alone can only make us worthy. Christ is the only one that can satisfy us. Satisfy our hunger for something more, and make us acceptable to God. Knowing God through worshiping Him will help us be assured. Assured that we will have eternal life with God, glorifying and praising Him.

In ending this, a couple verses come to mind. 1 Peter 3:15 “but Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready to always give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” Psalm 95:2-3 says “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.”

Prepare your hearts. Come ready to listen and praise our great and glorious God.

Lisa Heystek

The Proverbs 31 Woman

Proverbs 31 is pretty regularly regarded as the Bible text that describes the type of women that Christian ladies should strive to be. Unsurprisingly, the world paints a very different picture of the ideal woman for us. The world seems offended by the Proverbs 31 woman, thinking that she is overly dependent on her husband, weak, or boring. I won’t take the time to work through every verse in this chapter, but let’s take a short look at this woman and what she is really like, and which woman, the woman of the world or of Proverbs 31, is the strong, capable role model for our young ladies.

The 11th verse of this chapter says that the heart of her husband safely trusts in her. It reminds me of that popular saying “Behind every man is a good woman.” It seems that saying isn’t very far off. The husband of the Proverbs 31 woman rests assured that she supports him, encourages him, and speaks well of him to others. Many times women of the world are heard bashing on their husbands, talking about their shortcomings and downfalls. It simply cannot be true that Christian men are perfect, therefore the indication here is that although her husband has problems and issues, she will not broadcast these things to others.  Her husband knows this, and it leaves him with a feeling of trust and safety with her.

In a good portion of this passage, this woman is seen working with linens, buying, selling and trading. She plants, she sews, and she cooks. She works! In verse 17 she is even described as physically strong. It takes a physically strong woman to be so busy and active with her family and own business ventures. “Stay at home moms” are often regarded by the world as the type of woman who sits at home, just waiting for her husband to come back. That simply isn’t the case with the Christian housewife. She is busy, always working on new things around the house or finding appropriate ways to earn money and be productive. She is anything but weak.

Finally, a well-known verse in this chapter is verse 25 which reads “Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.” Other versions of the Bible like to translate the last part of the verse “She laughs without fear of the future.” In either translation, you can almost picture a woman, bright-eyed and smiling, with her face lit with joy over one thing or another. She isn’t boring! She’s a pleasure to be around. She laughs and smiles and rejoices! She doesn’t do her work with a scowl and mumbling to her family, she is exactly the opposite.  God tells us that women like this are to be honored for their strength.  It takes great emotional and spiritual strength to walk through the life of any Christian and be a person who often is found smiling, laughing and taking joy in life.

The Christian woman, the Proverbs 31 woman, is not an overly dependent, weak, or boring woman. We should never expect any of that of our women in the church. Instead, we should be women of love, strength and immense joy! So, instead of trying to be stoic, tough, and “savage” as the world likes to use as compliments for women today, let’s be the women God calls us to be in this passage. Let’s be the Proverbs 31 woman.

Suzie Kuiper