Category Archives: Prayer

Three ways to strengthen your Canada Day celebrations.

canada-day-614290_1280

Our family has a fabulous Canada Day tradition. We gather at my son’s to celebrate our oldest grandchild’s birthday. A Canada Day baby she has been our angel since her birth. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our amazing country, than to gather with family to laugh, and play, eat and share, and enjoy the fireworks. When Vanessa was little I’m sure she thought those sparkling lights in the sky were just for her.

Beautiful
Beautiful

Canadians are not particularly openly patriotic, although some of us do fly a Canadian flag in our yard. When we travel to another country we purchase flag lapel pins to give away, or bring along our T-shirt with a moose wearing a tiny Canadian flag. We’re proud to be Canadian but we see no reason to flaunt the fact.

Safe to have fun.
Safe to have fun.

Canada isn’t perfect for sure. Still we know we are blessed to be Canadian citizens. Every time I travel beyond our borders, my love for Canada is reinforced. In my travel’s have seen beautiful countries. I have enjoyed wonderful people. And when I step off the plane onto Canadian soil, I feel the urge to pat the ground, even give it a kiss. I am always glad to return home.

This year do more than enjoy the fireworks. Use your Canada Day celebrations to:

  1. List the wonderful things that make our country special. Set aside your complaints and criticisms. Forget about being humble. Write them down and soak them in.
  2. Make appreciating Canada a family project. Make a collage with pictures and words to illustrate the beauty of Canada and our citizens. Get everyone’s input – children, parents, grandparents, friends. Hang your collage on the fridge or frame it for your wall.
  3. Give God thanks for our nation. Ask God to give our leaders wisdom and strength. Tell God you want to be a blessing for Canada and her peoples.

This year, make a commitment to be the best Canadian citizen you can be.

A Tip for Celebrating Father’s Day.

Pray for Fathers and their children.
Pray for Fathers and their children.

At least once every week, Tom’s daughter Bonnie calls with “Dad, have you time to Skype with me and the children?” Bonnie obviously loves her Dad and wants her children to develop a strong relationship with us. Three weeks ago, Tom received his father’s day card from Bonnie. Tom is truly cherished.

Fathers are important in their children’s lives. Most often, Fathers are like Tom, aware, appreciative and thrilled with that relationship. Today, with so many blended families similar to ours, that father-child relationship has become very fragile. When the children are small, fathers have to work hard to maintain the connection. When your children live with their mother and you see them every other weekend, it takes tremendous intentionality for father’s to keep up with all the sports and school events and all the other important things in their children’s lives. As the children mature, they can (like Bonnie) take some responsibility for maintaining the relationship.

God created us to live in relationship. Through Jesus, God taught us how to love one another.  And God is wise. God does not force us to nurture our family relationships. We have the freedom to choose. When we choose to work at those relationships, we open ourselves to the wonder and joy that is given and received.

This year as we celebrate Father’s day, and every day, I suggest we open our eyes to see and appreciate the beautiful father–child relationships around us. Give God thanks for creating these wonderful opportunities for joy. Hold each Dad and each child in your prayers. Prayer is powerful. All fathers need God’s strength to live their relationships well.

“Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” Proverbs 17:6

Does God Have a Sense of Humor?

Does God have a sense of humour? The Bible tells the story of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. ( Exodus 16). They ran out of food. They asked God for a miracle. God sent manna. Manna was not what the Israelites had in mind to solve their hunger crisis. It didn’t look like food, although it did taste sort of sweet. You couldn’t use it for trade or for wealth. Why? It had a short expiration date. It went rancid on the second day and couldn’t be eaten.

Manna was a powerful illustration of God’s wonderful sense of humor. I can imagine God saying, “Here’s the miracle you asked for. Now learn the lesson in co-operation and sharing that comes with it.” God does answer prayers, but seldom in the way we expect.

Twelve years after my divorce, I asked God for a companion to grow old with me. In a book I was reading, one of the characters prayed, “God, I need a parade of men, so I can choose a mate wisely.” I laughed at the idea. At fifty plus, I knew there would never be a parade of men for me. Not long after I finished that book, a friend suggested, “Try one of the date matching sites on line.”

My first reaction, “Oh no, not safe. Bad idea.”

“Give it a try,” my friend suggested, “Just be careful.”

I went on line and, to my delight, I discovered God was offering me a parade of men. At the time, I called it “window shopping.” I applied all the cautions everyone suggested and sampled a few. The end result, of course, is my Tom, the love of my life. In June, we’ll have been married thirteen wonderful years. As usual, God answered my prayer, not as I expected and not without some effort from me. Yes, God answered my prayer with, I’m sure, a twinkle in God’s eye.

 

The Election Is Over, Now What

I'm what you have. Pray for me.
I’m what you have. Pray for me.

Our federal election is over. As a nation we have chosen a new leader. We have more choices ahead of us. We can join the crowd across our country who are waiting for Justin’s first mistake so we can descend like vultures and say, “I knew it. That’s why I didn’t vote for him.” What will that accomplish except to fill our hearts with negative thoughts and send negative vibes to Ottawa.

Today, I challenge you to choose a more positive path, to let go of adversarial thinking and focus on goodness for our country and the world. After all, we do want the best possible government for our country. For the next four years, these are the leaders that can bring that hope to fruition.

There will be times when we disagree with decisions our government makes. At those times we can choose to do the research on the issues and write letters or be part of delegations bringing alternative suggestions for what we believe is a better way.

As Christians we believe in the power of prayer. In his book, “The Only Necessary Thing,” modern day theologian reminds us that too often we wait and turn to prayer as a last resort. He challenges us to begin with prayer because prayer makes a difference.

For now, I challenge us all to use this new beginning for our country as the moment we begin to wrap our nation and its leaders in prayer. Let’s ask God to give them gifts of wisdom and compassion. Let’s send positive thoughts to surround our newly elected MP’s as they make decisions for our people, the environment, the world. Let’s use the power of prayer to make Canada a strong and loving nation.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

 

Don’t Leave Home Without It!

Prayer
Prayer

Tom and I were square dancing in Marlbank. During a rest break, we told Pearl about our encounter with a deer on the way home the week before. After hearing a detailed description of the accident and giving thanks that we weren’t hurt, Pearl said, “Driving can be dangerous. My husband and I say a prayer each time before we get in the car.” Then she laughed and said, “Never leave home without a prayer. Never leave home without it.”

We both chuckled, and the conversation moved on in another direction. On the way home, we joined the holiday traffic parade on the 401 instead of the more remote Highway Seven. I thought, that’s good advice, Pearl, not just for travelling, but for going to work, to the doctor’s, to school, anywhere. Always take your awareness of God’s presence with you. God is our companion. We can do more than stop for prayer before we go out the door. We can keep the conversation going, giving thanks, asking for guidance and strength. Our approach to life changes when we acknowledge God’s presence right beside us, God’s hand on our elbow, patting our back, holding us.

There is a plaque that says, “God is a guest at our every meal.” For me, God is more than a guest at meal times. There is a wonderful old hymn that talks about Jesus as our companion. The chorus says, “And he walks with me, and he talks with me. And he tells me I am his own.” Whether you walk or drive or fly, don’t leave home without reminding yourself of God’s presence in your life. Say a prayer, and not just for safety. Give God thanks for your blessings, and ask God to help you be God’s blessing for someone else. Give it a try. Don’t leave home without it. Prayer will make a difference in your life.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Ephesians 6:18 NIV)

Is Prayer An Adventure or a Crutch?

Some treat prayer as

Join the Adventure
Join the Adventure

a crutch. “When you can’t stand on your own two feet, lean on God.” Others see prayer as a last resort. “Well I guess there’s nothing else we can do but pray.” For me, prayer is also a means of celebration. “Thank you, God. Praise God! To God be the glory, great things God has done.”

Henri Nouwen, a modern theologian, calls prayer an adventure with God. “This new relationship (with God) is greater than we are and defies all our calculations and predictions. The movement from illusion to prayer is hard to make since it leads us from false certainties to true uncertainties, from an easy imagined support system to a risky surrender.” (p. 34, The Only necessary Thing)

We may think we know the best way to fix the problem. We may think we are talking with God about the only possible paths ahead. Bottom line – When we truly pray, our shopping list of demands, requests, pleadings are put aside. We surrender. We wait upon the Lord.

The problem with this kind of prayer is that God’s response can be perplexing, beyond comprehension, lead us down a totally new path, make even greater demands, and even give us cause for an explosion of celebration. True prayer, true submission to God, is an adventure. Isaiah said, “Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall rise up on wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

We don’t have to live as if we’re hanging onto a rope over a deep ravine, praying for rescue in a particular way. We can join life’s adventure with God. We can give up putting limitations on God and let go of control. God is as limitless as outer space with its endless galaxies. We can live prepared for God’s surprises. We don’t have to be careful what we pray for, because we can trust in God’s endless love.

Do You Pray Too Much?

Talking With God
Talking With God

After my daughter read the first draft of my novel, Fireweed, she commented, “Great story. Wonderful tips to help with grief.” Then she added, “The main characters, Steve and Renee pray a lot. Just an observation.” I reread the book and agreed. In the story, Steve and Renee do pray a lot, and so do I. I just never thought about it.

I have a formal prayer and study time every day when I first get up, but even before that I often open my eyes and mumble, “I had a good night’s sleep. Thank you.” Tom and I pray together at all our meals. If my back hurts, I ask for help to endure it. If it’s not hurting and I think about it, I say,  “Thank you, God.” I send off a prayer every time those I’m worried about pass through my mind. When something good happens, I automatically whisper thank you. Yes, I pray a lot.

I have a running conversation with God throughout the day. It’s a habit. In fact, I pray a whole lot more than Steve and Renee in my story. My hunch is that I’m not unusual. Most people of faith pray a lot without thinking about it. Prayers don’t have to be words. In fact, every time we do a kind deed, speak a kind word, do our best, God knows.

God genuinely is a part of our life, all the time, whether or not we think about God. I suggest we be more conscious of God. Let’s think of God intentionally. Let’s truly live a life of prayer. When we make our children’s lunches, ask God that they have a good day, full of laughter and confidence. When we start our cars, give God thanks that they started; ask God for a safe journey for ourselves and the other drivers on the road. When we pass a school, ask for God’s care for the teachers and the children inside. When we look out a window, give thanks for whatever we see. Pray for our neighbours.

We don’t have to stop our busy lives to pray. Just incorporate prayer into our living. Know that one of the brightest colours in our life’s tapestry is prayer.

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:5-7)

 

The Prayer Professional

The Prayer Professional

I can talk with God, too.
I can talk with God, too.

 

 

When I am at wedding dinners, social dances, group meetings, wherever the leader considers prayer would be a good thing, I get conscripted. Why not ask me? After all, I’m a pastor. When I encourage someone else to lead in prayer, I hear, “Oh no, not me. My prayers aren’t good enough. I’m not prepared. You pray. You’re the professional.” I’m not a professional. I’ve just learned to pray from my heart in all circumstances.

Most of us pray at home. We rattle off quick prayers on the way to work, as we begin a new job or wave good-bye to our teenager. We know how to pray. Why then does leading a group in prayer cause such extreme anxiety?

It can’t be that we’re afraid God will complain about our effort. After all, some of our private prayers are limited to one word like, “help” or “please”.

I believe we see public prayer as performance and the group in front of us, not God, as the audience waiting to criticize when we don’t do it correctly. No wonder we become tongue-tied at the thought of praying out loud in front of people.

Here are my suggestions to follow when leading a group in prayer.

  1. Remember, prayer is a conversation with God. What someone else thinks is not even relevant.
  2. Be assured, God welcomes any and all conversation with us.
  3. There is no right and wrong for prayer. God listens to our heart, not our words.
  4. Focus on caring for the group in front of you, rather than worrying about what they’re thinking about you. What do they need to say to God? Tell God their concerns.
  5. Let go of yourself and how good you are or aren’t. That is irrelevant.

Try these 5 suggestions. Take a deep breath and pray. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to lead your group in prayer or pray with your friend.

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)

 

 

 

Prayer Projects for This School Year.

Prayer Projects for This School Year

by Janet Stobie

Don't Forget to Pray
Don’t Forget to Pray

I received an email from my friends. Attached to it were pictures of proud great grand-parents holding baby Rina, healthy and strong. Three days later, our family surrounded grandson, Ben, with love as we said goodbye. His dad drove him to Thunder Bay to begin university, a huge step in growing up.

This week children across our nation have returned to school. Most are sent with love and hugs. Some go to new friends and strange schools; some return to old friends and a familiar place. All of them need support. Sometimes, support entails saying, “No.” Sometimes, support means applause.  Our goal is to love them well. That’s not always easy.

Parents have a huge job today. Torn by competing loyalties to work and family, they strive to do all that is required for their school age child. Homework, projects, free time, meals, clean clothes, guidance, and taxi service all require a parent’s time, energy and commitment. Whether you are a parent, grandparent, relative, or neighbor, you have a role to play.

This fall, I suggest you choose several families, some who are relatives and some who are strangers. Make these families your prayer projects. Each day, name them. Hold them in your love. Give God thanks for them. Open your hearts and minds to anything these families might need. Be God’s Good News for them.

St. Paul says: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment… “ (Philippians 1:9)

 

 

Where Is God?

Where is God?

by Janet Stobie

Prayer Brings Change.
Prayer Brings Change.

News from Syria makes me cringe. Chemical warfare frightens all of us. Where is God in the chaos, the destruction? I pray, I plead, I beg, “Please God, stop the horror.”

I wait for God’s answer. I hear silence.

I believe God’s Spirit works through us and through others. I believe God is there in Syria, walking with the people. I believe God is there in the international aid that is happening. “Doctors Without Borders” are there. I trust that many other non-governmental organizations, like the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, are there, helping.

The news brings tales of possible intervention by U.S., Britain, and France. I ask, “Is this your wish, God? Do you want us to respond with more death?”

I continue to pray. I continue to pour out my love and compassion for the people of Syria.

I can trust. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that God has acted in the past to care for the people of Israel when they wandered in the wilderness, or endured conquest and exile. God will act today.

There are also struggles close to home. Family, friends, and native peoples here in Canada, too, live in chaos. We don’t experience open warfare and chemical weapons. Instead, our terror is buried, often hidden. Abuse, neglect, debt, poverty, and hunger all exist here.

Once again I beg God to fix it. I wait for God’s answer.

New laws are passed. Some treaties are ratified. Some children rescued. Food banks are opened. Small steps are taken. God is present. God is acting through us here today. I will continue to pray because I know the story of God’s action.

Thus says the Lord: “The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness…I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”  (Jeremiah 31: 2-3)