What to do when you are discouraged

“Why do you feel discouraged? Why do the shadows come?  And why does my heart feel lonely?  And long for heaven and and home When Jesus is my portion A constant friend is He

His eye is on the sparrow
And i know He watches me

My brother recently challenged and encouraged a group of us with a message on anxiety.  Using the text from Matthew chapter 6, he reminded us of the peace that comes in Jesus.

I was reminded of this peace yesterday as I finished reading the book “Unbroken”, where the author reads about Louis Samperini’s story of conversion and forgiveness.  Louis was an airman in World War 2 whose plane crashed in the south pacific.  He and two other men drifted for 47 days only to become POW for the Japanese.  During that time they endured horrific torture and were stripped of all health and dignity.

After the war, Louis was bitter.  Plagued by nightmares he longed to return to Japan and kill the man who was the face of his suffering.  It wasn’t until he went to a Billy Graham crusade that he found forgiveness for himself and his captors.  Louis’ story is an amazing one, and definitely worth a read or a listen.

Indeed, when Zamperini reflected on the best day of his life, he didn’t mention the day he was liberated from a Japanese war camp. Instead, he said, “It was the day I came to Christ.”

I’ll leave you today with another reflection on discouragement from a David Wilkerson sermon.  My prayer is that you find grace and peace on this day of thanks.

When youre under attack from the enemys spirit of discouragement, you won t feel like praying. But you must still go to the secret place and be in Jesus presence. You dont need to worry about trying to pray your way out of despair. This is the time for Gods Spirit to go to work in you. Its his job to lift you out of the pit.

When you go to the Lord, be honest with him. Tell him how weak and helpless you feel. Let him know, Jesus, Im dry. I have no strength left. If Im ever going to get out of this depression, youre going to have to make it happen.

In such low times, the Lord is very patient with us. He doesnt expect us to exert some intense, fervent effort in prayer. He knows our condition, and he sympathizes with us. So, just sit in his presence and trust his Spirit to do in you what he has been sent to do. It doesnt matter how cast down you are he will never forsake you!

We have the notion that every time we fail the Lord, the Holy Ghost flits away like a bird. Some Puritan divines taught this. They believed that Gods Spirit leaves Christians for a season whenever hes grieved with them.

I could never understand or accept this doctrine. How could Gods Spirit abandon me when I need him most? If he leaves me whenever I fail and fall deep into discouragement, how could he be my comforter? That wouldnt provide any comfort at all. In fact, it would leave me in Satans power!

Likewise, if the Holy Ghost is my souls sanctifier, how could he do this work if he flies in and out of my life every time I fail? How could I ever see my sin without the Spirits presence there to convict me of it? How could I know how to change if he wasnt there to guide and direct me?

Jesus promised us, I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for everI will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you (John 14:16, 18).

When the devils heavy spirit of discouragement settles over your life, you may be so distraught you cant even whisper a prayer. But even if you cant utter a word, you can talk to Jesus in your spirit. Just tell him softly, Lord, help me. This attack is too much for me. I cant do anything but sit here in faith. Im trusting your Spirit to drive it out of me.

Are you planted by streams of water?

As I wander through this prayer journey I have gone through a few stages on the path.  At first I felt lost and unsure of myself, wondering why I was doing this and didn’t think anyone would walk alongside me.

Further down the path I had a good number of prayer requests and began praying simply for the request itself.  I would read the request, reflect on it, and lift it up to God.  Reflecting on the prayers was a wonderful time for me – I would think of song lyrics, have images in my head, or think of verses related to the prayer request.  It has been amazing to share those words with others and connect with other believers!

Then the well started to dry up.

I began to wonder:  what am I praying for?  What good is this doing?  Am I giving each prayer request the attention it deserves?  How do I pray for this person or situation?

I realized that I was thirsty.

I was praying, I was pouring out, I was spending time in fellowship with the Father in prayer…but I wasn’t in the word.  Being outside the Word is a dangerous thing.  When we’re outside the Word, we aren’t in complete fellowship with our creator.

We become confused.

We get lost.

Things become twisted.

We give up.

I hadn’t read the Bible for 5 days.  Listening to Shawna Gackle’s “Thirsty Thursday” gave me a good kick on the backside (in a good way!)  I needed to come back to the source.

2  but his delight is in the law[b] of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Psalm 1:2-4

My question for you today – are you in the Word?  Are you praying?  Are you in fellowship with other believers?  Like any good relationship it need balance and to be approached on all angles.

Blessed be your name

I woke up this morning at 5 am (again) in a state of worry and self-pity.  Each morning it’s something different on my mind but I’m wide awake with the worry du jour.

As I continued through the morning on worry auto-pilot, I was listening to worship music and “Blessed Be Your Name” came on.  I love this song, as it challenges me each time I listen to it…especially this part:

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

It’s easy to bless His name in the land that is plentiful where the streams of abundance flow…

The challenge for my prayer life today and every day…will I chose to bless his name when I’m walking through the wilderness?

Will you?

Lord teach us to pray

I am on day 9 of my 48 day journey and believe I have hit a wall.

I’m not tired of praying.  I haven’t grown weary or discouraged receiving prayer requests.  In fact, those times of prayer and connecting with others has brought great joy and hope.  The challenge has been how to pray.

It’s easy to pray to “lift others up” to God, or pray for comfort/peace in a struggle.  I get stuck on the idea of intercessory prayer on behalf of an individual, community, or a country.  When people who are sick, lost loved ones or have anxiety ask me to pray I want to pray for them in a way that honors them and God.  I then wonder, how should I pray for this person or situation?  Who am I to intercede?  Is the person’s request really his/her need?  What does God really want for this person?

Several years ago I was reading a book and a quote caught my eye:

The church is like Noah’s Ark: if it were not for the storm on the outside, no one could stand the stench on the inside.

–David Watson

We could spend some time discussing that quote and the impact it has had on my life, but that is for other posts!  This quote drew me to the author, and to a book he wrote:  Fear No Evil:  One Man Deals with Terminal Illness.

In this book Watson, an English evangelist and preacher, documented the final days of his life as he walked through a journey of terminal cancer.  It’s a remarkable and challenging book to read.  Watson receives prayer for healing, has people prophecy that he will survive the cancer all while he struggles to adjust his life to the illness.  His struggles are openly discussed as he wrestles with intercessory prayer, the nature of God, and ultimately his own suffering.

Watson’s final words, which I will share for you here, are a wonderful testimony – the more he suffered physically, the more he sought to draw near to Jesus.

The asthma persisted, so that I slept badly each night; my legs, ankles and feet blew up like balloons; and my abdomen grew at an astonishing rate until I looked like a pregnant woman. . . My arms and shoulders withered into mere skin and bones. . . I looked more dead than alive.

However God has been far from inactive in my life. At about one a.m. . . . I had a bad asthma attack. In my helplessness I cried out to God to speak to me. I’m not very good at listening to God, but between one and three a.m. God spoke to me so powerfully and painfully that I have never felt so broken before him. . .

He showed me that all my preaching, writing and other ministry was absolutely nothing compared to my love relationship with him. . .

God also showed me that my ‘love’ for him meant nothing unless I was truly able to love from my heart my brother or sister in Christ. As the Lord put various names into my mind I began to write letters to about twelve people asking for forgiveness for hurting them. . . It was the most painful pruning and purging I can remember in my entire Christian life. . .

Whatever else is happening to me physically, God is working deeply in my life. His challenge to me can be summed up in three words: ‘Seek my face.’ I am not now clinging to physical life (although I still believe that God can heal and wants to heal); but I am clinging to the Lord. I am ready to go and be with Christ for ever. That would be literally heaven. But I am equally ready to stay, if that is what God wants.

‘Father, not my will but yours be done.’ In that position of security I have experienced once again his perfect love, a love that casts out all fear.

–David Watson

As I reflect on what it means to pray, I have many questions.  Please pray for my soul that I would walk in obedience, seek truth, and that God’s love would pour through me into the lives of those around me.

Yah-Weh! Instaprayer – The Revelation Super Highway

When we pray, oftentimes we think that the sole purpose of prayer is to ask God for things.  “Help me get that job” or “Please heal my sister”.  I once had this thought about the “Prayer Slot Machine” where people line up and pull a coin out of their pocket, pull the lever and hope for the best.  Each coin represents a portion of our “faith” that we “give to God” and “trust he will answer our needs”.

Has your prayer life ever looked like this?







It’s biblical, right?

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Matthew 7:7

The trouble is sometimes we’re asking the wrong questions or wanting things we think we need.  We put our trust and hope in something that isn’t in our best interests, and when we don’t receive the answer we want, part of our faith disappears into that machine.

As I’ve been on this prayer journey, I’ve thought back to the movie “Bruce Almighty”.  Specifically the scene where he puts together a system for answering prayer.  Behold, the “Yah-Weh! Instaprayer – The Revelation Super Highway.”

Fortunately God cares more about us than to just answer YES all the time, and simply hand us what we want.  He knows what we really need and has the wisdom and strength to say “I have something better for you.”

Many thanks to Emalie Tison for drawing the “Prayer Slot Machine”! More of her work can be found at www.emalietison.net

How do you pray?

“Of all spiritual disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father.”


I’ve started, erased, and re-written this first paragraph a few times now.  I guess I’m curious to learn what prayer is to you?

Sometimes I pray by simply talking.  I praise God, ask him for wisdom, thank him for a blessing, or just talk.  Other times I pray by singing.  From hymns to modern worship, I sing and reflect on the words of the song.  I remember many times standing in the Jarabacoa valley singing “How Great Thou Art” as I admired the mountains.

Jarabacoa, one the the most beautiful places on earth.

More often than not I pray simply by closing my eyes and breathing, thinking about the person or situation at hand.  Or I’ll simply close my eyes and be in his presence.

If you’ve never experienced contemplative prayer I would highly recommend reading Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster.  This book was instrumental in me understanding different ways to pray and connect with God.

I think sometimes our speaking gets in the way of truly connecting with God in prayer.  We are so drowned and surrounded by noise and busyness that we are unable to focus on God, to abide in him.

So I leave the question to you – how do you pray?

How can I pray for you?

It began several days ago with a question:  “How can I pray for you?”

I realized that my prayer life had been virtually non-existent for much longer than I would care to admit.  I got lost deeper and deeper down a path of self-pity and complaining. and being tossed in the waves.

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

James 1:6

Feeling lonely and self-conscious, I began to complain that I was alone, that no one had asked me how they could pray for me.  Bitterness crept in.  Resentment followed close behind and brought apathy to the pity party.

Have you ever hosted a pity party?

It’s a sad, lonely place to be.  Everything you look at is in ruins.  No one cares for you and any rays of hope are hidden behind a cloud of hopelessness.

Of course, it’s all a lie.

People do care.  The ruins you “saw” are nothing more than shadows cast against the furniture.  Remember when you were a kid and it was bedtime?  Your room was a different place with the lights off.  That baseball bat and towel in the corner of the room became a ghost.  Your chair was now a monster hunched over waiting for you to close your eyes.

I realized that I needed to live life using the gifts and strengths God had given me.  I turned on the light switch and saw joy, connection, authenticity, spirit, and leader.  I had put those gifts under a rug.

I needed to start praying again.  Not the “Woe is me, my life is terrible” prayer, but the kind of prayer that was lifting up others.

I made a choice to ask a bunch of friends, family, and strangers:  “How can I pray for you?”

The response was amazing!  Over the past 5 days I have prayed for 30 people.  Situations ranging from health issues, changes in job – the list went on.  I began to picture each person (either from a real picture or my imagination) and lifted that person up.  I sent messages to the “requestor” with what I saw, and asked them how it was going.  They wrote back!  Thanking me for the prayer and also sharing stories of hope.

My challenge to you is this:  Who around you can you ask that simple, but powerful question:  “How can I pray for you today?”  Once they give you an answer, commit to praying for them for a period of time.  It doesn’t need to be 48 days.  It could be a day, a week, or until the situation changes.  There are no rules here, only fellowship to be built.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[a] sin.

1 John 1:5-7

Take a risk, accept this challenge, and share it with someone else.  Do you have a fun story or success that came from this challenge?  Share it in the comments below!

6 killer tips to a better prayer life

I love Jesus’ sense of humor.

Don’t think he had one?  Consider the time the disciples asked him to “teach us to pray.”

Jesus immediately responded with a beautiful prayer that teaches us much about our relationship with God the father.  But did he stop there?  Is prayer simply a rote recital of a few magic phrases?  Certainly not!

Now that he had their attention, Jesus did what he did best – tell a story to teach a lesson.  What were the points of the lesson?

  • It’s never a bad time to pray.  God doesn’t care what time of day it is, or what you’re doing.  Take a moment and connect with Him!
  • Don’t worry about asking for the wrong thing.  God will give you exactly what you need.
  • Sometimes, what we ask for isn’t what we truly need.  My daughter, if given the choice, would eat chocolate milk and candy for every meal.  Does this mean I give that to her every time she asks?  Of course not.  I give her food because I know that although she is hungry, candy will not meet her needs.

A more contemporary lesson how to pray can be discovered via Igniter Media.  Thanks Johnny and Chachi!

Have you practiced any prayer positions today?

Luke 11:1-13

11 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.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say:

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.[b]
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.[c]
And lead us not into temptation.[d]’”

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity[e] he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[f] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”


O Lord of pots and pans and things

O Lord of pots and pans and things,
Since I have no time to be
a great saint by doing lovely things,
or watching late with Thee,
or dreaming in the dawnlight,
or storming Heaven’s gates,
Make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates.

Warm all the kitchen with Thy Love,
and light it with Thy peace;
Forgive me all my worrying,
and make my grumbling cease.
Thou who didst love to give men food
in room, or by the sea,
Accept the service that I do-
I do it unto Thee.

Generally attributed to Brother Lawrence

There have been a few challenges for me entering into this season of prayer.  First and foremost is to keep this about prayer and lifting up the needs of others rather than some sort of self-promotion or glorification.  I don’t know about you but I walk a fine line between “sharing what God is doing” and “look at me.”  Would you hold me up in prayer and accountability on this issue during this season?

Secondly, I struggle with finding (read: making) “time to pray.” It’s a tempting trap to think of church as a place we go to, prayer time as something we enter into, and set apart from the rest of our day.  I’ve falling into that trap, expecting a time free from distractions.  This morning I thought of Brother Lawrence.  There is much to be said about this man and the simple yet powerful expression of worship he lived out during his life.

He was assigned to the monastery kitchen where, amidst the tedious chores of cooking and cleaning at the constant bidding of his superiors, he developed his rule of spirituality and work. In his Maxims, Lawrence writes, “Men invent means and methods of coming at God’s love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God’s presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?”

For Brother Lawrence, “common business,” no matter how mundane or routine, was the medium of God’s love. The issue was not the sacredness or worldly status of the task but the motivation behind it. “Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.”

Christianity Today

During my prayer time, I have been soaking in the song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus“.  My thoughts go to the phrase:  “and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”  Right now it feels like I’m pushing through many thorn bushes to reach that place, where the things of earth grow strangely dim.  I have anxiety about the future, many different situations that I don’t know the outcome.

My hope and prayer is that I can be more like Brother Lawrence.  I want to worship, to praise God, to pray during the big and small moments of my life.  I have big aspirations in life, but in focusing on them I idolize them and put aside the “little things of God” which are what matter most.

Do not depend on the hope of results.

I remember spending many hours of my college days sitting in the office of my mentor, Pauline Burthwick.  As we would talk I noticed a printed quote on her desk from Thomas Merton.  One that has stuck with me to this day:

“Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.”

That quote has stayed with me through many jobs and many seasons of my life.  As a youth worker, an IT consultant, a salesperson, a husband, a father, and a friend, those words have been an anchor for me to focus on what matters.  Do not depend on the hope of results…it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.

As I begin this prayer journey, I must remind myself not to depend on the hope of results, at least the results that I might be expecting.  God may chose to heal someone who is sick, or provide financial assistance to a struggling family or individual but then again there may be a different plan in mind.

I prayed through each request this morning.  Each request has been hand-written on a note card with the requester’s name, date, and a word for word (or close summary) description of the request.  I like the hand-written cards because it makes it personal for me.  In this age of everything digital, copy/paste text, handwritten notes stand out.  Do you remember the last time you received or sent a hand-written note, letter, or card?  The memory stands out, doesn’t it?  By hand-writing these requests, they will stand out for me too.  I can carry them with me, jot additional notes from my prayer time, and have something physical to hold on to while praying.


As I hold the cards, they feel heavy.  Right now I have 12 cards but the weight they carry is immense.  People have lost or are losing friends and family members to disease.  There is uncertainty about jobs, the future, or even who they are.  People are hurting and in need of mercy.  People are in need of truth.  People are in need of hope.

As I hold the cards, I am drawn to each story.  I am surprised by the connection I feel with the stories and lives.  As I pray for health issues, I remember when God carried me through the problem with my kidneys.  As I pray for a person who has attempted to take his life, I remember the people in my life who made this attempt, “failed” and are now living a life of hope.  I remember the time when I lost a job and was the sole provider of a young family.  God gave me hope, carried me through and remained faithful.  He didn’t meet my needs in the way I always expected or planned, but he was there every step of the way to meet them.

As I hold the cards, I experience hope.  God didn’t meet my needs in the way I expected, and likely he won’t meet the needs of the people on my cards in the way they are expecting.  Oftentimes I didn’t know what my true needs were, but God did.  God answers our prayers and meets our needs that we don’t know we have in ways we never imagined possible.

Will you, too, take up the call to pray for others?  To not depend on the hope of results, but to struggle for specific people and lift them up in prayer?