Refocusing Prayer

Refocusing Prayer

by: Heidi Baumgartner, Washington Conference communication director

 

I’ve gone through many dry periods in my life when my prayers sounded the same, felt the same, and seemed to give the same results. You’ve likely had a similar chapter of life, or maybe multiple chapters like this.

 

I thought as a writerly type that prayer journals would be the answer. While cleaning house and trying to minimize recently, I found no less than 5 incomplete prayer journals starting from about age 10. That early journal is sweet and special…and slightly embarrassing! The teenage one was the worst one with the embarrassment factor and I still can’t bring myself to flip through those pages. Then there is the college edition, the first job edition, and the prayer group edition. I really did try prayer journaling!

 

Prayer journaling seemed like the essential tool of a good prayer warrior! And I felt guilty or that I was failing somehow because prayer journals didn’t click for me. The only time it kind of worked for me was when I had a prayer partner who I called once or twice a month. I kept a journal mostly because I had accountability! She did it, so I did it.

 

Perhaps the reason I struggled most with prayer journaling was because the focus was on me, not on our God.

 

And then a breakthrough happened.

 

My breakthrough started last fall when a spiritual mentor I respect challenged me to read the Gethsemane chapter of Desire of Ages. A paragraph at a time, I went through this chapter on a near nightly basis between September and December. I was drawn to our Savior’s experience, and found myself writing phrases, prayers and thoughts in an artistic manner. Seeing Jesus pray four times “Not my will, but yours” changed my life.

 

I felt a little lost when this reflective study came to an end just before Christmas.

 

Earlier in 2018, Washington Conference distributed 500 free copies of Steps to Personal Revival. I downloaded my e-book version and began reading through the spiritually life changing words a paragraph at a time.

 

I liked how Helmet Haubeil outlined how to break the cycle of fear and disappointment with five steps:

  • Pray intensely for God’s help
  • Take God’s word and law seriously
  • Depend on God’s strength
  • Live in the power of the Holy Spirit
  • Seek increasing joy, motivation, strength, fruitfulness and victory (p. 37)
  1.  

From here, God impressed me to read the Wisdom books of the Bible. I started in Job, a book of the Bible I have never liked. To make it more palatable, I chose to read it in the Message paraphrase. This was the right choice for me because it changed my perspective of this narrative. (Choose the translation or paraphrase that works best for you.)

 

To see Job’s faith and questions to God in a dark time in his life resonated with the dark times in my life. Right in the middle of Job 19, he declares: “For all I’ve lost and all I grieve and all I’ve gone through, STILL I KNOW that God lives.” Suddenly, I liked Job.

 

Reading through Job prepared me to understand better the prayers of Psalms. I’ve always liked Psalms and have frequently turned to Psalms for a quick word of encouragement.

 

This time was different. This time, the prayers became mine. The prayers became promises that I held on to and claimed. A sampler of verses I claimed:

  • Psalm 4: For You, God, have put my life back together.
  • Psalm 6: My requests have all been granted; my prayers are answered.
  • Psalm 11: God’s business is putting things right.
  • Psalm 33: Love us, God, with all you’ve got—that’s what we’re depending on.
  • Psalm 105: Keep your eyes open for God, watch for His works; be alert for signs of His presence. Live a happy life!
  • Psalm 119: Walk steady. You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.
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With each day’s experience when I faced doubt, fear, insufficiency and more, God brought me the right verse of reassurance, hope, comfort, or whatever was needed for that day. Instead of the Psalmist David yelling at God or praising God, it was my voice.

 

Near the end of Psalms is a passage that resonates with my daily walk with God:                             

God’s in charge—always. Psalm 146:10

 

I don’t know what you are facing in your day, your week, your month, or your year. I don’t know how everything is going to turn out in your life. But I do know this: we are invited to partner with God. He is in charge. Always. Hallelujah!