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I had the privilege of being interviewed by Marnie Swedberg on her radio show just recently. Spending an hour talking about Drama Free with this delightful woman made me want to hear more from her.

So I asked her to guest blog for me and talk about something we all know we should do, but sometimes wonder how.

Glean from Marnie as she talks about how you and I can pray continually (and leave a comment below and you could win a copy of one of my books.)

Here’s Marnie…

The Bible says, “Pray without ceasing.” If you’re like me, that seemed an impossible command.

I want to share with you the dolphin analogy that God used to help me adopt the habit of praying without ceasing. I hope it will be as helpful to you as it has been to me in unraveling this puzzle.

Simply stated, God created dolphins to be water dwellers, but air breathers. He created us to be earth dwellers, but prayer breathers.

Ephesians 2:6 uses the present tense when it describes our ability to be spiritually in the presence of God even while being stuck here on earth. “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”

Dolphins can breathe air while living in the water. They can survive about five minutes before surfacing, but not much more. We can survive just about as long without going up to God for prayer.

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Do you ever feel like God isn’t answering your prayers?

I heard from a reader recently who asked “How long am I supposed to pray if God continues to ignore me?”

It might feel like God is ignoring you when He doesn’t answer your prayers immediately or in the way you’re hoping. But Scripture offers us insights as to why God might appear to be silent.

One verse that I’ve found most helpful in my own life – when it comes to unanswered prayer – is Psalm 84:11, in which the Psalmist said “No good thing will [God] withhold from those who walk uprightly.” I find three principles (and loads of encouragement) in this verse for why God might not be answering my prayer or yours.

  1. God’s idea of a “good thing” might be different than yours. You might be praying for a husband, a job you’ve been hoping for, or to win the lottery. Why would God not give you any or all of the three? Because even though you might feel it’s good for you to be married, or to be working in a job you like, or to have more money, God’s opinion might differ. Just because something makes us happy doesn’t mean it’s good for us, eternally. And God has our eternal best in mind.

 In Matthew 7:11 Jesus said:

“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 good gifts to those who ask him?”

We want our children to be happy, but not at the expense of their health, and therefore we don’t give them candy at every meal. We want them to hold down a good job, but we won’t do that job for them because learning responsibility and the consequences of a bad decision are more healthy and good for them in the long run. Trust that God, your Heavenly Father, knows what is best for you. And while you may be heartbroken at His “no,” He may very well be sparing you a bigger heartache down the road.

  1. God is waiting for you to be obedient. Scripture exhorts husbands to be considerate of their wives and treat them with respect so that their prayers aren’t hindered (1 Peter 3:7). And Psalm 84:11 says “no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Are you walking uprightly? Is your life not only obedient, but surrendered to Him? If not, God may be withholding or refusing to acknowledge your prayers to get you back into line with His will and purposes.
  1. It isn’t the right time. God has three answers. Yes, no, and wait. Because He can see what’s eternally best for us, and He can also see what’s coming down the road (and we can’t), trust His judgment. Don’t second guess Him. His timing is always better than yours. If you are walking uprightly and what you’re asking for is truly a good thing then, according to Psalm 84:11, God is not withholding after all. It just isn’t time.
  1. You aren’t asking in faith. How we pray is just as important as what we pray for. In  James 1:5-8 we are told:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 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. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

Furthermore, Hebrews 11:6 says,

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

So ask in faith and without hesitation or doubting. God may be waiting for you to truly believe He can do what you are asking for.

  1. God has something better for you than what you are asking for. This is my favorite reason for why God says “no” but we so often forget to consider it. Because He is good and knows what’s eternally best for us, and doesn’t want us to settle, God sometimes says no or closes a door because He has something better for us that we haven’t even thought to ask for. He is One who can do “immeasurably more” than all we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Trust His timing. Trust His “no.” And trust His idea of what is eternally best for you. He really is a good father.

Do you believe that?

Do you know what it’s like to feel disappointed in God?

You’ve prayed. You’ve been faithful and obedient. You’ve sincerely wanted God’s best, not yours. And then “God’s best” turned out to be something that didn’t feel best for you after all.

You’re not alone in that disappointment. And God hasn’t forgotten about you.

For the past three years, my family has experienced its share of disappointments. My husband, a pastor who served faithfully for 20 years, stepped out of the senior pastorate for what we believed would be a one-year sabbatical, after which time he would transition into whatever God had for him next. And that one year turned into two, and then into three, and then, just as we were bracing ourselves for another disappointing year, a door cracked open. And that door actually stayed open long enough for him to walk through and experience life on the “other side of disappointment” once again.

And the words that keep coming to my mind and heart — as I reflect on the past three years of asking, waiting, complaining, repenting, and asking again — are never forgotten.

While you may feel disappointed this Christmas because of a lost love, a lost job, a lost opportunity, a hurtful betrayal, or a wayward child, you are not forgotten. Disappointed at life, perhaps, but never forgotten.

Here is a prayer I prayed in the disappointment. And I can pray it again now as I reflect on His perfect timing. I trust it will bring peace to your heart as you continue to ask and wait for your God to come through.

Lord, Jesus, I thank You for what You are doing in and around my life. Not because I feel good about it, but because Your Word commands me to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I truly want Your will in my life, but I want Your grace and Your wisdom to not only recognize it, but to accept it and be grateful for it, as well.

I know You are in control of all things. I know You are the giver of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17). And yet for some reason You have chosen not to give me what I am asking for at this time. Your Word says You are “a sun [to light my way] and shield [to protect me from harm]” and that “no good thing” will You withhold from those whose walk is blameless (Psalm 84:11). Therefore, I choose to believe You are still good even when You withhold something from me and I don’t understand why. I choose to believe You are still loving, and You are still protecting me in the midst of what still feels disappointing.

Lord, at this time of the year when people are focused on giving, help me to remember that You have given me the greatest gift I could ever receive – salvation through my faith in Your Son, Jesus. And because of that great gift of Your Son, I also have peace, comfort, provision, and many blessings I might have missed because I was focused on the disappointments and the letdowns instead.

Thank You for all the days You have heard my cries, seen my tears, and worked behind the scenes in my life when I didn’t even realize it. Thank You for the many times you have walked before me or alongside me, “though your footprints were not seen” (Psalm 77:19).

Thank You for the air I breathe, for the ways I am healthy, for the fact that as disappointing as life has been, it could be far worse. Thank You for the people in my life who have reached out to me and been the arms of Jesus to embrace me, the hands of Jesus to serve me, and the mouth of Jesus to provide words of comfort. Thank You, that even on days when I received none of that, You were still there, speaking to me through your Word, through the circumstances in my life, and through Your quiet whispers on my heart.

As Christmas approaches, help me to love and serve others around me from a heart that loves You and trusts You no matter what has happened, and no matter what lies ahead. Thank You that my hope is not in my circumstances, nor in the odds, nor in “luck,” nor in others; my hope is in You (Psalm 62:5). “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). “For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth” (Psalm 71:5).

And Lord, in the midst of my disappointment, don’t let my heart grow bitter and don’t let me begin to doubt Your love and presence. In these difficult times, “May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you” (Psalm 25:21). May I be a light to others this Christmas season as I focus on Who You are, and may my heart of gratitude and faith in Your unseen promises please Your heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Let me know if you’ve prayed this prayer so I can pray for you, too. Merry Christmas, my friend, you are not forgotten.

There are a few situations in my life right now that could really stress me out. My husband is waiting to hear about three different job opportunities, and to be honest, he needs at least two of  the three!

Now, I can pull out my hair, and lose sleep at night, and keep calculating what we’ll do if he doesn’t get any of those jobs. Or, I can realize it is ludicrous for me to worry that God isn’t aware, or doesn’t care, or won’t provide for us in time.

I choose to not be ludicrous. So I thought of five good reasons not to worry about that or anything we tend to worry about. Those five good reasons come down to five things you and I will never hear God say as we hand Him our worries and concerns.

So here they are. You never have to fear any of these responses when you trust God with what is on your heart:

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Are you ready for 4  more things you never have to worry about?

I asked you last week to let me know what keeps you awake at  night and, based on your responses (and what I know of God’s trustworthy Word) here is another list of 4 things God can control a lot better than you and I can:

1. You never need to worry about being ignorant or relying on your own thinking. God’s wisdom is there for the askingJames 1:5-6 says:

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind (NLT).

So,  ask God for wisdom and ask for it by faith in Him alone. And as you apply Proverbs 3:5-6, He will straighten the way for you:

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Blog quote 11As Thanksgiving nears, I am reminded of my blessings. And you, my readers, immediately come to mind.

I am remembering you, and praying for your heart to be encouraged for the many ways you have blessed me throughout this past year:

  • You have asked great, thought-provoking questions that have forced me to go to God’s Word to find adequate biblical answers for you.
  • You have left encouraging comments on my blog and through emails that have kept me going on days when I wondered if what I write really makes a difference in anyone’s lives.
  • You have talked up my books and are the reason so many of them are still in print, and more are still being written.

Now, I’d love to know how I can encourage you. 

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Do you ever stumble upon something from years ago and find that it still touches you today?

I recently found an old  journal I kept during my high school and college years and discovered that what I wrote about my God 30 years ago still applies to His character today.

That tells me that although our situations change throughout the years our God never does.Though we may have forgotten certain heartaches or experiences in which we needed Him, He has not.

I hope this is a gentle reminder to you, too, that His love for you is still constant, His forgiveness is still faithful, and with all that you’ve been through, He is still the Friend who sticks closer than a brother:

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When my friend sent me a text upon learning her husband was diagnosed with colon cancer, I was surprised — yet encouraged — by her reaction:

“God’s got this,” she said confidently.

I want that type of unswerving trust in the One who can handle all things. And I know you do, too.

Last week I asked you what you worry most about so I could encourage you to trust God in those areas. Here is what you, my readers, said:

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Where is God in the story of your life? When God Sees Your Tears

  • collecting your tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8).
  • recording every detail in His book.
  • weaving His plan and purpose into your circumstances.
  • building a legacy out of what you might feel is wasted time.

It’s difficult to imagine how God can have a purpose or happy ending to our life’s story when we’re right in the middle of discontent — longing for something more or missing something we once had. But God sees our story from beginning to end and He knows exactly what He’s preparing us for.

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May-DevotionalA woman named Peggy recently wrote and said: “I would like to know  how to keep my focus on God and walk in the Spirit and not be distracted.”

It’s easy to get distracted with all that is happening in the world….even if it’s just our own busy schedule or keeping up with our children’s. But I have found, in my life, that the key to keeping focused on Christ  is keeping the channels of communication open with God.

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praying otterI’d like to say that every morning at the crack of dawn I am assuming this position (at left) and starting my day in prayer.  Actually, I can still remember days in my early 30s when I eagerly rose from bed at  5:30 a.m., spent some precious time in prayer and Bible study and then showered and got on with an extremely productive day.

All I can say now is Where did those days go?

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I got to thinking about how Thanksgiving might be much more meaningful this year if I focused on thanking God for the things He rarely hears thanks for. What if I thanked Him, not just for the food on the table and the “blessings for this past year,” but for all the ways He has not performed according to my liking. For all the times He has said “no” and for all the ways He has worked in and through my life, perhaps without my even knowing it.

Will you try it with me this year?

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