Are You Hurting? Pray.

I have a deep love for the Bible. I always have. Not like my favorite books, of which there are many, the Bible frequently comes to me fresh and new. Not new, as in new versions, or a newly purchased copy – no, as in the message therin.

Because I was a church worker for twenty-two years, one might think I have most of the Bible memorized. One might be wrong. I have read it all the way through a few times, and there are more than a few verses stored in my memory bank, but I am no Bible scholar or expert. Actually, as long as we are speaking on assumptions, I should let you know that most church workers aren’t.

I just love the way I can pick up my Bible (or my phone with the Bible app) and find God’s actual words speaking to me today. Not just words written by some man thousands of years ago, but words that are alive, rich, and ready for me to ingest.

I have been dealing with a frustrating health issue for a few months, which has been only getting worse. It’s not life threatening – only exhausting. A few months back, I noticed I was sleeping more and more, longer and longer. I have always been a champion sleeper, able to sleep long hours and through just about any noise, but this was different. Seven to eight hours was no longer enough sleep. I was now needing nine to ten, sometimes twelve hours, and could still take a nap in between. And I have become increasingly forgetful. My brain is foggy on a good day, and murky on a bad one.

I went to the doctor and had a physical with all the blood work. We talked about the usual culprits – I am over weight, have low thyroid function, and I am a Type 2 diabetic. But all my tests came back, showing improved health over the last time. In fact, I’ve been making slow but steady improvements over the last couple of years. It didn’t make much sense to me or my doctor.

I left feeling frustrated, and he vowed to keep thinking on it. Then, this morning, as I read my Bible, these verses came across my page, from the book of James:

“Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out.

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to reckon with.”

James 5: 13-16; The Message

I stopped immediately and prayed. And then I texted a friend and asked her to pray. It’s not that I haven’t prayed about this before – I have many times. But in my frustration this morning of feeling so, so tired, I found myself whining a bit. I started thinking about all the good things I have going on in my life that I am not enjoying to the fullest. I started thinking about the things I could be doing, but have been missing out on. And I whined some more. But while praying over these verses, I asked God to bring healing. I asked God to bring joy.

I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in my 30’s. My doctor, at the time, gave me this diagnosis after I had a bad round of mono. It was my fourth time since age 15 to have it. I was exhausted for over a year, but eventually found my stride again. And truth be told, I hadn’t given it another thought since.

This morning, I got a message from the doctor: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I had messaged him about it last week, wondering if that is still a thing, or could be a thing, and it turns out yes, it’s a thing. And it’s my thing. Since he was not the doctor who had diagnosed me many years ago, it wasn’t on his radar. And since I hadn’t thought about it or struggled with it in almost fifteen years, it had fallen off mine.

Now that I think about it, it makes sense. A flare up of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can be caused by a virus or physical ailment, but also by emotional strain. In the last twelve months, my daughter and oldest child graduated high school. We traveled most of the summer. Then we had a major electrical fire at our house the week before moving her to college. I spent the next six months dealing with repairs and insurance frustrations. I left my job of 22 years to take on a new role. My husband’s grandmother died. My husband’s car engine blew on his cross country trek to the funeral, leaving him with no choice but to buy a new car. And now my son (and my baby) is about to start his senior year of high school.

I’ve had a couple emotional strains this year.

You may look at the list and think, “She’s such a whiner! That’s nothing compared to what I’ve been through!” And if that were truly your response, I would reply, “I am so sorry you have been through so much worse.” And I would mean it, because that’s the funny thing about life… I have been through worse, too. But for whatever reason, my body has decided, at this point in time, to say, “Let’s sleep this one off.”

So this is what I’ve decided to do:

I’m going to rest when I need to rest. I’m going to sleep when I need to sleep. I’m going to drink lots of water. I will take my vitamins and go for walks. I will swim in my pool when I want to move, and I will float when I want to relax. I will praise God for all the blessings in my life, and I will cry out to him when my heart is heavy. I will call friends and make dates to see each other, because laughter really is the best medicine. And when I am too weary to do anything else, I will ask those same friends to pray for me.

And I will believe, as James reminded me this morning, that Jesus will heal me and put me back on my feet.

Whispers of Hope – A Prayer for Lent

I did not grow up with a knowledge or understanding of Lent. Our particular church did not acknowledge it. I had a few Catholic friends and I had a vague awareness of them not eating meat on Friday but I really didn’t have any sort of grasp on the practice, culture, or custom.

In the last 18 years, as Lutheranism has slowly seeped into my DNA, I have, each year, been striving to wrap my brain around the season and what it means for me. I started with a popular decision of giving up sweets. One year I gave up soap operas (and actually never picked them up again). I’ve given up wine, dessert, cakes and cookies specifically, only pie for one season, and emotional eating. I’ve also had years where I picked up a habit. For instance, one year I read a chapter of my bible every day.

I will be the first to admit that for most years, I made it about me.

“Look at what I’m giving up.”

“Look how disciplined I am.”

“See how good I am when I sacrifice for Jesus.”

The reality is, I believe, that my decision to give up cupcakes did not really draw me closer to Jesus. (It totally may be what you need. There is no judgement here. I’m only speaking for self.) In fact, the things I gave up mostly made me sad and feel self pity. When I started equating my giving up pie to Jesus climbing up on the cross, it occurred to me that I might not have a grasp on what sacrifice is.

I’ve been thinking for a few weeks about where my life is right now. I’ve been processing the incredible rate of speed my kids are growing, how this changes my marriage and our family. I’ve been staring down the barrel of 40 and what that means. What have I accomplished? How have I grown? Shouldn’t I be have my life together by now?

The whisper in my soul that has been growing increasingly louder and more persistent is saying, “Pray.”

My prayer life is what I like to call “on the go.” I wake up praying; thanking God for breath and asking him to give me strength for the day. I pray in the shower for specifics that come to mind. I pray as I’m walking up the stairs to wake my kids, “God, give them health today” and as I drop them at school, “God, protect them.”

As the day rolls on I’m in constant prayer.

“Thank you for the beauty in the blooming azaleas.”

“Please take away this cough.”

“Help me to be wise.”

“Help me to be kind.”

They come as easily as breath and I breathe them in and out all day. But I’ve craving a slow down. I’m desiring a friendship with Jesus that looks like morning coffee instead of a quick text message.

So I bought this book by Beth Moore (Whispers of Hope) and I’ve decided it will be my spring board for Lent this year. If Lent is supposed to be a time of purification and drawing closer to Christ, I want to spend time, every morning, in bible devotion and guided prayer. I want to make a focused effort to be less of me and more of Jesus.

Right now I know some of you are saying, “You aren’t supposed to tell people what you’re doing for Lent because that makes you look prideful.” Folks, there is zero pride in me saying I’ve made my life too busy to sit down with Jesus. I want no accolades for that. I share because I think it’s possible there are a few moms (or dads) that might be like me and know that the days they spend with Jesus make them better parents. I share because I have a hunch there are some women who, like me, feel a bit of pressure to carry heavy loads and could use some strength from God.

This book is simply a tool with three features. Every day offers a devotional with a scripture passage and a few thoughts. There is a prayer guide that uses the PRAISE approach (I’ll share what that means in a minute.) And there is also an answer log so I can record answered prayers.

So PRAISE is an easy format to help me organize my prayer thoughts and it works like this:

Praise – I will start each prayer by opening my heart and telling God how awesome I think he is. I might write a line from the Psalms or even a chorus from a song. The point is God already knows who he is. This is me, letting him know that I know, too.

Repentance – This is where I admit the things. All the things. Jealousy? Write it down. Anger? Yes. Gluttony? Yep. Lust? Even good girls do it. No matter what it is, I’ll record it and ask God to help me turn away from it. There is no shame…in fact, it frees me of shame. Holding on to sin is pointless because God already sees it. He knows I’ve done it. This is me, stating the obvious, so I can stop.

Acknowledge – This is where I admit that I trust him (or don’t) and that I want him to be the ruler of my life.

Intercession – I can list all the needs on my heart that belong to other people. The friend’s premature baby I’ve been praying for. The friend who is suffering anxiety. My sick family member. The friend who doesn’t know Jesus. I can list any and all and God hears them. He sees them.

Self – What do I need? What are my hurts? Where are my weaknesses? I can pour my heart out to God because he is my refuge and strength. He opens his arms and pulls me in safely. This is the time to share my whole heart with him.

Equipping – I want to serve God, not just go to him with needs. When I ask to be filled with his Spirit he empowers me to be a blessing to others.

They say it takes 21 days to make a habit and I’m hoping that this becomes a habit that sticks. I want my relationship with Jesus to grow stronger. I desire to know him more. I know there is power in his Word and I know he hears my prayers.

What are some tools you have used during Lent (or any other time) to focus your mind and heart on Jesus?




*I make zero dollars on the sale of Beth’s book and I have no affiliation with Amazon. I placed a link in case you, like me, think this book might be helpful to your prayer life.