Prayer Journal

 

Recently, I bought a Leuchtturm 5 Year Journal. It was, by far, the most expensive journal I have ever bought ($30).

But it's supposed to last you 5 years and gives you just a little bit of space per day.
I've been using it as a daily prayer journal. I've always liked writing my prayers down. I don't know why — and yes, I started doing this way before the movie or the book “The Help” came out (one of the main characters writes her prayers down as well).

I guess one of the reasons why I do it is, for one, it helps me to pray. I know that prayer should be automatic for us pastors. I can't speak for anyone else, but for some odd (and bad) reason, prayer is one of the first things that I forget to do. For reasons I can't really explain, journaling just helps me to remember to pray.

Another reason is that I enjoy looking back at my prayers weeks; months later. I like to see where my state of mind and soul were . I like to see how God answered my prayers because I learned that a lot of my prayers were answered, just not in the way I hoped, expected, or wanted it them to be answered.

With this new journal, I don't have that much space to focus on prayer requests. But it's a good thing, because often times, we treat prayer no differently than our wish list on Amazon. It helps me to frame my thoughts; my relationship with God; overall, reflect on who God is in my life.

I've had the journal for about a month and already there are days that I missed in my attempts to daily write my prayers. Looking back, I have to ask — what the heck? What was so wrong with my day that I didn't take time to pray? And usually, it takes me about 10 minutes (pray silently; write down as I pray; pray silently) — because the space I'm given is limited. How whack were my priorities that day that I did not pray? There's never a legitimate excuse. As Bill Hybels said, “If you're too busy to pray, you're too busy.” Yes, I do feel guilty about those empty slots in the journal. But bigger than the guilt, I am given a chance to correctly prioritize my day for the following day.

I can't overstate how important and vital prayer is to my (and everyone else's) soul, life, and faith journey. Unfortunately, I just need all the help I can get to remind me to pray. Journaling my prayer has helped immensely and I'd recommend everyone to keep a journal of their prayers.

 

Hiding Behind Prayer

I have begun to notice how easy it is to actually have prayer hinder our efforts.
There are fewer phrases that are more powerful and affirming and all the other good stuff than “I’ll pray for you.”

But if we’re not careful, those words can be something we just rattle out to hide from the real situation. Sometimes, it’s easier to say “I’ll pray for you” rather than actually get our hands dirty and busy.

In Servolution, Dino Razzi writes about such a moment. A woman attended a prayer meeting and raised her hand and said, “My boyfriend just left me. I need to move out of our apartment tomorrow and I don’t have a truck or any help.” The person leading the group responded the way many of us would, “Well, we’ll pray for you.” Maybe some of us would even do the laying of the hands to ask God to help this young woman who is in need. But as they were praying a realization came to Dino: he can actually do something to make the prayer come to action. So he grabbed a few guys together, got a truck and just showed up at her door the next day to help her move.

As I sit here and type this, I have to admit, I’m more comfortable with the “I’ll pray for you” part than actually realizing that I may be part of God’s answer to the person’s prayer request.
If someone comes up to me and says, “My niece is in the (local) hospital and we don’t know what’s wrong. She’s been undergoing so many tests. Please pray for us.” I’ll admit to you, the first thing that comes to mind is, I should really pray for that family. I might even say a prayer for the person who requested the prayer at that moment. But how much more meaningful would it be to actually make a short stop to the hospital and say a quick prayer for the niece and family in person? (And not overextend our stay to the point it becomes weird).

A lot of times, when we unleash the power of prayer, we may actually be part of the power that we unleash. Did that make sense?
Prayer is absolutely important, but we have to be careful that we don’t use prayer as an excuse to keep us isolated from the world, community and the real needs of people. Much like faith, prayer requires action, too.

20 Day Fast

Earlier this year, I posted this: Yes, Lord. Then that was followed by this.

I came here and realized I had a long road ahead of me with the youth ministry here. I felt a little desperate and lost. Didn’t know where to begin, or how to begin. And on top of all that whirlwind, there was talks about starting a new alternative worship. This was something within my passion, but was reluctant to do so, because of critical state of our youth ministry. But I was volunteered to look into it with a very passionate and wonderful lay person. But I had no idea how this was going to work and felt even more confused.

So what was there left for me to do? Pray. Fervently and desperately for direction, for guidance, for courage and wisdom. For God’s help.
And, I don’t know how theologically incorrect this is, but I also felt that I owed God a 20 day fast.

There was a problem though. I felt that this church may not understand why I felt the need to go on a 20 day fast. So I decided to break it up. Mondays through Fridays, I will be fasting. And over the weekends, I will break the fast, and will do this for four weeks.
My prayer request were/are:

  1. That a decision would be made: whether we go through with the alternative worship service or not. (not knowing if it was going to happen or not was a big burden on me. more than i realized)
  2. Strength, vision, patience and God’s guidance on how to put focus on faith rather than games in YM. And for God to stir the hearts of the youth.
  3. For a part time help, or dedicated volunteers who share the same/similar vision for youth ministry
  4. For a baby.
  5. For my wife to find a job
  6. I have an idea for a book (actually 2).

I know this may look like a selfish prayer list, but really, I just was desperate for God’s help and I needed to make sure that all the decisions I made from here on out was God’s will and not mine.

With that and the prayers in mind, I started this journey at the beginning of September. I may have made a mistake in breaking up the days. My dad has always told me in his 20 and 40 day fast, the first week is the hardest. That’s when you feel the hunger and are in discomfort. After that, it’s about dealing with weakness and fighting fatigue, and also not being able to fall asleep. Day 3-5 are particulary the hardest, he would tell me.
I have to face day 3-5 four times. And my dad suggested that next time, just go and do it all at once.

Not only that, and I apologize ahead of time, during the weekends, I always felt discomfort with my bowel movements.  I think my body wants me to go #2 throughout the week, but there’s no waste to push out. As soon as I break fast, it feels like my body says “YAY! We have something to do! Let’s get on it now!”

I end the fast for good tomorrow evening at 5pm. I didn’t think I lost a lot of weight until last night, when my wedding almost slipped off my finger.

But can I tell you how good and gracious God has been?
Within the first week of the fast, the date was set to start the new alternative service starting on Nov. 2. And last night, we got the go ahead and blessings of our SPRC to do whatever necessary. The prayer topic has changed to where to go from here and that God will lead me and I will faithfully follow wherever he may lead.

With the youth, there’s a certain sense of comfort that overpowers the frustration and lostness I feel. And that comfort is God reminding me that I’m never alone.
I brought up the idea of hiring a part timer. We’ll see how that goes.
My prayer is also that we’ll be able to find more volunteers for the youth ministry from the new alternative services so that this youth ministry becomes a team ministry with counselors and small group leaders.

I can’t say anything about the baby yet. but we’re still praying.

Pending a background check and fingerprints, my wife got a job!

And as for the book ideas, I have no idea how to approach that. But I thought it was just something to pray about. I’m not that clever and the thoughts that came to me were, and I knew it had to be from God.

I’m underserving, but God has been real gracious and good towards me.

If anything, I just feel more devoted to God. I feel like I belong to God more than I did in August.
I’m also looking forward to breaking my fast.

And as soon as I can, which I assume is next Wednesday or so, I’m gonna have me some Mexican food. (I’ve been craving Mexican food the most.)

I’ve been going to sanctuary each day and sitting there praying to God.
I hope that this discipline will continue long after the fast is done.