It is easy to be faithful to God when things are going well and we feel happy in our circumstances. However when our lives are in chaos and the people around us seem to be adding to our frustration or anxiety it is often more difficult to trust and rely on God. Although we may turn to God in our weakest moments and hope that He will make our problems go away, relieve our fears and anxieties and give us wisdom, too often we ultimately choose to rely on our own decisions and instincts to get us through. Part of the problem is that we do not receive instantaneous answers or solutions or God reminds us that we are either part of the problem, or even worse, most of the problem. What are we supposed to do with that?
As we discussed in the last post, I believe God does whatever it takes to help us become all that He designed us to be. Learning to trust God when things are not going the way you would like them to go is a challenge as well as a discipline. Honoring God with true humility when our flesh wants to blame someone else is another challenge. Yielding to these challenges allows us to grow into the person God wants us to be. As we learn to accept responsibility for our own failures or weaknesses and humbly ask God to help us change behaviors, habits or prideful beliefs we begin to understand what Christ is doing in our lives. It starts to make sense to us. It is through hearing, believing and accepting the truths which God presents to us that we are able to lean on Him with more and more consistency. You may not believe this now, but truth does bring with it a sense of freedom. Once we are able to honestly look at ourselves, or others, we gain the ability to see things through different eyes.
Whether our circumstances are caused by ourselves, others or life in general, the Lord will challenge us to patiently rely on Him for answers and wisdom. The next time you feel God speaking to you, take the time to listen to what He may be saying and ask Him to help you accept the truths presented to you with an open mind and heart.
Some of you may be wondering what I meant when I said you should use your imaginations when you pray. If you think about how you live your life, you use your imagination constantly. For instance, if you want to think about someone you love, you imagine them, or you may picture a past event clearly in your mind, While you may think of that as a memory, which it may be, you can only re-create it by using your mind and imagination. Your mind may recall the memory but it is your imagination which allows you to "see" what is happening. Obviously the person is not with you at that moment or the event is not happening in real time, so whatever you find yourself absorbed is in in part, due to your imagination.
Similarly when you think about the possiblity of future events, your "imagine" them in your mind. You use your imagination to create thoughts of pleasant things happening; a vacation, a night alone with your spouse or child or a time when you can relax and read a book or go for a walk. You may also find yourself imagining things which you find fearful. You may find yourself thinking about something negative occuring resulting from a bad choice you may have made or you may imagine something terrible happening to someone you love. With those thoughts come vivid images; some peaceful, pleasant and exciting while others may be troublesome and anxiety producing.
The point is, whether or not we are aware of it, we are constantly using our imaginations to think, process things and make decisions. Why should we expect our imaginations to leave us when we pray?
If you want to have a relationship with Jesus, you have to allow yourself to use your mind and imagination in order to feel His presence. While you can not "see" Him physically, he is present with you. Just as thoughts of someone you love can provide you with an immediate sense of calm, thoughts of Jesus will begin to produce the same sense of calm in your life. Over time you will begin to sense not only His presense but His direction and His deep love for you.
Allowing yourself to spend time with Jesus and patiently waiting for Him to "speak" to you takes practice, time and patience. For many of you, this will be a new experience which may make you feel awkward or simply uncomfortable. As you begin this new way to pray, do not get discouraged and do not get mad at yourself when you find it hard to concentrate or when you get distracted. You WILL get distracted!!
Next post we will talk about different ways to get started with this type of prayer. In the meantime, if you feel comfortable, try to take a little time at the end of your prayer time and just quietly sit and perhaps ask God if He has anything He wants to let you know. For now, just see what happens.
I can assure you of one thing. Even if you think nothing happens, SOMETHING is happening, because at that moment, you are telling God you have enough faith in Him to know He is there with you. By your requests and patience you are showing Him it is important for you to reach out to Him in order to experience this real relationship you keep hearing about. Believe me, THAT is pleasing to our Lord!
Too often we tend to think the more we know, the more we will change. Unfortunately, that is not really true. Gregory Boyd says in his book "Seeing is Believing" , "contemporary Western Christians are as a whole arguably the most informed generation of Christians in all of church history. Yet no one would be so foolish as to suggest that we are the most transformed; to the contrary, research suggests the faith of American evangelicals has very little effect on our day-to-day lives".
Why is this...because knowing something intellectually will never replace "experiencing" something.
There are many people who believe, as do I, that part of the reason for this lack of transformation is that we do not use our imaginations when praying or relating to God. Unfortunatly, too often we equate the imagination with a child-like perception of reality and associate it with a make-believe world. However throughout the Bible Jesus speaks to us in parables so that we are able to understand what He is trying to tell us; He purposely gives us images in order to allow us to understand who He was and still is. ie: the rock (psalm 18:2, psalm 62:6-7); the shepard (Isaiah. 40:11,
John 10:14) etc. These images must be processed through our imagination.
He created our minds and our imaginations, yet when it comes to relating to Him, we set our imagination aside and revert to our human-ness as we tend to become rational and methodical in our prayer life. We need to change our thinking and allow ourselves to let our minds and imaginations flow freely in order to begin to relate to the invisible God who is waiting to spend time with us. I believe God wants us to use our imaginations so that we are able to draw nearer to Him and begin to EXPERIENCE transformation.
Join us and EXPERIENCE Jesus as you never have before!
I believe there is nothing in this world which can more positively impact or change our lives than a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
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