Why Your Broken Prayers Are Enough

This article (originally a blog post) was published in my column “Faith in Real Life” for Dallas Seminary’s Student Journal- Spring 2012 Issue 2. You can view the PDF here on pg. 5. 

It’s interesting how the word “prayer” conjures up many emotions and feelings for people. You might view your prayer life as a delight, a duty, or both. Maybe it just depends on what kind of day you’re having.

The demands of seminary, working, raising children, serving in ministry, and making our marriage a priority often leaves my husband and me with no choice but to fall on our knees before God. Our prayer lives have been forced to grow as our responsibilities have increased over the years, and I admit that much of my strength has come from confessing my absolute brokenness.

The Sweet Word Abba

When I was single, I had a more designated time for prayer, but now my prayers are more unscheduled, short, and spontaneous. And lately the prayer I offer most to God is help! I’ve also had times when the only words I could offer were tears. And of course the most pivotal prayer of all was when I asked Jesus to save me.

But most of the time I still feel this pressure to offer drawn-out, formal prayers to God, and if I don’t do that, I’m not spiritual. But it’s interesting to note that in Romans, Paul says that in our spirit we cry out, “Abba, Father” in our adoption as His children. And that’s a short prayer if I’ve seen one.

Being Natural with God

I’ve been reading the 30-day devotional book called Prayer by Charles Spurgeon, and in it he says, “I think this sweet word Abba was chosen to show us that we are to be very natural with God, not stilted and formal.” Spurgeon goes on to say that sometimes our prayers to God are more like groans and longings, and that when we cry Abba, “The cry in our hearts is not only childlike, but the tone and manner of utterance are equally so.”

I can just picture the tone and manner of the word “D-a-d-d-y” when a child is in great danger or in need of help, and how when we cry “A-b-b-a” to our Heavenly Father, it is the same.

Embracing a Child-like Faith

Spurgeon’s words have reminded me that it’s okay to offer such a short, broken prayer when that’s all I can do. They’ve also reminded me that lots of things keep me from being natural and real with God, among them pride, stubbornness, fear, my inability to trust Him with everything, and my failure to believe that He loves me.

But when I come to God as my Abba, tell him all that He already knows, and be real with Him, I’m amazed at how He shows Himself and works in my heart. My heart is overwhelmed with joy because I learn more about His grace and patience toward me. It’s as if He’s saying, “I love being your Abba.”

My true desire is to be more open with God and to not hide so much. In child-like faith, I want to crawl up in His lap and be in His presence. And in the coming days where I’m sure I’ll have to offer up one-worded prayers again, I can be honest and trust that He is listening—because I am His child and He is my Abba.

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” – Romans 8:15

Article: When Life Has You Waiting

This article was published in Dallas Theological Seminary’s Student Journal- Spring 2012. The main audience is seminary students/future ministry leaders. I hope you’ll be encouraged in whatever you’re “waiting” on in life, too. The PDF can be found here on pg. 5

I’m guessing you’ve been asked what your future plans are after seminary. Some students know they want to press on and get their Ph.D. Some want to be pastors, chaplains, missionaries, or serve in some kind of parachurch ministry.

Or you might be in seminary simply because you know you’re supposed to be, and that’s it. Your ministry has yet to be revealed, and you’re waiting.

Waiting is a Form of Suffering

Waiting on God’s perfect timing is a spiritual discipline that requires a great amount of patience and endurance. You may have God- given dreams that burn wildly in your heart. You cry out, plead, beg, and wrestle with God about those desires.

You might face criticism and misunderstanding from loved ones because nothing “significant” has happened in your ministry or career yet. You’ve waited for years and prayed for answers, but you hear nothing in return.

In her book, Faith that Does Not Falter, Elisabeth Elliot says,

Waiting is a form of suffering— the difficulty of self-restraint, the anguish of unfulfilled longing, the bewilderment of unanswered prayer, flesh and heart failing, soul breaking. These are indeed tribulations, and tribulation is the curriculum if we are to learn patience. We want answers now, right now, but we are required at times to walk in darkness. Nevertheless, God is in the darkness.

There’s no greater way to learn patience and contentment than to go through experiences that require it. Before coming to Dallas Seminary, my husband and I already had seminary degrees from a previous school. We both felt strongly about Jeremiah pursuing more training and education in God’s Word.

After applying to DTS, getting accepted, and moving, we served in an apartment ministry for the first two years of his schooling. In those years, Jeremiah desired to have preaching or church-planting experience but the doors never opened. After we moved onto campus and had our second child is when the tide turned.

An Unexpected Internship

In one of his preaching classes, Jeremiah met Craig Schill, a grad assistant and a local church planter. They developed a friendship, and Jeremiah started interning at his church, Lake Cities Community Church in Rowlett. He was given the opportunity to preach and teach several times and spearhead a community outreach event.

Jeremiah always desired affirmation as to whether preaching was his spiritual gift. In no time he was encouraged above and beyond what he imagined from the church body, through both verbal affirmation and emails. I’ll never forget the evening he told me that the sermon he’d just preached was the closest he’d ever felt to the Lord.

Okay, Lord, we’re getting closer to your plan, I thought.

While his internship ended a few months ago, we decided to continue investing at Lake Cities in our final year at DTS. We have fallen in love with the people, and we’re learning so much about servant leadership.

Lessons from Staying Faithful

Four years seems like a long time of waiting on God’s unique gifting for Jeremiah, but it wasn’t too long for God. God taught him so much through his classes and real-life experiences. If we had rushed or manipulated God’s timing, I think we would have missed out on a huge blessing.

As we approach graduation in May, I continue to remind myself that we are, yet again, waiting on the Lord to provide the next step. While it can be fearful at times, I’m trusting that God will continue to lead us where He desires.

As you continue to wait on God in your time at seminary, be encouraged that you don’t have to have it all figured out. He has a perfect plan for your life and ministry and, He is with you even in the darkness.

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