Read His Words Before Ours!
1 Timothy 2:1-8
Our miniature matatu (think African style of a city bus…kind of) bumped up and down and our bodies bounced with it without the constraint of seat belts. Red dust flew up behind us while some billowed through the windows, filling our nostrils with the ever-present African-dust smell. The chatter of my seven teammates filled the matatu, but I wasn’t hearing them. My senses were in the slums of Kenya, seeing, hearing, smelling, breathing my surroundings, but my heart and my head were somewhere else.
I saw children playing in the streets made of dust, I saw women walking to and fro, and I heard men shouting to one another, but in my mind, the red dust of this town was replaced by red dirt of Southern Utah. Children’s laughter was replaced with the memory of the foster children’s laughter from the camp I’d worked at earlier that year.
Never in my life had I experienced the pull and the weightiness of the world… and I broke.
As we drove through Kenyan slums, I could literally feel my heart being torn in two, slowly ripping right down the middle. When we arrived at the preschool ministry site for the day, everything came pouring out with deep sorrow. I turned to my leader, Allison, and said, “I don’t know what’s wrong. I’m here, I know I’m here and I’m supposed to be, but I’m so broken for the people in Utah who need Jesus, and I’m aching for the foster children in Kansas City who need redemption. What is wrong with me?”
“Kendra,” she told me gently, “have you ever prayed that God would break your heart for what breaks His?” I slowly nodded my head and squinted my eyes.
“He’s doing that right now.”
If I was weeping before (which I was), I was weeping harder now.
I didn’t know God’s heart hurt so much for us, and I only had a glimpse.
If we know anything, it’s that our world is shattered and broken.
Spreading the healing hope of the gospel and praying for nations to know the Lord is our urgent mission until Jesus returns. Paul presses the Church to pray for God’s creation in each of his epistles by asking them to pray for other churches, for people in leadership, and for those who are still lost without hope… but, why?
Why do we pour out our hearts in prayer for the hurting, hungry, desperate, lost, broken people who make up God’s creation?
Because, God… “wants everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4). The Father’s heart is for His Creation.
He longs for us to know His love and be rescued from our sin.
Let us learn from Ezekiel 22:30, where God says He is looking for someone to stand in the gap for their nation, but found no one. We are called to stand in the gap for the nations with the hope of the gospel! Let us, who have the authority to approach the Father’s throne because of Jesus in us, pray for the nations!
Can I be real for a minute? (Ok, ok, I’m always real.)
Sometimes, I feel so overwhelmed with how many people I need to pray for, and how many things I need to pray for, and all the brokenness and lostness and heaviness
that I just don’t pray at all.
I know I need to pray for the nations, for my daughters, for my friends and family, for the people in leadership positions in the Church and in my country, but I don’t always know where to start or what to pray.
I’ve found the best place to begin is rooted in Scripture, following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Read His Word, and be ready to pray whenever and however the Spirit is pressing in.
Pray for the nations’ leaders to be filled with wisdom and be surrounded by wise and godly advisors. Pray for their hearts and ears to listen to wise counsel. (Proverbs 11:14)
Pray for leaders who don’t know Christ to have divine encounters with believers who would point them to salvation. Pray for leaders who are Christians to have steady discipleship pouring into them and that they would have strength to fight the arrows shot at them from the enemy. (Proverbs 2:1-8 and Ephesians 6:12-18)
Pray for unity in the Church in each nation. As each nation writes their own laws and citizens live in ways they feel just, the Church has different struggles in each country. How the Church is being pulled in the United States is entirely different than the struggles for the Church in New Zealand or India. Pray for unity within the Church in each country, and that followers of Christ would base their standards on biblical truth and not what society dictates. (1 Corinthians 1:10)
Sisters, sometimes I feel small.
Sometimes I feel like my prayers and voice won’t matter.
Will the Lord really hear my pleading for the underground church in North Korea?
My prayers are pleasing in the sight of the Lord, as are yours.
Ask the Lord to break your heart for what breaks His.
Ask Him to burden your heart for the lost.
You might be surprised who you feel burdened for, but don’t be surprised when He answers your prayer. When He does, take action and pray for the lost, the hurting, the persecuted, the Christians and the non-Christians, then take steps to bring hope to them!
This Bible study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it first appeared. For more studies like this one, visit GracefullyTruthful.com!
A Prayer for Mercy
Read His Words Before Ours!
2 Corinthians 1:3-7
One of the beautiful things about Gracefully Truthful is the vulnerability required to write each Journey studies. From the beginning, we have strived for authenticity, as our desire has been for other women to know we are walking the reality of the Journeys we write.
Rarely do I write from distant experience,
I write what the Lord is revealing in my heart moment by moment.
It is messy, I cry many tears as I write,
and I trust that the Lord will somehow use my scattered words to bring Him glory.
With that transparency I tell you, sisters, I am walking through an incredibly dark valley.
My future is uncertain.
My dreams are shattered.
My heart is broken.
In the midst of this valley, the Psalms has brought comfort, putting into words prayers I haven’t known how to pray. I’ve spent days sitting in one Psalm drawing as much truth and comfort from it as I can hold before moving onto the next.
It is beautiful to see how the Bible has so many dimensions!
The same verses I clung to as a little girl learning the Lord is my shepherd, are the same verses God used to makes me lie down in green pastures.
Today, those same verses remind me I will never walk alone.
The Bible never changes.
But I change.
Because of that, the Bible will always be relevant.
God spoke through Psalm 6, meeting me exactly where I am.
But His word is ready to meet each of us in every circumstance
because His Spirit makes it come alive!
Women trying to conceive can pray these words back to the Lord.
Mamas grieving loss can read these words as the Spirit ministers directly to their souls.
Soldiers may feel as if this psalm was written just for them, finding solace in His rescue.
God’s Word is relatable, bringing us life!
His Word is for each of us!
“Be gracious to me, Lord, for I am weak;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are shaking;
my whole being is shaken with terror.
And you, Lord—how long?”
My heart echoes amen and amen.
And countless hearts down through the centuries do the same.
Our beings shake.
Be gracious, Lord!
And Lord?! How Long??
The older I get, the more I realize how incredibly messy life is.
Even in the beautiful seasons, there will always be trials to face.
Every single person reading this page has faced a trial of some kind,
so we can all draw comfort from His Word.
“Save me for the sake of your steadfast love!”
Oh sisters, how weak I have felt in this valley!
How deeply I’ve begged, “Save me for the sake of your steadfast love!”
I’ve never experienced the shaking of my bones quite like I have lately.
Often, I find myself crying out to God,
“How long? How long will this season last? Surely this valley can’t be any deeper?”
Are you weary from your groaning?
Is your pillow drenched every night?
Do you wait until your kids are in bed, then let the tears flow?
Do you hold them in for as many days as you can, until they just burst while you’re driving?
Take comfort in this, Dear One, the Lord sees every single tear that falls.
He catches those tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8); He knows the source of those tears.
He knows the heartache, the grief, the loss, the suffering, the anger, the disappointment.
Are your eyes swollen from grief?
Does your head throb from the overwhelming thoughts running through it?
Does your body ache from exhaustion as you long to sleep just one night without the interruption of horrible dreams or racing thoughts?
Does your jaw hurt because of the constant clenching?
He knows each thought, each dream, and your aching body. (Matthew 11:28-29)
He longs to give you rest.
As I sat in my counseling session sharing with my therapist the anger I was feeling, he explained that my grief will come like the tide, sometimes it will roll in and come further up on the shore before descending back down, but like the tide, it will surely come.
The beauty of grieving, he explained, is that I am able to understand even more deeply the devastation caused by sin, and therefore, grasp the need for a Savior even more than I ever have before.
But I do not have to walk through grief alone.
As I enter into a new phase of grief I can bring it to the Lord,
transparently asking Him to walk with me.
The Lord has heard the sound of my weeping!
He hasn’t turned a deaf ear to my pain.
He hasn’t blocked out my mourning or allowed it to become like white noise mixing with the sounds of weeping across the globe.
He has heard each individual cry.
Yours. Mine. Your neighbor’s. Your child’s. The hungry child in Honduras.
The mourning father in Guam. Each and every wail is heard by the Lord.
And the Lord accepts my prayer.
Not only has He heard.
He listens. He accepts.
I look forward to the day I can write a Journey like this from the other side.
But I’m not there yet, and I won’t be for a while.
So, I sit in the peace that is offered in Psalm 6 and throughout the rest of Scripture.
The Lord knows my pain. He knows my tears.
He knows exactly how long this season will last.
And He will walk with me every step of the way.
This Bible study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was first published. For studies like this one, check out GracefullyTruthful.com!
THe Prayer Challenge
Read His Words Before Ours!
1 Samuel 1:10-19
“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods, and I’d look up into the sky – up -up – up into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness, and then I’d just feel a prayer.” ~Anne Shirley
I’ve been reliving my childhood fancies lately; escaping into the ever-magical, imaginative world of Anne Shirley. After a difficult upbringing by incredibly strict grandparents, author Lucy Maud Montgomery married a Reverend and wrote many books, including my all-time favorite, Anne of Green Gables. Montgomery’s bold theological statements often pointed out how reverence and worship aren’t what we tend to make it.
Since re-reading Anne’s quote about feeling a prayer, I’ve done just that many times over.
My life feels a little as if it’s spinning out of control right now.
I’ve tried to paint a perfect picture of my life for the outside world to see,
but inside, a tornado rages..
Many days, I feel like I can’t even think what to pray.
So, I’ve closed my eyes, imagined myself in a massive field, and just felt my prayers.
I’ve felt the glory and wonder of God and what He has created.
I’ve felt the loneliness and instability that quakes my soul.
I’ve felt the insecurities and I’ve felt the joy.
And I’ve felt myself releasing it all and giving it to Him.
All without saying a word.
How is that even possible?
Because God knows.
He knows my every thought and every feeling.
He knows me.
The Spirit Himself prays for me. (Romans 8:26)
In this blessed assurance, I’m free to saturate my chaos with intimate moments of communion with my Savior, while He calms my storms and brings peace.
I feel the tornado slowing.
The tension is leaving.
Because of prayer.
Not perfect, holy, well-thought through words.
But connection, groanings I lack words for, shared to the ear of God through the Spirit who dwells within me.
Centuries ago, Christians practiced the discipline of prayer through “Daily Offices”. Believers marked off specific times throughout the day, generally the third, sixth, ninth, and bedtime hours, dedicating them to prayer. At each interval, they put aside their daily tasks to spend time saturating themselves with the Lord.
Prayers of praise.
Prayers of worship.
Prayers of joy.
Prayers of need.
Prayers of longing.
Prayers for others.
Prayers for themselves.
Prayers of confession.
Prayers of angst.
Intimacy and relationship.
What if we prayed like Hannah?
She bitterly wept before the Lord, thinking her prayer,
unable to even audibly speak!
She was heartbroken with infertility. She poured out her soul to the Lord, all of her deep anguish and grief.
What if we surrendered our deep anguish and grief all throughout the day?
Suppose we told Him our ache for a lost brother, or the way our arms feel empty for the child we’ve never held, or how our soul feels crushed from the weight of a seemingly hopeless marriage?
Enter into that intimacy with the Lord, Sisters.
Hearts are changed here.
What if we prayed like David?
King David had an affair with a married woman, yet with the deep convictions of his heart, he cried out to God to wash him of his iniquity and cleanse him of sin.
In prayer, David begged the Lord to restore the joy he’d once known.
What if we recognized our great sins and ugly failures, confessing them to the Lord multiple times a day? Would we become more aware of our pride, quickly confessing and running from it? Would our hearts begin to grieve as we recognized and confessed our lust again?
Enter into that intimacy of giving the Lord your sins, Sister.
Hearts are changed here.
What if we prayed like Mary?
With the news of her pregnancy, and the coming Messiah,
Perhaps she knelt to sang. Maybe she danced, rejoicing loudly while exclaiming the fulfillment of Yahweh’s promise! She celebrated her worship!
Sisters, imagine if we were to take intentional time to thank God, celebrate Him, and declare His name throughout the day!
EVEN IF we don’t feel like it.
EVEN IF we have difficulty believing what we say.
Imagine how the thanksgiving we surrender will grow in our hearts, overflowing onto others, and shifting our perspective as we praise the Lord throughout the day.
Enter into that joyful intimacy with the Lord, Sister.
Hearts are changed here!
What if we prayed like Daniel?
Nothing could stop Daniel from praying throughout the day.
Not even the LAW or the threat of his LIFE.
Daniel met the Lord three times, everyday, windows open to the world, unashamed of his God.
What if we said no to distractions having priority over prayer?
What if we paused our lives several times a day to approach the throne of God.
Even WITH kids screaming in the background.
Even WITH a messy house just beyond our closed eyes.
Even WITH a meeting that will last all day.
What if we kept the conversation going on road trips, on business trips, in the grocery store, in the car.
Oh, let’s go there, Sister! Enter into that precious intimacy with the Lord.
Hearts are changed here. Yours and those around you!
I want that in the middle of my messy chaos.
Join me in my Prayer Challenge:
Choose 3 times a day for your phone alarm to go off.
I’m doing it right now setting it for 9 AM, Noon, and 3 PM.
When those timers go off, we pray.
Even if all we can muster is our deepest feelings, a groan, or a cry.
Let’s specifically, intentionally, prayerfully, enter into deeper intimacy with our King.
Watch out, Sisters.
Our hearts and lives are about to change!
This Bible Study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was originally posted. For more studies like this one, check out GracefullyTruthful.com!
Read His Words Before Ours!
“Simon, do you love me with a love that is selfless, pure, and passionate?
Do you love Me most?”
My eyes lifted from my hands, meeting Jesus’ gaze. His question lingered, as the juice from the fish dripped down my forearms, my heart pounding.
I couldn’t stop the scene playing out in my mind’s eye as I recalled the darkest moment in my life…
“Aren’t you one of His disciples?” she asked as I walked into courtyard where Jesus was. I quickly shook my head, “I’m not!” But guilt consumed me.
I am. I am His disciple.
But I didn’t want to die.
“Aren’t you one of His disciples?” I was asked again. “No!” I insisted.
“But I saw you in the garden with Jesus,” another said.
“No, you didn’t! I do not know this Man!”
The rooster crowed. Just as He’d said it would.
I had denied my Lord three times.
“Lord, You know I love you as a friend and brother,” I respond quickly, my focus returning.
Yet, my heart would not be stilled.
How could I say I love Him selflessly?
How could I say I love Him most?
I denied Him when He needed me most.
But Jesus continued,
“Feed my lambs, Simon.”
His words brought a new scene to mind. It was winter, and we were listening to Jesus as we walked the grand colonnade of Solomon’s temple. His words, as always, had arrested my wandering attention.
“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers… The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:1-10)
Feed His lambs? But He is the Good Shepherd.
Besides, I’m a fisherman. What does this mean?
I still can’t look Him in the eyes.
He knows me, He knows I denied Him three times, He knows I turned my back on Him.
How could He even ask if I love Him?
Jesus was speaking again, insistently, “Simon, Son of John, do you love me with a love so strong you will put Myself before you?
Do you love me with a love so passionate, you would protect My truth and build others up with it?"
My heart flew to another impossible invitation by the Lord as we’d stood by the Sea of Galilee.
It was my fishing boat, my empty nets, and His winsome offer…
“Hello, Peter. Would you do me a favor and let me get in your boat?”, Jesus asked.
I noticed the crowd of people behind him, moving closer and closer to Him.
His only other option would have been to stand in the sea.
“Yes! Of course. I haven’t caught any fish anyways; my boat is empty.”
He asked me to row out, then He stood and began speaking to the people. I tried to listen as He talked, but I’d been awake all night fishing, exhaustion was setting in.
Suddenly, He had my full attention as He’d turned His gaze on me,
“Put your net out to catch some fish.”
I was embarrassed; I’d caught nothing after an entire night’s worth of work, but who was I to say no?
“I’ve been fishing all night and caught nothing, but I’ll try it again for you,” I shrugged and tossed the nets overboard. After a moment, my nets began to tug and tear! Fish flooded my nets! I whistled to our boating partners, and with all of our might, we pulled loads of fish into our boats.
There were so many we began sinking!
I’d been wondering how I would make money today and this Miracle Worker brought in enough fish to cover my wages for days!
It was then I knew, I knew He was Lord!
I fell to my knees, fully aware of my unworthiness and utter sinfulness; I’d begged Him to leave. How could He even associate with me?
“Do not be afraid! From now on, you will be catching men.”
I caught those fish that day, but I gave them to another local fisherman.
Instead, I chose to follow Jesus… this man who was Lord.
The same one I later denied…
“Jesus, You know I love you as my friend.” I dug deep for a response to His incessant questioning, my sorrow continuing to burn hot in my belly.
I loved Him with everything in me. But how could I convey it?
Before I could attempt a better response, He instructed.
“Tend my sheep.”
Or was it an invitation?
Either way, He knew exactly the story His words would bring to mind.
“Which of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost? And on finding it, he lays it on his shoulder, rejoicing.”
Jesus would leave ninety-nine sheep just to go after one.
He would do that for me, for anyone.
He loved the wealthy and the poor, the Jews and the Gentiles, the adulteress and the leper.
He was more than Jesus Christ to me, He was my Lord, and my friend.
Jesus saw my eyes return to His, my fish breakfast long since forgotten.
“Simon,” He questioned slowly for the third time.
“Do you love me as your friend and as your brother?”
This time it was different.
This time, He knew the answer, and my heart was shattered.
What’s more, I knew the answer.
I knew I just simply loved Him, and that was enough.
Wherever He took me, whatever it cost, whatever the task, I loved Him.
“Lord, You know me; You know everything. You know I love You.”
Again, He invited and commanded, “Feed My sheep.”
“Simon, the cost of following Me is your full surrender. You may lose physical freedom, but you will truly be free. FOLLOW ME.”
Our eyes locked and I knew the depth of this invitation.
I was forgiven.
He trusted me with His sheep.
I was to make fishers of men, continuing to extend the invitation I’d been given.
Why would I say yes?
I loved Him.
He loved me.
Simon Peter’s life is one of transformation and sanctification that we get to watch transform through the pages of Scripture. From the quick and wordy fisherman who was called by Jesus, to the wise and heroic martyr and was an essential piece of the founding of the Church, Peter shows us that even when we fall, even when we deny Jesus, He isn’t finished with us. God’s plan for us is deep and wide. We can accomplish His purposes because of His unconditional love.
This Bible Study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was first published. For studies like this one, visit GracefullyTruthful.com!
From Bible studies to blogs, articles to musings of the heart, Kendra's writings are unbarred and raw - exactly how she speaks.