What has God been teaching you lately?
This question became one of my most dreaded conversation starters while attending a Christian University. Not because it’s a bad question–in fact, it was usually asked in a well-meaning way to prompt faith-based discussion–but because I never quite knew how to answer.
What has God been teaching me lately?
You see, I think one of the main reasons I hate this question is because (if I’m being honest) I haven’t been experiencing my relationship with God the way I used to.
In fact, I’m going to be brutally honest with you for a minute–more honest than I’ve been with anyone, including myself.
My prayer life has been in a downward spiral for the better part of four years. FOUR YEARS.
And I absolutely hate admitting that. I hate acknowledging that I’ve been undisciplined. I hate feeling like a failure.
Oh, I’ve tried to “fix” things and create better habits, trust me–I’ve tried more times than I can count. But over and over again I’ve failed. Sometimes I blamed my inconsistent schedule that made it hard to create any sort of daily routine, much less a spiritual one. I’ve blamed being busy. I’ve blamed the challenge of making my faith my own outside of the shelter of my upbringing. I’ve blamed a lot of things, honestly.
But, really, it more or less came down to me not “feeling like it.” I just didn’t feel like getting out my Bible. Or I would feel like it, but then hit snooze until I didn’t have time and would forget about it as I went throughout my day.
But I’ve realized something else, too.
Faith isn’t always a feeling.
The devotional, Streams in the Desert states:
We have taken a great step toward maturity when we trust God without relying on our feelings. It is more of a blessing when we believe without experiencing any emotion. While the first level of faith believes when our emotions are favorable, the second believes when all feelings are absent. And the third level transcends the two, for it is faith that believes God and His Word when circumstances, emotions, appearances, people, and human reason all seem to urge something to the contrary.
I’ve felt so much guilt over this lack of “feeling it,” but all of my own efforts had failed.
Enter, Hannah Brencher Sheats.
I read Hannah’s book, If You Find This Letter, my freshman year of college. And, honestly, I can barely remember how I stumbled across her website and book to begin with . . . but I’ve been a loyal follower of hers ever since.
I get an inspirational email from her every Monday morning (subscribe to her website and you can too!), and through one of those emails, sent a little over a month ago, she invited her readers to join her in a 40-day prayer challenge using Mark Batterson’s devotional, Draw the Circle.
Now, someone had given me a copy of this devotional in my early years of college, and I knew it was on the bookshelf in my basement–so I figured, “why not?”
And, let me tell you, those 40 days have changed my life for the better.
I successfully prayed every day for 40 days straight, journaling my prayers for the majority of those days so I can look back on how God has worked.
Now, I didn’t make Bible reading a priority during the challenge, mostly because I know from past experience that I tend to be a little over-ambitious and set myself up for failure. But as soon as the challenge ended, I immediately started reading a chapter a day in the Bible in place of the chapter I had been reading in the devotional, starting in the book of Acts. I want to learn to crave God’s word and pray it back to Him.
And I’ve experienced spiritual warfare.
Honestly, I never really knew what “spiritual warfare” was when people talked about it–I usually pictured angels and demons fighting. But spiritual warfare can come in the most unsuspecting of ways.
For instance, one thing that I drew my prayer circle around during this challenge was my relationship with my fiancé and our upcoming marriage. And, within days of starting the challenge, we began fighting constantly. It was so frustrating, especially because I was specifically praying to be more compassionate and respectful toward him, and, instead, I was irritated with him more often than not!
(Pro tip: don’t ask God to teach you something (i.e., patience) if you don’t want Him to give you countless opportunities to practice it 😉 )
And, honestly, I wanted to quit several times. I couldn’t understand why God would make it more difficult for me when He knew how long I’d been struggling with my prayer life.
“God wants persistence. He doesn’t want an idle human who is indifferent to awe and wonder. He wants followers who are all in, persistent in asking questions and those who will be so bold to wrestle with determination until blessing is achieved.
On the other side of doubt and confusion is awe, wonder, freedom, enlightenment, and
I want to end with some quotes from Draw the Circle that directly impacted my walk with God and how I view Him and my communication with Him. I pray they bless you too.
- “You don’t need to seek opportunity. All you need to do is seek God. And if you seek God, opportunity will find you.”
- “God is great not just because nothing is too big for Him; God is also great because nothing is too small.”
- “God wants us to get where God wants us to go more than we want to get where God wants us to go.”
- “He parted the Jordan River, and the Israelites walked through on dry ground. We’d rather build a boat or build a bridge. We try to do things for God instead of letting God do things for us.”
- “Sometimes the purpose of prayer is to get us out of circumstances, but more often than not, the purpose of prayer is to get us through them.”
- “If we’re being completely honest, most of our prayers have as their chief objective our own personal comfort rather than God’s glory.”
- “Can our prayers change our circumstances? Absolutely! But when our circumstances don’t change, it’s often an indication that God is trying to change us.”
- “Why do we mistakenly think that God is offended by our prayers for the impossible? The truth is that God is offended by anything less! God is offended when we ask Him to do things we can do ourselves.”
- “Prayer is the difference between the best you can do and the best God can do.”
- “Bold prayers honor God and God honors bold prayers.”
- “We want things to happen at the speed of light instead of the speed of a seed planted in the ground, but almost all spiritual realities in Scripture are described in agricultural terms.”
- “If we do the little things like they are big things, then God will do the big things like they are little things.”
- “Too many people pray like they are playing the lottery. Prayer is more like an investment account.”
- “The size of your prayers depends on the size of your God.”
- “Faith is not faith until it is acted upon.”
- (Regarding Jesus asking people seeking healing what they wanted) “It wasn’t because Jesus didn’t know what they wanted; He wanted to make sure that they knew what they wanted.”
- “God does not answer vague prayers.”
- “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” –A.W. Tozer
- “Our biggest problem is our small view of God. God is so much bigger than our biggest problems. God is so much better than our best thoughts. He is infinitely wiser and more gracious and powerful than anything we can imagine.”
- “Don’t wait to worship God until you get to the Promised Land; you’ve got to worship along the way.”