A few months ago I was having a discussion with a brand new Christian and she was asking me questions about the Bible and certain things she had been reading in the book of Matthew. After a little while the conversation turned to prayer and she asked a question that I had never heard before, “How do I pray?” I stood there thinking for a minute and finally just said, “It’s like having a conversation with a friend.” In all honesty, it was this very conversation that inspired me and Valerie to start the series, “Back to Basics” on the Anchor Movement Blog. As we began doing research, Google searches, and social media scanning, we noticed that many Christians don’t have a good understanding of the basics of Christianity. Often times, we noticed that people would quote something and say that it came from the Bible when in reality, it’s not anywhere in the Bible. My favorite: GOD helps those who help themselves. That’s actually a quote popularized by Benjamin Franklin written in Poor Richards Almanac in 1733. Basic knowledge of scripture and GOD’s character would underscore the fact that we can’t help ourselves at all. Jesus had to come, live a sinless life, die on a Roman cross, and be raised from the dead by GOD, so that He could give us eternal life. So, when my friend asked me the question, “How do I pray,” she illuminated the fact that many new believers in Jesus and even people who have been a Christian for a long time, might not know how to pray or feel uncomfortable praying. So, lets see what the Bible says and give some practical steps to help you begin have a conversation with GOD.
1. Prayer is a conversation
Prayer is nothing more than a conversation with GOD. When you accept Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, the Bible tells us that through Jesus we can now come to the Father (Ephesians 2:18). That simply means we can have conversation or fellowship with GOD anytime we want. GOD is not in some far off place or only at church, but GOD is with you every minute of every day. Whether you are in the shower or in the car, GOD is ready and willing to talk, sing, or even just listen to you. How do you talk to your family and friends? Do you text your friends with Thee’s and Thou’s? No. You just talk and it’s you, individual and unique, you. That is the same way you can talk to GOD. He’s doesn’t need any fancy language or special chants before you pray. GOD just wants to hear your voice and spend time with His child. Just like any good father would want to spend time with his children and hear them talk, GOD is the same way.
2. Prayer can be verbal, written, or silent
The most comment form of prayer is a verbal conversation with GOD, but that’s not the only form of prayer. Many of the writings in the Bible are prayers to GOD expressed through written word or song. When my friend asked, “How do I pray,” she wondered if she was doing it wrong because she expressed herself better through journaling and painting than actually sitting down and speaking out loud to GOD. My answer was, “Yes!” GOD gave each one of us unique ways that we can express ourselves and many of those talents can be used during prayer. For me, there have been times where the situation leaves me speechless and I don’t know what to say. Thankfully, GOD knew we would have those moments and in Romans 8:26 Paul writes:
“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” Romans 8:26-27 NLT
GOD is speaking for us even when we are silent. Your prayers to GOD don’t need to be the same as everyone else. Sometimes we talk and oftentimes we are silent. It’s not in the action or way that GOD hears our prayers but it’s through our hearts.
3. Prayer is constant
One of the misconceptions about how to pray is that is has to be done in a certain place or at a certain time, but in reality prayer is constant dialogue with GOD. Prayer can be done on your way to school, getting ready for work, in the grocery store, watching your kids on the playground, or as I mentioned earlier, the shower. Some people have a prayer closet—I have a prayer shower. What I have noticed is that GOD is not concerned with the where or how I pray, but He’s more interested in the conversation. Our prayer time isn’t limited to minutes or hours, but its a continual dialogue as we go through our day. If you had the opportunity to spend the entire day with your best friend, odds are you would talk to them for most of that day. With GOD, we have that opportunity, but many times we give Him the silent treatment for most of the day. Philippians 4:6 in the New Living Translation says it like this:
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”
Prayer doesn’t have to be an overly complicated experience between you and GOD. In its reality, prayer is simply communication between GOD and His children. Don’t let tradition or experience keep you from enjoying the fellowship that comes when GOD’s children seek Him through prayer. Just like any loving Father, He only wants a relationship.
Over the next several weeks and months, Anchor Movement is going to focus on a series called “Back to the Basics” where we answer and define what it actually means to be a Christian. We want to answer some of the questions that new and old believers have in their walk of faith. Some examples include, “How to study the Bible,” and “Why should I go to church.” If you have a question you’d like us to answer or explore on the blog, go to our connect page and leave your response or visit our Instagram page here and leave your response in the comments.
It’s that time of the year when NBA basketball teams are drafting their best talent for the future. All the hard work has paid off for those that shined during their college years and now they have the chance to be the best pick! Watching the NBA draft reminded me of when we went blueberry picking this past April. Our oldest daughter is now a great age for this kind of activity. She was so excited to get her bucket and head out to the blueberry bushes and gather her bushel. My husband and I were a bit more strategic about which ones we picked. We wanted the plump, ripe berries that didn’t have any spots or blemishes. Some hadn’t ripened yet and some had been exposed to the elements a little too long and had started to get mushy. Our daughter had a different strategy- she wanted ALL the berries! She had a plan and she was going for it! She plucked and plucked and we tried to show her the ones that would be more suitable but still her basket had some that didn’t look edible in it. As we headed back to the checkout where they weigh your buckets, she was so proud! She showed us her berries and we tossed out some of the bad ones but overall she had accomplished her goal, gathering as many berries as she could! When I got home we washed the berries and I noticed some of ours that looked great on the outside had some bugs on the inside that we couldn’t see from just glancing at them.
Sometimes we can be like blueberries (who would have thought)...outwardly looking pretty beat up & maybe even feeling that way, then ultimately tossed aside by others because of what we “look or act” like. Or maybe we are all put together on the outside but on the inside we are looking like the hot mess express- maybe having unforgiveness, shame, regret, fear, grief, bitterness, addiction etc.. and feeling unqualified or unloved.
Crazy as it sounds, just like Brooklyn picked her berries without discrimination, God looks at us and chooses us despite our flaws as well. He doesn’t want to throw us out, He’s willing to take us in, wash off our dirt, and adopt us into His family. We are still his “number one pick.” To others, you may be flawed but to God you’re fearfully and wonderfully made.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14 NIV.
This doesn’t negate that we should be progressive in our push towards being Christlike, but it means that God still wants us even at our worst-He can still see our potential even when we or others don’t. Because even on our best day, we are still far from perfect.
“We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” Isaiah 64:6 NLT
Thankfully our Heavenly Father looks at our hearts. He sees us in all our mess and imperfection and looks beyond that to see our inner man.
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16 NLT
Even when you feel like you’re last in line, bottom of the totem pole, the last man standing - God in all of His goodness would still choose you. He see’s the real you, and still calls you by name. He’s proud of His children. You are His number one pick!
“But now, this is what the LORD, your Creator says, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you [from captivity]; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” Isaiah 43:1 AMP
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The toughest battle we face is not between other individuals or nations, but it’s the battle between our ears. How many books have been written about our mental health and defeating our adversaries in our mind. It’s why books like “The Battlefield of the mind” by Joyce Meyer and “Switch on Your Brain” by Dr. Caroline Leaf sell so many copies. People are starving for the ability to win the battle of thought in their mind. Statistics prove this out: suicide rates in America are up 24% since 2000 and almost 25 million Americans are on some sort of antidepressant. Now listen to me, all victory begins and ends with Jesus, but in between are steps we can take in order to capture the thoughts that want to hold us down. Everyday we are inundated with images, perspectives, and thoughts that can either harm us or help us and without a clear strategy for protection it becomes an overwhelming task. The screens on our desk, in our pocket, and hanging on our walls have become the barometer for a life well lived, but how can we attain something that is edited, cropped, and cleaned up for a mass audience? As a husband I see men who are in perfect shape, have ample time for their families, and have amazing jobs. How can I compare to that? As a father I compare myself to other fathers who never yell at their kids and have a constant petting zoo in the backyard. How can I compete with that? The truth is I can’t, but the truth is they can’t either. What I see on my Instagram feed is just a highlight reel of a moment in time, but I take it as a blanket affirmation of their entire life and a constant reminder of my deficiencies. This is a battle that we all face and what I want to do is give you three practical steps for conquering the battle between your ears.
1. Ignore them!
“When Saul returned to his home at Gibeah, a group of men whose hearts God had touched went with him. But there were some scoundrels who complained, “How can this man save us?” And they scorned him and refused to bring him gifts. But Saul ignored them. 1 Samuel 10:26-27A NLT
After Saul was made king by the prophet Samuel he went back home and the reception was not what you would suppose a newly announced king would receive. Many of the people who knew Saul growing up looked on his new occupation with scorn and contempt. In today’s world we call these people keyboard gangsters. These are the people who blow up your Facebook news feed with negative comments, misguided opinions, and asinine assumptions about you and your life. When these haters decide to unleash their useless jargon we have two options: respond or ignore. If we respond, we are no better than they are. If we ignore the battle begins in our mind. With each comment we must ask ourselves, does this truly define me or is this someone just being judgmental? If it’s the latter, which is what Saul faced, do what Saul did—ignore them. Your life is better without them and so is your mental health.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” II Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV
Sometimes thoughts won’t leave and that is when you must go to battle. We can either let our thoughts control us or we can control our thoughts. I like what I heard a pastor say about thoughts, “you can’t control a bird from flying over your head, but you can control whether they build a nest.” Our thoughts are like the birds that fly over. Sometimes something might pop in your mind that you never even thought of before. How did that get in there? Where did that thought come from? I’ve felt that before. Especially when I’m making a big decision or a decision that I feel is going to have a big impact on my life. It’s in those moments that I wrestle with this verse. It’s wrestling with the thought and bringing it to GOD’s Word. If my thought says “you’re not good enough” I remind my thought “I am the righteousness of GOD through Christ or if my thoughts say “you’ll never have enough” I emphatically tell my thought, “my GOD shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.” It’s not always easy especially when the thoughts come like a river, but I know when they do, it’s by bringing those thoughts to GOD’s Word that I find peace in my mind.
For me this is the hardest step in my mental struggles. It’s the ability to release what others have said or what my own thoughts say to me. Ignoring a constant battle sometimes becomes overwhelming and once I’ve captured the thought with the Word of GOD it becomes a situation of where to put it. Like a prisoner of war, I need somewhere to put this thought so that I can move on with my life. That is where this third step comes from: release. Release where? Glad you asked. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” A yoke is a wooden beam that is fastened between two animals, normally oxen, that enables them to pull together on a load. When we are struggling with our thoughts or that inner voice it’s like being hooked together to that thing with a yoke. You are trying to pull one way and the thought is pulling you in another direction. Jesus said let me pull that yoke with you. Release what is pulling you in the wrong direction and come pull my yoke. Jesus understands what feels like to have great sorrow and stress. He felt the loss of loved ones, the pain of betrayal, and the physics anguish of the cross. What better person to pull the yoke of life together with. Release your yoke and take hold of His. When we allow ourselves to do this, we will find out what it truly means to find rest for our souls.
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A few weeks back my wife and I were browsing our local thrift store, thumbing through the stacks of clothes, checking the sizes, and comparing prices when GOD reminded me of how great His love is. We have two little daughters and we like the thrift store because we can get play clothes for them at near bottom prices. Many times we can find clothes that have been donated with tags still attached to the garment. As I was shuffling from one hanger to the next, I came across some children clothes that were very expensive if you bought them in the store. I pulled the shirt off the rack and checked up and down to see if there were any stains, holes, or rips that would cause this $50 shirt to be now priced at $4. No tears. No rips. No stains. Nothing. I held the shirt up for my wife to see a few aisles over and proudly displayed my diamond in the rough. Driving home I was thinking about how that shirt made it to the thrift store. Still in perfect condition, did the child grow out of the shirt or were there too many shirts to choose from and this one never got worn? The thought crossed my mind that this shirt really wasn’t worth what the original price because it was discarded in perfect condition and bought for $4 at a thrift store. GOD immediately interrupted my thought process and said, “The worth of the shirt is not based on where the shirt was bought or where it was at that time, but it’s based on the tag inside the shirt. Where the shirt was made, who crafted the shirt- that is where the worth of the shirt lies.”
Sometimes we feel like that shirt in the thrift store. Where we are in life now is not where we were originally intended to be. We feel thrown out, forgotten, and even abandoned in the place where we currently reside. But that is not what GOD sees. The place you are now is not the value that GOD places on your life. The things you have done in the past, the places you have been, does not diminish your value in the eyes of your Creator. To Him you are still His creation, the apple of His eye. Psalm 139:13 says, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb,” Jeremiah 1:5 says, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb,” and 1 Corinthians 6:20 says, “for God bought you with a high price.” Today I just want to encourage you to see yourself as GOD sees you. No matter what has happened in your life, no matter where you find yourself living, GOD still finds the greatest worth in His precious creation, You. Your value is not in the place you hang, but it’s in the tag of your Creator.
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 1 Corinthians 5:21 NLT
I love being the dad to two little girls. I don’t know if it’s the constant hugs, or the princess parties, or even the play makeup, but there is something so wonderful about being a dad to daughters. Now my girls are still little and my oldest is starting to learn what a conscience is. If she spills her water cup or hits the dog with a doll she is quick to say “I’m sorry.” I don’t know if she understands the concept of “I’m sorry” yet, but her words are in the right place. Often times she will say “I’m sorry” and then just hit the dog again. On the outside my face shows anger, but on the inside I’m laughing at her innocence and the payback I’m receiving from when I was a child. Every now and then she’ll do something when Valerie or I isn’t watching and then we will find it out later. When I call her over and ask her “who did this” (even though I already know), she normally will drop her head and walk over with the weight of the world on her shoulders. I can see the shame on her face from the decision she made and as her dad when I see that my heart fills with compassion. No matter what she has done, even when she needs correction, forgiveness and love are my overwhelming emotions. Our Heavenly Father sees us the same way I see my daughters except his compassion expands beyond our human emotions. Psalm 145 verse 8 says this:
“The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy.”
Psalms 145:8 NKJV
Peter the Apostle encountered the compassion of Jesus on more than one occasion. Whether that was toward him or some other person, Peter had a front row seat for compassion Himself as He walked the Earth. In Matthew 14:31-32, Peter is in a boat with the other disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee when Jesus comes walking on the water. Peter in his boldness hollers at Jesus and says “If it’s you Jesus, tell me to come.” Jesus says, “come on” and Peter steps out over the edge of the boat and begins walking toward Jesus on the water. What most sermons or people focus on in this story is that after Peter walked on the water he began to get nervous and started sinking. Peter feared the storm and he cried out to Jesus for rescue. Jesus immediately grabs him and says “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Here is where most people stop, but I think we miss what happened between the moment Jesus picked Peter up out of the water and both of them got into the boat.
In the original Greek language when Jesus said “O you of little faith” it was one Greek word: oligopiotos, which means incredulous. Now I don’t use incredulous in my everyday grammar so I used a dictionary to look up the exact meaning. According to Websters, incredulous means “unwilling or unable to believe in something.” Jesus was telling Peter he was unwilling or unable to believe the fact that he was walking on the water. Peter had placed more faith into what the storm could do to him than Who was walking on the storm with him. Peter’s faith wavered between the wind and Jesus, but here is the incredible picture that I think we all miss. Jesus asks Peter this question, but then together they walk on the water back to the boat. Here is the visual: Jesus and Peter walking arm and arm on the water. Peter being sustained by Jesus faith and his little faith. Jesus didn’t just let Peter sink and make him swim back to the boat. No, they walked together even when Peter doubted and had little faith.
Where are you walking on the water today? Do you feel like the waves are too high and the wind too strong? Maybe you are a single parent and your kids and job require all your attention or you are in school and between classes, pressure to fit in, and college applications you can barely keep your head above water. I’ve been there. I know how you feel. I’ve felt so much pressure from work, family, and life that my chest felt like an elephant was sitting on it, but that is exactly where Jesus met me. He asked the me same question He asked Peter, “Where is your faith?” But He didn’t leave me there. He picked me up, put His arm in mine and walked with me on the water until we could get back to the boat. In Peter’s story when Jesus got into the boat, the storm ceased. The walk back to the boat was through the same storm that Peter was drowning in except this time Jesus was holding up Peter. Today, if you feel like you are drowning reach your hands up to Jesus and take hold of his arms. When the wind blows and the storm rages, remember you aren’t walking alone. Jesus is right there walking arm and arm, step by step, moment by moment.