I know exactly why I was to visit my hometown in Iowa last week.
I believe God sent me to TOUCH lives of specific relatives and friends.
I believe God sent me to TOUCH lives of specific relatives and friends.
So many of them are in their sixties, seventies, eighties, and some of my peers are in their nineties. I rediscovered relationships with some I unfortunately had little contact with through the years. With others our longtime friendships were restored. God surprised me with some precious new relationships. The Lord sent me to hug their necks, reach out to them in their afflictions, and feel their losses and hurts in their physically declining years. I visited friends who were displaced from their homes due to inability to care for themselves or health issues.
God sent me to LOVE them and express God's LOVE. More than with human emotion or affection; rather with compassion to let them touch my heart too and to suffer with them.
Now my assignment from God is to PRAY since I am separated from them again by distance. There is no space or time limitation in prayer. Now that I understand some of their needs, I can bring them to God and ask that He continue to touch them. I feel a heavy spiritual responsibility for the dozens of precious people whom I was able to visit in several brief days.
To follow up my LOVE-TOUCH and my PRAYERS, it is time now for me to continually SHARE by my words of encouragement through letters, emails, phone calls, and my published books to nurture their faith and reliance on God for their strength and peace whatever their circumstances.
“Why am I still here?” is the refrain I often hear expressed by my advanced-in-age peer friends.
I dare to say, “I know at least some of the reasons God has still kept me here into my nineties: to keep on keeping on being the heart and hands of Christ to others.” I see my spiritual mandate clearly. I know that I know that I know what God has already told me to do, as above. And not only for my hometown friends and relatives, but for all whom God brings into my life on a day to day basis. I see my purpose distinctly and pray to be able to carry it out as long as God gives me breath and opportunity and strength.
It is all too easy to become self-absorbed in one's “summit years,” as I refer to our late calendar season of life. I've published an entire recent book on that subject to challenge myself and to encourage others. Let's not be “focused on our own navel,” so to speak. In our advanced years we are prone to become ego-centric as we feel our own body and mind declining and needing more self-attention. Instead of withdrawing and isolating ourselves, it is exactly the time we should offer ourselves to live for others.
Wherever we find ourselves, even in assisted living residences, we are in a position to TOUCH others, LOVE others, PRAY for others around us and those at a distance, and SHARE the life of Christ within us with others.
I promised to pray for the many individual needs of my longtime friends and relatives in Iowa whom God brought into my circle of influence. How then should I pray? Below is what I have shared with them.
It's easy to make such a promise, but there's a lot more to it when I try to follow through seriously and faithfully. I don't promise such a thing lightly.
We sometimes make prayer too complicated. It is a joyful privilege and exchange between a loving Creator and His human creation. The Scriptures demonstrate many different ways of praying and communicating with God. It is both a delight and a sacred obligation to me when I say that I will pray for you. We are encouraged to “bear one anothers burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” That's what I want to do out of love for the Lord and love for you.
It takes a lifetime of experience in our relationship with God to understand something about His ways of dealing with us. I have discovered through the years that when I pray, I don’t have to do a lot of talking to the Lord or explaining, informing, pleading, or even suggesting to God how He should answer my prayers. I don’t presume to always know the will of God either for myself or for others who have asked for my prayers. I begin simply by acknowledging God’s real, loving, and intimate presence and resting before Him in silence to adore Him, focus on Him, and keep the ears of my heart open to listen. God doesn't speak to me in an audible voice but the Holy Spirit impresses me for whom I should pray and how.
The entire Trinity is active in our prayers: God the Father answers our prayers. Jesus the Son is the one Mediator, the continual Intercessor in heaven on our behalf. He paid the ultimate price on the Cross so we could boldly approach God in His Name. And when we “…don’t know how to pray as we should…” (Romans 8:26-28) the Holy Spirit with groaning, apparently without the need for words, delivers our prayers to God in a way that they are sure to be answered.
This is how it seems to me that prayer works: When I simply mention your name or your need aloud, or mentally, or in my spirit, the Holy Spirit runs front to bring that request to Father God in the Name of Jesus. Then, since the Holy Spirit already knows the will of God, I don't have to know when or where or how God will answer. I ask for His will to be done in that situation and thank Him in advance for His answer on your behalf that is sure to come.
It was enough for Mary, the mother of Jesus, to inform Him that a need came up during the wedding at Cana. She merely stated, “They have no wine.” She didn’t tell Him what to do about it, how, or when.
When the sisters at Bethany sent a message to Jesus about their brother who was terminally ill, they didn’t go into detail about how serious the illness was or request or demand a specific action from Him. Jesus, as the Son of God, already knew about it. They just stated the fact: “He whom YOU love is sick.” And they didn’t say “HE [Lazarus] who loves You is sick,” or “WE love You, so You should hurry and help us.” They focused on JESUS' love for Lazarus. Therefore, when I bring your need to God in prayer, I'm doing so because of Jesus’ love for you. I don’t try to arm wrestle the Son of God into answering the prayer my way—or your preferred way. As I pray for you I ask primarily for God’s perfect will to be done in your life.
Since I’m not the one who is responsible to answer your prayers, I don't have to feel overwhelmed, weak, or helpless when I pray. When I pray in the spirit, the answer is out of my hands from the git-go. It's so restful to know that God will answer perfectly according to His will. And I have a lot of prayer helpers available; I believe that we have assistance in prayer from what the Scriptures call the "cloud of witnesses" who are cheering us on and praying for us in Heaven—the saints through the ages and our friends and family who died with faith in God. That gives power to my prayers for you.
Of course, it's a good thing to join in prayer with fellow Christians so that both our faith and our prayers are strengthened. But it doesn't necessarily take a lot of people praying together with some kind of “class action intercession” to convince God to answer our prayers. He is not reluctant to give good things to His dear children! He is neither deaf nor powerless nor does He need to be begged or pleaded with in order to be good to us. "God's ear is not heavy that He cannot hear, nor His hand shortened that it cannot save...." Even one person praying with or for us is enough. (James 5:16) Or only our own prayers. Even if no one else knows about our need or no one is praying for us, Jesus Himself "ever lives to make intercession for us" because He loves us.
Here's more good news—we can be certain that God ALWAYS answers prayer! (1 John 5:14, 15) But not necessarily in the same way every time. How about when God says a loving, but simple NO? It may be because God knows that what we are asking wouldn't ultimately be good for us. To receive a NO to our prayers is disappointing, but we may not know all of the consequences or realize that we may be asking selfishly. We don't know everything, so we may actually be asking for the wrong thing. Sometimes God answers NO because He really wants to substitute something much better.
Sometimes His answer is a conditional YES but God asks us to WAIT until His perfect time. The right circumstances may not be in place yet. He may need to get all the ducks in a row. Or He may need to work on our own hearts first.
Sometimes He answers with an immediate, unconditional YES! It is as if God smiles and says, "I thought you would never ask!" and His generous, abundant, positive answer to our prayer arrives "heaped up, pressed down, shaken together, and running over." All the above are answers to prayer. Jesus invites us to ASK but then to leave the answer up to Him.
What a privilege to pray for your needs, your personal concerns, your struggles, hurts, and afflictions as I come to know about them in various ways! What an opportunity to cooperate with God to help bring about “His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven” in the lives of my dear friends and family!