Reclaiming Prayer

I think we have lost something. Lost something that brings us closer to God. Something that is a necessity of life. Prayer seems to be put on the back burner of most of our lives. I know for me, I often don’t think about the importance of prayer, so I’ll get caught up in serving others and pursuing God’s vision and I forget to come to him first! It’s such a silly thing, I’m running after what God wants for me, yet I forget to come to him first in all things. I think that is a trait that has been happening to many believers, we are running after the vision, but we forget to come humbly to God in prayer first. Now I know some of you may be thinking, I haven’t lost prayer, I pray in the mornings and before I eat a meal! This is good and is vital to our walk, but I think there is more to prayer than just once in the morning and before I eat. There is a power that comes with stepping into the presence of God. Prayer is direct communication with God, it’s the way we are able to cultivate that relationship with him, and it is the main way to prepare our hearts for what he wants to bring us. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, I feel myself getting set in a routine and trying to check it off my checklist. Pray in the morning, check. Read my bible, check. I am so focused on checking things off, that I miss what God wants to teach and reveal to me for that day. I meet with my dad each week and we started talking about this very idea. It was interesting to see that he felt the same way, that prayer has become a routine, when it should be a necessity to living life! That’s what I want to focus on today, how we as believers need to reclaim the power of prayer, because it will change and shape our life for greater things to come.

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Live in Victory

As November comes to a close, so does the mindset that Thanksgiving brings. It happens every year, we get excited about the coming holiday and forget the things that we have been blessed with, simple things like the device you are using to read this on. God has blessed us with so much, but we don’t deserve any of it. This past month and even the past year has been filled with crazy things for me, I have seen addictions take their toll on people I love, I have seen friends suffer and lose the fight of depression, and I have experienced the death of family; but I am blessed. This isn’t a post to get attention from you or to gain sympathy, I am simply here to share with how much God has given me, even when it seems like the world is falling. During all of the craziness God still moves, I have seen the healing of addictions, I have seen the support of the families that lost their sons, and I have been surrounded by people who truly care for me and my family. 1 Thessalonians 5:5 says, “You are all sons (or daughters) of the light and sons (or daughters) of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.” I have been reading though this book in the bible over and over, and every time, the idea of living in victory keeps reigning true.

None of us are worthy of the blessings we have been given, yet God still gives them. That doesn’t even make sense! God has saved us, he has given all of us a purpose. This past Sunday my mom, in our Daystar Kids small group huddle, was reflecting on how people have served her during this time of craziness in life. All people have a choice. We can either live in victory, to be in the light, or we can live in defeat. That verse from Thessalonians is both a truth and a call to action. We have been redeemed when we grow in relationship with Christ, and then we must choose to live completely in the light. So…how do we do that? Well if you look just a little further down in the book, it tells us! (Aw yes! So nice of it to do that.) 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Three simple statements that can alter the reality and mindset that you live in. I want to spend the next little bit expanding on what these look like practically and how they have dramatically changed my life. God has blessed all of us, even when we struggle and don’t deserve it at all.

Be joyful always.

It can be easy to misinterpret this one, being joyful sounds simple enough, but that always is where it can get tough. Life isn’t always the most joyful, we have people that treat us poorly, we have stress from school and work, and we are surrounded by a world that is divided and thrown into chaos almost every day. Being joyful isn’t the emotion of feeling happy, it is the choice to not let our struggles control us when we are not happy. Think of it like a relationship. If you truly love and care about someone, you work to make the relationship stronger even when you might not always “feel” like it. A choice, not a feeling. The choice of saying I will not let my circumstance control how I live my life. You are a child of God, one that has a purpose for more than you can imagine, choose to live in the light. I try to live my life with joy, it doesn’t mean I’m super human or perfect, it simply means that I have to actively choose joy even when life throws punches at me. So when I have the chance to have fun and be surrounded by people that bring me joy, I grasp tightly to it. Too many times people get bogged down by dwelling on the world around them, and this is so tragic. Trust God, in him you will have joy and he will give you the moments to enjoy. This past weekend I was able to spend time watching Doctor Who with my girlfriend, simple moments that I absolutely love. Why? I was able to spend time with someone I care about, to laugh and enjoy life, to grab hold of the moment that I had been given. I am a son of the king, and I choose to live in joy.

Pray continually.

This one is so vital. Prayer is the way that we communicate to God, the way we build a relationship with the creator of the universe. Prayer is rather simple, which shocks most people when I say that. The common picture of prayer is the getting on my knees, hands put together life that emoji (you know, the one that could also be a high five), but this isn’t the case. While that is definitely a great way of humbling one’s self, it’s not practical when driving a car or roller skating (yes roller skating. I’m not really sure why I said that either.). I like to make the joke in small groups when talking about prayer that it can be as simple as asking God if I should eat pizza or a taco, both solid options but never both. Simple things you ask God prepare your heart when you need to come with the big prayers. The ones that you need the creator of the universe to help you in, the ones where you cannot possibly make it through alone. That’s the beauty of prayer, you are never alone. God doesn’t want us to just come to him when we need something, he wants us to be in a daily conversation with him so that when the big things come, he is already listening. Prayer doesn’t mean a get-out-of-jail free card, it is the foundation on which you build your relationship with. It is a choice to speak to the one who has loved us since the beginning.

Give thanks in all circumstances.

Note that the verse doesn’t say, “In the month of November” or, “When you have the best day ever.” All circumstances means every day all year round. Like the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities, “the best of times, the worst of times.”(Literary reference, check.) This is the last of the three choices we must make, and this is the one that truly opens our heart to what God has. Focusing on the negatives in life will hurt us, emotionally and physically, but when we choose to look at our situations and be thankful, we have life. The story of my mom this past weekend really made me think about how much people have come alongside of me and my family through everything. We have to look at the world through new eyes. Look at how Paul lived his life, we wrote many of the New Testament books from prison. He didn’t wallow in his situation, he simply saw that God had placed him there for a reason. Think on your own life, the disappointments, the bad choices, and the people that may have hurt you; all of these things led you to where you are now, to this moment in time. You and I have grown and matured through hardship, we have a story we can use to help others. Your circumstance can be used to save a life. You just have to choose to be thankful in all things.

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Three simple choices. Three choices that can either help us live in victory, or fall into the hands of the enemy. We are sons and daughters of the light, we don’t have to live in darkness, and even when it seems like there is no hope, God provides the way. We are all in a battle, one that is a daily fight; but God has already won, he defeated the enemy. We are all fighting, but the world has too many warriors, we need doctors to save those who are lost. We must choose to step into all that God has for us. As I look at my life, I am so blessed and thankful for what I have experienced. If I had never struggled, if everything had been easy, I would never be where I am today. I would have never learned what it means to live with true joy. I would not understand how vital my communication to Christ is. I would never have learned how to be deeply thankful for every blessing, and neither would you. I thank God for all he has done; I am running after a dream that seems crazy, I have a family that I love and keeps me strong, I have a relationship with an amazing girl, and I am surrounded by people whose stories empower me and fill me with passion. So when you feel like you are surrounded by darkness, look up to the sky and see the light that God is leading you towards. You are a child of the most high.

So live in victory.

-Joshua Thomas