I am so glad you are here! I’m Ashley, I am 26-years young, a coffee-addict, Army wife and future Chaplain’s spouse, INFJ, extroverted introvert and a 2 on the Enneagram. Originally from Indiana but currently in Missouri, I love Jesus, summer nights, ice cream and coffee dates with my husband, comfy sweatshirts and the feeling of finishing a good book.
I have a heart for helping other women learn to plant deep roots in Christ and grow in their faith; I struggled for many years to achieve any kind of deep spiritual growth and I have a passion for helping other women who may be struggling too. You are not alone.
Prayer is one of those basics of our Christian life, but can be one of the most difficult to begin implementing. A lot of Christians say they need to pray more but struggle to make prayer a daily habit.
Prayer was something I really struggled to incorporate into my life when I became a Christian. I had no idea what I was doing or what to say and this kept me from growing in my faith for a long time. Eventually, I learned more about it from watching others and learning from more mature Christians, but it still overwhelmed me.
When you start to think about who you should be praying for and what you should be praying about, it can start to get incredibly overwhelming. We worry about what to say and how long to pray for and a bunch of other things that don’t really matter.
Learning to pray and pray consistently is just like any other positive habit you try to implement; it’s going to feel odd at first because it’s new but the only way to make it part of your life is to just start.
You might stumble a little and miss some days, but the more you do it, the easier it will become.
Here are some simple ways you can have a better prayer life, starting today!
Keep It Simple
Praying every day really doesn’t require a lot of time and can be done anywhere. After I realized that, I was convicted pretty hard and made the decision to make prayer a priority in my life.
Simplicity took me a long time to get my head around, because talking to the Creator of the universe made me feel like my prayers had to be articulate and long and full of zealous words. But prayer is really just a conversation, just like if you were talking to a friend about your life.
Some of my most honest, raw and intimate prayers have been the ones with the fewest words. A prayer for safety can simply be “Lord I trust in your protection, please keep me and my family safe as we go. Amen.”
Don’t overthink it; just start talking to God about your life, your hopes, dreams, fears and anxieties. It will get easier over time.
Use the Lord’s Prayer found in Mathew 6: 9-13 as a guide if you are unsure where to start or how to pray.
- Start with Praise;
- Pray God’s will to be done in your situation;
- Pray for and thank God for provision over your situation;
- Confess any sin and pray for forgiveness; ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your heart and shine a light on areas that need forgiveness;
- Pray for protection, safety and deliverance from temptation.
As you are studying the bible, you can also use any passage or verse as a guide for prayer. The Psalms are a great place to begin if you are searching for words for prayer and praise.
Find Prewritten Prayers
From guided books to blog posts, there are tons of resources out there for people who are unsure what to pray about or what to say during prayer. These are a great way to get you started and build your prayer vocabulary.
Just on Pinterest alone you can find pins with pre-written prayers for just about anything: anxiety, focus, healing, health, safety, your husband, your kids, your family, your finances, your friends, etc.
Start a prayer board on Pinterest and start grabbing some for future use. You can go follow my Prayer Board on Pinterest to get some ideas!
This may seem like an odd tip, but part of the reason we struggle to pray is because it requires us to slow down and be still in the presence of God. We feel like we don’t have time to slow down, and thus, struggle to pray.
I am not talking about the meditation you may be thinking about; I am talking about meditation on Christ & who He is, on the attributes of God, on His goodness and faithfulness and on Scripture.
Meditation can help you get into that habit of slowing down. It can put your heart at mind in a primed state to engage in meaningful prayer because you are already still and calm, instead of anxious because of all the things you have to do that day.
A good way to do this is to listen to scriptures while practicing deep breathing or reading through a Psalm. You can also play worship music and meditate on the lyrics. I have even created a playlist of my favorite worship songs on Spotify you can use!
By listening to or reading a short passage of encouraging Scripture, your heart is tuned to the Holy Spirit and speaking to God will feel like the natural next step.
The best way to fight prayer overwhelm is to organize it. Spend some time writing down all of the different areas of your life you want to cover in prayer. For example, your categories could be Personal, Marriage, Family/Kids, Friends, Church, Community, Requests, etc.
Under each category, write specific things you want to pray for. Choose 1-2 categories a day to pray through.
If you are someone who writes a to do list or uses a planner to schedule your day, write in your prayer time! Things that require discipline and forethought rarely occur organically during our day. It is important to make time for it and block it off in your schedule.
Set a reminder on your phone, write it in your planner, or leave post it reminders for yourself.
Use a Prayer Journal
Using a prayer journal completely changed my prayer life. Physically writing out my prayers helped me to focus and keep my mind from drifting.
You can use any blank journal for prayer, but the one I use is a yearly prayer journal from ValMarie Paper. It takes care of the Organizing and Journaling all in one!
A big thank you to Ashley for sharing about prayer, you can find more with Ashley at faithfullyplanted.com
Hello everyone today I would like to introduce to you Carole Anne:
Carole Anne Hallyburton began His Own Heart Ministries as a weekly devotional blog during her days as a graduate student of Christian Education at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary – Charlotte, where she also served as student body president for two years. In addition to her master’s degree from GCTS, Carole Anne holds a bachelor’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. She teaches ancient Hebrew language, reviews books for B&H Publishing Group, Paraclete Press and Crossway USA. She additionally serves on the Board of Advisors for Bible Journey, LLC, a producer of online curricula for churches, small groups and individuals.
Sometimes it cuts like a knife and breaks a person’s heart.
It tops the proverbial list as one of the most all-at-once difficult things to do.
But then again – at times – it’s the only scriptural thing to do: choosing to respond with grace to a less-than-graceful situation. Consider the source, as my maternal grandmother often said. And let it go. Walk away.
Did you know, in fact, that Jesus Christ set just such an example for us on several New Testament occasions? One in particular involved the fateful decision of the rich young ruler who approached Him in search of eternal life (see Matthew 19:16-30). While Scripture doesn’t record that He did so, I can almost see our Savior concluding the conversation with something like, I’m so sorry you like this, but go your way in peace.
And of course His tantamount demonstration of the principle is seen in His response to those heinous accusers who mucked, taunted, humiliated, abused the Savior in His darkest hour as He hung on the cross. With thorns piercing His head, nails driven heartlessly through His hands and feet – and shouldering a world of false accusations, lest we forget – He asked that God the Father forgive [those accusers], for they know not what they do (Luke 23-24).
Never, ever in my humanity will I begin to possess even the purity that resides in the tip of one of the fingers on those beautiful, nail-scarred hand of Jesus, but the rich young ruler, the cross and several other scenes from Scripture rolled like a film through my mind late last fall. Numbly I turned from the grave of my beloved paternal grandparents. Just two weeks earlier, I had been excited while out with friends to find the ornamental vase on the military headstone empty – I’d waited patiently for several years to place flowers there. Since no one has a legitimate claim on the vase or the stone (Granddaddy earned them himself for his service to America in Tokyo Bay, Japan, during World War II), I went straight from the cemetery, purchased two sprawling, gorgeous bunches of artificial sunflowers and placed them. I wish you could have seen them.
But barely a week passed and my spirit went numb when – again with friends – I found this new bouquet replaced by a mini-poinsettia arrangement. The numbness later gave way to what felt like a knife twisting deeply into my stomach when, ironically, I learned that there was footage of the sunflowers being removed and replaced with the new arrangement. Although what I saw on the footage merely confirmed what I had to that point suspected, it was difficult to fathom there in black and white. Suspicion is simply suspicion until one is faced with undeniable fact; and when a fact what I saw emerges, it devastates.
Been there yourself? No fun, is it? I’ve learned over the years that a spiritually intimate communication system with Jesus can and will go a long way in carrying God’s child through the mire of devastation, betrayal and heartbreak when dreaded suspicion turns to cold hard truth. So take heart: there is a workaround.
But it demands that God’s child make the difficult-yet-deliberate choice to step back from human emotions, grit her teeth, hit her knees and ask Christ to lead the way. It’s a challenge that grows easier for the Christ-follower who has fallen in love with Jesus as opposed to simply loving Jesus out of some obligation. That’s a whole different blog post, though.
By His grace and to His glory, He enabled me to hedge my feelings about the flowers and the frustration and ask for grace to process them all in His way for His purpose. Within the hour, He brought the Aaronic Blessing to mind (Numbers 6:24-26). Also called the Aaronic Benediction, it contains the words used by Aaron and other priests as a sending-forth of Old Testament Israelites from worship services in the tabernacle and is still used to dismiss many of our church services today. Yesterday, however, it was the ancient Hebrew rendering of the passage – in other words, what it meant to its original audience instead of America’s perception of it today – that God had me to apply in response to the situation at hand.
The English rendering of the blessing reads thus:
The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
It’s actually a beautiful blessing but it’s also a blessing easily memorized and often recited without much thought. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the English words to get a grasp of their specific Hebrew meanings and images they involve: bless, keep, gracious, grant and peace. Note that I have italicized the transliterations following their Hebrew forms below.
In the passage, the Hebrew verb ברך (barak) is written in its piel conjugation and means to show respect, to bless, at times to kneel. These definitions, though, carry a bit of an abstract flavor; by looking at other words related to the verb, we can find a more concrete interpretation for a more focused phrase. Such words include the nouns ברך (berek) meaning knee and ברכה (berakah) meaning a gift, a present. From this we can see that to bless in this case insinuates the bringing of a gift to another while kneeling out of respect. The extended meaning of this word is to do or to give something of value to another. So we’re actually asking God to bless a person by gifting him or her with something of value.
A nomadic people raising livestock, it was not uncommon for Hebrew shepherds to spend nights in a field with their flocks, away from other Israelites. In order to protect his flock, the shepherd would construct a makeshift fence of thorn bushes or brambles, thereby guarding his flock and creating a literal hedge of protection around them. The Hebrew rendering of thorn is שמיר (shamiyr), which is derived from the verb שמר (shamar), literally meaning to guard, to keep, to protect. Here, then, we’re asking God to place a stalwart hedge of protection around the person of our focus.
While most theologians tend to define grace as unmerited favor, the idea of grace takes on a slightly less abstract meaning in the Aaronic Blessing. The Hebrew verb translated as gracious in the passage is the verb חנן (hhanan) and is often grouped with Hebrew words meaning to heal, to help, to be lifted up, to find refuge, strength and rescue. From a more concrete Hebraic perspective this verb means to provide protection beyond the aforementioned hedge. To obtain protection, a member of a flock typically looks to its shepherd. We are asking Christ – the Good Shepherd – to provide a haven of comfort and safety for the subject of our prayer.
The Hebrew verb שים (siym), means literally to set something or someone down in a fixed and arranged place. Read on to learn the significance of this word within its phrase.
Ah, we have arrived at the final and often most pivotal word of the passage. Our Western culture tends to associate peace simply as an absence of war or strife, but שלום (shalom) as used in this passage has quite a varied meaning. It is derived from the root שלם (shalam) and is generally used in the context of restoring or bringing restoration to one who is missing something needed in his or her life. The verb shalam literally means to make whole or complete. The noun shalom has the more literal meaning of being in a state of wholeness, or being without deficiency. So in the phrase grant you peace, we are asking God to restore the person to physical, emotional and – most importantly by far – spiritual wholeness by setting the person down in a divinely-appointed place for said restoration to happen. That’s something that only He can do.
Now – get this – while Old Testament priests spoke blessings like this one in front of the entire Israelite congregation, the verbal conjugations in the Aaronic Blessing are specifically written in singular form, not plural. In other words, and although the blessing was spoken over a group of many, its phrases were directed at each individual within that group. In the midst of a public gathering, then, the priest recognized and blessed each person in an individual, personal manner.
The irony of this individuality struck me on that autumn evening as I quietly spoke the Hebrew version of Aaronic Blessing while thinking of the poinsettia arrangement, the sunflowers Granny would’ve loved, the ones I’ll always miss.
And – most importantly – the irony struck me as I spoke the words of the passage over the party who replaced the latter arrangement with the former. The words, at their most literal level, translate to English like so:
May God kneel before you, presenting gifts and guarding you closely with a hedge of protection. May His gaze illuminate the wholeness of His being toward you, bringing needed order to your life, giving you comfort and sustenance. May He lift up His wholeness of being and look upon you with love. May He set in place all your mind, body and soul needs – everything – to be whole and complete and restored in and through Him.
It was indeed all-at-once one of the most difficult things to do and the only thing to do: consider the source, then let it go.
Before I walked away.
(A beautiful rendition of The Aaronic Benediction, performed by Joshua Aaron and Misha Goetz, is available for listening here. May it bless you.)
Copyright 2018, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All rights reserved.
Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
This Scripture gives us the assurance of the holy and continuous presence of the living Christ. Our Savior makes sure there is no doubt about it. Christ appears to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. These apostles were the founders of the universal church. Would this small group be able to carry out such a challenging task? To found and expand the church? Not if it depended on their own abilities, but it was possible with the omnipotence of the Master, who said, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18) Christ rules His church through His Word and leads it through His Spirit. Our task is merely to contribute towards it. When is Jesus with us, in the church, and in the hearts of His believing children? Our Scripture says “always”! His promise is that He will always be present in our lives with His Spirit and with His grace, an enduring and uninterrupted Presence.
We know that all days are different: There are sunny days, but also ominous and dark days; there are days when our hearts sing with joy, but also days when our hearts sob with misery and grief. There are days of firm and unshakable faith, but also days of doubt and stumbling, when we need to plead, “Help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) In His supreme wisdom God broke our lives up into pieces that we call days. the days all differ, but Christ promised, “I am with you always!”
Prayer: Thank you Jesus for the promise that you will always be with us now and forever. Amen
Grace and Peace To You My Friends
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved, standing nearby he said to her, “Woman here is your son, “ and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, the disciple took her into his home. John 19:25-27
Our Scripture today illustrates love born of the sincere heart of a child. Jesus was truly God but also truly human, yet without sin. He knew how much Mary had to suffer. Only love allows one to understand the suffering of another. The love of Christ always burnt brightly, for the entire sinful world, but also is tenderness for His only family and especially for his mother. Christ’s last command concerned his mother. He forgot himself, his own needs, his own sorrow. Human love was an important priority in Jesus’ life. In his dying hour and in his sorrow, he took care of his mother. If anyone dare say that they are taking care of their parents, let them look up at the cross on Golgotha and remember Jesus’ example. Jesus was never more thankful, tender and sensitive than at that moment. He loved his own until the very end. Jesus had already saved the man on the cross next to him, he had already prayed for his enemies, but he did not forget his mother! Human bonds bring responsibilities, responsibilities that remain even after our death. Christ’s suffering and death make us very aware of this. And so on the cross on Golgotha connects the two richest words on earth: mother and Jesus!
Grace and Peace to You My Friens
“I have told you these things so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” John 15:11
The central idea of this portion from Scripture is that Jesus tells His disciples, that they are not the ones who chose Him, but that He is the one who chose the. We didn’t choose God either, but God, in His infinite grace, chose us by making us and offer borne out of His love.
The important of this verse lies in the fact that we can use it to make a list of things we have been chosen and called for. In the first instance, we are chosen to be joyful. No matter how steep and difficult Christ’s road might be, both in its journey and purpose, it will always be a joyful road.
There is always joy in knowing that you are doing the right thing. If we have sidestepped some duty or another, and then go back and do what had to be done, we experience special joy. Christians are cheerful people who live by the words in Philippians 4:4. “Always be full in the Lord, I say it again, Rejoice!. A heavy-hearted Christians is a contradiction and nothing in the entire history of Christianity has done more harm than the negative connotations of black clothes and long faces. It is true that Christians are sinners, but they are saved sinners, it is in this that the secret of their joy lies. How is it possible to be unhappy if you walk the road of life with Christ?
Grace and Peace to You My Friends
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fisherman. “Come, follow me, “ Jesus said, “ and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Matthew 4:18-22
I wonder how many of us if Jesus was still on earth and he ask us to follow him would we drop everything at that very moment and do it? In the book of Matthew it talks about the beginning of Jesus public ministry. John the Baptist had been put to death; and Jesus had withdrawn to Galilee, not because afraid of Herod Antipas, who had put John to death, but because he had a different vision of the future. There was agitation all over Judea for a king, for someone to avenge John’s death. Jesus’ vision of the kingdom was one of nonviolence. He was not interested in revenge not even for the death of his cousin and friend but for peace.
For Matthew, this scripture was enough to justify Galilee, rather than Jerusalem, as the center of Jesus’ ministry. It is a call for a response to God’s action. God is making a new world. Get a new sense of direction and purpose and become part of that new world. Repentance is not only about remorse, but, more important, about a change of direction.
The contrast of light and darkness is a familiar theme in describing this life direction. Jesus, in fulfillment of the Scriptures, has ushered in an age in which the repentant will move toward the realm of light, and ways from darkness, the shadow of death. The light had dawned because Jesus has arrived. Jesus issued his called to discipleship, knowing the culture, heritage, and economic status of these fisherman. He asked them to leave what they knew and were comfortable with, to come and embrace a new lifestyle with different values and goals.
What is Jesus asking us to do? Jesus is issuing a similar call to modern, would-be disciples. We come from diverse cultures,. different worldviews, and different places on the socio-economic ladder. We, like the disciples of old, are also called to leave the comfort and predictability as we enter a life of service to God.
The call of fisherman to become disciples is significant, because it is the beginning of the church. Jesus took the initiative, he sought out these men in the midst of their work. The call was both a command and promise. The command was to follow him. The promise was to become “fishers of people”
Peter as well as Andrew, James and John left everything and everyone to follow Jesus. He issued a powerful appeal that made disciples. And it made a real difference in their lives. How do we become disciples of Jesus Christ? It is not a great mystery. We simply follow him, Jesus calls some us to adventure of serving in the mission field in a foreign land. Others are called to adventure close to home, serving God’s people through service organizations and schools, through food pantry, legal assistance, volunteering and voting, offering prayer and healing. There are so many ways for God’s people to follow Jesus into the adventure of serving. Where do you hear, God is calling you to join Jesus in the adventure of being his disciples? What row is yours to plant? What need in your church, or community, or in the wider world cries out to your heart? How will you respond to Jesus when he says “COME AND FOLLOW ME”
Grace and Peace to You My Friends
Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” We are not stoning you for any good work, ” they replied but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God. Jesus answered them, “is it not written in your law, ” I have said you are gods” If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came and Scripture cannot be set aside–what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why, then do you accuse me of blasphemy, because I said, “I am God’s Son?” Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even through you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father. John 10:31-38
For most people, it’s what others do not say, that counts. When Jesus spoke He spoke with authority, but when the people asked Him who He was, He pointed them to the things He did. he asked them to take not of His deeds. These deeds were acts of compassion, healing and miracles. Jesus was far more than simply a traveling Teacher who spoke about God and His kingdom. Jesus didn’t perform miracles because He wanted to impress people. everything He did was God’s deeds. Christ was God’s man in action.
You and I are also called to do more than just talk. As a disciple of Christ you must be were the action is. Make no mistakes: it is good to talk about God and for God, but it is better more powerful and more impressive to do deeds that prove you are a God-directed person. Deeds done with compassion and kind-heartedness reflect Jesus deeds. Charity that cost you something is the way in which Christians disciples prove that they are God’s people in action. Don’t let your religion stagnate; do something and become a doer of the Word and not just an idle hearer, fooling yourself.
Grace and Peace to You My Friends
“That day when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples.,” Let us go over the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious storm came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown. He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Peace! Be Still” Then the wind dies down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? They were terrified and asked each other. “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:35-41 NIV These words in the Gospel of Mark, talked about Jesus’ disciples who became so afraid because of the storm that they were facing, reminded me with the storms we all face during different times of our lives. No one here on earth is ever perfect neither is their lives, oh yes they may tell you everything is wonderful, but truth can be told not really. When we are children most of us can say that while growing up you had no worries at all, we ran and play, attend school, and perhaps church, until a storm becomes so real to us. Perhaps during all of your childhood you didn’t face some kind of tragedy, but eventually you will, just like all of us do. It is the way we all seem to handle life storms, do we run and hide, and cry out Lord save me!, sounds familiar to you, I have said this and perhaps you as well. Many such storms are the death of someone you loved very much and you feel as through you simply can not go on, overtime with God’s help you will be an overcomer. When financial difficulties come around and you simply don’t know how you are going to make this months bills, and somehow you do, that is when you are an overcomer. Sickness for you or someone you love, such as myself with a child with chronic illness and more than one. I try to remind myself in the middle of the storm that is going crazy all around me, just to ‘BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD”
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:1-2)
I grew up in a large family, my parents had seven children and I was the middle child of the seven. Since I was a teenager when my mom had died from cancer I don’t seem to remember a lot of things about my mom, and yes at times it drives me crazy. However, one of the things I do remember even thro we were poor whenever anyone drop by our home their was always room for one more at our dinner table, and somehow a miracle that we seem to have enough food to go around for that meal. Regardless of how little we had, we were always taught to share with others, and that is what we did as children and that is something I still do today. As a woman now and married if I ever know someone who is celebrating any holidays alone, I would always make it a point to invite that person or family to stop by and share a meal with my family as well. I can honestly say that I am a people person, I can always find something to talk about even to strangers especially about my faith to others.
The church I attend our pastor is always talking to all of us about hospitality, and when he saw me how I would approach a stranger and greet them, I somehow became the person in charge of hospitality for our church. For me I always believe that Pastor Doug just made this all up, until I was searching the scriptures for myself to be able to share an evening meditation at my church, that I came across this message from Hebrews as well as from the book of 1 Peter 4:8-9 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Wow, my mouth had just drop wide open when I read both of these scriptures. I share with others it’s not a Pastor Doug saying, it is something we are called to do as Christians. Anytime you come across anyone not only the people you know,but also the stranger, offer them a smile, a kind word, just like the scriptures tell us we will never know if we are offering kindness to an angel. Doing these simple task doesn’t cost us anything, we never know the difficult trials that someone is going thru right at that very moment, loss of a job, health issues, or anything else, so a kind word goes a long way. As adults we need to take a good lesson from children, put children all together in a room, they don’t need to know anyone at that very moment. A child would not judge others like adults, they don’t see colors to be prejudice against someone for any reason, it does not matter if another child is in a wheelchair, or disable in anyway, all they all see is a child to play with, and all they offer to one another is a smile and kindness.
I will end with this scripture for you to read, it comes from the book of Isaiah 11:6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together, and a LITTLE CHILD, will lead them. We must become like little children to enter into the kingdom of heaven, just think about it.
Grace and Peace to You My Friends