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April Motl Christian Blog and Commentary

April Motl Contributor


prayers feel emptyA couple weeks ago I was setting up for our ladies’ Valentine’s event at church. My little one was really unhappy about it all, I was in a rush, trying desperately not to be late with all the preparation, everything was wooshing around my focus, and then I saw them. As I quickly plopped something in the trashcan, the ribbons adorning the pillars outside our church had been taken down. The whole community had been tied up with ribbons for over a year in prayer and support for a baby girl with cancer. Just days earlier her fight was finished and she was at peace with her Father. Of course the ribbons would eventually find their way to the trash, regardless of the outcome... but her home-going had settled on my husband and I quite heavily. We didn’t know the family personally, but she was one of too many we’d prayed for recently. And the ribbons in the trash just broke my heart. I got chocked up, lifted her parents up to our Lord’s grace, peace, and comfort once again, and cried out, “God! It feels like all our prayers ended up in the trash with these ribbons!”

The prayers we’d lifted for hurting marriages, people with cancer, Alzheimer's, and a variety of rare diseases and ailments, unemployment month after month...all our prayers felt like they were crumpled up with those ribbons. And my heart broke for all of them. All the little details of event prep, even my fussing wee one, faded and everything stopped as I stood there staring into the trash. Prayer is a hard labor. It’s a strange tension between something that feels like doing almost nothing, sitting, waiting, and resting on God alone, while leaning, straining, emptying, and holding on to hope and trust until it feels like your fingernails are getting ripped off. And when you’ve been lifting, straining, hanging, waiting, trusting, and resting for so long for so much, it is disheartening, weary, and sometimes even disillusioning when God’s best answer for a situation is “No.” As I looked at the ribbons at the bottom of the waste basket, the Lord reminded me of different imagery. Truthful, Scriptural imagery of how He saw our prayers. They were not, and never could be, rubbish to Him.

Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel's hand. Revelation 8:3-4 NIV

Our prayers were a beautiful incense. They were placed on a golden altar before the King of Kings, directly before Him, not off to the side or discarded. They had His full attention and care. They were precious. I know full well this life is full of mysteries we can’t understand this side of heaven. Many of the “no’s” in my prayer life fall into that category. I needed the reminder that my prayers were tucked in a place of golden honor and value, directly before my Father, and strangely, it was the ribbons in the trash that provided the opportunity. I don’t know what prayer burdens you’ve been lifting on your side of the computer screen, but I’m praying the Lord would send you a fresh wind of faith and strength. May you always remember, your prayers are most precious to our Father in heaven.

Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD. Psalm 31:24

rosepetalheartWith Valentine's Day fast approaching, many of the husbands out there are starting to feel their palms sweat with the pressure of living up to the high expectations this holiday brings. While the guys are out there trying to conjure up a romantic evening, many of us gals are trying to wow our men by measuring up to cover models. Valentine's Day can bring out many of our insecurities, all the while setting high standards for our spouses.

Whether it's Valentine's Day or not, many of us are walking around with our emotional cups out stretched, like beggars on the street corner, waiting for our husbands or wives to fill them with security and significance. However, the reality is that our spouses were never meant to fill our emotional cups with those things -- only God can. When we expect our spouses to meet all our needs we inadvertently put them on a throne in our heart that was designed only for our Lord. When they fail to meet our high expectations, we become disappointed and dissatisfied with them. This Valentine's, give your spouse the gift of a relationship centered in God's love.

A relationship centered in God's love acknowledges that the Lord is your personal source of significance, security and satisfaction. When I turn to the Lord in my neediness to hear Him say, "The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord" Psalm 45:11 (NIV), then I can let my husband off the hook for making me feel secure about myself. When I seek God because "in [His] presence is fullness of joy; at [His] right hand are pleasures forevermore" Psalm 16:11 (NKJ) then God can touch the secret places of my heart that no person ever could reach to give me the satisfaction my soul desires.

When I remember that my Lord thinks about me more times than there is sand in the sea (Psalms 139:17-18), that He saw every tear I cried in secret and collected them in a bottle (Psalms 56:8) and that He has counted every hair on my head (Matthew 10:30) then I am wrapped in His cherishing love.

Understanding the truth that my God bends down to tend to every detail of my life gives me a place of significance that no other person can give or take away. Letting God fill that place in your life instead of expecting your spouse to fill it is a gift to both of you!

Within the context of your marriage you can also encourage your spouse to be centered in God's love. Whenever I tell my husband that I love him more than anyone else in the world, he is always quick to say "after the Lord -- right?" Of course I meant that, but he wants to make sure that I remember to always put the Lord first. When Eric gives me that reminder it is one of the ways he centers our relationship in the Lord, instead of making us the center of it. In turn, sometimes after a particularly busy time in his schedule, instead of keeping him all to myself, I encourage him to go take an extended time away with the Lord. Besides, our time together will be much better if he has been recharged in his spirit.

Another way we make the Lord the center of our relationship is through letters I call "love notes from me and Jesus." Both Eric and I enjoy giving and receiving these encouraging little notes. In our love notes we write verses to lift each other's spirit in the Lord. You can love your spouse with Scripture very easily! One day I told my man that I thought he was just wonderful. He said, "No, I'm not wonderful…" and started listing excuses. I said, "Well, the Lord thinks you're wonderful because He says you are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made'!(Psalm 139:14)" He thought that was a bit of a stretch for the verse, but I thought it worked! This Valentine's Day, rather than ramping up expectations for love and romance from your spouse, you could instead celebrate the love God has lavished on you. When we are plugged into God's love then His love flows freely into our marriages. And as His love spills over, it sparks the fireworks that we all hope for in a great Valentine's Day.

Today's resource give-away is about cultivating our relationship with Christ on a deeper level: My Reflection in His Eyes: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You. Blessings! Happy Valentine's Day <3 

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heartToday's February Freebies has a little something for everyone :) There's a download sample of a new Bible study we have out, Free to Flourish: Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit and a chance to win your own copy of the study too. May the Lord's love grow fully and freely in your heart <3 Flourish Study Sample 

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