True confession. I am not much of a women’s retreat gal. All that hugging, all that talking, all those smiles.
Makes my face hurt, just thinking about it.
But when the folks at Moms in Prayer invited me to join them at the Unshaken retreat last weekend, I jumped at the chance. Heck, if they’d invited me to donate a kidney, I’d have jumped on that too. I’d do just about anything, in fact, for the women behind the ministry that has done more to shape my prayer life (and, by extension, my kids’ lives) than anything or anyone except Jesus.
And you know what? I loved it. I loved every single minute of our time in Asheville, North Carolina. The worship was amazing, the teaching incredibly rich, and even the endless smiling didn’t bug me as much as I’d feared. And since I know most of you were not there (although some of you were; it was great to meet you!), I am going to take a little detour from the usual blog post routine and recap a few highlights. These nuggets were golden for me; maybe they’ll encourage you, too.
Our first speaker was Jennifer Kennedy Dean. You may recognize her as the author of Live a Praying Life (hands-down, my favorite prayer study), but if not, here’s she is (pictured with Moms in Prayer founder Fern Nichols and me):
Noting that prayer is “proof of how much God loves us” (because he chose to work with us and through us, instead of around us), Jennifer talked about how God always answers the cry of our hearts. She pointed to Psalm 37:4 (“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart”) and explained that the word delight comes from a Hebrew word that means “soft” and “moldable.” When God has our heart–when he molds it and shapes it–he gives us desires that we might not even be fully aware of…and then he says “yes.” Does that sometimes run counter to what our lips might be praying? Sure. But, as Jennifer said, “God isn’t interested in pacifying us. He is interested in satisfying us.”
Good stuff. I’m still processing how to get my head and my lips to line up with my heart, but I like it.
The next day, we heard Renee Swope:
I wasn’t familiar with Renee’s work (she has a book called A Confident Heart), but I’m now a big fan. I loved her message on trusting God in the face of life’s triggers (things like doubt, fear, comparison, criticism, and our need for control), and I found myself utterly captivated as she talked about her teenaged son telling her he was an atheist. “I wanted to panic,” Renee said, “but I knew that would only make things worse.”
She asked God what she should do.
“Don’t say anything,” she sensed the Lord say. “Just be who you say I am.”
Be who you say I am.
How awesome is that? I mean, we talk about wanting to model Christ’s love, and to treat people (especially our kids) the way that God does, but how often do we stop and think about what that looks like in real life? How, practically speaking, do we live out that love? How often do we default to criticism, nagging, worry, or fear when a better approach would be to be patient? Or gentle? Or kind?
Or even to just be with our child?
Renee’s son eventually gave his life to the Lord. I can’t share the whole story here (I’d mess it up if I tried), but I’m crazy about the punch line:
“I just got tired,” the young man said, “of living without hope.”
And finally, on Sunday morning, Fern Nichols got up. (You know how our daughters feel about getting to see Taylor Swift? Yeah. That’s basically how these praying moms–and grandmoms–felt about Fern.)
Fern started Moms in Prayer in 1989, back when her kids were in middle school, and for the past 40 years, she has encouraged mothers all over the world with the call of Lamentations 2:19: “Arise, cry out… Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children.”
You’d think, what with this being a Moms in Prayer thing, that the 400+ attendees wouldn’t need a refresher on the Four Steps of Prayer (the strategy that shapes every MIP meeting), but no. We did. And at the risk of dumbing things down (and please click on that link to get a bigger picture), here are the Cliff Notes:
Step One is praise. Praising God takes our eyes off our circumstances and focuses it on the One who is able. Whatever the need, he is equipped to meet it.
Step Two is silent confession because, as Fern put it, “a pure heart is behind every effective prayer.” If we’re sitting there hating our husband (or cherishing any other ick stuff), we can’t expect our prayers to get through.
Step Three is thanksgiving. Every sin, Fern said, stems from pride. When we take time to thank God–to acknowledge his grace and provision–it’s a reminder that all that we have, and all that we are, comes from him.
And Step Four is intercession, naming our children’s needs–as well as the needs of their teachers and schools–and asking God to meet them. This is where praying the scriptures really comes in, as we rely on God’s promises to shape our perspective and give life to our prayers.
If you’re already part of a Moms in Prayer group, you know all of this. But if you’re not, and you’d like to know more, click here.
But here’s the thing. Don’t try to go it alone. Jesus sent his disciples out two by two; he knew that they’d need one another. And so do we. Grab at least one other mom and invite her to pray.
So there you have it. I’ve left out 98% of my notes, but I hope you’ve connected with something I’ve shared–and that the next time your child says, “Mom, will you pray for me?”, you’ll feel a bit more equipped to jump in.
And I know. Right now, some of you are thinking, “Yeah, right. My kid asking for prayer? That’ll be the day.”
I hear you. But…can I just say three things?
First, I get it. I’ve been there.
Second, we worship a God of surprises. Don’t count him out.
And third, let’s go back to Jennifer’s teaching. Because maybe your child’s lips aren’t asking for prayer, but that is the cry of their heart.
And when that happens, we can slip our hand into God’s and say “Yes.”
(That’s my cute friend Lynn. She is the kind of prayer partner you want. Not only does she pray with boldness and faith, but she’s a complete fashionista and half the time, when she sees you, she gives you a new scarf. 😊)