** 21 Days of Prayer Devotionals**

 
Day 1
“Call and I will Answer”
 
Pastor Michael Miller
 
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” Jeremiah 33:3 
 
It was 1989. In the epicenter of downtown Hong Kong. That’s where I first saw it. My first cell phone. I remember there was this Asian guy walking down Hong Kong’s version of Times Square, and he was actually on a phone! No land line cords, no telephone wires or cables dangling, just a shoe box looking thing connected to his head, held by his hand.
 
Now, in our modern age it’s no big deal to see a cell phone. In fact, it’s unusual not to see folks everywhere on their phone. At restaurants, offices, at a park, everywhere…chatting on their phones…with no wires or phone cords! Amazingly, your personal voice signal is interpreted into sound waves then teleported up through space to a satellite and down back through earth’s orbit into your very ear…all in a millisecond!
 
In the midst of all this marvel of technology the most amazing thing is that it’s all about one of the greatest gifts God has given us: communication. The ability to connect relationally and draw closer to someone. All this God has made possible because He knows what we need, and He supplies. Ironically, God invented all this years ago (before 1989). In Jeremiah 33:3 God tells us to call Him. God scours the globe looking for and receiving your voice into His ears, anytime, anyplace…without cords or wires. All that connects us is the strongest thing there is: His love. It’s the best wireless plan there is and its free for the taking.
 
The question is will you take God up on His prayer plan? His plan to reach out and touch someone…you; touch you with a love that is the most valuable thing there is. You may want to call Him. He died for the connection. He rose again to make sure your bill was paid. “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” Jeremiah 33:3 
 
Today’s prayer challenge:
Pray personally for five minutes alone with God and then listen for five minutes. Write down what He tells you and reflect on it tomorrow. Then share it with a loved one.
Day 2
PRAYER FOR MY DADDY
Bennie Carol Botts
 
SCRIPTURE: “…It is not God’s will that any man should perish.” 2 Peter 3:9b NASB
 
“Find the prayer God can say YES to.”
From: WHEN THE HEART IS HUNGRY by Charles L. Allen: On answered prayer.
 
         I adored my daddy. He was funny and made all my friends laugh. He snored really loudly at night, a sound I loved, for I knew when I heard him snoring that he was fine and all was well. He loved to give gifts… and not on special occasions … just any time. He worked hard in his self-owned repair business although he never made a lot of money. I adored him and knew he was a good man.
 
       But having said that, he was not a believer in Jesus; he told me so himself. He attended Sunday School regularly for a while and occasionally went to church, but he did not try to keep us from going. After I was grown, and seeking to know the spiritual condition of my family, I talked to him and he said he was not a believer in Jesus. I shared truth with him, but he did not make a decision for Christ.
 
      Daddy had coronary artery disease. Over the years, he had an aneurism repair in the aorta, multiple by-pass surgery, multiple heart attacks and an aortic heart valve replacement. By the time he was in his mid-70’s his heart was badly damaged. My prayer for him was that God would hold on to him until He could bring Daddy into His kingdom — a prayer I knew that God wanted to answer. (2 Peter 3:9)
 
     The last 5 weeks of Daddy’s life were spent in the hospital. His heart was functioning at about 30% capacity — marginal for life. There were times he was on a ventilator, and during those days I ministered the love of Jesus to him, telling him that Jesus was with him. Daddy literally did not sleep, and I stayed with him at night. These nights were special times as we went on imaginary picnics and took trips through imaginary underground tunnels. He spoke often of his life, that he had not been a “bad” person. I knew he was trying to justify himself, trying to find peace with God.
 
     Mother and I were staying with my cousin, and I shared with them that Daddy was not a Christian. My cousin’s wife said her father had the spiritual gift of evangelism and that the Spirit of God often saved total strangers through him. She asked if I would like for him to speak to Daddy. I said yes. Daddy knew the man, so it was not awkward for him to visit. I was not present for the visit, but the man shared with me that they talked about God and Jesus, and then the man asked Daddy if he would like to ask Jesus to come into his heart. Daddy said, “Yes.” There was some silence and then Daddy said, “I’ve worried about that for a long time, and now I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”  Two weeks later, he was dead.
 
Now I cannot say that I have had a lot of dramatic answers to prayer, and often I question what is the will of God and where God is in relation to my prayer. Then I remember my faith treasure: I know God answered that prayer for my daddy and that Daddy is with God. I found a prayer God wanted to say YES to.
 
PRAYER:             Thank you, God, for your mercy and grace!!
And for saying YES to my prayer!!
 
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Align your will with the will of God: find the prayer He can say YES to.
Day 3
A PRAYER FOR US
 
Mil Ivey
  
Read the four prayers found in these passages:
 
Ephesians 3:16-19 – Paul’s Prayer (to comprehend the love of Christ)
John 17:3 – Jesus’ Prayer (to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You sent)
Exodus 33:13 – Moses Prayer (let me know your ways that I may know you)
Psalms 23 – David’s Prayer (to know the love and character of the Good Shepherd)
 
 What do all four of these prayers have in common? They all express the heart-felt desire that we might KNOW Him, that we would know His nature. The word KNOW in the Bible (Hebrew – yada; Greek – ginosko) means “to know Him intimately; to know and enjoy His character, His nature, and His presence.”
 
In all 4 of these examples, it was Paul’s, Jesus’, Moses’ and David’s heart cry that we might “KNOW Him” on an intimate level. (OK, David’s prayer was more of a confession or a declaration, but it did help us to KNOW God’s character.)
 
We can find many examples of prayer in the scriptures – the Prayer of Jabez, the Prayer of Moses, Mary’s prayer, Hannah’s prayer, etc. In fact, there are actually 221 prayers recorded in the Bible, according to some who choose to count. There are also numerous biblical references to God’s names, which in turn, represent His character.
 
But the prayer to KNOW HIM is the beginning of a renewed mind and a committed spirit and soul. It is a hunger that God Himself placed inside all of creation. He even said that if man chose not to praise Him, the rocks would cry out in praise. It is God’s desire that ALL of His creation KNOW and LOVE Him.
 
To KNOW Him relies on two essentials of strong faith. Confidence in His existence and knowing His nature are these two essentials to active faith. This means not just a knowing that He exists, somewhere “out there” – but knowing He is present, here and now. This kind of knowing is revealed by our response – diligently seeking Him. 
 
So how do we KNOW God? We seek Him in His Word. We hang out with others who know Him intimately. We look for ways to renew our mind – chase out the worldly ways of understanding, and seek the Godly way of seeing things. We lean not to our own understanding, but we trust in Him (Prov 3:5-6).
 
 Prayer: Lord, lead me to KNOW You and to fellowship with You every day. Thank You for Your presence in my life and in my heart. I want to know you better every day. Amen.
Day 4
Faith and Service
 
Mary Shurett
 
  One day, while he (Jesus) was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting nearby (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. Just then some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus. When he saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”  Luke 5:17-20
 
   In the book Life in Christ by Julia Gatta, she suggests we should begin reading scripture slowly so that we will identify with all sorts of characters and, because our personalities are multi-faceted, we find ourselves empathizing with first one character and then another. She also suggests that we are to see, hear and even smell what is being described in the scripture. 
 
“The crucial matter is engaging the living Christ mediated by the living words of Scripture.” – Julia Gatta
 
   In our selected scripture, I envision a home with clay jars filled with palm fronds to welcome Jesus as he taught. The aromas of freshly baked bread, dates and olives fill the air. The voices of those gathered would likely be murmuring. Suddenly, Jesus watched as sunlight and dirt showered the room from cracks in the ceiling. Finally, to the astonishment of all, a paralyzed man, on his bed, is lowered before Jesus. Our Lord is so impressed with the faith and determination of all these men, he heals the man of all of his sins, a far greater gift than what had been wished for and hoped.
 
  In this scripture, each person gathered there had a role to fill. What is your role in serving Jesus? Do you prepare the CLC and Sanctuary for upcoming events to make it welcoming? Do you prepare food for Man with a Pan or covered-dish meals? Do you teach classes? Do you serve SOS clients or share musical talents? Do you welcome new members into the church family? We have all been given talents – let’s call them spiritual gifts – to use for the glory of God so that we function as the body of Christ. I have to believe the friends of the paralyzed man later returned to patch the roof! They were loving men of faith and kindness! Aren’t we each called to use our spiritual gifts to the glory of God?
 
Prayer:  Loving Father, thank you for the wonderful gifts you give to us. Help us to search our hearts, take giant leaps of faith, and be in service to you, our families, our church and our community. May we seek opportunities to grow each and every day. That service is what you have called us to do. Amen
Day 5
GOD’S CALL TO ANOINT AND PRAY
 
John Botts
 
 Read James 5:13-16, Matthew 18:19-20
 
James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.
 
Matt.18:19-20 (words of Jesus) “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
 
These scriptures call us Christians to join together, anoint with oil, and pray for persons who are sick.
 
Who are the sick? Anyone suffering physical ailment plus anyone suffering emotional and spiritual pain. I would even include persons who are facing traumatic circumstances, worries or fears.
 
Who are the “elders”? Members of our church who have a personal prayer relationship with God, who are living out their faith and are honoring their commitments as Christians.
 
Why do this?
   It is an act of worship. Even though we are praying for a person, God is the focus.
   It is an act of faith. We are obedient to God’s word.
   It is an act of hope. The scriptures give us a promise that lifts our hope of a desirable outcome.
   It is a dual act of love ….. love of God and love of our brother/sister. 
 
Results? We may or may not be able to measure results. Results are not our job. We anoint and pray in faith, hope and love as an act of worship.
 
We know that God’s love will ensure the best results that fit into His infinite wisdom and will.
 
James 5:16–…”the fervent effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much”.
 
Prayer: God, you tell us to love You and to love others. Thank you for giving us a way to do both in this one act of anointing with oil and praying for persons in need. Lead us and guide us in this matter. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Day 6
WORDS REVEAL CHARACTER
 
Donna Chesser
 
Read Matthew 12:30-37
 
“But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37 (KJV)
 
Have you ever thought about all the careless words we speak every day? In today’s scripture context, Jesus had just healed a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute. The Pharisees accused Him of casting out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of demons. Knowing their thoughts Jesus begins to confront them about the condition of their heart. In verse 30, He warns them about the dangers of committing the unpardonable sin, or blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. He goes on to give an illustration about how it is possible to identify the heart’s condition. He says a tree is known by its fruit. We are the tree to which He is speaking, and the fruit we bear are the words we speak. Jesus declares, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” So I ask you the same question I asked myself, “What’s in your heart?”
 
It reminds me of an illustration I once witnessed at a Student’s for Christ meeting where a speaker squeezed all the toothpaste out of a tube. Once it was out, no matter how hard he tried to force it back in, the toothpaste would not go back. Instead it spread all over the place and made a huge mess. That’s like you and me when we say things we wish we hadn’t said. We wish we could take them back, but we can’t, and sometimes we, too, get ourselves into a mess as we try to explain ourselves to others. Jesus’ instructions are clear – by our words, we are either justified or condemned, because every careless word we speak will be judged. That’s a sobering thought! As we close for today, think about the power of the tongue and how the words we speak reveal the contents of our hearts.
 
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for Your Word and the instruction You have given us to live by. Help us to bridle our mouths and speak words of blessing instead of cursing, as we echo the words of the psalmist who prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, oh Lord my strength and redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14) Amen.

Day 7

NEVER ACCEPT ANYTHING LESS

Ron Ivey

“What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

 

When I was sentenced with two consecutive life sentences in December of 1983, MAN had thought they had given me a death sentence. I, too, had resigned to spending the rest of my life behind bars.

But through the teachings from prison ministries, studying God’s Word, prayer, and guidance from the Holy Spirit, I realized that Daddy’s Word is true, and that my faith and the words I spoke actually controlled my future — not man!

I understood that for my faith to work, I had to believe with my heart, not my head.  I also had to speak words of life (God’s promises) into my situation and not speak words of doubt or death (Satan’s meddling).  Mark 11:23 took my future from man’s hands and put it into His hands!  I visualized myself as living in the Free world. I started speaking the things not seen as if they were real and visible now! I stood on Daddy’s Word, nothing or no one was going to convince me to settle for anything less!

On November 5th of 2001, I was granted parole. The thing not seen was visible for ALL to see!  But Daddy wasn’t done yet. On August 10th of 2016, I was granted a full pardon. Isn’t our God awesome!

Never accept anything less than His best.  Jesus came that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly. 

Prayer:  Daddy, thank you that nothing is impossible for You to accomplish.  Help me to believe with my heart, and speak words of life into situations that are less abundant than the promises in Your Word. Thank You for loving me and sending Jesus to restore my relationship with You. Amen

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Nothing is impossible for God!

Day 8

. . . AND WHEN YOU PRAY

Matthew 6:7-8 – “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore, do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

    Over the years I have talked with numerous people about their prayer life and many have shared with me their struggles with prayer. If we’re honest, we have all been there, fearful of what others might think of our words or that it won’t sound as good as that person we know who “prays so beautifully”. In Matthew 6:7 Jesus tells us not to ramble on in our prayers in hope that many words will make God hear us better. He doesn’t need unnecessary or fancy words because He already knows what we need! Our prayers should be like conversation with a dear friend, and I think we would all agree that we love talking with dear friends.

    So how do we overcome that fear or hesitation to have conversations with God? First, we remember who we’re talking to. We’re talking to our Father, our friend who longs to hear from us, the One who knows the exact number of hairs on our head. Second, we have to know that even if we don’t get all the words right, He knows exactly what our heart is trying to tell Him. Jesus taught us that too in Matthew 6:8. He knows what our heart and our desires are. Finally, we have to remember that our prayers are pleasing to him. Revelation 5:8 tells us that the golden bowls of incense are the prayers of the saints. Our prayers are like the pleasing aroma of incense to Him, and He wants to hear our voice. When we talk with Him it’s just like those conversations we love having with our own children.

    Simply speak to Him from your heart and let the words come naturally, not forced or thought out in advance, but as a stream flowing from the well of your spirit. 

Prayer: Lord, we give thanks that we can approach you and bring our every need to you in prayer. Help us to see you as the loving Father you are, anxiously waiting to hear from us and willing to listen and respond. Take that fear from us that our words aren’t good enough to please you and give us boldness to acknowledge you and seek you, regardless of the situation or people around us. We ask you in the precious name of Jesus our Lord. Amen

Randall Ham

Day 9

THE PLACE WHERE GOD SHOWS UP

 Read Hebrews 10:22-25

I want my church to be known as “the place where God shows up.” I want the talk around the community to be, “Let’s go down to that church. I’ve heard that’s where God shows up.”

King David had discovered some things about God’s response to worship that was unknown during the earlier days of Israel’s history. Specifically, David recognized how God responds to the praises of His people. “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” (Ps 22:3). He responds by showing up. God responds to our worship with His Presence.

Worship is powerful for many reasons. One of the most important reasons is that we become more like the One we worship. Our sacrifice of praise, our Holy Spirit-filled worship, bows our hearts before Him, and acknowledges who He is and who we are in Him. We invite Him into our presence so that we can fellowship with Him as He fellowships with us.

Worship has one singular focus – God and His worth. He has invited us to His throne-room. He desires an intimate relationship with His people who worship Him and fellowship with Him.

We are called to mirror His love, to mirror His great sacrifice by assembling ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25) in unity and “in one accord” like the early church. Our assembly should be for one purpose – to WORSHIP Him in Spirit and in truth.

When we add the supernatural power of the resurrected Christ to a people unified in vision and spirit and unified with one another according to His purpose, there is nothing our church can’t accomplish! That’s when He responds with His Presence.

That’s when God shows up!

Prayer: Lord, cause our church to be united with one another and with You. Accept our worship and honor us with Your Presence. Let us be known as the church where God shows up. Amen  

Mil Ivey

Day 10

OUR CONSTANT COMPANION

Read Psalm 145:13-20

 The Lord is near to all who call on him to all who call on him in truth.

 Psalm 145:18

 

   Several years ago, a good friend gave me a set of Bible verse cards in an acrylic holder. Each card has a separate verse personalized with my name. I keep the set in my kitchen window and shuffle through them so often that they are becoming dog-eared. This verse is one of my favorites.

    Mothers worry about their children. That’s what we do from conception through all their ages. It goes through the various stages in each child’s development from SIDS, the identity of their Kindergarten teacher, Rec League sports teams, the teen years (learning to drive), college, getting a job, and goes on and on seemingly forever. With each stage in a child’s development, the worries seem worse than those that came before.  As they reach adulthood, the worries escalate as their problems can truly have life-altering consequences.

    Our children are now in their mid-30’s. We have enjoyed (and suffered through) all the stages to get them to this point. Some days when we know that they are going through an especially trying time, our hearts almost stop when the phone rings and caller ID shows one of their names. Daily prayer and knowing that the Lord is near to Chip and me as parents (and to our sons as well) brings us constant comfort and support.

Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank you for being our constant companion and support in both the good times and the trying ones. Amen

Shanon Blanton

Day 11

PERFECT PEACE

Read Philippians 4:6-7.

And the Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and mind through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

On two special occasions, I have experienced the true Peace of God. Beyond understanding is an accurate description. The last was my last heart attack where I went through a difficult ordeal with no worries at all. Total Peace! Since then, I long to experience it again. If this is a preview of how we feel in heaven, I am more than ready to go.

I have, in times past, not known how to comfort someone at a funeral. I just mostly went through the motions. Now, however, I cannot think of anything more beautiful than just to express the Peace of God. The deceased will be missed by their family and friends, but in no way will the deceased miss us. Praise God!

Prayer: Lord God, thank You for Your mercy and grace which can offer that great peace in You. Help us to listen to Your words and voice, and realize all You do is for our benefit. We praise You, we love You, and long to be with You. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Larry Chesser

 

Day 12

Ears to Listen

I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying, for he speaks peace to his faithful people. Psalm 85:8

Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand! Matthew 11:15

    Have you ever thought about the difference between to hear and to listen? Hear is defined as to “perceive with the ear the sound made by someone or something” while listen is defined as to “give one’s attention to a sound”.  I am often guilty of trying to hear, but not listen, even when it comes to what the Lord is saying to me. 

    I have never heard the audible voice of God; I’ve never seen a burning bush or had an angel appear and speak to me. Many times I have asked the Lord to let me hear him; tell me what I should do, help me make this decision, show me the right choice. I pray that prayer, and then try to hear what God is saying; I try to hear an answer like the resounding gong or clanging cymbal Paul mentions in 1st Corinthians. Thus far in my life, I have not had success with that request and become frustrated at not hearing a response. 

    Greater success has come when I pray to listen and understand, not just hear. When I give God my attention and listen carefully, I find God’s answers all around. His answer may be in the words to a song, a bible verse from a daily devotion, a sermon on a podcast or a conversation with someone who has no idea what I am struggling with. Oftentimes, it is all those things together that let me know God’s answer to my question. God provides answers and a response if I stop trying to hear, but instead listen. 

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for speaking to me in all ways. I pray that I always remember to carefully listen and try to understand. Even if I don’t hear a sound, if I give you my attention, you will provide me with a response. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Dana Brewis

Day 13

Spend Time With Others – Spend Time With God

ScriptureAnd in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayedMark 1:35

I lived across the street from my grandfather from 1955 until 1958 and with him for other short periods of time. This was a great time, and he spent a lot of time with me that I cherish to this day. He had a small farm with hogs, and cotton fields that were farmed by a share-cropper. On Saturdays and in the summer, he would stop his pickup in front of our house, and I felt grown as I climbed into the seat. We would haul water from the local station for the hogs and work around the small farm. I especially enjoyed going to the cotton fields and visiting other farmers and listening to him barter with others for hogs. We would also stop by the country store and get a coke, whole tomatoes, and sardines with crackers. This seemed like a gourmet meal to me.

One of the most memorable things we did was pick up coke bottles that had been thrown out of vehicles and left on the side of the road. He would bring the truck to a stop, and I would jump out of the old International truck and pick up the bottle and put it into a coke crate in the back of the truck. Deposit for a bottle was one cent, but we soon had a case, and we would stack them in the garage.

It was some time later when I was at my cousin’s house that I was admiring his new BB gun as I did all the neat things he seemed to always have. As we talked, he said that granddaddy had bought it for him when he sold the coke bottles. I was hurt. I wondered, “Where was my BB gun?” After all, I had done the work and my cousin had not helped. Why was I done this way? Why was I betrayed? I thought he must be kidding, and the next time I went to granddaddy’s house, I looked in the garage. Sure enough, the bottles were gone.

In 1959, my grandfather died. I have kept the memories in my heart and dearly love him for the time he spent with me. I knew his love; I knew his friendship, and I will always cherish the memories with him all my life. The time spent with him was worth a lot more than the BB gun. I did not understand at the time, but the time spent with me, that my cousin did not enjoy, and the personal attention he shared could not buy 10,000 BB guns.

Although his time with me was short, he has spent many hours with me since in my memory, and I ponder good thoughts and memorable times that we shared. The sardines, whole tomatoes, cokes and crackers are all great memories.

Today, we tend to think we must spend money to influence our loved ones to show them our love. This is not so. Our time is worth more than anything we can give.

Spend time with others. Spend time with God.

Prayer: Dear God, help us to understand the important things in our life. Give us the wisdom to draw close to others and give our time to them. Help us to give as you have demonstrated to us in your life. In your name we pray. Amen.

Bobby Elrod

Day 14

The New Has Come!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

2 Corinthians 5:17

It was in May 2017, in the throes of a heart attack, at Fort Payne Regional Hospital, as the pain clamped tight to my arms, back, and legs, that I called out “Help me, Jesus! Help me Jesus!” repeatedly until the pain subsided with the injection of some sort, and I think I passed out.

In my cries for help, I knew that Jesus was the one who could save me, or take me, and I knew after those moments that I would never again have the Lord in my life, ”on my own terms”. When I talked to Pastor Ricky Smith about joining the church, he asked if I had given my life to Christ. I said, “Yes”, I was saved and baptized in 1972. He asked about my Christian life and my faith. I then realized that I had Jesus in my life when I needed him, that he had rescued me so many times, I knew I had taken him for granted. Pastor Ricky asked, “How’s that working out for you?”

I then knew that I had abandoned him, but he had never abandoned me, and I rededicated my life to Christ and to prayer that day, and to listening in stillness for his voice, for his will. He filled me with the love and the Holy Spirit I prayed for, the knowledge to know him and how he makes everyone new in his love.

Yes, we can cry out to him when we are in distress, in need, but we must never live this worldly life as a “part time” or “convenient”  believer. We must give him every thought, every day, and rejoice in and praise his salvation.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I know that you are always with me, that you hold me by my right hand. I Pray that you will guide me with you counsel, that you will hear my cries for help and that your will be done. I will be still and listen for your voice and pray continually. For I know when I give my life to you, I am changed forever.

Betsy Dillbeck

Day 15

PRAYING TOGETHER

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of the water by the Word”. Ephesians 5:25-26

    One of the most powerful things we can do as Christian men and husbands is to pray for our wives. It’s simply not enough just to love her. Anyone can do that. We’re told to love her as Christ loved the church and that’s a completely different level than we can’t achieve without prayer. Maybe you already pray for your wife, and that’s great, but if you want to take the next step you need to begin praying with your wife.

    I remember during the time our pastor, Mark Lacey, was counseling Lisa and me prior to our marriage, he told us that there would come a time when we would begin to pray together and that it would completely change our marriage. As we grew in our faith and in our love for each other, we had a marriage second to none, or so we thought. Later, that day did come when we began to pray together, and we discovered that what he had told us was amazingly true. It changed everything in a way we couldn’t have imagined. Ephesians 5:31 talks about a man and a woman becoming one flesh, and I believe that is what our praying together brought about.

    Marriage is sometimes difficult, and when you add children to the equation, it can sometimes seem like an impossible task. Raising a family is a daunting task when you really consider it, sometimes frustrating, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes even a little scary. But when you face it together, praying as one flesh, God grants you His very own wisdom and vision, and you get guidance and answers you wouldn’t have had on your own.

    Husbands, love your wife enough to pray for her, and with her, and allow God to show you a relatinship you’ve never experienced before.

Prayer: Father, we thank you for your Word that teaches us about marriage and relationship. We thank you for the bond you create through prayers as husband and wife, a bond stronger than a cord of three strands. Help us be mindful that our families need the prayers of a bonded man and woman to face the world that tries to tear us apart. Thank you for showing us how to love as Christ loved the church. – Amen

Randall Ham

Day 16

Don’t Block the Blessing!

“Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?” Jesus declared, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:36-37

My husband and I heard that on Lookout Mountain in Mentone there is a small and very unique chapel that was constructed in 1937 around a huge boulder of mountain rock. We decided that this chapel must be a sight to see and made the visit. We were not disappointed. The outward appearance is very unusual and interesting. After perusing the outside of the structure and its surroundings, we entered to find quaint worship space. What struck me most was the wooden beam over the altar that was inscribed with these words: “God has only been as good to me as I would let him be”. To be honest, I was dumbstruck. In fact, I have spent a good deal of time wondering why those words were placed there front and center so that no one could possibly miss reading them. Since then, I really haven’t been able to get them off my mind. The words written there play off my friends lips another way…Don’t block the blessing!

Those words in the chapel and those from a dear friend have led me many times to contemplate the blessings of God and how I knowingly and unwittingly allow myself or others to put up roadblocks that prevent me from receiving God’s blessings.

Making my relationship with God my top priority is essential. Ah…but there are some roadblocks ahead. There is so much competition for that top spot…so many distractions… and if I’m honest I’m just plain selfish with my time and energy.  It is not that the competitors or activities are always bad in and of themselves…they just shouldn’t take the place of my “First Love”. I guess it really shouldn’t be an “aha” moment since the first commandment is to love the Lord your God with all my heart, soul, and strength. (Dt. 6:5) I have learned by experience that I if I don’t intentionally make that relationship a priority, I will not be in the position to receive God’s blessings or be a blessing to anyone else. At the very least, I will miss God’s best for me, and at the worst looking for love in all the wrong places.

One of the best ways to show anyone you love them is spend time with them. One of the best things I ever did in my life was to create space and time to get to know, love, and experience God through regular, in-depth Bible study. I will testify that the Holy Spirit through His written Word can reveal the truth about God and who you are in relation to him, and the many other important truths we need to know. As I really began to grasp these truths, I began to change in a major way…from the inside out. I learned that my love relationship with God sets the tone for each day. His truth has set me free to receive His unconditional love, joy, forgiveness, comfort, faith when I doubt, understanding, when I am confused, strength when I am weak, mercy and grace when I fail, peace when I am anxious, and so many others. My cup is truly full and running over when my love relationship with Jesus is as it should be….and if your cup is overflowing….all those wonderful blessings flow to those people around you. So please, please Betsy and please, please everyone, don’t block the blessing!!!!

Prayer: Dear Father, help to identify and remove the roadblocks that keep me from spending time with you and from loving you with all that I am.

Betsy Smith

Day 17

Cast Your Burden on the Lord

I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13 KJV

This is a simple, but powerful Bible verse that we have all heard many times. It was my mother’s favorite verse – one that she called upon to sustain her throughout her life.  My mother was one of the mostly godly, Christian women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She was born during The Great Depression and like so many families during that time, faced many difficult struggles, which left little time for childhood fantasies. She married at fifteen and quit school in the eighth-grade. I know this must have been a hard decision for her, because she dearly loved school, and her favorite subject was reading.

My parents went on to have three children, I am the youngest, and I was a total surprise. My brother and sister are many years older than me. Even though life was hard, and my parents struggled to support a family of five, my mother remained strong and made sure that we read our Bibles and went to church. Even though my dad had been baptized as a young man and believed in God, he didn’t attend church with us very often.   Mother was our rock and kept the family going. I’m proud to say, he eventually found his way to church, just when mother needed him the most.

When I was ten and my mother was approaching forty, she noticed she was having trouble seeing. She went to our local optometrist, thinking she needed glasses, but it was far more serious than she knew. And for many years, she went to doctor after doctor as her eyesight continued to fade, and she gradually lost the ability to do the things she enjoyed the most; sewing and making our clothes, driving, doing her grocery shopping, but most importantly she lost the ability to read. This broke her heart!!! She loved to read!!! She finally had to give up reading the large print Bible that a friend had given her. Through another friend, she was introduced to the Alabama School for the Blind, and they supplied her with a tape player, and she listened to books and the Bible on tape. She learned a little braille, and adapted to cooking and cleaning without her eyesight. She remained a great cook until she was in her mid ‘80’s.

When others, including myself would have crumbled under the weight, she turned to God’s word to sustain her. She never lost her faith in God. Sure she was human, and had days when she would question “why” God, “why me”.  On those days she leaned a little closer to the Lord, and continued to attend community Bible studies, Sunday school and Church, always striving to learn more about God and more about the Bible. She was always eager to share her faith, and she became a mentor to so many of her friends and family. She could have become bitter and angry with God, but she knew He had a plan for her life- not the life she chose, but the life God gave her the strength to live. My mother knew, without a doubt, that God was walking beside her and that he would give her the strength that she needed to endure any situation that might arise – just as He gives us strength to live our life according to HIS plan.

I often smile, as I think of my mother walking around heaven, taking in the beautiful colors, and the amazing sights to see — and watching her face light up as she sees the faces of loved ones who went on before her. And I look forward to the day when she can look in my face and recognize the daughter that she last saw clearly as a ten-year-old girl.

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you [and] he will never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).

Prayer: Thank you Heavenly Father for giving us the strength to live our life according to Your plan. Help us to put our faith in Your loving hands as you guide us each day through the ups and downs of this earthly life, holding tightly to the promise that you will be walking right beside us.  Thank you for the grace of your son that allows us to go to heaven and leave this troubled earth behind, where we will once again be whole, and live in eternity with You. In Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

Lisa Norquist

Day 18

 Fly High — Held by His Righteous Right Hand 

Scripture: Isaiah 41:10 – So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I learned to fly in the summer of 1986 – here at Isbell Field in Fort Payne. I flew a little Cessna 172 four-seater, tail #1128 Foxtrot. (Funny the little things you remember over the years!) Anyway, I made my first takeoff and landing from a grass-strip in Sand Rock. Well, actually, it was a cow-pasture, with a cowbarn on one end and a cornfield on the other. The takeoff was pretty good, but the landing was not pretty. I took out a few stalks of corn because I overshot my landing. (Better that than taking out a few cows, I guess.) But that’s another story for another day.

As a student pilot, I learned lots of things: persistence, patience, prayer (lots of prayer!), aerodynamics, weather, ground reference, safety & navigation – and got to see a view of God’s wonderful creation from another perspective. We did countless “touch-and-go” landings, flew “under-the-hood” for instrument landings, did cross-country flights, and survived the “first solo.” It was a great experience!

Part of the training for the pilot’s licensing check-ride was to train for emergency situations, doing maneuvers to simulate vertigo & disorientation, power-off landings, stalls, and spins. Even though I haven’t flown for over 30 years now, I still remember the 4-step formula for dealing with a disastrous, potentially fatal “spin” situation. It was:  

(1) power off

(2) hands off

(3) stop & think! (which way is the plane spinning? apply opposite rudder.)

(4) re-apply power

I was thinking about this little formula this morning, and realized it applies equally well in our spiritual life. When our circumstances are spinning out of control, and we’re facing a disastrous outcome, we need to apply this formula. The application to our messed-up human situation would look something like this:

(1) STOP! remove all power in our own efforts; just stop; don’t make it worse!

(2) take our hands off the situation and give it completely to God.

(3) take stock and see the wrong direction that we’re taking; then repent – go in the  opposite direction (God’s path instead of our own).

(4) re-apply power from His strength, not ours; re-enter His perfect will and operate in the power of the Holy Spirit, not our own.

I hadn’t thought about flying in awhile, but I think I’ll meditate and ponder this – how His recovery and redemption can save us from our own mess-ups and bad choices. I think He means to help us to FLY HIGH!

Prayer: Lord, in the name of Jesus, I give you thanks that you uphold us with your righteous right hand, even when we mess up and find ourselves in a bad place. You are our strength and our shield; You are our Savior and our Lord. We will choose to walk in Your strength and wisdom, and not our own. Amen.

Mil Ivey

Day 19

Then God Showed Up

Scripture: Psalm 91:11-12  For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; so they will lift you up in their hands, so you will not strike your foot against a stone.

   When I was a little girl visiting my Aunt and Uncle in rural Remlap, Alabama, my brother, cousins and I went into the pasture to play. Inside that pasture was a huge sow with several piglets. The runt piglet wandered over to me. I was mesmerized! That was the cutest animal I had ever seen in my six-year-old life.

   Yep! I did it….I could NOT resist. I picked it up.  When that little sucker squealed, that Mamma sow headed my way like a locomotive steam engine! I dropped that little stinker, turned, saw a fence, and ran at that fence!   The next thing I knew I was on the other side of the fence. I repeat, I ran AT the fence! I did not climb, jump, or run through it, but there I was safe on the other side. I remember thinking, “How did that happen?  How did I get over the fence?” But I never said a word about it to anyone.

     It was many years later when I read the scripture above Psalm 91:11-12, and I remembered it happening…I was lifted over that fence!  I did not see or feel those heavenly hands, but my body was transported over that fence to safety.

    My Heavenly Father has always watched over me, even when my six-year-old self didn’t understand what my 60+ -year-old self now knows. He will rescue us; He will never forsake us.  God is with us.  I am mesmerized — by the love of Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for your love, your grace and your mercy. Amen.

Teresa Handy

Day 20

THE BODY OF CHRIST

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

More than 10 years ago, a friend shared with me his copy of a terrific book. “Same Kind of Different as Me,” by Ron Hall and Denver Moore became a New York Times bestseller and was an amazing true story and now is a movie.

Hall is an international art dealer living with his wife Debbie in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Texas, if not all the world. Moore is desolate and homeless, never knowing where he might sleep and when, or if, his next meal might come. Debbie Hall volunteers at a homeless shelter and, as unlikely as it seems, she and Moore develop a friendship.

Neither Ron nor Debbie Hall have ever had a friendship with someone of another race. Some, in fact, may have called Ron a bigot. But Debbie Hall is a woman of God, and her understanding that people of all races, religions, sexual orientation and social classes, can become a part of the body of Christ, and that understanding enabled Ron and Denver to connect on an incredible level.

Moore, who grew up picking cotton in the early 1960s in poorest part of Louisiana, had a wisdom that must have been God given. He taught the Halls a lesson when he said, “I used to spend a lotta time worryin’ that I was different from other people, even from other homeless folks. Then, after I met Miss Debbie and Mr. Ron, I worried that I was so different from them that we wadn’t ever gon’ have no kind a’ future. But I found out everybody’s different – the same kind of different as me. We’re all just regular folks, walkin’ down the road God done set in front of us.”

Yes, everybody’s different and, as Moore said further, “The truth about it is, whether we is rich or poor or somethin’ in between, this earth ain’t no final restin’ place.  So in a way, we is all homeless – just working our way toward home.”

We’re all the same kind of different and yet, we are all loved by God, who wants us – all of us – to love each other. More than anything else, that is the message of the Christ child.                                                                        Ben Shurett

Day 21

Catching up with a friend

Scripture:

 “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I have learned from my Father I have made known to you.”    John 15:15

Coffee is conducive to conversation. A warm cup of joe with a friend or loved one is one of my happy places. Sharing stories and swapping news while sitting in a relaxed setting is such a comforting and restorative time. Sometimes it is not even about the warm coffee in your cup- it is the ritual of sitting down and sharing life that is most cherished. During our family travels over the Christmas holidays, I was able to sit down on several occasions with family members or old friends and catch up over coffee. These conversations were not starchy or scripted or stressful. In fact, I did not have to plan what I was going to say or how I was going to word it or how long we were going to talk- I would just sit down with my friend and the conversation would flow very naturally.

I love this passage in John when Jesus tells his followers that he now calls us friends. What an honor to be invited into that close relationship with him and what a freeing thought to realize that we can interact and talk with him just like we would a very dear friend. So many times we approach prayer as if it were a duty to be checked off, or a formal impersonal speech. What if we took prayer out of the box we sometimes put it in and instead thought of it as a cozy conversation with our very best friend, Jesus? Just like we have sat down hundreds of times with other friends and loved ones and shared a cup of coffee. The next time you drink your morning cup or your afternoon pick-me-up, let your thoughts turn to Jesus and visualize him sharing that moment with you. Relax and let his peace fill you, and be open to what His Spirit may say to you. Turn any of your worries or stresses over to him. Prayer is meant to be a personal conversation, so just enjoy that cup of coffee while you catch up with your soul’s best friend!

Prayer:

Jesus, thank you for calling us your friends and for the ease and comfort that a relationship with you is meant to bring. Help us to remember that close connection that you invite us to have with you. Draw us closer to your heart today. Amen.                                                                                                                     

 Angela Miller