Why Keep Praying?

Why do you keep praying when prayers aren’t answered? Why do you keep trusting in God when your suffering does not fit with your notion of a good, loving, and caring God?

These questions, and others like them, are inspired by the response I received to my June 4th article on the Huffington Post, “When Prayer Makes a Difference in Suffering”. My main point was that prayer can be a great help to those who suffer, in spite of the fact that many of their prayers may have gone unanswered, and their suffering might suggest that God has abandoned them.

It didn’t take long for the negative reactions to start pouring in, principally from atheists and other skeptics. Response after response charged that prayer simply does not work, and it’s delusional to think it does. At best, praying is a “placebo.” Mostly, it is a waste of time. At worst, those who promote prayer are misleading suffering people and failing to truly help them in practical ways. At least, that’s what the detractors argue.

For example, here is what Kadene and Scott had to say:

“Prayer merely provides an avenue of hope for the marginalized and dispossessed, and keeps them servile and inert; it really doesn’t solve a thing.” (Kadene, 6/7/10)

Prayer doesn’t work, how about doing something more constructive with your time like trying to make the world a better place through actual actions and not hocus pocus. (Scott Ferguson 6/17/10)

Bloggers like these two individuals, and many others like them, seem to want Christians to face up to the “facts” of this life and to quit fooling themselves about the existence of God. The argument goes something like this: If there is so much horrendous suffering in the world that doesn’t seem to square with any notion of a just, loving, and powerful God; if God routinely does not respond to the prayers for help from those who suffer the most; and if so-called “answers” can be explained by good luck that randomly falls to believers and nonbelievers alike; why in the world would any sane, rational person keep praying?

Good question.

This summer, I’m going to raise this and other such questions for us to thoughtfully reflect on together. I not going to offer any “proofs for God”—I don’t think one exists. And I am not going to attempt a full-blown, intellectual “apology” (defense) for the Christian faith. (Countless books are available on the subject, if you’re interested.) Also, if you’re interested in my thoughts on human suffering and faith in God, you can read my lecture notes, prepared for a church group a few years ago on our Resources Page at our Faith, Hope and Love Global Ministries site.

Rather, my plan here on this blog is to talk about the value of prayer in the lives of those who look at life through the eyes of faith, without ignoring the valid objections and questions of those who do not believe in God and Christ. Drawing on my own personal experience as a pastor, ministry leader, spiritual life coach, and teaching minister, I’m going offer my own working hypotheses on the presence of God in the life of Christians.

I invite you to use this series of articles to think deeply about the existence of God and the value of prayer for yourself—by considering the teaching of Scripture, drawing on your own intelligence, reflecting on your perceptions of the presence and working God, and asking God to lead you to greater insight and understanding.

To this end, here are some of the additional questions I invite you to think and pray about with me in the coming weeks:

• What if you got a raw deal in life?

• Where is God in unanswered prayer?

•  Who really wins when we pray?

•  Is prayer a cop out?

• Wouldn’t it be just as good (or, better) to answer your own prayers?

• Is prayer a con?

• How can a rational person still pray?

The series of articles begins next Monday. For now, how would you respond to Kadene, Scott, or any other atheist who insists that prayer is a waste of time? In light of all the legitimate reasons to doubt the existence of God and the efficacy of prayer, why do you keep praying?

“…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV)

To read my Huffington Post Article and some of the comments for yourself, go to When Prayer Makes a Difference in Suffering.

© Dr. Timothy C. Geoffrion, http://www.spirit-ledleader.com

Please feel free to copy or send to as many other seekers of God as possible!

Proper crediting of author and source required.

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Seeking God for Real (7 of 7)

This series is about knowing God, the creator, more deeply and being able to experience God more personally in your daily life.

To what extent can you honestly say that you are “seeking” God?

I’m talking about going beyond what we’ve been discussing over the past few weeks. Seeking God may certainly include studying (learning what the Bible says about God and God’s love), reflecting (drawing on your past experience to draw near to God in the present), and asking God for what he most wants for you (to reveal God-self and Christ’s love to you). Yet, actively seeking God is more creative and more open-ended than looking for specific, prescribed outcomes.

Instead of asking for a specific grace (as we talked about last time), you enter into a posture of readiness to learn, to see, to feel, or to experience whatever God might want to teach, show, or do in your life. Though you may be driven to seek God out of your own need and desire, the more mature your seeking becomes, the more you will seek to know and experience God on God’s terms and in God’s timing, in ways that fulfill God’s purposes for your life.

This kind of seeking is both active and passive. You take initiative, and yet wait patiently. You are earnest and diligent in your pursuit of God, while expecting God to reveal God-self in surprising ways, independent of your efforts. You insist on never letting go of your desire for God, even while you continually empty yourself of all concrete expectations and demands. You keep knocking on the door of heaven like the persistent widow, while praying, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

In 2006, when my family and I were walking the Camino, I had many opportunities to seek God in prayer. In fact, the whole 500 mile pilgrimage over the Pyrenees and across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela was largely about seeking God. At one point I began praying, “God, help me to know you better, and specifically to know you as abba, father.” I had no idea how God might answer this prayer. It wasn’t up to me to figure that out, but to stay open, observant, prayerful, and ready.

One day, not long after I started praying this way, I got my first answer. Though Jill questioned my sanity, Tim (my elder son) and I took an alternative route over the mountains and met up with Dan (my younger son) and her twelve hours later. The scenery was spectacular. The experience was the best of the pilgrimage so far. Hours in silence or simple conversation, in such beauty and hardly seeing another soul, created a peaceful, joyful feeling that was so deep neither of us could imagine ever feeling otherwise.

Yet, the best part of the day for me was simply being with my son. The joy did not come from what we did or said as much as it came from being in his presence when we both felt completely free to be ourselves and to enjoy the various experiences together.

Spiritually, the most powerful moment came when I suddenly realized something about God the Father that had never sunk in before. If God loves me as I love my son, surely God delights in just being with me as I was delighting in being with my son. If I can feel such joy just seeing Tim so happy and peaceful, I have to think that God—whose parental love must far exceed mine (see Psalm 103:13; Isaiah 66:13)—must be thrilled to be with me any time I am experiencing life as he intends for me, and I am conscious of the depth of his love and relationship with me. (Excerpted from One Step at a Time: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Spirit-Led Living.)

What is God going to show you if you seek him more earnestly and diligently each day? I don’t know exactly. Seeking God doesn’t try to answer that question before undertaking the journey.

Rather, we seek God in order to find what we cannot find otherwise. And when we knock, and no one answers; when we ask, and you do not receive; when we seek, and we do not find, then we must continue to knock, ask, and seek. And wait.  There’s no other place to turn for what we most need and desire.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you” (Luke 11:9, NRSV).

The Point In addition to studying, reflecting, and asking to know and experience God more fully, actively seek God in the midst of your daily life. Open yourself to insight and experiences with God that you cannot predict or orchestrate. Ask for eyes to see whatever God may want to reveal to you, and then keep looking.

A Prayer “Creator God, I want to know you better and experience you more fully. Please show me more about who you are in ways that I can understand and believe. Help me not to be afraid of you, but to trust you to reveal what I most need to see, according to your will and purposes for my life and our relationship.”

© Dr. Timothy C. Geoffrion, http://www.spirit-ledleader.com

Please feel free to copy or send to as many other seekers of God as possible!

Proper crediting of author and source required.

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Ask for What God Most Wants for You (6 of 7)

This series is about knowing God, the creator, more deeply and being able to experience God more personally in your daily life.

What do you ask God for when you pray?

Most of us routinely ask God for help in one way or another—a very biblical, natural, and helpful practice. However, we can easily get stuck on our physical and material needs, or on our ideas and desires for our life, when God wants something far more significant and lasting for us.

Instead of just asking God for what you want or think you need, seek the most important gifts he has for you that best fit with his will for your life.

When I was on a seven-day silent retreat a few weeks ago, we prayed several times each day, using methods developed by Ignatius of Loyola. Each time we went to prayer, we read Scripture and asked God for a “grace”. We weren’t asking for forgiveness, but for a particular experience of God. For example, we asked for the grace…

• to see and experience the enormity of God’s love,

• to see our sins and how they are affecting our life and relationship to God,

• to recognize the magnitude of God’s mercy,

• to be able to love God more fully, or

• to be able to follow and serve Christ better.

These are the experiences God most wants for us, because they are the ones that have the power to truly transform us and to move us more fully into the life God intends for us.

When I was 13 or 14 years old, I wanted to know if God truly loved me. I knelt by the side of my bed. My eyes were closed. I clasped my hands together. I prayed, “God if you care about me, show me. In some way, help me to believe that you truly love me.”

While waiting for an answer, I suddenly saw in my mind a huge hand extended through the clouds toward me. I knew at the time that I was probably creating an image that fit with what I wanted to believe. However, something else within me said that God was responding to the cry of my heart. I’m convinced God was revealing his love to me that day, because the joy I felt, and the comfort I received, fit with how the Holy Spirit has frequently ministered to me ever since.

Similarly, in the Psalms, David praises God and describes God’s help in his life like a hand descending from the sky. He wrote. “[The Lord] reached down from on high, he took me; he drew me out of mighty waters” (Psalm 18:16).

Then, what David experienced through a personal experience, God has done for all of us in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Talk is cheap, and feelings are fleeting. The love that you most need will reveal itself in action. You can know you are deeply loved when someone intentionally does something for your well-being, especially if their gift comes at a personal sacrifice—as God’s incarnation and Jesus’ death dramatically illustrate.

God’s love you is already well established in the historical, concrete existence and life of Jesus. You never have to question it. And at the same time, it is not uncommon for God to reach out to us in various ways to convince us of his love and presence. Perhaps the revelation will come as a feeling, through a vision, in a dream, by a new understanding, or by setting you free in a new way. The Holy Spirit may speak a timely word to you, love you through someone else, or work through you to bless those around you in some way. Or, you may simply be given an inexplicable peace or joy.

You cannot know how God is going to reveal his love to you on from day to day, and you can’t manipulate or control God’s interaction with you. But you can ask. You can ask for a special grace to draw you closer to God and to experience more of what God has already revealed to you in Jesus.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19, NIV)

The Point To move from knowing about God to experiencing God more personally in your life, let your prayers be guided by what God most wants for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the depth of Christ’s love for you. Ask to become increasingly convinced that God is present with you and truly does care about you. Ask that your heart’s desires will be increasingly purified until nothing is more important to you than your relationship with God and your ability to love and serve Christ. Ask, and it will be given.

A Prayer “Eternal God, you are beyond my ability to understand. I often cannot perceive your presence in the ways I would like, and I long for more of your touch. Please reach out to me in some way that I can grasp that I may be assured of your love and your care in my life. Help me to treasure my relationship with you above all others, and to accept your love on your terms.”

Suggestion: Start a journal expressly for the purpose of recording the ways that God reveals himself to you, loves you, and helps you to sense his presence and care for you.

*For more on knowing God and my experiences in seeking to know God through experience, see pp. 124-125, One Step at a Time.

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Drawing on the Past to Draw Near in the Present (5 of 7)

This series is about knowing God, the creator, more deeply and being able to experience God more personally in your daily life.

In response to last week’s article, “Why we think God might love us,” one reader wrote, “I do not just want to know about God, I want to feel God in me!”

If this at all describes what you want, there is hope. While you cannot control God or your dictate your experience with God, you can “draw near to God” with confidence that God will “draw near to you” (James 4:8).

But how does one draw near to God?

In the next three articles, we are going to look at three powerful spiritual practices—reflecting, asking, and seeking—to help you move from knowing about God to experiencing God more personally in your life. First, the practice of spiritual “reflecting.” 1

No matter how distant God may seem at the moment, what has been your personal experience with the presence and love of God in the past? If you think back to the many significant moments or turning points in your life, what could you point to as evidence of God’s activity? When have you felt God’s touch?

You may have received an answer to prayer or had a special experience with Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Perhaps you perceived God’s love through someone else or an extraordinary series of circumstances. If you are feeling distant from God or want to feel his presence more, now may be a very good time to stop and ask the Holy Spirit to refresh your memory of all the ways God has been and is at work in your life for good. (Take a moment now to jot down the first few memories that come to mind.)

In the Magnificat, Mary celebrates in song what God was doing for her and would do for all of humanity through her son Jesus. At the time of the “Visitation” at the home of Elizabeth, Mary sings about the great works of God—not ideas about God, but the concrete actions of God. In reflecting on her experience with God, she is filled with joy and praise, perceiving the love of God in her life.

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.

Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for the Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.

(Luke 1:46-49, NRSV)

When I look at my past through the eyes of faith, I can see how the Holy Spirit has worked through many significant events, people, and circumstances to shape who I am and my relationship with God. I meet someone special, take an incredible class, experience a great success or devastating tragedy, discover something profound or powerful in Scripture, use my talents in ways that open my eyes to meaning and purpose in my life, or make a critical decision with far-reaching consequences. Each experience then joins a whole train of other significant life-changing moments, which together become my testimony of God’s work in my life.

While anyone can point to noteworthy “chance” encounters or “coincidences” that have altered their life significantly, when you look at your life through the eyes of faith, you will see God at work. Then, not only will you think differently, you will feel differently as well.

Why? Because as you let the Holy Spirit open your eyes to the truth of God’s love and activity in your life in the past, you will be experiencing the Holy Spirit in the present. And, with Mary, the more you sense that you are truly blessed, the more you will have your own song to sing.

When you look back over your life so far, what in your experience suggests to you that God knows who you are, cares about you, and is in fact at work in your life for good purposes?

What is your song?

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. (Psalm 77:11-12, NIV)

The Point: To move from simply knowing about God to experiencing the presence and love of God more personally in your life, you need to create enough space to let the Holy Spirit speak to you. Start by taking some time alone to look back on your life. Pray for eyes to see the many different ways God has been at work in your past experience, so that you may be better able to see and feel God in the present.

A Prayer: “Dear God, by faith I believe that you love me and are at work in my life, but sometimes I feel so alone and empty. Please help me to see where you have been active in my life over the years, and to feel your presence now. Teach me the song of praise and gratitude that only I can sing, because the lyrics express all the ways you have loved me and love me still.”

1 Many of the ideas from this article are discussed at greater length in One Step at a Time: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Spirit-Led Living, pp. 126-129.

© Timothy C. Geoffrion, 2010. All rights reserved. Please share this article with as many people as possible, with proper acknowledgment of authorship and web-address.

Photo: © Jill K.H. Geoffrion.

To sign up to receive a personal email every time a new article is posted, please email me at tim.geoffrion@fhlglobal.org. Simply write “add me” in the subject line.

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Why We Think God Might Love Us (4 of 7)

The series is about knowing God, the creator, more deeply and being able to experience God more personally in your daily life.

What are you doing to know God and God’s love for you better?

Answering this question is critical for the person who is seeking to know God’s will, because, as we said last week, discernment requires personal transformation, and our ability to be transformed depends upon the quality of our relationship with God.

In the coming weeks, we’re going to look at several of the most powerful spiritual practices that can help you to grow in your relationship with God. Today, I want to start with something you already know, but—if you are like nearly every other Christian on the face of the earth—it is something that gets minimized or neglected.

No matter how intelligent, experienced, wise, or knowledgeable you may be, you simply must be reading the Bible for yourself, if you want to hear the voice of God and to keep growing in your relationship with God. Even if you’ve already mastered the content of the Bible, read it existentially: ask God to reveal God-self to you in fresh ways.

For example, right now I’m reading through the Torah and asking God for new insight into who Yahweh was for ancient Israel—and for what I need to come to grips with better in my own understanding of and relation to God. Yet, no matter what passage I turn to, I pray, “Speak to me, Lord. Show me what I need to see. Take me to a place of understanding that I cannot get to on my own.”

Psalm 103 is one of my favorite passages for reflecting on who God is and the relevance of God’s love for me. David writes:

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse,

nor will he harbor his anger forever;

he does not treat us as our sins deserve

or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his love for those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children,

so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

for he knows how we are formed,

he remembers that we are dust.

…from everlasting to everlasting

the LORD’S love is with those who fear him,

and his righteousness with their children’s children—

with those who keep his covenant

and remember to obey his precepts.

The LORD has established his throne in heaven,

and his kingdom rules over all. (103:8-13, 17-19)

As a complement to the paternal and sovereign characterizations of God in Psalm 103, the beautiful maternal imagery for God in Isaiah 66:13 helps me to see that God of the Old Testament is tender as well as intense:

As a mother comforts her child,

so will I comfort you;

and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.

And then there’s the amazing teaching that God decided before the creation of the world to love us and to make us his children:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who … chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons [and daughters] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:3-8)

Going forward, we’re going to look at how we can move from knowing about God to knowing God in ways that are more and more personally transforming. This week’s article was simply a reminder to get back to the basics in order to develop a stronger relationship with God.

It’s only by reading the Bible that we know that God loves us even beyond the capacity of the most loving father or mother. Though he knows our weaknesses and failures, he loves us and helps us. God chose us before the foundation of the world to be his children, dearly loved by him. And God sent his son, Jesus, to save us and to bring us to live by God’s side forever.

The Point: The most intuitive among us might be able to guess some of God’s characteristics, but there is no way we would know God’s character, the magnitude of God’s love, or the significance of God’s activity in history apart from the teaching of the Bible. So what’s your plan for reading it?

A Prayer: “Dear God, please remind me every day to keep looking for you where you reveal yourself. Lead me to the biblical passages that will most help me to see what I need to see about you so that my relationship with you will keep growing stronger and stronger.”

© Timothy C. Geoffrion, 2010. All rights reserved. Please share this article with as many people as possible, with proper acknowledgment of authorship and web-address.

Photo: © Jill K.H. Geoffrion.

To sign up to receive a personal email every time a new article is posted, please email me at tim.geoffrion@fhlglobal.org. Simply write “add me” in the subject line.

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Discernment—Where to Start?

How do you discern the will of God for your life?

This is one of the most important spiritual questions to ask, yet one of the most difficult to answer. Just as you have to develop your own personal relationship with God, no one can do your discerning for you.

While there are no sure formulas, here’s a good place to start your discernment process that I have found very helpful in my own life:

1. Humble yourself before God.

“Let go” of your attachment to certain, set outcomes and ways of being in the world. In gratitude for God’s mercy, grace and love, open yourself to however the Holy Spirit may want to use you to serve Christ.

Jesus is our example. He surrendered whatever impulse he may have had to further his own self-interest. He voluntarily “emptied himself” and took the form of a servant, even to the point of giving up his life to obey God’s will and purposes for his life. (Philippians 2:5-11)

2. Offer yourself to God.

At the same time, bring yourself fully into the discernment process. You may think that surrender means emptying yourself of all your desires and everything that makes you “you” in order to discern the will of God. Not so. Discerning the will of God is not done in a vacuum.

To relinquish your will to God, you need to know your own will. To offer yourself in God’s service, you need to know what your unique self has been prepared to do. Your personal interests, abilities, personality, passions, and experience all go into the “you” that you are offering to God as a “living (not dead, not formless) sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).

You may want to lead a group, to create something, to start a new business, to do something nice for someone, or any number of other things. Don’t look for the “right” thing to do for God at this stage, but be honest with God about your will and vision, as best you know them. Ask yourself, “What is deep within my heart and mind that I want to do with my life?” (See Deut. 1:23; Luke 1:3; Acts 15:28 for a few biblical examples of leaders who sought to serve God by considering what seemed good to them, in consultation with God and others.)

3. Release your will and vision to the Holy Spirit.

Once you’ve specifically told God what you want, then release your will and vision as fully as possible. Ask the Holy Spirit to refine your thinking and heart’s desires for your life, or to replace them altogether. Pray to want what God wants, to see God’s vision for you, and to be able to align your will completely with God’s purposes for you. (See Mark 10:46-52; Luke 22:42.)

All of this calls for self-reflection and genuine openness to God’s working within you. The process requires time, prayer, and patience to learn how to recognize and yield to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Discerning the will of God, then, is more a matter of walking by faith, a step at a time; than it is about getting a complete vision for the rest of your life all at once, and then going out to do it. In other words, to discern the will of God is not about simply getting God to answer to your question, “What should I do?”

Rather, discernment is the fruit of a process of personal transformation. As you repeatedly humble yourself before God, offer your body as a living sacrifice, and seek to renew your mind by soaking up Scripture and listening attentively to the Holy Spirit, you will grow in your ability to discern the will of God for your life.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12 :1-2, NRSV)

The Point: The best place to begin any discernment process is in extended prayer. However, don’t just seek an answer from God. Seek to be transformed by God. Humbly empty yourself of your own self-interest before God, while you simultaneously offer all of your unique self to God. Tell God what you want, while you keep asking, “But what do you want, my Lord?” Keep watching to see what happens as you continue to pray and listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit-within your thinking, perspective, feelings, and circumstances. And go from there.

A Prayer: “Heavenly Father, take my will and let it be completely conformed to your will for my life. Help me to see better what is in my heart and how you made me. Teach me how to offer myself fully to you, as a fully engaged individual, uniquely made and called. Teach me how to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit, and use my life in ways that best serve Christ’s purposes. Amen.”

© Timothy C. Geoffrion, 2010. All rights reserved. Please share this article with as many people as possible, with proper acknowledgment of authorship and web-address.

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Right-Size Your Fears!

"Fearless in Butembo, Congo"

Have you “right-sized” your fears, or are you letting them undermine your vision for your life and ministry?

Imagine, for example, that your best friend is waiting for you just across the highway. The only way for you to see her (or him) is for you to cross the road on foot. However, the traffic is heavy and you are worried about getting hit by a car. How much fear would be actually useful to you in this situation?

If you have too little fear, then you might try to cross the street without looking, and might very well get run over. On the other hand, if you have too much fear, then you might never cross at all. However, the right amount of fear will prompt you to look both ways before crossing, but won’t hold you back from getting where you want to go.

Think for a moment about your fears. Are they helping you to serve Christ more effectively, or getting in the way? How could you “right-size” them in order to make a better decision about how to handle them?

Here’s a suggestion. For use with my coaching clients, I created the Straight A’s approach to right-sizing fears that you might find helpful: Acknowledge, Assess, and Access.

1. Acknowledge your fears. For example, do any of your fears sound like this: “I am afraid that I won’t succeed.” “I am afraid that others won’t like me or my work.” “I am afraid that others are going to blame me if something goes wrong.” “I am afraid that others will think that I am a failure, and I will be very embarrassed.”

2. Assess the real dangers or costs involved in pursuing your vision. Is your fear based on fact, fiction, fantasy, probabilities, or what? Is the amount of your fear warranted? Should what you fear materialize, could you handle it? If not, what resources could you draw on to help you keep going?

3. Access God’s power. What would happen if you shifted your focus from your fears to God, and to what God can do in you and through you? What would happen if you believed that the Holy Spirit will give you what you need to serve Christ in effective, fruitful ways? What would happen if you prayed, not just for success, but also for peace, perspective, humility, freedom and power to confidently move forward in faith?

Last week I talked about my response to the life-threatening illness I had to deal with over 20 years ago. (See, “Get Ready. Get Set. Get Going!”) Right-sizing my fears kept the very real danger of dying from paralyzing me. I didn’t know if I would be healed, but I knew that there were many things I could do to seek healing.

Likewise, when I felt called to develop Faith, Hope and Love Global Ministries, I had to face many fears that tempted me to quit before I even began. Yet, each time I start to get overwhelmed with my fears, I stop and remind myself why I am doing what I’m doing. I recall God’s faithfulness in the past, and remember that my teaching and coaching of pastors and leaders is Christ’s ministry, not mine. God must produce the needed resources and fruit. My job is to show up and do my best.

To be afraid at times is normal, and sometimes useful. But to be crippled by fear is a denial of faith and contradicts the teaching of Scripture.

Don’t let fear stop you from following the Spirit’s leading. Acknowledge your fears, assess the true dangers and costs of pursuing your vision, and access God’s power to keep moving forward.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14;29-31, NIV)

The Point: You have been called to serve Christ in ways that will take you way outside your comfort zone at times. Don’t let fear undermine your motivation and capability to create, pursue and fulfill your God-given dreams and purpose. “Right-size” your fears. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom, courage, and strength to deal with them and the circumstances behind them. Stop letting your fears hold you back, and get on with God’s vision for your life.

Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for showing us by your own example how to stay focused on God’s calling and to not be held back by fear. Please help me to acknowledge my fears and to accurately assess their validity. Teach me how to better access your Holy Spirit’s power so that I will not lose heart to pursue your calling on my life.”

© Timothy C. Geoffrion, 2010. All rights reserved. Please share this article with as many people as possible, with proper acknowledgment of authorship and web-address.

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Get Ready. Get Set. Get Going!

What do you want to do with God’s dreams and vision for your life?

I was forced to answer this question at a much younger age than I ever imagined. I was 28 years old. My firstborn son had been born safely the day before. My wife and I were so relieved and excited about all that lay ahead for us.

Now the voice on the other end of the phone was telling me I had to start radiation treatments immediately. I had 10 good years left, the doctor said. After that, the rare skin disease would get nasty. Then I would die.

With one deeply disturbing phone call, the adage, “life is short,” suddenly became very personal. Not only was I not going to live forever, but, in an instant, my naïveté about my mortality vanished. My time horizon for my life had been shortened by several decades. My son was going grow up without me. My wife was going to be a young widow. I wanted to throw up.

We’ve never recovered from that doctor’s call in 1986—and don’t want to. When the shock wore off, I realized that whatever I most wanted to do in my life, I had better do it, and fast.

We stopped dreaming about what we might want to do “one day,” and became very serious about pursuing what mattered most to us while we still could. We had today. We didn’t know about tomorrow.

My wake-up call eventually led me to a long series of choices that have made all the difference in the world to my life and ministry. I sought counseling, asked others for help, did whatever I could to seek healing and wholeness. I went back to graduate school, took more risks, kept seeking discernment and leading from God, and began to relentlessly pursue my dreams and deeper sense of calling.

Today, I am completely healed from my disease. I have raised two sons to adulthood. And my wife and I are back in ministry together again, able to serve Christ in ways that are exceeding my expectations and hopes. Now, nearly 25 years after that fateful phone call, flying over the mountains of North Kivu, Congo to teach pastors in the middle of a war zone (see the photo above), I realize that God has used suffering in my life to move me to new and surprising places where the desires of my heart and God’s vision for my life intersect.

Fortunately, we are not all diagnosed with a fatal disease that causes the kind of distress and anguish our family had to go through. But for each of us, our days are still numbered. Each of us has a unique calling, with enough time to fulfill it, if we listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us in the midst of our suffering, and take action.

Do you have an unfulfilled dream for your life that just won’t go away? Do you have a nagging sense that there’s something you were made to do, or to create, or to contribute, but you just can’t seem to get around to doing something about it? Perhaps, you’re even really looking forward to getting to work on it…some day.

What would it take for you to turn “some day” into today?

The [servant] who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:20-21, NIV)

The Point: Somewhere within you is a God-given dream for your life, or simply a sense that God wants to take you somewhere you have not yet gone. You may not fully understand it, and it may take years to fulfill it, but you know you are being called. Are you ready? Are your heart and mind set on doing the will of God? Are you pursuing God’s vision for your life? If not, what do you need to do to get ready, to get set, and to get going?

Prayer: “Loving God, thank you for calling me to serve you in special ways that fit with the unique person you have made me to be. Please lead me and guide me, so that I can faithfully fulfill all that you have in mind for me to do. Please give me all the courage, wisdom, strength, and resources I need to pursue my God-given dreams in ways that well serve Christ’s purposes.”

To realize our God-given dreams and fulfill our purpose in life, often walking with a trained pastor or spiritual guide can be extremely helpful. If you’re interested in exploring whether or not you could benefit from spiritual life consulting, please contact me at Tim.Geoffrion@fhlglobal.org.

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Praying on Purpose

Moon over Chartres Cathedral

“Lord God,

please help me

to live fully

to love deeply, and

to give freely,

so that

all those I meet today

may know and experience you

through me.”

Every morning, I pray this prayer to breathe new life into my mind and heart. The words focus my attention outside of myself. They re-orient me and motivate me. They remind me that my life has meaning in relationship with God, and purpose as I reflect the light of Jesus Christ to others.

I created this prayer several years ago as part of a coaching exercise to help me to think more deeply about my purpose. Since then, its meaning and value for my daily life and relationship with God has continued to grow.

What does praying on purpose look like for you? If you don’t already have a set prayer to help you start your day, try jotting down simple phrases that express the desires of your heart and your vision for your life.

What do you most want out of each day? What do you think God is calling you to? What words or images evoke a deep feeling within you that will open your heart toward God and send you forward with renewed energy and anticipation?

I chose “to live fully” for my prayer because I want to experience the “abundant life” Jesus envisions for me. (John 10:10) I’m thinking about a life full of loving relationships, worthwhile work, helpful service, meaningful interaction with others, and doing all the good God intends for me to do each day. This means, I’m really praying that the Holy Spirit will fill me and lead me in every possible way.

I pray to love, because when I am loving others I am closest to God. To love is also the best way to make a difference in the world on a person-to-person basis. I ask to love deeply so that my attention to others won’t be superficial or contrived, but genuine, heartfelt, and pure.

I want to give freely so that I can be more selfless, and less grasping and greedy. I don’t want to be so possessed by my possessions, but to be free to share generously. I want to be more like Jesus, who came “not to be served, but to serve.” (Mark 10:45)

My prayer benefits me greatly, but the ultimate focus is not on me. I am praying that God will enable me to experience more of Jesus, and through him, more of life—true life, eternal life, purposeful life— to motivate others to come to know Jesus better, too.

I want others to see how my faith and relationship with God has come to permeate more and more of my life, and how much better my life is with God than without God. If other people can see Christ’s love, care, joy, power, peace, and purpose at work in my life, perhaps they will seek a closer relationship with him for themselves.

That’s my prayer.

What’s yours?

I pray that out of [the Father’s] glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19, NIV)

Point: When you align your prayers with God’s purposes for your life, you will experience a more intimate relationship with God and greater energy for daily living. The Holy Spirit can use your words to give you more motivation and inspiration to get outside of yourself and your own problems, so that you can live with more purpose and joy.

Prayer: “Loving God, thank you for the life that comes from being in an intimate relationship with you. Please help me to experience more of Jesus, more of your love, and more of the Holy Spirit, so that I may increasingly know you and reflect your grace and love to others.”

© Timothy C. Geoffrion, 2010. Please share freely with others with proper acknowledgment of source!

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Jesus, Help Me! (6 of 6)

A series on accepting God’s love for us and portraying that love to others

Getting hurt, or hurting others, can happen so easily. It might occur by accident, through neglect, or, sometimes, even on purpose. None of us is immune from being hurt by others, nor are we capable of never hurting someone else.

However, we can learn how to minimize the damage we do to one another. We can learn strategies and spiritual practices to bring healing sooner rather than later.

Simple, heartfelt apologies often go a long way to heal the pain and alienation arising from our hurting one another. However, when we don’t acknowledge and deal adequately with what’s happened, the wounds can fester. We judge, accuse, blame, and can get stuck in our alienation and rage—and the problem gets worse.

Wars, suicide bombings, character assassinations, vindictive acts of revenge, and all sorts of other hateful, seriously damaging behavior often stem from not knowing how (or choosing not) to resolve conflicts peacefully and constructively.

In this week’s article, I offer some simple guidelines and suggestions for how you can deal more effectively with the hurts and broken relationships in your life (regardless of who’s at fault), from a spiritual and practical point of view. (Of course, if you want to best equip yourself, I also strongly recommend that you attend a full day conflict resolution workshop, seek help other professionals, and consult the growing amount of literature on inner healing and nonviolent, conflict resolution.)

Above all, you must take responsibility to do all you can to address the relational breakdown, while recognizing that you cannot control what the other person chooses to do or not to do. At the same time, without abdicating your responsibility, seek all the help you can get from God by asking the Spirit of Jesus to reveal his presence in your heart and mind as follows.

Situation 1. You are at fault, or you have wronged someone else.

• Imagine that you are looking directly into Jesus’ eyes as you explain what happened.

• Prayer: “Jesus, please listen to how I think and feel about this situation. Please show me where I have been wrong, and how I have hurt [this person]. How can I keep from making the situation worse? What can  I do to make it better?”

• Constructive response to the one who has been hurt : “I am sorry that I have hurt you. Can we talk? How can I make this situation right?”

Situation 2. You have been wronged by someone else.

• Imagine Jesus holding your hands or with his arm around you, compassionate, caring, and helpful.

• Prayer: “Jesus, please give me courage and strength to acknowledge how I have been wronged. How may I respond to this situation in ways that best serves your purposes and honors God? Please give me an ability to forgive and even to love [this person] regardless of their response to me.”

• Constructive response to the one who has hurt you: “I have been deeply hurt. I need to talk about what has happened for my sake and the sake of our relationship. I want to seek healing and reconciliation where possible. Can we talk?”

Situation 3. Both you and the other person are clearly at fault.

• Imagine you are standing with Jesus, and the look on his face is one of compassion, integrity, and willingness to help.

• Prayer: “Jesus, please help me to find a balanced perspective, fairly assessing both the part I have played and the part [the other person] has played in the relational breakdown. Please give me courage and strength to face my own failings, to stand by my own perspective of how I have been wronged, and to know how to go forward from here. ”

• Constructive response to other person: “Please tell me how you have been hurt by me. Please listen to my feelings and experience, too. Let’s be honest with one another, forgive one another, and find a way to rebuild our relationship.”

Situation 4. No one seems to have sinned or deliberately done wrong, but there is great regret, hurt, and/or grief.

• Sit with the wise rabbi, who clearly has the ability to give needed guidance under painful and difficult circumstances.

• Prayer: “Jesus, please help me to sense your strong, gracious, loving presence. Please help me to forgive myself for what went wrong. Please show me the way forward and walk with me.”

• Constructive response: “I’m sorry for whatever ways I hurt you. I did not mean to cause you suffering. What can we do to make this situation right, or at least go forward from here?”

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, NIV)

The Point: Asking Jesus to make his presence better known to you in the midst of the unresolved relational pain or conflict is different from asking God to fix the problem. By all means ask for relational miracles and for God to change the heart and mind of everyone involved. However, don’t abdicate your own responsibility. Ask Jesus for wisdom, grace, strength, courage, and opportunity that will enable you to do everything within your power to make things better or right…with God’s help.

Prayer: “Loving Lord Jesus, you are the Prince of Peace. Please give me the grace to face my pain and the pain I have caused others, and show me the way forward from here.”

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