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Phil's Friends Blog - Entries from January 2012
Prayer Requests - 1/26/2012
I've always thought of myself as a good listener. I like talking to people, hearing about what is going on their lives, and sharing what is going on in mine. However, I know there are times when I am not listening though I should be. I seem to encounter this problem when I think I already know what the person I should be listening to is going to say. I've noticed that my kids sometimes have the same problem with their homework assignments. Instead of reading the directions that are printed on the worksheet, they jump right in to solving the problem, only to find out that the answer they calculated is not the one the directions required. In life, we find ourselves in many situations that are repetitive or routine. We get used to doing things the way we think ought to based on past experiences and never stop to evaluate our course of action.
Unfortunately, many of us treat our prayer life in the same way. We pray the same prayer at every meal. We pray the Lord's Prayer, but recite it from memory. We seem to forget that every prayer is a unique conversation with God. Just think about that for a minute. Can you call your prayers conversations with God if you're just repeating words without regard for their meaning? Can we call our prayers conversations if we're the only ones doing the talking, and never spending any time listening to what God says?
So how do we shift our focus from prayer by recitation to prayer by conversation? Here's what's been working for me:
- Start with a moment of silence to clear your mind.
- Select a piece of Scripture, read it, and allow time for meditation.
- Use a model like A-C-T-S (Adoration-Confession-Thanksgiving-Supplication) to help you shift the focus of your prayers from the grocery lists of requests to a worship based prayer. Ask for intercession from the Holy Spirit as well as for God's presence/purpose to be magnified in your life.
- Don't let your prayer life become stagnant. Seek opportunities for spiritual growth.
- Evaluate - assess what works and what doesn't for you and readjust accordingly.
New Living Translation (NLT)
1 Give thanks to the LORD and proclaim his greatness.
Let the whole world know what he has done.
2 Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
3 Exult in his holy name;
rejoice, you who worship the LORD.
4 Search for the LORD and for his strength;
continually seek him.
5 Remember the wonders he has performed,
his miracles, and the rulings he has given,
6 you children of his servant Abraham,
you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.
Lord, We want our prayers to be conversations with You. But sometimes we get stuck in repetition and routine. Sometimes it is easier to recite prayers that we've learned than to really examine our thoughts, what's happening in the world around us, and more importantly, what You are trying to say to us through Your word. Use Your Spirit to enable us to become more connected to You through prayer. Use our lives to magnify your presence and our purpose in this world. Many of us have seen You work miracles. Remind us of those miracles and Your promises in each season of life. Give us the desire to seek the strength that only You can provide.
Each week, Lord, I am amazed by the stories from patients who call or send cards to let us know how our outreach at Phil's Friends has touched their lives. These stories are a blessing to us, hearing how You are using people, strengthening their faith, repairing broken relationships, and providing healing. But Lord, there are also so many who still need our prayers. This week, we pray for Ramona, Jon, Jeff, and Richard, all of whom are undergoing treatments and seeking You as their source of comfort and hope. For Jeff, we thank you that a bone marrow donor was found quickly and ask for Your healing hands to be over him as he undergoes a transplant procedure this week. Richard's advocate shared the fact that it took a cancer diagnosis to bring him back into a relationship with You. Richard needs constant reminders of Your presence. Bring him peace.
Lord, we thank You for all of the resources that You continue to provide. Thank You for the connections that have been made through Phil's interview on Moody Radio last week and during his recent trip to Missouri. We ask for Your continued protection over our staff and volunteers as they travel to events or here to our office to be of service. In all we say and all we do, keep our hearts and minds focused on You. Amen.
Prayer Requests - 1/19/2012
New International Version (NIV)
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,[a] here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
There is a man laying in a hospital bed. He's hooked up to more machines than I can identify (oxygen, blood pressure, IV, heart monitor, etc.) He's got a huge bandage on his chest. I'm not sure what the bandage is covering, but I'm going to venture a guess that it is his chemo port. He's less than 30 years old, has brown hair that's cropped short, not quite a military haircut, but close. He's got a full mustache and beard. He is a handsome young man. He looks tired, but at peace. Close your eyes for a moment and picture him there. Can you see him? I left one important detail out that needs to be added. He's holding his daughter who is about 3 years old. She's sleeping in his arms.
This man's name is Jeff. He was diagnosed with acute Leukemia about a week ago. I've been corresponding with one of his family members and received the picture I described above a few days ago. I wish that I had pictures of everyone that we are praying for. When I looked at this photo, Jeff became real to me in a different way. Some might look at the picture and feel sad. Or some might look at it and wonder why anyone would want to preserve this particular moment in time by photographing it. But there is a beauty beyond what most will see in this circumstance. When I look at it, I see something more.
In the verses from John 19, Jesus is about to die on the cross. But what is he concerned about? Not himself. Even in his final moments, he seeks to comfort those around him. When I look at this picture of Jeff, I see a father who is not concerned with his own suffering but with comforting his daughter in that moment. It reminds me that no matter what season of life we're in, our Father is with us. He's holding us in His arms and providing His comfort and peace. We are never alone.
I mentioned last week that I'm working on improving my personal prayer life and am hoping that a side effect of my personal growth will be the growth of the Phil's Friends Prayer Outreach as well. Last Friday night, I attended a prayer service a local church. The specific focus of this service was praying for those who need healing. I'm still struggling with that grocery list image. I don't want to pray the requests we receive as though they are items to be checked off of a list and forgotten about until the next week. So I'm going be trying out some different things format wise. The model I'm using for this week's prayer is called A.C.T.S. which stands for: Adoration - Confession - Thanksgiving - Supplication. I'm going to label the parts of the prayer as such, in case this format is something you might want to try, too.
Lord, I adore you for: who You are, who You have been, and who You will continue to be. You are my rock. My source of refuge and strength. 24/7, not just in times of trouble. Why is it so easy to forget that? Help me remember the promises You've made and kept. Help me remember the promises to come. Focus my mind and heart on You at all times, both good and bad.
Lord, I confess that I fail every day in new ways and ways I thought I'd overcome. While we like to focus on our successes, we know that our organization has had its share of failures along the way, too. Forgive us for our failures. When we make mistakes, when we don't uphold Your word, bring those situations to our attention so that we may seek reconciliation, forgiveness and restoration. Use those mistakes as opportunities for spiritual growth.
Lord, there is so much to be thankful for. Remind us that every day is gift and that no matter our circumstance, You continue to bless us through it all. I thank You for all the blessings given to me: family, friends, food/shelter, for taking care of all of my needs and more. I thank You for the blessings you continue to pour on this organization, for providing what we need when we need it, for the gifts of our volunteers, their talents and time. We've had several cards and phone calls reporting good news. Thank for the healing you've provided to Virginia, Frank, John and Susan, all of whom have received word that they are in remission or cancer free. We've also heard from many new patients who are thankful for the prayers, cards, and care packages they've received. And Lord, we thank you for the lives of those who have been called to join You in Heaven.
Lord, though You already know the concerns of all of our hearts, there are so many people who have come to us requesting prayer. This week, we pray for your comfort and peace for the families of Arthur, Brian, Karen, and Gerald who are in mourning. We pray for Larry, Jeff, Sally, Jon, Benny, Carol, Kim, Lynn, Katherine, Michael and Connie, all of whom are currently undergoing treatments. For those who are newly diagnosed, we ask that You alleviate their fears about what treatment will be like. Give each of our patients continued strength to endure. Give their doctors guidance and wisdom to determine the best course of action. We ask for Your protection over each one of their families. Lord, we know how stressful times like these can be. Give all of the caregivers patience. Let them continue to be positive, even on bad days. Lift up all of these families, surround them with people who provide constant reminders of Your blessings and love.
But most of all Lord, keep that picture of Jeff in our minds. When we walk out into the world, keep us focused on that image, the image of a father who comforts his child in the midst of suffering. Allow us to be that father for those we know who are in need. In all we say and do, let Your presence and power be magnified in our lives and the lives of those we touch. Amen.
Prayer Requests 1/12/2012
New Living Translation (NLT)
4 But may all who search for you
be filled with joy and gladness in you.
May those who love your salvation
repeatedly shout, “God is great!”
King James Version (KJV)
4Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified.
There are times in Scripture reading when you need to look beyond your preferred Bible translation. I'm showing these two translations of Psalm 70:4 because there is a critical difference between the two. In the NLT version, the verse ends with "God is great!" But "God is great!" (while true) does not mean the same thing as "Let God be magnified."
When I read the two versions I'm left with very different impressions about what I am supposed to do next. In the NLT, my reaction is that I am supposed to tell others about the greatness of God. But in the KJV, my reaction is more than just telling others about that greatness, but also to ask for God's glory and presence to be made larger in my life and the lives of those I touch.
I want to apply that idea of letting God be magnified to my prayer life as well. But how? Until a few days ago, I didn't think there was anything really wrong with my prayer life. I pray every day. I know I don't pray continually, but I'm working on it. I pray out loud in front of other people. I've become bolder about asking strangers if they are in need of prayer. I thought I was doing pretty well on the prayer front. And then I saw a book called "Transforming Prayer: How Everything Changes When You Seek God's Face." A statement made in the back cover copy really convicted me. "...(for most people) prayer is little more than a grocery list of requests."
When you read these prayer requests, the last thing I want is for anyone to read it and pray for things as though it were just an ordinary grocery list. I want you to know that the people who submit these requests are real people who are in pain, who are hurting, who need not only our love and support but God's love as well.
I took a phone call today from a woman who was very angry that someone had sent her a care package and put her name on the weekly card list. It might sound strange to hear that someone would react in this way, but I understand it. When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, he was angry. (How could God do this to me?) But more than that, he was scared. When a doctor tells you that you have cancer, it causes you to seriously have to think about the inevitable. We all know logically that we are going to die someday, but it always seems like that day is far, far away. Too far away to think about now.
As I spoke to this woman, I could hear that anger and fear in her voice. She told me that she was going to throw the care package and cards away. There was nothing I could say that was going to change her mind about that. The call ended and my immediate reaction was to pray for this woman. I said, "Lord, before you let her throw that care package in the garbage, I ask that you let her look through it one more time. Let her find one thing in that bag that could give her hope as she goes through her treatments. Even if she throws everything else away, give her something to hold on to that reminds her that You are there, even though she's not ready to accept it or You right now."
If I was working in a secular organization, I'm not sure what my reaction would've been to taking a call like that. I'm not proud to admit that the "old me" might have spewed back some of the anger this woman was dishing out. And even though I was upset by the call, I was left with a strange sense of peace about it. I asked for God to be magnified, for His presence to be made larger, in this woman's life. And by doing so, His presence was magnified in my own life as well.
I am not going to list the requests that have come in this week in the format that I usually use. That grocery list image is still bothering me. Here's what I'm going to pray instead:
Lord, You know the requests that are on our hearts this week. You know the patients who have just been diagnosed, the caregivers who are trying their best to hold their families together as they struggle with the new normal now that treatments are underway. You know who is in pain whether it's physical or spiritual pain. You know who is in need of healing and who is ready to be called home. You know all of the things that trouble us. And this week, Lord, I ask that in all of these things that You help us find ways to magnify You. Let every prayer we say be a prayer that is more than a grocery list of requests. Give our prayers meaning beyond whatever requests we may bring. Use those prayers to bring us and the people we touch closer to You. Amen.
Prayer Requests 1/5/2012
For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be accompanied by the flute.
1 O Lord, hear me as I pray;
pay attention to my groaning.
2 Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God,
for I pray to no one but you.
3 Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord.
Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.
4 O God, you take no pleasure in wickedness;
you cannot tolerate the sins of the wicked.
5 Therefore, the proud may not stand in your presence,
for you hate all who do evil.
6 You will destroy those who tell lies.
The Lord detests murderers and deceivers.
7 Because of your unfailing love, I can enter your house;
I will worship at your Temple with deepest awe.
8 Lead me in the right path, O Lord,
or my enemies will conquer me.
Make your way plain for me to follow.
9 My enemies cannot speak a truthful word.
Their deepest desire is to destroy others.
Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.
Their tongues are filled with flattery.[a]
10 O God, declare them guilty.
Let them be caught in their own traps.
Drive them away because of their many sins,
for they have rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them sing joyful praises forever.
Spread your protection over them,
that all who love your name may be filled with joy.
12 For you bless the godly, O Lord;
you surround them with your shield of love.
TRUST. That's my word for 2012. TRUST is a scary word. To me, it implies a sense of foreboding...that something bad is coming. I've lost a lot of loved ones in the last few years. In 2008, my dad passed from lung cancer. In 2009, two of my nephews died within six months of each other. And this last year, I lost several high school friends and we're not even 40 yet!
When I prayed for God to reveal my word for this year, three words kept coming to mind: TRUST, FAITH, and BELIEVE. The words are connected. I guess God knew I wouldn't like TRUST right off the bat, so He had to throw in the other two in order to convince me that this is the area He wants me to focus on this year.
I've committed to devote time every day to reading God's word in order to work on TRUST. I plan to accomplish this by reading The One Year Bible. (If you haven't heard of this, it is basically a plan to read the Bible in a year. Each day's reading gives you a passage from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs.) And it's funny how I'm only 5 days in and TRUST has been popping up all over the place.
Take Psalm 5 (above) for example. This one is all about TRUST.
Each morning I pray and wait expectantly...Lead me in the right path...make your way plain for me to follow...let all who take refuge in you rejoice...
It's all about letting God guide your path. But the key is that you have to ask Him for that guidance. When He nudges you in the direction of the right path, you have to be willing to follow. (And when I say "you" here, know that I'm talking about myself, too.)
I've got my feet on the path now. But I don't know where this path leads. My challenge is going to be trusting that God will make the way evident and that He will be there to brush off my skinned knees when the bumps crop up and I stumble and fall. In any case, I'm ready to find out what 2012 will bring.
- From the Nitalla family: We praise God for you and your ministry. You are all in our prayers. Have a blessed Christmas.
- From John who recently learned that he is cancer free.
- From Kiara: Thank you so much for the words of encouragement and your prayers. Words cannot express our gratitude.
- From Judy: Thank you for your wonderful letter about the magic of hugs and the token you sent. I know Jesus is my best friend and yours too. May you enjoy many blessings of His love.
- From Jill: Thank you for all that you are and all that you do. Merry Christmas and Happy 2012!
- From Leona: Thank you for being a special group of friends to me. May God continue to bless you all.
- From Shandra: Thank you for all you do for my mom. She loves the cards and still raves about her care package. She has Stage 3 inoperable pancreatic cancer. Please keep praying for us. You are all in our prayers, too. Keep up the good work.
- From Kathy: We appreciate all your notes and best wishes for my husband. He is in and out of treatment. But the prayers do help. Continue to pray for both of them.
- From Beth: Your cards and words of encouragement always came at the perfect time with the perfect message. My husband passed away on Christmas Day. The following day, your card, letter and picture came with a hug coin…what more could I ask for? I believe your organization is being blessed by God to bring blessings to others daily. Please pray for Beth and her family as they cope with this recent loss.
- Please pray for Michael who has been too sick for chemo but hopes to start up radiation treatments soon.
- Please pray for the families of Bettie, Dean, Florence, Aaron and James all of whom recently passed away.
- Please pray for Kevin who is recovering from a stroke and for his wife who needs strength as his caregiver.
- Please pray for Tonya who has breast cancer and recently found out that she also has a brain tumor. She will be starting up with chemo again this month.
- Please pray for Joy who is finishing up treatments for uterine cancer. And for her friend, Catherine, who is also having chemo treatments.
- Please pray for Ashley. She had her PET and CT scans and has to more tests and biopsies to complete. Please pray for a positive outcome from the additional tests.
- Please pray for John who will be receiving a care package soon. A friend stopped in to personally pack it today and will be delivering it to him in CA. (I think that might be our first personal west coast delivery!)
- Phil's word for 2012 is: CONSISTENCY. Please pray for the application of that word to his personal and business life in the coming year. With all of the recent changes, moving to a new office, our rapid expansion, it's become evident that we really need to focus on this word as both individually and as an organization.
- And for those who have asked for prayers for God to identify your word for the year...we will be praying for you to find whatever path God wants to put you on and for you to follow where He is leading.
Lord, Thank you for the wonder and possibilities that a New Year brings. Thank you for all of the responses that we've received from patients in the last week. It is awesome to receive cards back and sometimes photos so we can see the faces of the people we serve. Thank you for the progress that we're continuing to make as we get settled in to our new space. Be with us this Sunday as we dedicate this space and celebrate what we have done in partnership with You over the last five years. We ask for healing for those who are undergoing treatments and/or recovering. We ask for patience and strength for all of the caregivers. We ask for comfort and peace for those who have lost loved ones. We may not always understand why things happen the way they do or why people we love have to be taken from this life sooner than we'd like, but give us faith to trust that Your will is being done in all things. Amen.