Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Praying Life- Chapters 3-4

(A few friends and I are reading this book together.  Each week we will read two chapters and on Friday I will post my comments from the reading.  Others may add their thoughts in the comments section.  If you are interested in reading this book as well, here is the link for the Kindle version of the book.)

Chapters 3-4
- In chapter 3 the author talks about our praying to be without pretense. (Pg. 30, Loc. 380) He also uses the phrase "Come messy" (Pg. 30, Loc. 389) and describes it by saying, "Begin with who you are." (Pg. 33, Loc. 432)  Often, I want things to be laid out perfectly before I do something.  At times, I keep preparing and preparing without actually doing the thing because I want to do it right.  I am learning that often I just need to start, let it be sub-par at the beginning, then correct it as I go along.  Reading this chapter, I see that I need to do a similar thing with prayer.  I could either: a) see where I want to be in prayer but only pray once everything is "in order" or b) just pray, trusting I'll grow and develop as I go along.  I guess it is better when I come to Him in prayer, even if I'm messy, than not come because I am messy.  I must remember He can clean up my messiness.

- I liked the suggestion to just speak to God about my worries. (Pg. 33, Loc. 424)  Instead of seeing my mind wandering as "Not Praying Mode," I am encouraged to speak to the Lord about that topic that draws my attention.  That way, I am being more genuine and I'm acknowledging Him in more of my ways.  I hope to implement this in my praying time or just in those moments when I have time for my mind to meander.

- When discussing believing like a child, he said, "Disappointment and broken promises are the norm instead of hoping and dreaming."  (Pg. 38, Loc. 484)  In examining my heart, I'd have to say that my belief is often not like a child.  I ask my Father for things, but I hold back (some of/most of?) my heart so that if He chooses not to answer like I want, I will not be as disappointed.  That attitude has to affect my asking also.  I struggle a bit to know how to hope and dream like he described in areas in which God's will is unknown.

- "Especially when talking with old friends, the conversation bounces from subject to subject.  It has a fun, meandering, play-like quality.  Why would our prayer time be any different?  After all, God is a person." (Pg. 39, Loc. 501)  I read this the day after having a such a conversation as he described.  It gave me a clear comparison.  In thinking of that example I'm able to see the gap between my typical conversation with a person and my typical conversation with my Savior.  Remembering that prayer is conversation and comparing it to the recent instance is a help to me.

- Loved this quote: "The point of Christianity isn't to learn a lot of truths so you don't need God anymore."  (Pg. 41, Loc. 526)

I've had my say- what say you?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Praying Life- Chapters 1-2

(A few friends and I are reading this book together.  Each week we will read two chapters and on Friday I will post my comments from the reading.  Others may add their thoughts in the comments section.  If you are interested in reading this book as well, here is the link for the Kindle version of the book.)

Chapters 1-2
[Just a couple notes of clarification before I actually start talking about the book.  When I've done these group reading projects in the past, I found that my posts were half book review and half comments on what I learned.  In the posts for this book I plan to focus on the benefit I received from the book and try to not write statements that sound like they would be in a book review.  Maybe that won't be as clear to you as it is to me, but once I settled that in my mind it helped me focus my comments.
Also, each week I will do my best to only point out the information that stood out to me the most.  I'm not wanting to write a chapter in discussing his two chapters!]

- I don't think I had ever considered the fact that an inability to pray or difficulty in praying is a result of the Fall. (Pg. 14, Loc. 200)  Maybe before I had the mindset of "I'm a Christian- I should be able to pray" whereas with this in mind I would see it as "This is yet another area damaged by sin, yet God can help us see growth and progress."

- He dealt with the problem of maintaining a prayer list. (Pg. 14, Loc. 200) I am facing this right now.  I have a notebook, but as the list grows I'm unsure which things to pray for.  I find I usually pray for the most recently added, and neglect the previous ones.  I tried an app for a little bit.  I like it- I can create several lists and have the app show me a designated number from the list each day.  That way, I'm cycling through the whole number of requests.  However, if I pray for a request too long, the phone screen turns off, so I'm constantly turning my phone back on.  The extra hassle with the smartphone has led me away from using it for now.  All that to say- this is where I am right now.  I look forward to his practical suggestions later in the book.

- I could relate to his fictitious prayer therapist.  The therapist said, "Your relationship with your heavenly Father is dysfunctional. You talk as if you have an intimate relationship, but you don't.  Theoretically, it is close.  Practically, it is distant.  You need help." (Pg. 17, Loc. 245) I know in my head that I can have a close relationship with my Father, my Savior, my Creator, but that is not shown practically in my prayer life.

- I was helped by his saying prayer feels like a dinner with friends.  (Pg. 20, Loc. 274)  In that setting, I simply enjoy the relationships that surround me and conversation naturally comes from those relationships.  He helped remind me that prayer should be the same.  My conversation (prayer) should simply flow from my relationship with my Savior.

- "Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God."  (Pg. 20, Loc. 274)  Ouch!! I have done this and do this and didn't even see it before.

- Finally, I appreciated this perspective of unanswered prayers.  It gave me something to think on in that arena.  This is the quote: "Unanswered prayers create some of the tensions in the story God is weaving in our lives.  When we realize this, we want to know what God is doing.  What pattern is God weaving." (Pg. 22, Loc. 309)

That's what stood out to me.  What say you?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Hughes News #64

"Tie your shoes and pray for the Hughes"
Dear Friends,
At the beginning of December we took a trip to Russia to help Matt and Katie Northcutt, friends from college.  They plan to begin ministering in a village in March and need to remodel their apartment before then.  I helped Matt and his coworker with remodeling while Viola spent time with Katie.  We were so blessed to have time with friends and to learn about their mission field.  If you ever have a chance to visit a mission field- take it!  I don’t think you will ever regret that decision!
Two days before Christmas we added a piano to our meeting place.  David and I had looked at this one a few weeks before and eventually decided that it was our best option.  Minor repairs have been done, the instrument has been tuned and we’ve been enjoying it in our services.
We had special services for the holidays.  For Christmas Eve we had a candlelight carol sing, and for New Year’s Eve- a time of fellowship, snacks and games after the Bible study.  It was a blessing to have two families of believers join us for those services.
A friend gave our ministry calendars with Scripture to distribute.  Passing them out to some of our contacts in the city led to several good conversations with people. 
We plan to start offering English lessons in a couple of weeks.  While teaching English is not our primary goal, we see it as a way to get to know people better, meet new people and invest in people’s lives.  Could you take a moment right now to pray for this endeavor?
In His service,
Jacob and Viola Hughes

For Prayer:
1. English class: starting Lord-willing January 19
2. The lost to be saved and believers to be encouraged
3. Wisdom to balance ministry and long-term housing plans

For Praise:
1. A piano to use for our services
2. Special times for Christmas and New Year’s
3. Further conversations with people in Soroca