The thoughts in my mind were wearing me out. The frustration and irritation were so exaggerated and petty. Yet they were based on enough fact that reasoning them away wasn’t working. I tried to distract myself from them and think lovely thoughts instead of them. I tried praying for the circumstances with which I was struggling. None of it was working, at least not for long.
Finally, I laid it all out there to God. I confessed being such a mess, of being self-focused and consumed with trivial things. Then in desperation and utter exasperation with myself, I said, “I’m tired of trying. I’m tired of trying to make these thoughts go away. I’m tired of trying to be loving instead of resentful; I’m tired of trying to be peaceful instead of agitated. I’m tired of trying to have joy, even though I know I have every reason to be joyful.”
As those words came out of my mouth, I recalled a time 21 years ago when I told God, in another context, that I was tired of trying. And just as a major shift in my relationship with Him occurred from that time, I sensed that a major shift was about to occur again. God often waits for us to come to the end of ourselves before He chooses to move us into new places with Him.
Within moments, that gentle, quiet voice spoke:
Everything by prayer.
I found the words in Scripture:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6).
As I sat with those words, thoughts began flowing through my mind:
This moment — by prayer.
The wisdom and words for the email response that’s needed — by prayer.
These people reached for Jesus — by prayer.
The godliness, boldness, kindness and (above all) love I need today — by prayer.
Every need, every lack — big, little, trivial — God said all of it was to be sought first by prayer. Interestingly, I had been praying, but I wasn’t asking for the life of God in me to flow through me. I wasn’t requiring it from Him as my absolute necessity, my only hope. There is a difference. As I sat in these thoughts I sensed another word from God:
And don’t let go until I bless you.
The words came, once again, straight from Scripture, from an encounter Jacob had with God. It happened when Jacob, nearly paralyzed with fear over an impending encounter with his brother Esau, wrestled through the night with God — though at first he had no clue who He was. As the man / God began to pull away, Jacob demanded: “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26). With that statement, everything changed. God blessed Jacob. He gave Jacob a new name: Israel. It means “he wrestles with God.” At a time when Jacob was riddled with fear, he discovered that there was One from whom He could always seek blessing and provision. Jacob learned the power of calling on God and requiring from Him all He has promised to be and to provide.
Through these two profound phrases from Scripture, God is teaching me how to battle and wrestle for a breakthrough. The things I was doing weren’t wrong. Some of it was indeed scriptural. But I was largely doing them in my own strength. I was striving instead of abiding. I was seeking to manufacture spiritual fruit. Instead, I should be relying on and requiring God to bring out His fruit in me — the fruit of the Spirit He has already placed in all who have made Him Savior and Lord.
In recent days, my prayers have looked different:
“Lord, I need Your love for all people. I need joy and peace in every circumstance in which You have called me. I need patience to wait for what I long for, and the faith to believe You for it. I can’t manufacture them, but you have them and You are in me, I am in You. Release Your life to flow through me. I come to you based on what Your Word says I can have, based on my absolute neediness of You. I’m not letting go until You bless me.”
In EVERYTHING we are to come to God. This is based on His Word and our absolute dependence upon Him to fulfill His Word in every aspect of our lives. Whether we need wisdom, guidance or the ability to live in the fruit of the Spirit He has placed in us, God says, “Everything by prayer.”