A prayerful heart. (Struggles with prayer.)

One of the hopes for this year is to begin to become more intentional in my prayer life. To make it a part of my everyday life, instead of just praying when times are hard or offering up thanksgiving when life is good. My prayer life is still a working progress because I feel like it is not something that comes naturally to me.  There is such a pressure (from myself, of course) in how I do it and what I say. There have been some steps that I have began taking to trying to have a more prayer in my life. One of the simplest steps I took was beginning with a prayer journal. Breaking it up into certain themes and having different topics underneath in which to pray for. It was a reminder for me, that even when I do not find prayer easy; that there is always something or someone who needs prayer. I am not always so good, at remembering to pray about certain places or issues but it is an aid that helps me to take my eyes off myself.

In prayer it has been good to begin with the basics, in just learning to have conversation with Jesus. Whether it is about something that is making my heart anxious or about the day in general. This has been helpful to keep my mind more focused on who is in control of my day and how I am not doing it alone.

Prayer is something we are greatly encouraged to do, for Jesus talks about it in his ministry. He even uses a parable, to show us how we should keep on praying and not give up. This is through the parable of the persistent widow who kept on going to the judge to demand justice for her adversary. Even though the man did not fear God or people, he gave the woman what she wanted because he knew that she would persist until the end. ‘And the Lord says, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?’ (Luke 18v6-7). Persistent prayer is something I have struggled with. When I continuously prayed about something or for someone, my belief was that I did not have the faith that God could answer it the first time. I have learned that prayer does not work in that way, it is not a one request shot and God decides if he will answer it or not. I have been learning that prayer is a beautiful act of communication with my Saviour about the people and issues that are on my heart. In persistence it is about me continuously surrendering them to the Lord, for I know that he takes better care of them than I could ever do. The parable is true, God is not deaf to our cries to him. Sometimes we can feel like that but that is not the truth. God is a God who cares and he will always care for his people.

Prayer is not an easy act, I am thankful that even the Bible highlights this. We read in the gospels, that in the most crucial time that the disciples should have been praying they were instead asleep. The gospel does not paint this perfect picture of the disciples. Instead shows them as the humans, with all their highs and lows. (Luke 22v40) ‘On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”  They had reached the garden of Gethsemane, in which Jesus was in anguish due to all the events that were about to unfold. Jesus was praying over all this, only to return to the disciples and find them not praying. (22v45-46) ‘When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted with sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” The disciples at this moment paint a relatable picture for most of us. There are moments that we are so overwhelmed with all that is going on, that prayer is not that appealing. Instead we sleep or use some form of something to escape. That is not because we do not want to deal with the crisis at hand, instead,  we do not know how to deal with it. For some of us, we need a rebuke like the disciples got. To push us closer to prayer and to keep us away from the other things that we find comfort in. For sure, I  know I do. I know that many of the times I should be surrendering something to God. You would instead find me watching an episode of Gilmore girls to drown out the issue with quick wit and familiar characters. That does not help in the long run because you still have to ultimately end up dealing with the issue. I have found the longer I keep it quiet and try to deal with it on my own, it turns into a much bigger mess. 

Praying does not have to be eloquent. I am constantly reminded, even when I am praying, that God already knows my heart. I do not have to put on any sort of show for him. I come authentically as I am. I do believe that there should be respect, for I am praying to my creator, my God and my father. However, he also knows my brokenness as his child. Many of the times when I come before God, I use all these fancy ways to explain issues away. That is not what God wants, instead I need to be honest and say I messed up. For it is through God that the healing and the restoration will come. For sure, it is not always pleasant admitting something I knew was never right to do in the first place; it can be used for a beautiful opportunity of grace and growth.

There are other times I come before God and I have no idea what to say. Sometimes, it is better not to say anything. Instead, to sit in his presence. There was a time last year, where I had a cup of coffee in hand and my bedroom floor as my comfort. Truly, I had nothing to say. I thought, God I will enjoy this silence and this coffee with you. It was such a beautiful time of peace. If you ever need any encouragement in not knowing what to say Romans 8v26-28 speaks the truth. ‘In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ We can put a lot of unnecessary stress upon ourselves to be able to do everything right. Even with our prayer life. This passage in Romans confirms, how we do not do any of our life on our own. Including prayer. That the Spirit aids and guides us and keeps us in communication with God. That is truly awesome, that we are not disconnected. All we need is a willing and faithful heart and interceding comes as part of that.

To finish I want to refer back to Luke 18 and the verse that follows from the aforementioned. 18v8 ‘I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? Sometimes, we can quickly give up on prayer. We see no fruit straight away, therefore, we turn to other things to find our security and hope. I know, I have been convicted of how quickly I can give up on prayer and just hope for the best. That is not fruitful and as I said before, normally leads to a bigger mess. I truly want to learn to communicate more and more with the Lord. Whether it be on my walks to the shelter in Amsterdam or when I return home and need to trust God that I will find a job again. I want to learn to put my faith in him. To stop being so easily disappointed and to lean in and rest in his goodness. For he is a gracious and loving Saviour. Prayer is a wonderful attribute of our relationship.

Lysa TerKeurst “The reality is, my prayers do not change God. But, I am convinced that prayer changes me. Praying boldly boots me out of the stale place of religious habit into authentic connection with God himself.” I definitely want more of this within my life.

I will continuously keep working on my prayer life, as I am sure many of my fellow brothers and sisters are doing. I hope this has encouraged you if you struggle with some of the issues I do or if you have any advice, always feel free to post it down below.  Prayer will change our lives, that is clear as we read about the lives found within our Bibles. May we not be discouraged or dismayed if we do struggle. Keep the faith and ask for someone to come and pray alongside you. I know that has helped me a lot in my time here in Amsterdam.

May you have a blessed week. May you remember, you are loved and cherished by the King of kings. God bless, Victoria. xx

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Blank Canvas: 2020

Happy New Year to you all!

I started my new year in Amsterdam, which was beautiful. They really love their fireworks in the Netherlands, there were marvellous colour shows of explosions all through the night. I was thankful to spend it with the community within the shelter, that was an awesome experience.

I worked on New Years Day and I shared with the cleaners, which is one of my ministries, the blog I did at the beginning of last year. In which I shared how I see each new year as a blank canvas, that is emphasised with always starting with a blank notebook/journal.

This year I wanted to focus on having some expectations and hopes. They are in no way resolutions; therefore there is no pressure to reach a certain goal. However, I did want to choose to speak life into the year. It is something I did with the cleaning team, we took some time to write down some hopes and expectations we had for the year. It was a solo activity, there was such a peace in giving people time to do it.

Sometimes we can really rush into the new year, we feel all these obligations, that we miss the beauty of the life and newness that this upcoming year brings. I do have hopes that no matter how hard the year may be, that the Lord is still faithful to his promises. One promise I truly want to hold onto is Lamentations 3v22-23 ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’ The Lord has been incredibly faithful to me over the past few years. Especially seeing his goodness in my time here in Amsterdam; has been a beautiful demonstration of what a loving and caring Father that God is. I think like any Father, he is not afraid of us having expectations for our life. God wants to be a part of that. That is what is amazing about being able to have a relationship with God, through Jesus. Jesus is an incredible friend and saviour, who knows exactly what it is to be human and the expectations that they have. Who met with people who had been thrown out of community, who were rejected and alone. Who blew all their expectations by healing them and enabling them to come to know the love of God. That enabled them to be fully healed and restored. That is the life that we can all know today.

A lot of my expectations are focused in on my faith this year. Especially, to walk in a deeper and closer walk with the Lord.

I want to learn to be more intentional with my Bible reading and prayer life. To not just do it but allow it to be part of my relationship with God.

To be faithful with what God has given me. Allowing God to have control of my time. Instead of trying to have everything under my control. To not be scared to step out into unknown places.

Most importantly, to use my remaining months in Amsterdam to serve people well and love people well. To not allow opportunities to pass me by but to truly be present in the moment.

I also have to start making plans for what is next after Amsterdam. Wherever I may end up. I have expectations that it will be a place in which I can continually grow in my relationship with Jesus. Also, being able to serve and love people is the core of how I want to live my life. It is not always easy to do but there is confirmation that all things are possible through Christ.

For you reading this, take some time to reflect on this up coming year. Maybe, not a lot has changed for you. You are still in the same job, place, etc. How can you change your perspective? How can you reflect more of Christ in the places where you are? How can serve people well? You can have expectations and hopes for this year or how you would like to grow. Surrender them to God, he cares and he listens. Who knows, what this year will have in store for you. Keep the faith and hope in all things. For we serve a living God, who is constantly moving in all things.

Hebrews 10v23 ‘Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.’

I am excited, for what this year holds for the blog and what God will teach us all through it. I pray that you will all have a blessed year of growing deeper in your relationship with the Lord. May we encourage and support one another.

You are loved and cherished. May you have a blessed week. Love Victoria. Xx