Receiving Answers to Prayer

I’ve been Studying John 15 along with the Doorposts blog Busy Mamas Bible Study.  On Friday, I studied John 15:7, which says:

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

So, the whole premise of the lesson on the Doorposts blog (lesson 18, if you want to look for it), is “what does ‘whatever you wish’ mean?”

Obviously, we know from personal experience that God is not a genie, sitting there to grant all of our most selfish and self-serving wishes. When we compare scripture with scripture, we can see that.

The Doorposts study guides you into using Torrey’s New Topical Textbook to find out what kinds of prayers get answered and what kinds don’t.  If this is work you want to do on your own, go check out the study.

Since Torrey’s New Topical Textbook is a public domain text, I’m going to share some of those reasons and supporting verses.  Today, I’ll be sharing what prayers get answered by God, and tomorrow I’ll be sharing the kinds of prayers that don’t get answered.

These are the types of things that you want to do if you want to see your prayers answered:

Seek God.  The weight of Biblical evidence shows that God only answers the prayers of those who are actively seeking him.  Psalm 34:4 says:

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

Written to the exiles in Babylon, Jeremiah 29:12-13 says:

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Although the historical application of that verse is to those Jews in captivity, I think it has a great practical application for us today.  We need to seek God with all our heart and not keep a part of it back for ourselves.  We can’t have a heart that is divided between God and other loves if we want to see our prayers answered.

Not only do we need to seek God, but we also need to wait upon the Lord. Psalm 40:1 says:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.

So many times, I’ve prayed and not had the patience to wait on God and on his timing for my desired answer to prayer.  Just the other week, I was reading about Abram and Sarai, and how they got impatient for the Lord’s answer and decided to solve their problems themselves.  Don’t we all do that?

Not only do we need to seek God and wait on him, but we also must return to God. You will not see a prayer answered when you are away from God.  2 Chronicles 7:14 is one of the more famous verses used for this point, but that mean it’s not true.  This verse says:

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Once you’ve sought the Lord, waited upon him, and returned to him, the next thing you need to do to see your prayers answered is to ask in faith.  Matthew 21:21 says:

And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea.’ it will happen.”

We also have James 5:15, which says:

And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

Not only do we need to ask in faith, but we also need to ask in the Name of Christ.  John 14:13 tells us:

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

As an aside, this is more than just tagging on “in Jesus’ name, Amen.” to the end of your prayers.   It has more to do with the next characteristic of prayers that get answered.  We are to ask according to God’s will.

This is one that is personally important to me, as I often ask for good things, and I find myself disappointed when my prayer is not answered in the way that I expect.  Learning to accept God’s will for our lives can be incredibly hard.  I John 5:14 tells us:

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

I am reminded of George Muller, who often had his prayers answered, and I will always remember reading of him that his explanation of this was that he prayed with his Bible open.  In other words, he prayed in accordance with the revealed will of God in the Bible.

Have you ever prayed and not been honest with your motives?  I think we all have at some point, but if you want your prayers to be answered, you need to call upon God in truth.  Psalm 145:18 says:

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

The very next verse, Psalm 145:19, tells us that not only do we need to call upon God in truth, but that we also need to fear God.

He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.

Even the fearing is not a being terrified of God.  I would equate it more with a very healthy respect and belief that he will do what he says.  So, we should also know that God answers the prayers of those who set their love upon God. Psalm 91:14-15 tells us:

Because he has holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.

It’s not enough to just set your love upon God.  You must also keep God’s commandments. John 14-15 tell us quite plainly that if we love God, we will show it by keeping his commandments. The relationship of this to answered prayer is found in I John 3:22, where it says:

and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

There are some specific times when we are told that God will answer us if we call upon him.  The first situation is when we call upon God under oppression. Isaiah 19:20 tells us:

It will be a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry to the Lord because of oppressors, he will send them a savior, and defender, and deliver them.

Another specific time when God answers prayers is when we call upon God under affliction. There are so many verses we could point to for this.  A favorite of mine is Psalm 18:6, where David says:

In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.

Of course, the original verse under examination tells us that God answers our prayers when we abide in Christ.  If you need a refresher on John 15:7 (since this has been a long blog post), Jesus says here:

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

We are also told that the prayers of people who humble themselves are answered.  Of course, we can turn back to 2 Chronicles 7:14 to remind ourselves of this one.

God also answers the prayers of those who are righteous.  James 5:16 reminds us:

Therefore,confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Finally, we can see that God answers the prayers of those who are poor and needy.  Isaiah 41:17 tells us:

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

These are the kind people who have prayers that God answers.  Check back tomorrow as I share with you the people whose prayers are not answered!

Watching Tigers

We went to the circus a month or so ago.  Because I haven’t been updating the blog regularly, I haven’t been mentioning what we have been doing.  So, I guess this post is more “slice of life” than anything.  So, the Loomis Brothers Circus was in town.  Tickets were not expensive, so we decided to go.

It was really quite a delightful experience.  I had never been to the circus, and I found that I enjoyed many of the acts.

A couple of my children easily had a favorite act.  It was the tigers.  I admit that I had never been so close to tigers before.  They were beautiful, but they were behind a very heavy metal fence enclosure.  No need for us to worry about tiger attack.

tiger

It got me thinking about dangerous things.  Sometimes, those dangerous things are very beautiful or pleasurable.  And unlike tigers, most of them don’t come into our lives enclosed in heavy metal cages.  In fact, we are often snared before we know it.

It made me wish that all dangerous things came with warning labels, but they don’t, so can only press ahead in faith, trusting in God to be with us in the danger, to protect us, and to shield us as dangerous times come.  Otherwise, when we step outside of God’s word, we might be in danger of judgment.

Human Reason

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a little piece about knowledge for the sake of knowledge.  In the original piece, I explore whether it’s okay to gain knowledge for its own sake or whether we need to be able to connect virtue to knowledge.

I find as I go along that human reason is faulty.  We scheme and we reason.  We think and we ponder only to find that, as I Corinthians 1: 25 says, the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

We find that, no matter how smart and well-reasoned we think we are, our reason just can’t match God’s.  After all Isaiah 55:9 says, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

I found a quote when I was reading Divergent that I felt really spoke to the issue.  The quote says,

Human reason can excuse any evil; that is why it’s so important that we don’t rely on it.

Our human reason is faulty.  People logic away anything.  Have you ever seen how different sides of everything can be argued reasonably? People can use logic to reach completely opposite conclusions.  Why is that?  Perhaps it’s because, as Jeremiah 17:9 says, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

This is why knowledge would not be added for increasing the pride and reason.  Knowledge should be used to add to our virtue and obedience to God.  Never should we imagine that we are smart enough to reason better than God or to tell God that we know better than him.

Feeling Crabby

Lately, I have often felt the sting of conviction.  I am not an angry person.  I don’t have an explosive temper that makes people fear me.  However, I have been very irritable.  I find myself sighing, rolling my eyes, using impatient and unkind words, and saying things that I don’t really mean when I feel crabby.

As a homeschooler, it can be worse because I have a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week audience that I can’t get away from. I don’t actually want to get away from them (most of the time), but my audience is always there, always observing.  They are always following and doing the very things that I do.

Sometimes they want to be like me.  Sometimes they want to be my opposite.  It totally depends on whether I’m acting like a warm and loving mama or a spoiled, temperamental brat.

Last year, as part of Community Bible Study, we studied I and II Corinthians.  When I got to I Corinthians 13, I felt as if I might collapse under the weight of my own sin.  I Corinthians 13:4-5 say:

 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

Although I usually prefer the KJV translation, I’m sharing the ESV because I find it so powerful.  I can get away without feeling convicted when I hear “not easily provoked” because I’m not an angry person.  However, when I hear “irritable,” I think, “that’s how I live my life.

I’m praying about my irritability a lot.  When I catch it, I’m trying to correct it. I’m begging God to allow me to act patiently, and not just because he’s giving me opportunities to develop patience 🙂 I’m memorizing verses, such as Proverbs 15:1  and Matthew 12:36.  I am serious about replacing my irritable words with those that are edifying and build others up.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get serious about eliminating this sin until I saw that it was spreading.  My daughter, whom I love so much, has often struggled with being irritable with her brothers and sister.  She says unkind words, uses ugly tones and sighs big, exaggerated sighs.

I worry now that I get on to her so much that I discourage her, but in the way that I reprimand her.  I’m working on rewarding her with praise for kindness, but that’s so much harder to catch.

I’m working really hard now, not just for myself, but for her and the other children too.  If this is an area that you struggle with, I pray that you will feel the sting of God’s conviction.  We all need help.  We all stumble and fall in many ways.

I would like to say that I’m winning some victory in this area.  However, for each two steps forward I make, I make a step backward. Sanctification is slow and messy, and I find that it’s a process.  It’s also hard.  That’s why we need the Holy Spirit each and every moment of every day.  I am so glad that I have him to help and to lean on in my own weakness.

crabby

Sunday Sharing

Welcome to this week’s Sunday Sharing!  It’s here that I share my favorite articles and videos that I found on the web this week.

First up is 12 Marks of Excellent Pastoral Ministry.  This excellent summation of a John MacArthur sermon had me writing it into one of the blank pages in my interleaved Bible.     MacArthur is also an excellent example of a minister, so that makes the summation even better.

Also, as part of Tim Challies’ series on The Godly Man’s Picture,  he posted an excellent article on The Damning Devastation of a Single Coddled Sin.  As time goes along, I’m enjoying reading the Puritans more and more.  I’m sure it’s due to the efforts of modern writers like Challies to get us to read these godly men of times past.

Soul Care for Exhausted Young Mothers is great advice for a mom with children of any age, but if you’re in that especially wearying age of babies and toddlers, you should go take a listen to this one.

I have ordered two books from Amazon this week for my own reading edification.  I pressed order on one of them after reading a little excerpt in the article Satan’s “Nothing” Strategy.   I recently went back to the iPhone after having a break from a smartphone of several years and I am alarms at how quickly I went back to being “attached” to my phone, and how much time I’ve wasted with it.  This article is like a douse of good, cold water.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who struggles with occasional periods of doubt.  The article Waves of Doubt provided some reassurance for me.

As a mom, I really find such things as the recent Teen Vogue article shattering.  Why? Because I don’t really want to believe that sexual perversion is as prevalent in our culture as it obviously is.  It’s a hard read, but I really appreciated Denny Burk’s Standing Against a Destructive Misogyny Threatening Our Children.  Closely, and painfully related is The Face of Modern Child Neglect.  We have opted against smartphones for the kids. We have opted against phones at all for them until they have jobs.  It’s still difficult to keep them away from other peoples’ phones and to regulate tablets in such a way as to be protective without being stifling.

Sometimes, instead of comparing myself to God’s standard, I fall into the trap of comparing myself to the world, and I look pretty good.  Color Catcher is an excellent article at pointing out so many of the ways I fail in relation to God’s standard.  Often I don’t realize how sinful I am until it is pointed out.  I needed this message!

Related to that is the article Don’t Be a Do-Gooder.  Here we are helped to stop and reflect on the difference between doing good works and cultivating goodness as a fruit of the spirit.  It’s good stuff.

I read lot.  Sometimes I read very widely and eclectically.  So, I really enjoyed The Case for Reading Widely this week.  It reminded me that it’s okay to read lots of different types of books.  She draws on Secret Teacher: We’re Not Reading as inspiration for her article, and this article is a worthy read in its own right.  Don’t forget to model the habits you want your children to develop!

This article on Eugene Peterson’s Predicament really strikes a chord with me because of the many times I’ve softened God’s word or been silent when called upon for an opinion on God’s Word that I knew wasn’t going to be seen favorably.  No one likes when someone tries to play both sides of the fence.  You have to wonder when you do that whether or not you’re serving God or yourself.

What are some practical ways to let God’s Word abide in you?  The article If My Words Abide in You is so good that I printed it out for highlighting and note taking.

I couldn’t help but feel conviction as I read Don’t Be a Superstitious Christian.  There are several superstitions that I picked up without even realizing it, and now I feel a little ashamed of how I have been trying to control things in my Christian life.  Oops!

That’s all for this week!  Hope you’re having a great weekend!!

Our 2017-2018 Curriculum Plan

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, over the past year we have made the switch to Ambleside Online. I had read much about Charlotte Mason when we first started homeschooling, but at the time, I felt like it was too overwhelming to put into place, and I never did.

When we started Ambleside Online, I wanted to make it a whole family thing.  My children are 12, 10, 7, & 6, so I decided to start at the beginning with year one.

The Ambleside Online FAQ and advice told me that it would probably be too light for my older two children. However, by the time I added in hymns, Plutarch, Shakespeare, nature study, artist study, foreign language, math and folksongs, I really began to feel like the curriculum was more than enough, especially for my 10 year old.  Bennett really did need just a little more, so I went to the pre-7  list to choose some books that are considered must dos before your student starts year seven.  He works alongside the other children (except in math and foreign language), and adds one additional book to study from the pre-7 list to work through at a time.  I feel confident with this plan for him because all the information that I’ve read on Ambleside Online tells me that, even if he only finishes through year nine by the time he graduates, he will have a full and excellent education.

Our curriculum plan for this year is to finish year one, and to start year two.

We will include Plutarch’s Lives and all three Shakespeare plays.

We will also go on many field trips.

We will attend Community Bible Study and study Genesis.

We will be a part of a Science Club and study Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics.

We will memorize John 15, and probably at least one other chapter of the Bible (as yet to be determined).

We will do nature study, possibly doing nature walks with some local friends, and possibly taking some classes through a local field trip group.

We will do hymn study, folksongs, and art study as well.

As far as individual work goes, this is what we are doing:

Bennett:  Duolingo Japanese, CTC Math, and Fun Schooling with Minecraft.  He is also currently reading The Story of the World volume 4, and when he finishes that, I intend for him to read Rob Roy and Augustus Caesar’s World as his next reads.  He also takes Tae Kwon Do, and will be testing for black belt before the end of the year.

Emalee: Duolingo German, CTC Math and the Kitty Doodle Funschooling Curriculum book.  She takes guitar lessons, and does a great deal of personal reading for fun.

Connor:  First Start Reading Book E, CTC Math and various Funschooling Curriculum books.  He also takes Tae Kwon Do, and he loves to read all sorts of books from the library.

Ellie:  First Start Reading Books C-E (as quickly as she progresses), CTC Math and various Funschooling Curriculum books.  She also does Tae Kwon Do, and she loves to color and cute and do all sorts of little crafty things.  We occasionally find a fun workbook here and there for her to work on, and she loves it.

That’s about it for what we’re going for school this year.  I have found curriculum peace after many years of looking for it, so I couldn’t be happier in our homeschool than I am right now.

Switching to Ambleside Online

I looked around a few months ago and realized that I didn’t like the way that our homeschool looked.  My vision of homeschooling was everyone learning and growing together, and that wasn’t what was happening in our house.  We were increasingly segregated into little kids and big kids, and I often struggled to get the little kids’ work done.

I was unhappy with the way things were going, and I felt like we needed a change. Even when I talked to the other moms that I know, I had a hard time because it just seemed like separating our kids into age groups becomes a natural way of homeschooling.

I realized I wanted a change, but I wasn’t bold enough to make it quite yet.  I started looking all around, trying to figure out what to do.  Finally, I realized that I needed a curriculum that wasn’t quite so age/grade segregated, but at the same time I wanted to be able to read lots of good books.

I was also almost overwhelmed with the feeling that I had totally messed up the big kids and their schooling.  We had started out with a classical bent, but Bennett and Emalee weren’t ready for that kind of structured schooling, so we had switched to a more delight-directed path, and had mostly completed unit studies, like the ones by Amanda Bennett.  Then, I went straight from that to two years of reviewing for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  After that intense period of reviewing, we needed to deschool a little bit, and so we mostly completed the curriculum that I had earned by reviewing it and went on more field trips.

This is where we were at when I felt a sense of unease.  I knew that I needed to actually buy some curriculum, and I knew that it was time to make a change and find a true path for us.  I looked at a lot of different things, and then decided to just sit on it for a little bit.

We took a trip to Disney World, and while we were there, I realized that I wanted to make a switch, and that switch would be to Ambleside Online.  Only I wanted to do it in such a way that we would do it together.  I had some hazy ideas on how to accomplish it, and so, on March 5th, we began a new journey together, and so far, it has been a beautiful thing.

I’ll share a little more tomorrow as I talk about my curriculum plans for next year, so come back to see how Ambleside Online is working for us.