Visual Prayer

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Today’s guest post is by a beautiful gal named Michelle. I invited her to share her creativity and how she uses it as a spiritual discipline. And yes, all those beautiful pictures are ones she painted. She’s a-mazing.


The Spiritual discipline of prayer has always been difficult for me. Instead of having effective quiet time, my mind would be racing, making lists, having conversations with people, going grocery shopping, planning homeschool lessons, and who can pray and listen to God while they mind is totally checked out?

It wasn’t for lack of trying that I wasn’t achieving intimacy with God during our *ahem* “quiet time.” I tried prayer journaling, kneeling, sitting up, standing up, (never lying down though, I’d be asleep in nano-second.) I tried everything. It wasn’t until I discovered what I call Visual Prayer that I truly understood the worship that happens when intimacy happens.

Visual Prayer-Wait for the Promises of the Father

Visual Prayer is on the unconventional side of the pendulum swing. It starts with images, Bible verses, paper, color, paint, glue and whatever is handy. In the process of cutting, gluing, putting brush to canvas, my mind stops its incessant chatter. Complete silence. I’d never known silence until this.

In this new found quiet, God showed up. Oh I’m sure He was there at other times, however, I’m certain I couldn’t hear Him. Proof of the Spirit whispering and guiding comes in emails, Facebook messages, and face to face story. It keeps happening and I keep writing the stories down. These stories of the Spirit working through my art, my quiet time, my communion with the Father, continue to pour in as I pour out my heart and learn to become in tune with the heart of Jesus. This happens in the real quiet time, the “for real” solitude now happening.

Visual Prayer-Wait for the Promises of the Father

When I “selfishly” started praying this way, I had no clue it would set me down a path of leading workshops, guest blogging, writing books about it. I call it selfish because it was self-serving, or at least I thought it was. So many times I’d heard messages, sermons, read books and blogs about prayer. According to most, I was doing what I *should* be doing, but I never felt quite right about it.

By doing visual art as prayer, I sort of felt like I was being unbiblical. But God is a creative God and I was seeking Him diligently. I wanted to please him. I knew in my heart that before Visual Prayer, I was not praying in a way that brought me to Him. Some might call Visual Prayer an accident or a coincidence, but I think God answered the prayer of my heart by giving me a way to please Him.

If you feel your spiritual disciplines are lacking, please know that in seeking to draw near to God, He will make your heart desire what’s in His heart for you.

Don’t give up. Please don’t give up.

Visual Prayer--wait for the promise of the Father

With grace falling heavy from His hands, He has given me the opportunity to be near Him, to bless others, and most importantly to bless and please Him. We’re all unique. He knows this–it was His genius idea to create us that way. He knows what you need and He’ll meet your needs. Your only requirement is to diligently seek Him with all your might.

You may find Visual Prayer helps you with that. It might be music. Or writing. I don’t know what your thing is. But I do know it’s there.

Wait on the promise of the Father.

mich av

Michelle Pendergrass is a writer, editor, foodie, homeschooler, and most recently a mixed media artist at Visual Prayer. She met her husband in a traffic jam nearly a decade ago and they’re still newlyweds. She’s a denominational mutt saved by grace and blessed beyond measure.

You can find her at Michelle Pendergrass  and Visual Prayer.

Spiritual Disciplines ~ Prayer

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One of the things that can hinder us from a powerful and effective prayer life is not recognizing our desperate need and depravity.

The Island Cross

In a society that appears to have everything, how do we learn to pray in light of the suffering of others? Where is the urgency for real devotion in a place saturated with stuff that seems to meet all our needs?

When we have food that satisfies, not only our hunger but our appetites, what need do we have to pray for our daily bread? When clothing abounds, do we need to rely on God for what we will wear? No, typically we rely on our money and the stores which provide the clothing.

Many people would call us blessed, but I think it’s closer to spoiled. Because the blessings can blind us to the needy. It can ruin our vision and hinder us from looking outside ourselves.

Did you know that Jesus commanded us to care for the poor? It isn’t optional.

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18

 

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:35

Why am I writing about the poor in a post about prayer?

Because the poor are desperate for our prayers. And being devoted to God means being devoted to the things He cares about.

Prayer isn’t simply a laundry list of things we “need” from God. It’s a powerful way to communicate with God and hear from Him. It’s a sacrificial way to stand in the gap for someone else and ask God to care for them and make Himself known to them. Even those we don’t know or have never met.

We need to recognize our own depravity without Christ and cling to Him as if our life depended on it…because it does.

The first step to having a disciplined prayer life is to step outside yourself and see the needs of others. Not necessarily for new cars or homes, but new life in Christ. Even basic needs such as food and water.

Does God care about the tools in life that helps us live? Yes. Absolutely. But that’s not all He cares about. In fact, He warned us not to worry about those things. He said He would take care of them because He knows what we need. This frees us up from worry and allows us to focus our energies on something more productive.

What burdens do you carry? Prayer is the time to lay them down so God can handle them. Do not carry the weight on your shoulders when it’s not yours to carry.

Next week I will share some more specifics on a devoted prayer life.

Scripture references:

Matthew 6:11

Matthew 6:25

Philippians 2:4

Resources for further reading

Be Devoted to Prayer – Desiring God

Read the Spiritual Disciplines series here.

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Four Biblical Spiritual Disciplines

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Last week I shared about spiritual disciplines being a necessary tool for spiritual growth. This week I want to share some of what those disciplines are.

I see two categories of disciplines: those required in the Bible and those not necessarily addressed in the Bible.

Today I’m going to share those required.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked…

…but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. -Psalm 1:1-3

I find that any discipline that worships and glorifies God without breaking his Law is acceptable. But it must be to glorify God and further relationship with Him. Not for your own gain or your own accomplishments. In fact, the most sacred acts of worship are done in secret.

These acts are most penetrated and effective when we do them on a regular {everyday} basis. They must be formed into disciplines in our lives.

Discipline means practice and nurture; to cultivate and nourish. It feeds our spiritual lives when we discipline ourselves to go deeper with Him.

Here are some of the spiritual disciplines I have found in the Bible as the most practiced and none should be new to you:

Prayer

Even Jesus needed to get away to pray to the Father. He needed strength and guidance to carry out his reason for being sent. We are definitely not above Jesus in needing guidance and strength to carry out our calling. Scripture shows he did this often and for an hour or more at a time. How much more do we need to be in prayer on a regular basis? We need to set aside regular times everyday. Not once in a while when we need something–finances or health or a break through. It’s important to go to God for those things, absolutely. But they shouldn’t be the only times we go to God.

Matthew 14:23

Matthew 26:39

Mark 1:35

Hebrews 5:7

Scripture Memorization

Psalm 119:11 says

Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Memorizing scripture can only come from the discipline of practice. And what purpose is there in such an act? To be more than familiar with God’s word–but rather to know it so well that it becomes a part of us. Memorizing is but a beginning. Memorizing ought not to be for the sake of memorizing and relishing in our own accomplishment. It should have one purpose: to glorify God. Not because we’ve memorized, but because the memorization {should} ultimately lead us to a deeper walk with Him and knowing Him more.

Psalm 37:31

Psalm 40:8

Bible Reading and Bible Study

Disciplining ourselves to read the Bible daily is an absolute must. There are so many tools out there to help us with this, there is really no excuse. Let me share something from experience. Don’t trust other people to read and interpret the Bible for you – including your pastor.

You are responsible to feed yourself and understand the Word through the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, you are the one accountable to God for your life.  There are an array (endless) amount of people with vast opinions on what the Scriptures mean.

If we are ever to teach the Bible to anyone other then ourselves, {yes, including our children}, we had better be sure we know that what we teach is Truth, and not a rendition of what we want it to say.

We will be held accountable for that as well — and so will all the other teachers, writers, bloggers, and pastors out there. Be sensitive to the Spirit and His counsel on understanding God’s Word. Lean not on your own understanding (Prov. 3:5), or on the wisdom of men (2 Corinthians).

I’m not implying men cannot teach God’s word accurately — they can, but only with the Spirit’s revealing. It’s up to us to check and be sure what is being taught (or what we are reading) is Truth–whether it “sounds” right, or not.

Moving on.

Fasting

I don’t hear much about fasting these days, which may actually be a good thing because the Bible does say to do this in secret (Matthew 6:13) I’ll be honest, I haven’t fasted in quite a long time due to being pregnant and nursing consistently for the past 9+ years. But my husband has. There is something beautiful, humbling, and changing about denying yourself something and trusting God (really trusting Him) to sustain you.

The Bible addresses fasting to help answer prayer. But it’s not fasting alone, it’s faith. And it’s not faith as in “if you believe hard enough…”, it’s faith that you believe God is Who He says He is and He’s going to do what He said He’s going to do.” Bottom line–if it doesn’t line up with the Word, it’s not of God. God is the Word.

 

As I cautioned in my post last week

If these disciplines are done as merely habit, ritual, or tradition and lack heart and desire to further grow, they will be of no value to your walk with Christ.

These practices are meant to deny yourself and allow more of Christ to dwell in you. It helps the flesh die in so many ways. It kills wrong thinking, it allows us to give of our time, it gives us hope and helps us fight off the enemy. When Jesus was tempted in the desert, he used Scripture to fight Satan.

Do not underestimate the importance of having a disciplined spiritual life. It’s a foundation for you to walk out your every days.

Next week I will share other disciplines of creative gifts that God has given each of us. But these also don’t come without caution, and a big one.

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Spiritual Disciplines ~ Are They Necessary?

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I can’t pinpoint the source, but some time over the last year I remember reading somewhere that spiritual disciplines weren’t a necessary tool for Christians. And for a moment I was tempted to agree. In fact, I even allowed myself to become lazy in many of my spiritual disciplines, believing there might be some truth to what was being said. After all, why put all this effort into something if it wasn’t necessary?

But when I look over my own life now and see how undisciplined it is, I would have to strongly disagree with that statement. I am constantly frustrated with myself for not doing the things I want to do, and avoiding the things that simply waste my time. My spiritual walk does not grow by chance. It grows by choice. It’s determined by every choice I make. And then only by the grace of God will it flourish as I walk the path He laid out for me.

My choices either help me move forward, or cause me to step back. Having a relationship with God requires growth, and growth only comes from making specific decisions to feed and nurture the relationship. It’s a discipline, not an accident. When I notice my disconnect from God, it’s because I left the disciplined life for a life of chance. You know, kind of letting the cards fall where they will.

So, why is it necessary to live a life with spiritual disciplines?

4 Reasons

  1. To deny the flesh. If there is one battle that I fight everyday, without fail, it’s the battle of the flesh. And it’s worse when I don’t have a plan in place; when I don’t practice discipline. To read and memorize the Word helps me battle the flesh with the spirit of Truth. Regular Bible reading and memorization are absolutely necessary spiritual disciplines for a Christian. I don’t know how anyone can face each day without feasting on God’s Word and allowing it to penetrate their heart.
  2. To know God.  Regular practice of reading the Word, praying, worshiping with music, memorizing scriptures–how else are we to know God and grow in relationship with Him if we do not discipline ourselves to do so? Some disciplines will take much more effort and much more denial of self than others.
  3. To redeem the time. God gives us the gift of time. Putting spiritual disciplines into place helps ensure we are using our time wisely. We are all given the same amount of time. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste it on useless endeavors.
  4. To equip my life. I need Jesus. It’s as simple as that. Disciplining myself to know Him more and live for Him better is the best way I know of to equip myself in this life. He makes the promises and He’s the provider. He’s the Bread of Life and Living Water. Without daily partaking, I am left weak and without hope.

A caution.

If these disciplines are done as merely habit, ritual, or tradition and lack heart and desire to further grow, they will be of no value to your walk with Christ.

Furthermore, if you believe doing these things will make you right with God, you will be walking in legalism and believing a lie. There is only One who makes us “right” with God and it’s Jesus Christ.

However, the Bible talks specifically about working out your salvation with fear and trembling. In other words, don’t take the gift He’s given you lightly. We need to walk worthy of the calling we have received.

I want to challenge you as you think about the 2012 year and while you’re making goals.

What spiritual discipline would help you grow closer to God this year? To know Him in a fresh way?

Join me next week as I share some specific disciplines that can help us grow closer to God.
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