When circumstances are difficult my usual prayer is for rescue out of the problem! Whether for myself or for others, I often pray that God would lessen the burden or give help to escape the crisis. Sometimes the answer is “yes.”
But sometimes God allows the difficulty to continue. What then do I pray?
In the book of Acts, when the disciples were under threat from the authorities, they gathered to confer. What did their prayer sound like? What did they pray in very difficult circumstances? Luke tells us that together they prayed,
Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:29-30).
Now that is a prayer that God loves to answer, “Yes!” What are some other prayers that God loves to answer, “Yes”? Prayers and petitions that deepen our trust and relationship with God. For example:
When praying for strength, Paul shows us that our strength lies in our weakness. Christ said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power, is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:8) In response Paul stated, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10b) Christ enables his servants to receive His power in all circumstances.
The Lord’s Prayer also reminds me: we are not feeble souls who whimper “Thy will be done” with a sigh of futile resignation, but as saints confident of God working out his purposes, “Thy will be done!” I pray with greater confidence when I remember it is “our Father” we are praying to. We are praying through Christ, who Himself experienced hardship and perils, knows our weakness, and pours strength into us.
In praying for courage, we get far more than what we ask for – we get God. We get an infusion of en-courage-ment from the Lord of the universe. Immeasurable energy in contact with measurable need. “On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.” (Psalm 138:3).
“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I hope” (Psalm 130:5). Biblical hope is anchoring one’s soul in the gift of assurance that God is and that God overflows with love toward each of us. And God is “stretching out His hand” now, working out His purposes even in the midst of chaos or heartache. We are learning to stay alert to the God who works in unexpected ways. As P.T. Forsyth says,
In prayer we become more and more sure that He is sure, and knows all things, and hesitates or falters never, and commands all things to His end. All along Christ is being formed within us as we pray.
Peace – shalom
The Hebrew word shalom is much richer than an absence of anxiety or conflict. There is a sense of wellness, a mending or healing of something broken now knit together into wholeness. When you get peace, you get healing – spiritual, emotional, physical, relational. Prayer lifts us to be more sure of the Gift-giver than the gift, more alert to God’s grace than our need.
Strength, courage, hope, peace – prayers that Jesus loves to answer “Yes!” Through the name of your holy servant Jesus, Amen; it will be so!
Dr. Linda Borecki is part-time faculty at Concordia University, Portland, and music minister at Christ the Vine Lutheran Church, Damascus, Oregon. Among her favorite prayer mentors are Carla Waterman, Robert Warren, P.T. Forsyth, all the psalmists, and the bold, prayer-loving Martin Luther.
As women we often fall into the trap of viewing the world from the outside in. We see jobs we’re prohibited from, positions we are never seriously considered for, and levels of authority to which we don’t seem to be allowed to rise. We see men of lesser skills or aptitude or work ethic handed opportunities it’s clear we’re far more qualified for. We see, in other words, limitations. As a result, we feel discouraged—resentful, even—and sometimes that resentment leads us to double down in our determination to break the glass ceilings we still see at the highest levels of leadership in the world and in the church.
But what if we tried viewing the world from the inside out instead? Allowing the Holy Spirit to train us through the Word, prayer, discernment, and wise counsel to see our lives the way God has uniquely molded and made us to live them. Then the question is no longer, “can a woman break those glass ceilings” (of course she can), but rather, should you—you Rachel or Katie or Amanda or Heather—break that glass ceiling? Is this what God is calling you to do in your specific situation? Or are we merely trying to prove a point, or seek what feels very much to us like justice?
If it’s the latter we can’t help but fail, even if we manage to secure the coveted raise or promotion. “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) If it’s the former—if this is how Jesus is calling us to live out our vocations in the world—then no human obstacle (and there will be obstacles), or wiles of the enemy (and there will be plenty of those too), will be able to stop us.
St Paul tells us that we are “to lead the life that the Lord assigned, to which God has called you” (1 Cor. 7:17). Think about that. We are not just to live a life but to lead it. To stand clear-eyed at the helm following the lead of the Living God. Some years that may be in the workplace, others through raising our children or serving the church, or through some seemingly insignificant volunteer job or hobby or passion project that suddenly bursts forth into new fruit that could not come from anyone but us.
So when we think about 21st-century women in leadership, let’s look past the easy snares of gender and limitation, and set our eyes on the path of calling. When we lead the life that the Lord assigned, we only have one boss. And we can rest assured that He always has our best interest—and the world’s—at heart.