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November 30, 2020

Prayer that Steadies You on Unsteady Ground

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Two weeks ago, I shared a new tool I created called How to Turn Loss Into Gain. If you haven’t already seen it, click HERE to download.

I would encourage you over the next several weeks as the year draws to a close that you take some time to pause in a few moments of quiet and use this tool to help you process all of your losses that have accumulated throughout the year.

Because let’s face it: we have all endured loss this year. Lots of it. But hoping and praying for a new year to start and all of our loss to be erased isn’t realistic or even possible.

Loss doesn’t go away when we bury it, ignore it, or wish it away.

Loss is transformed as we honestly process it before the presence of a good God and a faithful Father.

And as we think, pray, and process through all of the loss, one thing remains clear. If 2020 has taught us one thing, it has taught us this: God alone is our stable, secure, all-satisfying treasure.

Period. That’s it.

The economy, money, and job security? Nope.

The reliability of our rhythms, routines, and schedules? Not a chance.

Our school systems and educational opportunities? Not that either.

Our kids’ after-school activities? Hah.

Face-to-face encounters with family members, friends, and people we hold dear? No way.

Oh, wait, our ability to meet on Sundays and gather together for worship? Not that either.

It’s crazy. In one single year, through one single pandemic, every single source of stability and security went up in flames and left many of us floundering in the process.

But through it all, God has remained stable. Every morning when I’ve woken up, He’s still been there. Every time I’ve opened His Word, poured over His promises, prayed and asked for His Presence, He’s come. Without a mask, without conditions, without social distancing, God has been there through it all.

God hasn’t secured all of my circumstances; in fact, some of them still remain pretty shaky. But God Himself has remained secure even when my circumstances have not.

And isn’t that the real treasure? Isn’t that the goodness and the gift we have all been hungering and aching for?

Deep down, buried underneath our desire for stable circumstances is our desire for a stable God who uses all of our circumstances for our good and His glory.

You can’t beat that kind of a deal.

But here’s where I get stuck.

I still want my treasure and my security to be the thing I’m holding onto so tightly rather than God.

I try to demand security and success from things that just aren’t stable. Things like people and friendships and job security and bank statements and my hormonal teenage daughters’ attitudes and outlooks on life. Things like school schedules and school days and after-school-sports and activities. Things like church services and ministry opportunities and gatherings for worship and prayer.

While many of the things on my list are good things, they aren’t things that are fault-proof and immune from instability.

There is a deep crack that runs through everything, whether we can see it or not. Sometimes it takes an earthquake to realize the fault line is there buried beneath the surface as the structures you always thought were stable come tumbling down around you. But it wasn’t that the structures were ever really that stable; the fault line was always there. We just couldn’t see it.

The only stable one is God.

That’s because He is the only thing and the only one in this world without the fault. Without the crack. He alone stands apart from the curse and the crevice of sin that shook the foundation of this world in Genesis 3 when everything fell apart.

That’s why in Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to Me.” Come to Me. Because coming or going to anything else is like building your house on the San Andreas Fault and just crossing your fingers and hoping like crazy when an earthquake comes, your house will be the only thing left standing.

Spoiler alert: it won’t.

2020 has shown us that.

But 2020 has also shown us a God who, in His severe mercy, sometimes allows the earthquakes to come. He allows us to tremble, crack, and even fall so that we will move the foundation of our hearts from a fault line to Him, our only stable, secure source.

A process that has sustained me through this year is a way of praying I started when we brought our youngest daughter home from China. During those first few years we had her home, every morning, I woke up a wreck. And every morning, I would sit down with my cup of coffee, my journal, and my Bible, and start writing and praying my way through the Psalms. During that season, I was forced to deal with places in my heart where I had built on a fault line instead of the steady, secure presence of the Lord.

Over the course of several years, God moved from me from insecure to secure. From unstable to stable. Not because I changed. But because where I went to for my security changed.

I stopped going to my people, my parents, my friends, my kids, and spouse, and most significantly, I stopped going to myself, and I started going to God.

Because I couldn’t hold it together anymore, I started going to the One who held me. And once I did, He started building my broken heart back together.

If you are in the same position today, I am holding out hope for you. This is not hope or healing that comes quickly, easily, or magically. It comes slowly, quietly, purposefully, and deliberately as you commit to praying and processing your life before the face of God.

There are six steps in processing and prayer I used and still use to this day:

  • Get Real.
  • Repent.
  • Root It Out.
  • Replace.
  • Release.
  • Receive.

Get Real – I set my timer for five minutes, and I get real before the face of God. During those five minutes (and sometimes it stretches to ten), I word vomit everything that I have been holding in from the day before. I admit who I really am, what I really feel like, who has hurt me, and how I have hurt others. Sometimes my pen doesn’t even lift off of the page. My sentences are strung together word after word and line after line and the only one who can really understand or know my thoughts is God alone.

Repent – Once I’ve gotten everything off of my chest, I repent. I name my sin as sin and I call the evil in my life for what it is. I cry out to God and ask Him to deliver me and heal me from the separation and hurt my sin has caused in myself and others. If someone has sinned against me, I use this time to name that sin as well but then to forgive and leave the person and the offense in the hands of God, hands much more capable than mine.

Root It Out – This step is the game changer for me: I then take a few moments to process and think through what led me to my sinful or stressful behavior in the first place. Behind every sinful, fearful, angry, disdainful, lustful, hurtful thought, action, or attitude is a lie I have been believing about who God is or what He can do. Because of this, I have to root out the lies I have been believing about the character of God and people or things I have looked to secure my footing instead of God Himself. Many times, my sin is a recurring pattern in my life, not just a one time offense. So stopping to think through, Why did I say what I did? or Why am I so envious? or Why was I so quick to take offense? or Why can I not forgive? or Why did I react with so much anger? is huge. This is what moves me from staying stuck to freedom on the other side.

Replace – Next, I replace the lie I have believed with the truth. I diligently and actively search God’s Word and take the truth and the promises that He shows me and begin to apply them to the beliefs in my heart and head. I think through the implications for His goodness and character in my life, and I stop agreeing with the voice of the enemy who condemns and accuses me. I start to actively agree with the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ who speaks to me through His Spirit and His Word, who forgives me and pardons me, who loves me and covers me, and who restores and directs me down path of right relationship with Him and with others for His Name’s sake.

Release – Then I release my day into God’s capable hands. Sometimes this looks like sitting quietly for five minutes and thinking through a verse in Scripture word by word or line by line. While I pray and think through the words, I release worry, fear, or shame, and receive God’s forgiveness, mercy, and steadfast love. Sometimes this looks like getting down on my knees or sitting with my hands, palms facing down, to release or surrender specific people and events in my day to the Lord. If certain emotions of fear or stress pop back up during my day, I can go back to those few minutes in the morning and remember, “Stop. I don’t have to worry, I don’t have to stress, and I don’t have to fear. I have already released this into God’s capable hands and He’s got this. To try to pick it back up again is trying to carry something He alone can carry.”

Receive – Finally, I receive. I receive the reminder that the Spirit of God is with me for every step of the journey ahead. Sometimes I do a slow breathing exercise for 1-3 minutes of breathing in for four seconds and then exhaling slowly for eight seconds. While breathing, I focus on a particular word or verse God has used to speak to me during my time in prayer and His Word. Sometimes this looks like turning my palms up to receive the reminder that the Holy Spirit is with me, and I am not alone. The life I live is lived by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20). I am not able to believe or live out His promises in my own strength. I am not able to build the foundation of my life on Him alone without the help of His Spirit. I do all those things through Another who lives in me. And I must continually remind myself of this and position my heart and body in such a way that receives the life and help He has to give.

Does this process take time in my day? Yes.

Does this process take time before I see consistent change in my own life? Yes.

But let me tell you something: it works.

It works not because I gradually become a better person but because the foundation of my heart is moved to rest upon the only stable, secure source that exists. I grow more stable, more secure, more confident, and more at peace because my heart is rooted in an unshakeable God.

Be on the lookout in the next two weeks for a new downloadable PDF to help you with this process. You can subscribe by clicking HERE to have this tool delivered straight to your inbox, or you can check back on my website under Free Tools in two weeks.

But for now, set a timer for five minutes each day, and give yourself permission to get real about your day, about your year, about your losses.

Start to immerse yourself in Scripture (the Psalms are a great place to start) and root out the lies you have been believing about who God is and what He can do.

Start by repenting of your sin and unstable ways as God shows them to you.

Start replacing the lies with the truth of God’s goodness, power, and desire to work on your behalf.

And finally, start to receive. Receive the power of the Holy Spirit in your life (John 20:22) to help you live out your identify as a fully loved, stable and secure child of God.

2020 is almost in the past, but God’s goodness, love, and power to redeem is what’s waiting in the future.

For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram, @baker.susannah.