Prayer Helps


11.03.2017

Praying for Your Child’s Gifts

When Annesley was three years old, she loved puzzles. But rather than fitting the edge pieces together or tackling certain sections of the picture, she would methodically work from left to right, trying each of the two or three hundred tiny pieces in sequence like some sort of towheaded computer.

Later, when she learned to write, Annesley became a list maker. At night, she would pick out clothes to wear to school the next day, and then make a list of the clothes and how they were to be worn (“Pull socks up to knees”), just in case she forgot. When she babysat for her younger siblings, we always came home to a written report (“Virginia fell on my homework and pulled my pants down”). And one New Year’s Eve I found Annesley working away on her top ten resolutions, recorded in capital letters for added significance:

EXERCISE EVERY SATURDAY.

GO TO BED AT 8:30.

TALK TO GOD EVERY MORNING. (A noble goal, to be sure, but clearly less important than Annesley’s desire to HAVE A GOOD BIRTHDAY).

In addition to making lists, Annesley liked to clean out her drawers, label sections of her closet according to season, and keep track of things like assignments, appointments, and family vacations on the calendar she got from the dentist. None of my other kids were so compulsive, and I didn’t know any other seven-year-olds who begged to make chore charts for the family. To be honest, I didn’t really know how to take Annesley. I thought she was quirky. In a good sort of way.

It was not until years later – as I watched my girl make hard jobs look easy, pay attention to small details, and visualize goals and the steps needed to get there – that I realized she was not quirky. Annesley has a God-given gift of organization.

My friend Susan Alexander Yates, who wrote a book called Character Matters: Raising Kids with Values that Last, advises parents to pay attention to the gifts that God gives their children, and clue them in on the fact that God has given them these talents or abilities for a purpose. “A sense of destiny,” Susan says, “will encourage our children. Learning to recognize their gifts will enable them to discern more quickly the ways in which God might use them.”

By the same token, learning to recognize our gifts can help us (or our children) avoid misusing them. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” That’s true. But perfect gifts in the hands of imperfect people can sometimes be tricky.

Organizers, for instance, may be really good delegators, but they can also be bossy. They can become easily frustrated when others are slow to grasp their vision. And they can put projects ahead of people, neglecting the Colossians 3:14 command to cover all of our virtues with love.

How do I know these things? Because I am an organizer. And as Annesley grew, I prayed that in sharing my gifts, she would be spared my tendencies to misuse them.

Today, Annesley works at an architecture firm, designing buildings and managing construction projects for big universities where inches and dollars both matter. (She actually likes to keep track of that stuff.) And God continues to use her organizational abilities and her Be Prepared personality to bless our family; she’s the one we can always count on to have Advil, a notepad, and money.

(And Annes, if you are reading this, thank you.)

But here’s the thing. Maybe your child’s not an organizer. Maybe she is an accomplished musician, or a technological whiz. Maybe his heart beats with compassion, and you already see him caring for people who hurt. Maybe your child is a leader. Or maybe he or she delights in encouraging others who lead.

If you want to discover (and celebrate) the way that God created your children, I’ve got some good news.

First, this post was excerpted from Praying the Scriptures for Your Children, which Amazon is offering right now in the Kindle version for just $2.99. Click here to get a copy (or, if you already have the book, consider passing this news along to a friend).

And, even better, the fact that God gives our kids gifts – and that he equips them to use them – is actually an invitation to pray. There are so many good verses that speak to this topic (check out Exodus 31:1-5Romans 12:6-8, or Proverbs 22:29 for just some of the gifts God provides), but here’s an all-purpose prayer we can use. Because it doesn’t matter how old our kids are, how organized (or not) they might be, or even how totally committed they are to getting exercise EVERY SATURDAY: God loves them just the way they are, and he has a wonderful plan for their lives!

Heavenly Father,

Equip ______ to use whatever gift they have received to serve others, faithfully administering your grace in all its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10)

Amen


Prayer Helps


08.18.2017

I love Charlottesville. A lot.

I love Charlottesville. A lot.

And, like a jillion other people in our country, my heart hurts over the images of violence and hatred we saw descending upon that city last weekend.

And, like probably every other U.Va. alum and parent, I have received dozens of emails and text messages from school administrators, fellow alumni, and friends – some of whom have no personal connection to the school, but all of whom want to uncover and share a deeper message of reconciliation, understanding, and love.

On the wider message board of national media, there seems to be a fixation with pointing fingers and assigning blame. While I’m all for confronting (and learning from) our mistakes, I would rather focus on that which is good, noble, and lovely – like the marchers in Wednesday night’s vigil, where songs like “Amazing Grace” and chants of “Love wins!” served to scatter the darkness – than on setting our hearts and minds on what’s wrong. As John MacArthur put it in his book, Reckless Faith, “Federal agents don’t learn to spot counterfeit money by studying counterfeits. They study genuine bills until they master the look of the real thing.”

The “real thing” in Charlottesville – and in any place where we want love to win – is Jesus. I won’t pretend to have all the answers (or even a couple of them) to society’s ills, but I am pretty sure that he does.

“Love one another,” he says. “As I have loved you [as in, being willing to give up his position and even his life], so you must love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

“Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:9-10)

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

I could go on, but you get the idea. Whether we are working for love and reconciliation on a national scale, or trying to find a way forward in the face of hurts on a more intimate stage (like in a marriage, or a friendship), these are the sorts of wisdom nuggets that make for lasting and positive change. These are the marks of the real thing.

Our son Robbie starts classes at U.Va. on Tuesday, along with more than 16,000 other undergraduate students. Am I worried about his safety, or about the perspectives he might encounter?

No. Not at all. The University of Virginia represents one of the warmest, most welcoming and inclusive, places I know.

I am, however, praying.

I am praying that Robbie will be devoted to his classmates and teachers, honoring their lives and their needs above his. I am praying for things like wisdom, joy, protection, and peace (to download four of those specific prayers, click here). And I am praying for him – and for myself – in agreement with one of the most beautiful emails I received this week, a forward from my U.Va. classmate, Alexis.

Alexis shared a prayer written by pastor and author, Scotty Smith. To read the whole prayer (in which Smith looks forward to the day when “honoring one another above ourselves will be our delight, not our discipline”), click here. It’s a raw and honest petition, and well worth the read…but if you only have a minute or two, here’s how Smith sums up his plea. Let’s pray this one together:

Jesus, bring the power of the gospel to bear in extraordinary ways in our relationships, churches, and communities. Grant us greater grief and repentance over the ways we love poorly. Stun us, humble us, and gladden us… again and again and again… with glory and grace. There is no other way we’ll change. So very Amen, we pray, with conviction and hope, in your grace-full name.

#Charl♥ttesville

 


Prayer Helps


08.11.2017

Your Kids are Never Out of God’s Reach

It’s August.

Which, by force of habit as much as anything else, has me thinking about back-to-school prayers for my kids.

Which would be a little bit odd (my children are grown-ups), except for one thing: It doesn’t matter whether our kids are headed off to kindergarten, college, or to a new job on the other side of the country, they are never out of God’s reach. And to me, the back-to-school season represents as good a time as any to ask God to hold them!

Here are four of the prayers I am praying:

Make Robbie glad by your deeds; may he sing for joy at the works of your hands. (Psalm 92:4)

Keep Virginia from all harm; watch over her coming and going, now and forever. (Psalm 121:7-8)

May Hillary and Charlie grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and others [co-workers, bosses, friends, and even each other]. (Luke 2:52)

Keep Annesley and Geoff in perfect peace. Give them a steadfast mind [one that stays focused on you, instead of on “what ifs” or worries] and the ability to trust you. (Isaiah 26:3)

If you want to borrow these prayers and personalize them for your own family, click here to download a letter-sized PDF:

If your children are little, consider writing their names in the blanks and tucking one of the cards into a lunchbox or book bag. If they are far-away grown-ups, you might slip a prayer card into a letter (maybe with a Starbucks gift card, right Virginia?). And if you’ve got teenagers, just stick the prayer on your fridge or your dashboard. Your kids might roll their eyes but trust me:  Deep down, they’ll be glad you are praying.

Or maybe don’t share the prayer cards with anyone. Instead, just do like I do, and keep ’em for yourself. I have mine in my prayer journal. Because even though I might THINK it’s my kids who need God, the truth is that I do, too. I need the reminder (as my crew heads off to new people, new places, new things) that, even though I can’t protect them or give them things like wisdom, peace, and joy, God can.

And in fact, that’s exactly what his heart longs to do.


Prayer Helps


08.04.2017

When You Walk through Life’s Darkest Valley

Blog update: Many thanks for reading these posts, and for all the times you’ve reached out to share your own insights and stories with me.

Starting next week, I’ll only be posting on Fridays. I am experimenting with videos and what I hope will be some fun and encouraging posts on other platforms (like I even know what that means). You can find me on Instagram @jodie_berndt and (Lord willing, at some point in August) on Facebook @JodieBerndtWrites.

I am so grateful for you…and for your partnership in parenting, prayer, and celebrating all the ups and downs of this wonderful, abundant life that we share!

Yesterday, I recapped one of the highlights from a sermon on Psalm 23. Today, I want to turn part of that message into a prayer. God is our shepherd, sure, and he does lead and guide us…but sometimes the paths he ordains can look scary or hard. Even painful.

And yet we can walk in confidence and freedom, even in the darkest valley. God is with us. We have no reason to fear.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for being my shepherd, for leading and guiding me, and for refreshing my soul. As I walk through _________ (whatever situation you’re facing today), may I feel your comforting presence and know that I have nothing to fear.

Amen.


Prayer Helps


07.21.2017

“If You Remain in Me…”

Based on the feedback I got from Tuesday’s post, plenty of you are dealing with transition. Impending empty nests, new jobs, kids headed to college (or kindergarten!), and family moves to far-away places that don’t feel like “home” can create a sense of sadness, uncertainty, and even fear.

Which is where the Bible comes in.

“If you remain in me,” Jesus says, “and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.” That’s his promise in John 15:7. And it’s not some sort of gimmick or “name it-claim it” trick; rather, what the Lord is saying is that the more we read the Bible – the more we allow his Word to soak into our lives and transform our perspective – the more our thoughts and our prayers will begin to line up with the good things that God already wants to do.

And the more those good things will start happening.

This is something I explore more in my new book Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children (which comes out in December). Like almost all of life’s changes, the transition to adulthood is rarely easy, and in the coming months I’ll be posting more blogs and videos about how we can pray God’s best for our grown-up kids (and for the little ones, too)…but for now, let’s take hold of this beautiful promise and make it our Friday Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Help me remain in you, and let your words remain in me. Create in me a hunger to read the Bible and a willingness to trust your promises. May my prayers line up with your good plans; use your word to accomplish your purposes in my family’s life. (John 15:7 and Isaiah 55:11)

Amen


Prayer Helps


07.14.2017

When God Says “Good Morning!”

Robbie and I spent the past week at a lake in Canada. I’ll tell you more next week (including why our northern escape from the mid-summer heat was not, actually, pure joy), but for now I will just share this one pic:

(That, in case you can’t tell, is a Canadian sunrise.)

I had to share the photo with our children. First, though, I did some editing:

I thought I was so clever! And that my kids would wake up and be so encouraged and happy!

Two hours later, I got this reply:

Okay. So am I the only one who thought the sunrise looked like an upside down exclamation mark? I mean, did you not notice that?

Sigh. All my best stuff is wasted on my kids. Maybe I should have just texted them a Bible verse. There are plenty of good ones that have to do with the morning. Consider, for instance, Proverbs 27:14: If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse. 

(As in, say hello if you must…but not before coffee. And not, if you please, with too much enthusiasm.)

Or Genesis 29:25, which details Jacob’s surprise after being tricked into sleeping with the wrong sister:  When morning came, there was Leah! 

(As in…oops.)

Honestly, though, if I were to pick just one Bible verse to wake up to, I think it would have to be Lamentations 3:22-23:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Is that not just the best? What these words mean is that yesterday’s mistakes are over. God’s love has them covered. And he’s got a fresh helping of grace for today.

I love that. And I think it’s got the makings of a great Friday prayer, either for yourself or for someone else who needs to know this good news:

Heavenly Father,

Your love never ends.

Your mercies never cease.

Your faithfulness is great.

Help _____ remember these powerful truths. May _____ know that your mercies are new every morning. Thank you for giving us a brand new start in your love, every day.

Amen. 

 

 

 

 

 


Prayer Helps


07.07.2017

Rest for the Overly Festive

It’s been a big week.

If you’re like me and you tend to over-do it on the whole Celebrate Freedom thing, you might be feeling a little worn out or weary. Happily for people like us, Jesus knows just what we need.

“Come to me,” he says, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

That’s his promise in Matthew 11:28, and it’s the basis for this week’s Friday Prayer. I hope you’ll join me in praying it for yourself or your loved ones today – and that you’ll give yourself the freedom to sit for a spell!

Heavenly Father,

You don’t want us to live weary, weak, or worn out lives. Thank you that we can come to you and find the rest and refreshment we need. Help ____ to find rest in your presence today. (Matthew 11:28)

Amen.

And P.S., if your weariness isn’t from over-celebrating but from over-working, you might love this post from the folks at Proverbs 31. We really can do “busy” better!


Prayer Helps


06.30.2017

Friday Prayer with Pleonasm

Okay y’all. I promise this is the last one. No more of Mark Forsyth‘s literary tricks, after today. But when I saw pleonasm used in one of the Psalms of Ascent, I just had to give it to you in the form of a Friday Prayer.

Pleonasm, Forsyth explains, is “the use of unneeded words that are superfluous and unnecessary in a sentence that doesn’t require them.” Familiar phrases such as added bonus, personal friend, and safe haven are all examples of this belt-and-suspenders technique. They are linguistic time wasters. Why would anyone bother to fall down when a simple fall would have the same effect?

Anyhow.

Psalm 121 opens with a couple of back-to-back (see what I did there?) pleonasms:  I lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. Not only do we not need the word “up,” Forsyth says, but since “whence” literally means from where, throwing in the extra “from” is enough to make some people fly into a furious rage. (Because I guess a regular rage, minus the pleonasm, just doesn’t sound angry enough.)

I’ll give you the whence (and so will most modern Bible translators, who have swapped it for where), but I actually think we need the word up. Pleonasm is not always a bad thing and, when it serves to emphasize a point (“I saw it with my own two eyes!”), I think it works. And in this case, I love the fact that the psalmist doesn’t just want to level our downcast gaze, he wants to make sure we look up.

In the end, though, none of that really matters. What matters is that God stands ready to guard, protect, keep, and watch over us. If you want to read the whole psalm, click here. But if all you have time for today is an abbreviated version in the form of a prayer (and you don’t mind little pleonasm thrown in), here you go:

Heavenly Father,

Lift up my eyes today. Let me see you as the source of my help…watch over my coming and going, both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121)

Amen

 


Prayer Helps


06.23.2017

A Friday Prayer to Smile About

My friend Nigel (a former Royal Marine Commando who now heads up By His Wounds, a ministry dedicated to helping veterans and others who need physical and emotional healing) says that he wakes up every morning and smiles. Even if he doesn’t feel all that cheerful or happy, he wills his face into a grin – even before he gets out of bed.

I love that. And not just because it reminds me of Buddy the Elf (“Smiling’s my favorite!”). I like Nigel’s habit because it reminds me of one of the Bible’s most encouraging verses. Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Some Bible brainiacs will tell you that “the day” this verse talks about is the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding on a donkey. Others say it is about the Sabbath. And still others (including those in the first two camps) maintain that, in the big picture, this verse calls us to rejoice because – thanks to God’s work at the resurrection – we have a Redeemer and a forever King who has beaten death and forgiven us, once and for all.

I agree with all of these people. And, at the risk of sounding theologically shallow, I also agree with Buddy the Elf. In a world where there are plenty of things not to smile about, I want to start my days the way Nigel does. I want to choose joy, knowing that today’s difficult circumstances and challenging relationships are not the big-picture story.

The big-picture story is that we have a good King who has saved us, who loves us, and who is still active and at work in our lives.

(Which is totally worth thinking about, even before we get out of bed.)

Heavenly Father,

This is the day that you have made. No matter what hardships or struggles I may face, help me rejoice and be glad because of what you have already done. (Psalm 118:24)

Amen.

 


Prayer Helps


06.16.2017

A Prayer for The Dad

A sweet friend lost her father last week. He was 94 and had lived a great life, but that didn’t diminish the ache she felt at his passing. I told her I get it. It’s been 16 years and, as we prepare to celebrate Father’s Day, I miss my dad as much now as ever.

My dad “graduated” (as we like to say, in our family) in 2001. Click here if you want to read about him, or meet the guy who introduced me to Jesus. He had the most twinkly blue eyes, and when my college friends came to visit, he would smile and ask awkward questions like, “How’s your love life?” (My pals never seemed to mind; in fact, they usually laughed – and then confided in him.)

I’m grateful for my father – and, in fact, for every dad out there who is doing Dad Stuff. It can’t be easy to always have to carry the heaviest suitcases, get the wasps out of the attic, and keep it together when your wife makes you late. Again.

(I love you, Robbie.)

And so Dads, whatever it is that you’re doing – teaching a child to ride a bike, drive a car, or trust Jesus – can I just say thank you? Half the stuff you do may go unnoticed or unappreciated, but God sees. He knows how hard you work, and how much you love your family. And my prayer for you, this Father’s Day, is that he will strengthen you and give you everything you need to keep on being The Dad:

May the God of peace…equip you with everything good for doing his will, working in you what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Note on the family pic, circa 1985: My family of origin was never known for its athleticism. This pic was snapped shortly after Robbie (my brand new husband, who is hiding his face for good reason) tackled my dad. He still says he “didn’t mean to hit him that hard” but hey. He prevented a touchdown.




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