Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. - James 1:17
In an effort to pray more consistently for my church family, I developed a system that helps me remember to pray for every person at Grace Pres. at least once each month. I have a list of Grace members (and others for whom I want to pray regularly) next to my computer, and I have a sticky note "pointer" that I move down the list each day. In the morning, I look at the list to get my new assignment for the day and make a mental note: Pray for Frank and Wendy today! I check the list again in the evening, to remind myself for whom I am to pray in those sleepless wee morning hours that come with being 50-something.
Of course, I pray for some folks more frequently than once a month. Perhaps a medical condition or a family issue or situation at their work comes often to mind, prompting me to pause and pray for them. But the point of my little system is that I want to pray regularly for these precious people, every one of them, and I want to keep praying for them.
I am not a prayer warrior. I have a long history of being irregular, undisciplined, and unintentional in my prayer life. In short, I have a long history of not actually praying very much at all. That's why I am so thankful for the list on my kitchen wall: it has radically altered my prayer life.
Last night/dark-thirty this morning, I woke up and thought, "I need to pray for Will and Alex." It had been a month since I last prayed for this young couple. They do not regularly attend Grace, but they are still family. They have unique life circumstances that I can only imagine make the day-to-day challenging. I should be praying for this young couple more than once a month.
As I lay thinking about and praying for Will and Alex, I was a little sad that it had been an entire month since I last prayed for them. "Father," I prayed, "please bring these two to mind more often throughout the month. Remind me to pray for them more frequently!"
Which got me to thinking...
I was a pretty prayerless Christian for many, many years. I eventually felt convicted about my prayerlessness, but how was I to change? Based on my experiences in so many other areas of my life, I was confident that no real positive, lasting change would occur in my prayer life unless God himself made the change. So, I asked God to please help me to pray. To pray more often. To pray more thoughtfully. To pray more consistently. To pray more in line with his will.
I am still not a prayer warrior, but my prayer life has definitely changed. Disciplined prayer is no longer a burden, but a delight. God is so good and so faithful!
So, back to Will and Alex...
As I prayed for this young couple and also prayed for God to bring them more often to mind throughout the month, it occurred to me: Prayer itself is a gift from God. I don't mean the ability to pray, or the opportunity to pray, or the desire to pray (although those things are also gifts from God), but actually praying. From my perspective, it seems like I initiate prayer - like I begin the conversation, take the first step toward God. But last night, it struck me that I would not even be praying at all if God in his goodness had not awakened me and reminded me and given me the desire and drawn me into his presence in the first place. The same is true during the day, whether I am sitting at the kitchen counter with my prayer list and my Bible or driving down the highway.
Every single time I pray, it is like I am unwrapping yet another gift from God.
I lay in bed thinking what good gifts God gives his children, gifts like prayer - It's perfect! Just what I wanted! Thank you so much! - and, given that this is the season of gift-giving, I began thinking of other good gifts He has given me.
Scripture. Not only has He given me his written Word, but He himself gives me the desire to read it. (On my own, I did not read the Bible regularly. But, just as with prayer, when I asked God to please give me a desire for his Word, He did just exactly that.)
My family - Steve, my awesome kids, my sons- and daughter-in-law, my grandkids, my parents,...
My church family.
My friends, especially those who are also brothers and sisters in Christ.
Health, vigor, and productivity.
After a day out shopping with The Chicken yesterday, I must add to the list of God's good gifts: sunshine, laughter, food, and Scotty McCreery on the radio,
So many, many good gifts!
But this morning, I got to thinking about gifts that God has given me that I wouldn't initially label as "good"...
As I considered several of these not-so-good "gifts," I had to repent of my wrong thinking. Broken relationships forced me to rely on God as my true Father and Christ as my dearest and most faithful Friend. Financial stress has been an impetus to new endeavors. Pain gives me empathy with so many others who are hurting and keeps me ever mindful of and eager for Glory.
Again, I am overwhelmed by the realization: God gives his children such good gifts, only good gifts.
And God's gifts, they are every one perfect.