Nehemiah Prayer Time

Nehemiah 8_8

Nehemiah. He’s one of my favorite characters in the Bible. To be honest, I have a lot of favorites, but really, he’s up there as one of my top 20, or 10 or maybe even 5. . .

To coin a phrase from the Fabulous Bentley Brothers, “He built the wall, y’all!” But he did so much more. He prayed, he wept, he humbled himself, he led, he worked, he encouraged, he persevered and he saw God do incredible, miraculous things in and through the people.

Nehemiah 8 is one of my favorite chapters in his book. In a few weeks, I’ll be heading  to the Northwest to speak at a camp, and  I found myself digging trough the pages  of “his-story” for inspiration and prayer.

We find Ezra, the scribe, bringing out the Book of the Law and reading it to the people. He read it from daybreak until noon, and all the people listened attentively as he read. (Yeah, from daybreak til noon! Sometimes we hope for a good 15 minutes of attention!) While he read, the people all stood. They praised the Lord and lifted their hands and responded with Amen! Amen! Then they bowed and worshiped the Lord.

Verse 8 is one of my favorite favorites, “They read from the book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.”

Now there’s something to pray for. As we teach, may our words be clear and give meaning so those we teach can understand.

Here is a list of things we are currently praying from Nehemiah 8 for our camp and our campers:

v. 3 May our campers (and sponsors) listen attentively.
v. 6 May our campers (and sponsors) bow their hearts and worship the Lord.
v. 8 May we make the Word clear and give it meaning so that our campers can understand what is being taught.
v. 10 May we all know the joy of the Lord as our strength.
v. 12 May we celebrate with great joy because we now understand the Words made known to us.
v. 15 May we proclaim the word and spread it throughout our towns.

Nehemiah didn’t just build a wall, y’all. As we read, remember  and pray “his-story,” his life, and ours, is building believers! Let us pray. Amen! Amen!

H.O.W. I’m Praying Now

holding-hands-752878_960_720

I’ll admit it. I like a good acronym.

Recently, while praying, God put three little letters together to help me remember to pray specifically for three not-so-little qualities that are changing my heart.

H.O.W. does it work? It’s simple. (I like simple and am really just a simple girl at heart!)

Every day I take time to pray for:

H Humility

O Obedience

W Wonder

In praying for these three things each day, God is opening my heart to areas of pride that need to be removed, and my eyes to areas where I can put humility into practice.

He is showing me what a deeper level of obedience means and reminding me again that the little things are really the big things.

God is revealing to me His wonder. The sometime inconsequential things that are really meant to be appreciated and treasured. In my race to get to the next thing on my to-do list, I have been missing out on the wonder of God around me.

Simple.

Powerful.

Life-changing.

Thank you, Jesus.

“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.” ~ Corrie ten Boom

 

The Power of Praying Hands

FullSizeRender-3

You know when you read those blog posts that have these amazingly great ideas. Then you find out that they are way out of your budget or could in no way be done in your facility.

Well, this is not one of those blog posts!

This is just one of those little things. You don’t really need any money. It should work in just about any venue.

All you need is some paper, some tape, a hand print, and some people to pray. Curious?? Read on.

Our leaders met this week to kick off HiSKidZ Wednesday night program, KidZRocK.

Each year we resolve to make prayer a bigger commitment, especially before we meet each night of our mid-week program. Then, life happens. The kids are sick, you have to work over at our job, you lock your keys in your car (Maddie!), and next thing you know that big group prayer time just isn’t happening because of last-minute craziness. Although each of us knows and believes that prayer is the, group prayer has not been attainable for our group.

This year as I was praying about that, this simple idea came to my mind. It’s so simple!! Really! It comes with a little poem that is, perhaps, a bit cheesy. However, I believe it originated from the Spirit and trust that He must like a little cheesy now and then–especially if it moves us to pray.

And it has.

On each door where our small groups and stations meet, I attached a laminated sign with a large hand print and the following poem:

On this place a hand was laid, where someone took a moment and prayed For power and grace from up above, teaching and truth that’s filled with love. To help change a life, here’s what you can do: place your hand on the hand and say a prayer, too.

As we finished our meeting up, each small group team went to their room and placed their hands on those hands and they prayed for power, for grace, for holiness, for salvation, and for a whole lot more other things that I didn’t get to hear. But we prayed. We prayed not just for our own spaces, but we went from door to door to door until each leader had prayed for every spot of our program.

Then we left the posters up–determined to stop for just a moment each night as we enter those rooms and pray. We are trusting that through the week, God will send people through our hallway who will also see those hands, and stop for a moment and pray.

It was the smallest thing, but it has sparked a flame in our group.

Maybe today you are looking for a spark, something small, but powerful, and maybe this is it. Our team thought it was worth sharing.

From our team to yours, may God move in powerful ways through your praying hands.

Joshua Prayers–Teaching Kids to Pray Through Discouraging Times

The

This week, HiSKidZ at our church will be learning from the story of God’s encouragement to Joshua that “God speaks to comfort us and encourage us.” Thank you Brian Dollar and the folks at High Voltage Kids!

In order to give our “bigs” a concrete tool to help them as they learn to pray and seek God for themselves and their friends when they are discouraged, lonely or scared, we came up with the “Joshua prayers,” a simple acrostic method for praying specifically in hard times.

SO this week HiSKidZ will be learning to pray for:

J—Joy to return in our hearts
O—Open hearts to hear God’s voice
S—Safety and Protection from the devil’s tricks
H—Humble Hearts to trust God in hard times
U—Understanding that God is faithful in trials
A—Answer God’s encouragement with obedience

Each child will be given two cards like the one in the graphic above. One is for them to take home and use to pray for themselves or their friends, and the other is to share with someone who needs to know that God is there to comfort and encourage them, too.

I’ve always loved the stories of Joshua and the thought that the guy who grew up with Moses, and scouted out the promised land and saw God ruling over all when others saw giants big and tall (10 were bad and 2 were Joshua and Caleb!), still needed God’s encouragement for the tasks that would lie ahead. Even more, I love how, of course, God knew it, too, and was there every step of the way–which is a great comfort and encouragement to me!

Praying with Mike and Ike

mike and ikes 2

I love it when kids pray!! And I love “Mike and Ike” candies. So when the two spontaneously come together it just becomes one of the BEST DAYS EVER!!!!

This year I’ve made it one of my prayers to help HiSKidZ grow in their walk and talk with God. I’m always looking for great ways to incorporate praying into their everyday life, so no doubt I was excited when God combined one of the desires of my heart with one of the loves of my life.

Here’s the fruit-tastic story.

Sunday night we were meeting with our 6th grade Discipleship group, and that meeting involved an impromptu Wal-Mart run for some pumpkins, and added to the pumpkin run was a snack run—because who can go to Wal-Mart and get just what you came for!!

Those in charge of the all important errand, to the joy of my soul returned to the church with 3 awesome pumpkins and 6 boxes of colorful, fruity goodness also known as “Mike and Ikes.”

We opened them all up and dumped them in a bowl (the “Mike and Ikes” not the pumpkins) and began our study of the gospels.

We quickly chewed our way through Matthew and onto John while also chewing our way through the “Mike and Ikes.” My alarm went off to let me know we were almost done for the night, and reminding me that I wanted to have prayer time before heading home.

Since corporate prayer is a pretty intimidating thing to some of our kids and we didn’t have much time, I thought, “Why not use the “Mike and Ike’s” to help teach the kids about prayer.”

IMG_8330

So we dug into the candy bowl, and each choose one more candy, revealed its color and came up with a prayer request that coordinated with the color of Mike and Ike they had chosen.

When we invited Mike and Ike into our prayer time, our prayers went from the general, “Thank you for a great night and help us to have a good week at school,” to some more specific prayers like:

GREEN
Lord, help us grow in our faith and be strong in you.

PINK
Lord, help us to be kind to our friends and even the people who aren’t our friends.

BLUE
Lord, we want to pray that people will know you and want to be saved.

YELLOW
God, we want to live so that we can be a light for you in the world.

ORANGE
Jesus, help us to tell others about you so they can know about your love and light.

RED
Lord, help us to show your love to those around us.

Our prayer time wasn’t long, but it was focused and memorable. Using those candies helped kids to make a connection, learn to pray more specifically and gain confidence in praying aloud as the body of Christ.

Taste and See. . . .Mike and Ikes, teaching kids to pray and the Lord are all very good.

cross country
In case you were curious about those pumpkins. . . .our service project for the night was weeding around the church sign. At the last minute we decided to go get pumpkins to add a little fall color! Little did we know we’d be adding color to spruce up more than the flower bed!

Something’s Fishy—Focused Prayer for Kids (and Leaders)

fish 2

“And pray for my cat and my dog and my goldfish and bless all the world. . . Amen”

While children’s prayers can be heartfelt and sincere, part of our call in their discipleship process is to help children grow deeper in the discipline of prayer.

Because prayer is more than just talking to God, it is both an offensive and defensive weapon in the spiritual battles we face every day, this week in our children’s ministry, we used what we called “fish prayers” to help HiSKidZ grow in their prayer and spiritual lives and walks with God.

Our younger children made fish refrigerator magnets and our olders made bookmarks to help remind them to pray the fish way. (Yes, of course, we practiced our fish faces, fish sounds and fish tales!)

Here is what we shared this week with our kids; and our leaders and parents loved it, too, since this isn’t just a great way for kids to pray, it’s a great way to pray for kids.

fish prayers

Our younger children made fish refrigerator magnets and our olders made bookmarks to help remind them to pray the fish way. (Yes, along the way we practiced our fish faces, fish sounds and fish tales!)

Here is what we shared this week with our kids (and our leaders and parents loved it, too.)

F=Faith
Pray for faith. The disciples prayed for Jesus to increase their faith and we can learn from their example. We talked with HiSKidZ about how the world can chisel away at their faith, so we need to pray that God increases our faith and the faith of our friends.

I=Integrity
First we had to explain integrity. Our simple definition “doing the right things for the right reasons” helped kids to understand that they could pray to be honest, sincere, helpful, kind, forgiving, generous and more. Since we have used virtue based curriculum in the past they understood praying that the words adhered to our walls would be adhered to our hearts.

S=Salvation
As we talked we found that most of our kids were not praying for people to get saved. It didn’t take long to realize that prayers for people to “be saved” were most definitely in God’s will, and we became excited to see what God will be doing as we begin to pray for our family, friends and classmates to know Jesus as their Savior.

H=Holiness
HiSKidZ define holiness as “being set apart for God.” Again when asked, most realized they had never considered praying for their life to be set apart for God. Our older kids even concluded that one of the reasons many kids grow up and don’t follow God could be that there weren’t enough prayers being prayed for them to be set apart for their whole life.

Just as a fish can swim deep down into the water, HiSKidZ and their leaders went home this week with a new tool and plan to help them go deeper in their relationship with their Savior and Friend, Jesus.

Prayer Time Shouldn’t Be a Rare Time—Helping Kids Grow in Their Prayer Life through Prayer Posters

prayer photo
This month HiSKidZ at our church are learning about prayer. It seems that while we pray a lot, we haven’t done the best job of teaching about prayer, and since even the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, it’s something we should be giving some thought to as we disciple our children in their faith walks with God.

We are loosely using Discpletown’s How to Pray curriculum and tweaking it to fit our own format and structure. Each week this month we are looking at different aspects of prayer connected to the word pray—Praise, Repentance, Asking and Yielding. It’s nothing new, but it’s definitely worth bringing out to a new generation to help them grow in their conversations with the Lord.

This week, HiSKidZ in our Discovery/Sunday School hour will be making these prayer posters to help them understand each of the 4 aspects of prayer that we are teaching.

The idea is so simple.

All you need is four envelopes, a piece of poster board, some tape, some markers or crayons, a hole punch and a piece of yarn.

Tape the envelopes to the poster board. On each one write one of the aspects of prayer. Punch holes in the top corners and string some yarn through them so they can hang their poster up at home.

The idea is that children and their family can write out prayers and put them in the envelopes. Writing out prayers, even simple prayers helps us to focus and think about things like praise, repentance, what we are asking for and yielding to what God is asking us to do.

Dawn Farris is the Director of Children’s Ministries at New Testament Christian Church, Keokuk, IA. You can find out more about her at her blog http://www.whosthefarris.com or follow her on twitter @whosthefarris

Teaching Your Preschoolers to Trust God–Tiny Tot Tuesday

trust bracelet

I’ve spent the last month singing a new little ditty with our preschoolers at church and VBS. The song is called, “Let’s Trust God,” and it can be found at http://www.amberskyrecords.com

The song asks (repeatedly), “Are you up for the challenge? Are you up for the challenge? Are you up for the challenge? Get ready. Get set. Let’s trust God.”

It also reminds us (repeatedly) “God keeps his promises, promises, promises. God keeps his promises. Yes, He does. God does what He says, what He says, what He says. God does what He says. Yes, He does.”

Our kids have loved this song, and although I have to admit that at times it has more than gotten on my nerves. It is a great little song, and I believe it holds at least a couple of the keys for teaching our tiny tots about trusting God.

For example:
Our children need to learn that sometimes trusting God can be a challenge.
Our children need to learn that we can trust God because He keeps His promises.
Our children need to learn that God is faithful–He does what He says.

and

Our children will learn this by our repeated encouragement to them in this area.

We can do that by:

1) Simply reminding them, “We can trust God in/for _____________________.”

2) Reading to them from the Bible about times and ways that God kept his promises to His people.

3) Letting them experience challenges and taking note of how God faithfully saw them through.

4) Living out our trust in God in front of them.

5) Sharing stories with them about how God has cared for others.

6) Celebrating with little praise parties of God’s goodness.

When we begin teaching our children to trust God when they are very young, we help them to be “up for the challenge” as they grow and mature, which helps them to be strong, rooted, grounded and ready for all God has for them as they follow Him in trust. Big lessons for our tiny tots. Big lessons for our tiny tots’ parents.

Are you up for the challenge?
Get ready, get set. Let’s trust God!

We’re Expecting Again–Mama Mia Monday

power of a praying parent

We just found out last night. The anticipated due date is still undetermined, and we couldn’t be more excited. Yes, it’s true. We are going to have a daughter . . . in law.

Sometime yesterday, our youngest son asked his lovely girlfriend to be his wife and she said, “Yes!’

Mama Mia!

The boy put some planning, I might even say scheming, into the day. It had all the great elements of a good proposal. There was the element of surprise. (for her, at least) There was the asking of the parents. There was the beautiful setting. There was the ring. There was the celebration. But those are their stories to tell.

Our story begins much earlier.

Our story begins about 22 years earlier, when we found out we were expecting again. It was at that time we began to pray.

We began to pray for the life within me. We began to pray for his/her future. We began to pray for his/her future spouse. Through the years those prayers continued through some smooth and rough navigating of the parental/child waterways, and by the grace of God and the power of prayer, we came through rejoicing, exhilarated and looking forward to the continuing set of adventures waiting ahead for us all.

We prayed some simple prayers for our boys. I think mostly because we didn’t know any better at the time, and I’m continually thankful that God hears the prayers of simple people with sincere hearts. I loved the book, “Power of a Praying Parent,” by Stormie Omartian. For several of us who were raising our children at that time, it became worn and weathered treasure, passed down and repurchased, a guideline to pray about things we may have never considered on our own.

When it came to spouses, life partners, soul mates for our boys, we prayed these simple prayers:
That God would bring them women who:
1) Loved God
2) Loved our sons
3) Would want to serve God together for all of their days.

We had no idea the extent to which our prayers would be answered through the wonderful women God has chosen to bring into the boys’ lives and into the life of our family. We couldn’t imagine the delightfulness of our new daughter-in-law from Russia or our daughter-in-law to be from Kansas.

But we are excited, and we are expecting, again, to see God do big things in their lives, lead them on big adventures as they serve Him, see them through some big storms as they navigate their lives with Him and each other as we continue to hold them up in prayer as they begin their lives together.

Mama Mia! Expecting Again! I hope we never stop expecting God to do great things!!
cake2

First Daze

Today is our youngest son’s first day of school. Never mind that it is the first day of his last year of college. It’s still the first day of school. I’m hoping somehow, someone thinks to take a picture of him heading up the hill for that first class of the morning (or the 2nd class or the 3rd). It’s one of our family traditions that I miss the most. Later in the day he will head through the line at the caf for another school lunch, and then in the afternoon meet up with his friend for soccer practice. Ah! Indeed, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It seems to me those first days of school really are more like the first “daze” of school. Things are in a whirlwind of excitement, anxiety, happiness, fear, joy, blood, sweat and tears. Many a mom has consumed many a bag of chocolates during the times when their little eagles begin leaving the nest.

But I know that I know that there is something that helps to clear the daze away. You see, today as Trevor starts his first day doing some of the same things he has done for years, I find myself starting his first day doing what I’ve been doing for him for years, since his first day of preschool in Mrs Marlin’s class (teardrop). Praying. Not out of fear or sadness or worry, but out of knowledge. A knowledge of the One who holds him in His hands, and of the evil one who would like to steal him away. Knowledge of the power of the God who directs our paths and who gives us life, and knowledge of our need for Him. Knowledge of the love God has for each of us and that I have for each of my sons. A love so great that it lays down its life, its time, its agendas for the good of someone else. The knowledge that the Creator of the Universe and the Creator of my children is listening and moving and working in ways I can’t always see or understand, but am confidently sure of.

I was a little sentimental about this last first day of school until I realized that our other son now teaching abroad will soon have his first day of school. So will his beautiful new wife. And so, someday, Lord willing, there will be first days of school and first day of school prayers for grandchildren and great grandchildren for generations to come. (Okay, okay, so I’m still being sentimental–I’m a mom! It’s my job!)

Today I’m praying not only for my kids, but for you and your kids, too, as they begin their first days. If, as you begin, you are finding yourself in the “daze,” may the God of peace give you clarity and focus as you lead and pray for your children each day as they head off to school.

If you have time to share. . . .How are you praying for your kids this year? I’d love to hear.