3 Step Prayer for Stressful Moments

The call comes.  The text lights up your phone.  The words come out of someone’s mouth.  You read it on Facebook. You know the moment… the instant stress hits you.  Worry takes you to the worst possible outcome.  Anxiety feeds on itself as the situation grows in your mind.

I don’t know about you, but I am a pro at letting worry get the best of me.  But God’s Word teaches us a better way to respond to stressful moments.

Trials are promised in Scripture, but so is the peace that passes understanding.  Here is some practical wisdom on how to seek that peace.

3 Step Prayer for Stressful Moments

3 Step Prayer for Stressful Moments

We are going to use Philippians 4:6-8 to define the steps you can take in prayer when you find yourself in a moment that causes you stress, worry, and anxiety.

6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

8 “Finally, brethen, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, think on these things.” (NKJV)

 

1. Speak your request aloud to God.

Are you in the habit of letting stress overwhelm you? Do you internalize? Do you complain to others? God’s Word teaches a better way.

The request you pray aloud will be your new way to handle your response to a situation.  Think about what is specifically stressful about that moment, and turn it into a specific request.  This comes straight from verse 6 in Philippians 4.  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything… let your requests be made known to God…”

It is the beginning of surrender.  You take your eyes off the waves, and acknowledge that God is in control and able and good.  Also, you are obeying Scripture, the command in Phillippians 4:6.  And that, in itself, is surrender.

Speaking your request aloud to God is also the first step toward peace.  Remember the promise in verse 7?  “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds…”  You obtain this promise by obeying the command that came before it.

As for the speaking out loud part, it forces you to put your worry into words.  Worry can roll around in our hearts and minds, start lying to us about the situation, and become unrealistic and overwhelming.  When you define what you are specifically stressed about and need God’s help for, it takes away some of the internal power that worry has.

The stress is not in charge of that moment anymore.  God is.

 

2. Thank God aloud for something specific to the situation.

According to verse 6, this is the next step of surrender and obeying Scripture. We are to “with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” It is also the beginning of a transformed heart.

Why do we care about having a prayer for stressful moments?  Because we are moving toward peace.  God’s peace.  Our thankfulness and His peace replace our worried thoughts and shift our focus.  It can transform your heart.

Make it specific to the situation.  I’ll share a recent example from my life.

I have a ridiculous capacity to go numb worrying about money.  It can consume every other thought I need to think that day and paralyze me.  This used to be how I lived my life—full of worry and anxiety. But God is teaching me His better way…

Just last week, we had a huge car repair bill to pay.  And we paid it.  But there was no mathematical way we could make several other regular expenses on time.  I could feel worry begin the numbing process in my chest. That old habit.

But I chose to do this 3 Step Prayer instead.

  1. Speak my request out loud: “God, You know our financial needs, and I ask that you help us pay all our bills this month, and protect us if we can’t.”
  2. Thank Him for something specific: “Thank You for the money to pay for a major repair on my vehicle when we needed it.  Thank You for all the times in our marriage you have provided for bills and expenses.  We know You are able to take care of us.”

Read on for the vital third step.

 

3. Quote a “good word” aloud from Scripture.

Now we get to verse 8, where we “think on these things.”  We often quote that verse alone, or in the context of having pure thoughts.  But this is a letter.  Paul wrote this sentence right after the sentence in verses 6-7.  They go together.  Context is so, so important to understanding God’s Word.  This verse defines all the good things we are to dwell on, right after a command about what we are not supposed to dwell on.

Like being thankful, all the truth and goodness we are to think on is replacing the anxiety in your mind. This step seals the deal on making this a transformative prayer in stressful moments.

I got the phrase “good word” from Proverbs 12:25.

Anxiety in the heart of man [Phil. 4:6-7] causes depression, but a good word [Phil. 4:8] makes it glad.” It’s like Proverbs 12:25 is outlining the main ideas in Philippians 4:6-8.  Don’t you love it when God’s Word does that?

Scripture is the ultimate Good Word.  So quote a verse of Scripture.  And I mean, have one ready to go ahead of time for this prayer.

My current verse to quote in my 3 Step Prayer is Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

I have found this one especially relevant to moments when I have to use the 3 Step Prayer, because I am acknowledging Him in all my ways.

 

If you need some ideas of verses to pray:

Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Psalm 94:19, “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comfort delights my soul.”

Psalm 86: 15, “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.”

Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 46: 1-2, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.”

I would love to hear your favorite verse that you quote in stressful moments.

 

How often should you do this?

As often as you find yourself worrying or stressing.  So yeah, it might be a lot sometimes.

Anytime you…

…need direction.

…worry.

…stress.

…are in a conflict.

…experience a loss.

…get hit by a life crisis.

…are stuck in sin.

…have anxiety or depression.

…are frustrated by your children.

You get it.  Life is full of stressful moments of all kinds.  The wisdom in these verses can be practically applied in many, many situations—slightly frustrating or monumentally devastating.

Following the principles in Philippians 4:6-8 with this prayer can transform a stressful moment into a peaceful moment.  And it won’t make sense… It is the “peace that surpasses all understanding.”  Isn’t that worth trying this strategy?

The simple, practical 3 Step Prayer for stressful moments:

1. Speak your request aloud to God.

2. Thank God aloud for something specific to the situation.

3. Quote a “good word” aloud from Scripture.

 

Other thoughts you might find helpful:


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4 Simple Actions That Take My Bible Reading Deeper

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What I do when I meet with God has changed over the years, depending on life.

Whether I was waking up every two hours to nurse a tiny, helpless, utterly adorable baby.  Whether I had entire mornings to myself with nobody bothering me (we’re talking the years B.C.—Before Children).  Whether I was rushing around to a million appointments and classes a day.  Whether I was suffering from “pregnant brain” and could not focus on anything I tried to read.

What has not changed is, in fact, the Unchangeable. God Almighty—Who was, and is, and is to come.

When I choose to make my morning appointment with Him, He always shows up.  That has always been true.

Your routine and methods may be different than mine.  This post is not meant to prescribe what you should try, but to describe what I am currently doing… and loving.  If you walk away with a couple of great ideas, so be it.

4 Simple Actions Bible Reading Deeper - Growing a Content Heart

4 Simple Actions That Take My Bible Reading Deeper

1. Sing

There are several great reasons for owning a hymnal, but I will get into that elsewhere.  One is to use it personally.  I am currently doing my own personal skipping-around, sing-through of the hymnal I basically grew up with.  And yes, I own my own copy. (Music nerd here.)

When I sit down at my desk, morning shake in hand, the first thing I open is (sorry!) not my Bible.  My goal here is to prepare my mind and heart, for that moment when I open my Bible and begin studying.

“Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing.”  Psalm 100:2

So I come.  And I sing.  Very quietly because the rest of the household is usually still sleeping.

Many hymns focus on the character of God, the doctrines of the gospel, and our need for a Savior.  My heart is directed to praise God and get focused on Him.  I am made ready through the action of praise.

I love hymns.  But you could sing anything.  Songs you know by heart, or just singing along with your Pandora worship station.  Sometimes, there is a particular song on my heart, and I look it up on YouTube.

However you do it, the personal discipline of singing to the Lord may just transform your morning routine.

2. Study

Ever open your Bible, because you know you should read it… but have no idea what you should read today?

Those days are less for me, especially since I have a few study routines at my mental fingertips.  Here is what I’m currently doing, and I will share a couple other ideas with you.

I have opted for what I’m calling a “topical Bible read-through.”  This does involve reading through the whole Bible.  (At my own pace.  None of this guilt from daily assigned readings that I missed or didn’t complete.)  As I read, I am focused on looking for verses or passages on a particular topic.

“Worship” is my topic right now.  I began in the minor prophets. (Yes, I did not start reading the Bible through at Genesis.  It’s fine.)  I am keeping my eyes peeled for ways people worshiped, commands about worship, and more.  It’s like being a detective.  Honestly, I find it fun.  (Yup.  I told you I’m a nerd.)

And you do not have to do this with the whole Bible.  You could just pick a book or a section.

I keep track of what I find as a part of the next action.

Here are two other less-intense options I use for study methods (I choose what fits my brain capacity at the time).  I need to keep it simple, or I won’t do it, so these fit that need.

  • Choose a book of the Bible. Read a chapter a day, and simply copy down a verse or two from that chapter.
  • Choose a book of the Bible. As you read your daily chapter (or an even shorter passage with this more in-depth method), write down answers to these questions, as they apply:
    • What is the author trying to communicate?
    • What does this teach about God?
    • Is there a command to obey?
    • Is there an example to follow?
    • Is there a promise to claim?
    • Is there a sin to avoid?
    • Is there a principle to follow?

I have created lovely printable Bible Study Questions bookmarks to use with these questions over in my store—use them to mark your place and to help you remember the questions.  The image below will send you to the bookmarks.

Bible Study Question Bookmarks - Growing a Content Heart

 

3. Write

Here is my other favorite part!  (Did I mention I really enjoy my morning routine with God these days?)  As a writer, I unapologetically love writing.  And pens.  And journals.

But even if you don’t, this can be a hands-on, focused way to respond to God and His Word.  Here are things I often include, in no particular order, and not always every one, every day:

  • Notes on what I studied (like my topic of “worship” or those 7 Bible Study Questions)
  • Simply copying a verse or passage from my reading
  • Writing out a verse from the song I sang today
  • My own thoughts after worshiping through singing and studying
  • A drawing or graphic presentation of a verse or song
  • The name of somebody God put on my heart this morning (I always pray for them, and often contact them later)
  • A prayer to God (especially when I can’t focus my thoughts in my head—the pen helps)

As with singing and studying, there are days even I don’t “feel” like writing and responding.  Those are the days I discipline myself to simply copy a verse of God’s Word.  This causes me to meditate on it further.

Journaling has been a key part of deepening my personal study of God’s Word and keeping me focused in the discipline of meeting with God daily.

I always follow singing, studying, and writing with prayer.

4. Pray

God has spoken to me through His Word.   I have praised, studied, meditated, journaled.

There are days I don’t know what to pray. “Lord, help me today,” is what comes.

My life is full, my days are busy, and my heart often wakes up dragging worry behind it.  Beyond praising God for Who He is, the most important aspect of prayer in the morning is to lay down that worry.

Some days I can get specific and detailed in my requests.

Some days I thank Him for anything and everything.

There are days that “Be Lord over my household today” is my simple offering.  “Take my worries, and give me Your peace.”

4 Simple Actions Bible Study Deeper - Growing a Content Heart

My Lord has met me, and I have offered my sacrifice of praise.  All of this routine is meant to turn my eyes off of my own desires and circumstances… and turn them on Him.  He calls me to go deeper than checking Bible reading off my list.

How will you go deeper with Him?

 

Some of my favorite basics for my daily appointment with God and His Word:

               

 

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69 Ways We Are Learning Contentment in Our Home

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This journey toward growing a content heart started over two years ago.  I have not arrived.  But the Lord is teaching me through many daily, mundane aspects of life, how to be content with what we have, right where we are.

So to give you an idea of what life is like in my home, as we seek to be more content and teach our kids what this means, here are a few specific ways we are working on this:

69 Ways Learning Contentment - Growing a Content Heart

69 Ways We Are Learning Contentment in Our Home

  1. Kids help out with chores.
  2. Regular Goodwill/donation sweeps.
  3. Pretty much always making food at home.
  4. Eating all the leftovers.
  5. No. Credit. Cards.
  6. Not going somewhere if we’re short on gas and money.
  7. Dance parties = exercise!
  8. “You gotta try new food because it might taste goo-ood!” (Daniel Tiger fans can sing along…)
  9. No “just for fun” shopping.  Really.
  10. Checking out books from the library instead of buying them.
  11. Entertainment choices: broadcast TV and Amazon Prime Video. (Okay, some YouTube.)
  12. Checking out DVDs from the library instead of….you know.
  13. Making sure our entertainment choices pass the “Philippians 4:8 Test.” (Post coming on this topic!!)
  14. Drawing.  Just because.
  15. Two or more children working on a chore together.  Like…as a team.
  16. We. Have. No. Video. Games. (There.  I confessed.)
  17. Just go in the backyard.  Just play outside.  Go.
  18. Taking walks.
  19. Two mugs of chai and some conversation at my own table = mother/11-year-old daughter date.Chai Tea Latte Mix - Growing a Content Heart
  20. You fight over a toy—it’s gone.
  21. Consistent, expected consequences for certain bahaviors.
  22. The 2 Steps
  23. Read books.
  24. Make your own book.
  25. Create anything you want from all the craft supplies mom scattered on the kitchen table.
  26. Slime and playdough.  ‘Nuff said.
  27. Daily Bible reading habit. (More posts coming on this topic!!)
  28. Make a mess—clean it up.
  29. Be modest.
  30. Drink water and milk.
  31. Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool, instead of expensive curriculum.  Seriously, it’s awesome.  And more than enough.
  32. Setting timers to stay on task.
  33. Listen when someone else is talking.
  34. Even if it was an accident—apologize.
  35. When you obey, there are blessings.  When you disobey, there are consequences.
  36. Taking turns.
  37. Baby wipe containers make great art supply boxes.
  38. Just make music together!
  39. Playgrounds and parks.
  40. Big kids help the toddler.
  41. It’s okay to just watch one TV show.  No really, you’ll survive.
  42. Just look out the window while mommy drives.
  43. Family meals at the table.
  44. Telling jokes to each other.
  45. Tickle parties! (Also exercise.)
  46. Hug time. I mean big, bear hugs.
  47. Baking with messy children.
  48. Making crafts for each other = mommy/6 -year-old daughter date
  49. Read more books.
  50. Not always doing all the things all of our friends are doing.  Even if they’re awesome friends.
  51. I took all games off my phone.
  52. Floor puzzles.
  53. Board games. It’s ok to lose—because we are having fun together.
  54. Loud, crazy time and quiet, calm time are both ok.
  55. A spiral notebook really is the most flexible planner.
  56. Think you need it?  Pray for it.  Then leave it up to God.
  57. Doing/making things for others.
  58. Table manners.
  59. Good conversations.
  60. A thermos of homemade chai when I leave the house, so my car doesn’t want to pull into Starbucks.
  61. Knock and wait—on bedroom and bathroom doors.
  62. Screen time must be earned.
  63. Failure means you learned something.
  64. Not having a choice about everything.
  65. Telling the truth is required.
  66. Hand.  Washing.  Dishes.  For 6 people.  (No dishwasher in the rent house.)
  67. Read even more books.
  68. If you can’t say nothin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.
  69. And finally, find something to say “thank you” for, instead of complaining. Like this:

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but my brain got exhausted realizing all the ways we are growing in contentment in our home!  I did not know how much I would come up with when I started this list.

What resonated with  your heart, mama?  What ways is your family already working on being content with what you have, right where you are?

I am cheering you on!  We are in this together.

 

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4 Must-Read Books for the Discontent Woman

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You could drown in all the spiritual growth books on the market today.  There is even a sizable mound of resources specifically on finding joy and contentment.  But here I reveal my precious gems—the books that have transformed my thinking, my priorities, and my passions.  They have fueled my journey seeking a content heart.

Are you discontent?  Constantly anxious about your circumstances?  If you and I sat down over coffee and you asked me for help with this, these are the books I would say you should have in your hands.  Maybe there is one in here for you, sister.

4 Must-Read Books Discontent Woman - Growing a Content Heart

4  Must-Read Books for the Discontent Woman

The Bible

If you are not reading, studying, meditating on, and any way you can internalizing God’s Word… you will not learn to be content.  I mean, truly content.  There are states of mind that the world calls contentment or happiness, but they are not founded in Scripture, so they won’t last when storms really come.

Because what we’re going for here is to be able to say with Paul, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” (Philippians 4:11)

Whatever.  State.

Meaning, contentment is unrelated to circumstances.

Can you say that?  Not me.  Not yet anyway.  I am still growing a content heart

Psalm 1 has this to say about the person who meditates of God’s Word day and night:

“He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither, and whatever he does shall prosper.”

A solid, fruitful, nourished, healthy life.  Standing firm planted in God’s Word.  This is the foundation of any growth in your spiritual walk, including learning to be content. Period.

         

I won’t belabor this one.  In fact, this is the one you could probably come up with on your own, and I will be writing more about Scripture and the habit of being God’s Word.  For now, I leave you with the words of one of my favorite pastors: “You will never grow spiritually, if you do not read the Bible.”  Period.

 

Streams in the Desert by Lettie Cowman

The Cowmans were missionaries in Japan and China from 1901 to 1917.  This 365-day devotional was a product of their many trials and difficult days…those times that feel like you’re in the desert.


Mrs. Cowman offers refreshing words of hope for discouraging, hopeless days.  She quotes Scripture, as well as other authors who have walked this road of faith before her.  She has challenged the very thoughts I think about the “bad things” that happen to me.

Do you need to be shaken out of the pit you are whining in?  Or a reminder of God’s character when you can’t sense His hand working? This may be just what you need. They’ve even created a version for kids and an updated, modern-language version.  Me?  I’ll stick with my 1940’s printing that’s falling apart.

         

Here’s one of my favorite—and by that I mean, convicting—passages from Streams in the Desert, “September 7”:

The question often comes, “Why didn’t He help me sooner?” It is not His order.  He must first adjust you to the trouble and cause you to learn your lesson from it.  His promise is, “I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver and honor him.”  He must be with  you in the trouble first all day and all night.  Then He will take you out of it.  This will not come till you have stopped being restless and fretful about it and become calm and quiet.  Then He will say, “It is enough.”

The restless and fretful woman must read this book, friends.                 

 

The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian

If you are NOT a married woman reading this post, try the other version of this: The Power of a Praying Woman.  As for me, the Praying Wife version is my go-to.  Either way, learning how to leave your requests at the feet of God is a must for contentment.

This book saved my marriage. I’m not being dramatic.  Just stating facts.  To be literal, God used this book to save my marriage. To make my marriage a thing of joy.  I give Him all the glory for the existence of this book.

We were never on the verge of divorce.  But it is completely possible to stay married as a Christian couple, and let your marriage die.  So many Christian women are discontent in their marriages.  You can be completely committed to staying married, but let discontent build walls between you and distract you from what God teaches about relationships in His Word. (It keeps coming back to Scripture.)


The 30 short chapters makes this an easy one-a-night month’s read.  BUT… this is the kind of book you can soak up for years, it’s so challenging and heart-transforming.  And I have.  Repeatedly.  Each chapter consists of solid teaching and encouragement on a topic, as well as a sample prayer to pray. Let me tell you, I used those sample prayers.  Because in the beginning of this journey, I didn’t even know what to pray.  I still come back to these prayers, because they are so good.

How do you pray for your husband?  Or do you?  Praying for your husband is one of the best marriage-saving tools you can use.  And if you need specific help and encouragement for that, this is THE book, in my mind.

In the first chapter called, “His Wife,” where you pray for the kind of wife you are (yeah, it gets personal), she challenges you to pray like this:

“Tear down the wall of hardness around my heart and show me how to respect my husband the way You want me to. Give me Your heart for him, Lord, and help me to see him the way You see him.”

          

Are you discontent in your marriage?  Or even considering divorce?  No matter where you are on this spectrum, you can try praying through The Power of Praying Wife and see what God does. “When you have God’s heart for your husband, you will be able to see through new eyes,” Stormie says.  Get ready to be transformed.

 

Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot

Have you met Elisabeth Elliot?  I mean, read her words or listened to her voice?  She’s a woman of God, another missionary wife, who touches the deepest parts of your soul when you spend time with her.  Keep a Quiet Heart is a collection of articles from “The Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter,” which ceased publication in 2003.  Elisabeth says, “Mostly they are about learning to know God.  Nothing else comes close to being as important as that.”  She guides those who walk behind her to a deeper and more restful walk with God.

While her words are deep, her writings are accessible and brief.  This book consists of more than 100 short reading portions titled things like this:

“Does God Allow His Children to Be Poor?”

“Lord, Please Remove the Dilemma”

“Interruptions, Delays, Inconveniences”

“What Do You Mean by Submission?”

We often think that a change in our circumstances will lead to peace and contentment.  As Elisabeth says, “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”


Contentment is unrelated to circumstances.  Have you learned to say with Paul, I have learned in whatever state I am to be content”?  I am on a purposeful journey, but I definitely have not learned this.

Be in God’s Word.  That must come first.

Then choose another of these gems to soak up.  Learn from strong Christian women who have gone before you.  I know I am.  We are in this together.

 

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5 Ways to NOT Find Contentment

What do you think when I say “contentment”?

Happiness?

Peace?

Joy?

Thankfulness?

All of those can be fitting.  But those are end results.

How do we get there?  What path must I walk to be able to look around me, look inside myself and say, “Yes.  I have arrived.  I have peace.  Joy.  I am content where I am”?

Well, this post won’t answer that question.  I am here today to post caution signs.  I have walked many paths trying to get to contentment.  So. Many. Paths.  Attitudes that even strong Christians fall into.  And many lead in the wrong direction.

What kind of friend would I be if I didn’t warn those behind me, who are looking for contentment too?  So here goes.

 

5 Ways to NOT Find Contentment - Growing a Content Heart

5 Ways to NOT Find Contentment

 

1. Assume that a change in your circumstances will make you content.

This might be the one we admit to ourselves the most often.

“I’m just waiting on that promotion, then we’ll be able to live the life we want.”

“I’ll be happy when I have a house instead of an apartment.”

“My job wouldn’t be so bad, if this one guy that drives me crazy wasn’t there.”

But the truth is, there is always one more thing to complain about, isn’t there?  Honestly, can you think of a time when a circumstance that made you discontent changed in your favor, and there was nothing else to be discontent about?

It’s the human condition.  The grass is always greener.  There is always more to be had and a better situation to acquire.

But the boss of being content, the Apostle Paul, said he had learned to be content in any situation.  So a content heart can’t be tied to our circumstances.  Let that one sit with you a while…


 

2. Count on acquiring that one more material thing to satisfy you.

This one we don’t like to admit.  We all have our weakness.  Car stuff.  A new purse.  Shoes.  A great deal we “absolutely can’t” pass up.  Garage sale shopping.  (Oh yeah.  I went there.)

But if you are always pursuing and purchasing the next thing, how can your heart be thankful for what you already have?  “One more” is never satisfying.

Again, it’s the human condition.  (And there is a better way to feed the craving for more that we all have.  I’ll write about that later.)

The path of pursuing material things leads to discontentment, because there is always more to want.  How easily we (even in small ways) fall into the mental lie that “just one more” will satisfy.


 

3. Believe that if you were more like someone else, you would be happy with yourself.

Social media is the worst.  All the other stay-at-home moms post the happiest, lovliest moment of their days, and the news in your home is all dirty dishes, crayon on the walls and dressers, messy children, and that moment you lost it and yelled at your kids for being the street urchins they are.

Why can’t my life be more like hers?  Why does she seem to have it together, and I seem to be losing my mind? 

Surely, you think, if you were more like that mom, you could be at peace with who you are.  We can convince ourselves that there is something over there that we don’t have over here…and that will bring contentment.

The biggest bust to this myth is that the person you compare yourself to does the same thing.  She’s looking at another mom, and harboring jealousy and discontent in her heart about her own life.

Yup.  This path to contentment is a dead-end.  We are all driving in circles chasing other people’s lives.


 

4. Find someone worse off than you, so that you can be thankful for your life.

This is a sort of reverse comparison game, and maybe we don’t all do it.  But I know I have done it.  Mainly because I feel like I am always the one who’s “worse off.”

We don’t have enough money.

We lost another job.

I can’t buy all the home décor and make my home look like a magazine cover…like that other mom over there.

My depression is back…with a vengeance.

One more door of opportunity shut in our faces.

I’m good at feeling sorry for myself.  So if I can’t change my circumstances, I can find someone with worse circumstances.  Then I can be thankful I’m not them.

Okay, maybe this one’s not so bad, but I stand by my argument that it is not a path that leads to true contentment.  Keeping your eyes on other people will never fix the condition of your heart(There is a better place to focus your gaze…)


 

5. Follow your favorite spiritual leader’s “3 easy steps to have joy” perfectly.

Well, then.  Let’s get spiritual.  Many Christian books, studies, podcasts, etc. exist teaching you steps to peace, joy, your best life…  It’s a saturated market.  Pick one.

Surely, if you follow someone’s teachings in this area, you will achieve the desired results.

The problem is that the whole of Scripture presents joy as something that comes through trials, peace as something that can happen in the middle of a storm, and refreshing streams as appearing in the most unlikely wilderness.  There are no simple steps you can put into a formula and have it equal contentment.  God’s ways are not our ways when it comes to this.


 

So….

Where are you stuck? What have you tried that has NOT led to the desired peace, contentment, and joy?

There is a better way.  You notice Who was not part of any of these paths?  God.  The Lord of our lives. And once we follow His path, all these things—circumstances, material things, other people’s lives, your own spiritual routines—they all fall into place.  A verse for thought until next time:

“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

All. These. Things.  There is a better way.  And it’s simpler (and harder) than you think. And I will be writing about it. Stay tuned…

 

Some of my favorite basics for my daily appointment with God and His Word:

               

 

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5 Things to Say When You Don’t Know What to Pray

Sometimes, prayers just come natural.  Thank you for this.  Please help us with that.  In Jesus’ name…

But sometimes…life falls apart.  The ticking hours press on your soul.  Your heart goes numb, and words fall short.

2 years ago, I had a good habit of praying by my bedside in the morning, escaping the squawking children, milky cereal bowls, piles of school books ready for the day, and housework screaming to be attended to… Just to meet God in the secret, in the quiet place.

5 Things to Say When You Don't Know What to Pray

 

Except, when you’re a mommy, it’s hard to have a totally secret place.

Here I was, on my knees by my bed—made up with the new comforter picked out by my providing husband—beginning the day in earnest prayer.  My door cracked, and I am joined by a blessed four year old boy.  That sympathy my mother had noticed in him bubbled over his sweet face.  “Mommy?  You awaight?”  And that precious smile begged me to smile back to show my “alright-ness.”

 

5 Things to Say When You Don't Know What to Say

 

“I’m just praying. Do you want to pray with me?”

“Mm-hmm.”  He got down on his knees and planted his face in the comfy blankets.

Every sentence, thanking Jesus for His love, asking His guidance, was echoed as directly as was possible by my preschooler’s halting speech.  When I was done, I asked, “Do you want to pray anything, buddy?”

“I just prayed what you prayed.”  Big cheesy grin.  How could my proud mommy heart not swell?

More than that.  I felt an almost physical sensation of a kingdom investment made.   A seed the Holy Spirit had allowed me to plant in this young impressionable heart.  There are not words.  Prayer is important.


The only sentence he had changed in his prayer was this: “Make me the mommy I need to be.” His went, “Make me the boy I need to be.”  {Oh, Jesus, keep answering these!}

I have the habit of praying every day.  I’ve prayed for years and it comes naturally. But there are days… Something happens—life and this fallen world overwhelm me.  And I don’t know what to pray.  

My heart is numb. The words don’t come.  

What do you say when you don’t know what to pray?


Here are…

5 things to say when you don’t know what to pray:

 

1. “Speak to my heart.”

Remember this old hymn?  “Speak to my heart, Lord Jesus.  Speak that my soul may hear…”

This is my favorite.  Because when I am hurting so much that I don’t know what to pray, it’s not really me who needs to do the talking.  God knows what’s going on, and He doesn’t need me to spell out the details.  I am the one who needs to hear Him. I need Him to give me peace, to remind me of truth and His faithfulness, to give me wisdom for the situation.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5

He’s waiting to give you generously what you need.


2. “Lord, I need You.”

Another hymn from my childhood.   “I need Thee ev’ry hour, Most Gracious Lord.  No tender heart like Thine, can peace afford.”

Sometimes there is nothing else to say, but to acknowledge our need for God.  May I suggest being on your knees, hands open?

Disclaimer: if you pray this prayer, on your knees, be prepared for God to show up.  He waits for us to stop trying in our own strength and look to Him.  He’s ready to answer.  Just say it.

The old hymn writers knew how to express beautiful, profound worship.


3. “Help my unbelief.”

 This is straight from Scripture.  Mark 9:24. Jesus walks into town, into a chaotic situation with a demon-possessed boy, a desperate father, disciples who are frustrated that they can’t cast out the demon, and a whole crowd, including scribes, arguing about it all.  When Jesus walks up, all the people turn their focus on Him—“amazed,” says Mark—as if they knew He’s the One Who could handle this.

The father of the boy speaks up and explains the situation.  Then—oh, how I relate to this prayer!—he says, “If you can do anything, have compassion and help us.”

Have you ever talked to God that way?  I confess that I have.

God, this is a really crazy, hard situation.  If You can do anything, please help us.

You know how dads use their “Dad voice” to command attention from the kids?  Well, I can just hear Jesus using His “God voice” when he responds, If you can?’ All things are possible for one who believes.”

The boy’s father desperately, but with more faith, cries out, “I believe. Help my unbelief!” 

If, in the middle of your situation, when you find yourself doubting what God can do, say this one.  Again, He’s waiting.  Just say it.


4. “God, You are good.”

 Because when we don’t know what to pray, it is often because the situation is bad.  We need the reminder that God is good.  Speaking truth in a crazy situation where your heart and mind are probably batting around a few lies–this is what keeps your eyes on Jesus and off the waves you are treading.

Insert here any truth about God that you need reminding of.  Here’s a few more from Scripture:

God, You are faithful. (1 Corinthians 1:9)

God, You mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

God, Your love is everlasting. (Psalm 136:1)

God, You are full of mercy and compassion. (James 5:11)

God, You number the hairs on my head, and You know my name. (Matthew 10:30; Nahum 1:7)

I encourage you to search for more of these treasures of praise in the Bible and have them ready.  Because you will need them someday.  Maybe today.


5. “Give me the words You want me to pray.”

When you don’t know what to pray, God does.  He knows what you need more than you do.  Again, He’s just waiting for us to ask for His help.  This is the kind of prayer He wants to answer.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans 8:26

Let the Spirit groan for you, and say these words.


Bonus: Pray a Psalm. 

Because David had this praying through the hard times thing down.  Use his words.  You can’t go wrong praying Scripture.  God inspired David to give us some beautiful, profound ways to express what we may need to express.

I have created a free beautiful printable of some of my favorite passages from Psalms to pray when I don’t know what to pray.  I’m sharing it as an instant download for you, if you want it:

Your instant download of Prayers from Psalms (NKJV) is here.

 

 

Please comment below with your favorite Scripture to pray or words to say when you don’t know what to pray.  Let’s encourage each other!

Seeking Him first,

Susan

 

PS ~ If these thoughts were just what you needed today, click below to print your own reminder of 5 Things to Say When You Don’t Know What to Pray:

Your free printable of 5 Things to Say When You Don’t Know What to Pray here

 

 

Some of my favorite basics for my daily appointment with God and His Word:

               

Why I Hate Easter and Love Jesus

Before you judge, how many of you feel that way about Christmas?  I don’t mean good music like this, family favorite movies like this one, and the worshipful celebration of Jesus birth.  You know what I mean.  The stuff you have to buy for your kids, the decorations, the aisles and aisles of candy, the expectation of special items of clothing, the events, the planning….

You don’t have to be a socially anxious introvert like me to get overwhelmed and frustrated by it all.

This year Easter has become all that for me.  And several friends I see around me.

Why I Hate Easter and Love Jesus

Why I Hate Easter and Love Jesus

As a stay-at-home mom and wife, homeschool mom, and someone with a pathological inability to say “no” to anyone who asks me for help, I am always taking care of other people.  Yesterday, at the peak of Easter preparations, my heart stopped, and I just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry.  And have someone take care of me.

I think mamas, especially of the stay-at-home and homeschool variety, are notorious for taking care of everybody but ourselves.  But that’s not my point.  (Perhaps another post tumbling around my brain…)  When I found myself in that moment…

Someone did take care of me.

Jesus.

He scooped my heart up in His loving arms, away from all the stuff that has nothing to do with His death and resurrection, away from the expectations I had for my day, and helped me turn my eyes upon Him.  Do you remember that hymn?

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace

He had to remind me that Easter is, in fact, about how He already took care of me, better than anyone else ever could.

He died as my replacement, took the punishment for my sin.  No one else could do that.

He came back from the dead to prove He was powerful over sin and death.  No one else could do that.

He took care of me.  He took care of you.  

Are your eyes on Him this morning?  Are you caught up in the Easter details?  Turn your eyes on Jesus and let Him take care of you.  Remember what He did to take care of your soul, like no one else could.

There is none like You.

 

Some of my favorite basics for my daily appointment with God and His Word:

               

2 Problems That Pushed Me Over the Edge

I have two big problems that I cannot ignore and that I have no control over.  Problems that have pushed me over the edge, and kick-started this blog.  But we’ll get to that in a moment.

First: Paul.

Paul is my hero.  “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”  Letter to the Philippians, chapter 4, verse 11.  “I have learned…” How many of us believers on earth today, especially in American culture, can say that we have learned this?  A very few people I have crossed paths with in my journey seem to have come awfully close.

And I want what they have.

A content heart.  The capacity to say in any situation or circumstance, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Verse 13.  Very popular these days.  We like to say it.  It fills our hearts with hope, and rightly so.

But have we learned it?

What is a content heart?

2 Problems That Pushed Me Over the Edge

2 Problems That Pushed Me Over the Edge

“Sufficiency within.”  That is the meaning of the Greek word Paul uses that we translate content.  If we have the Holy Spirit within us…which is true if we are believers…then the Source of this sufficiency, this contentment, is already in us.

“…through Christ Who strengthens me.”

I am blowing my own mind, here.  Contentment is supposedly such an elusive thing…or is it?  But I count myself a believer, a follower of Jesus.  And that means…in Christ, I already have what I need to have a content heart.

So why don’t I?

It seems the answer is super simple.  “Let go, and let God” kind of stuff.  Done.  This is the shortest blog ever.  Everything you need to know in one post.

But the reality is, this walk with Christ is often messy, and pursuing holy things is often hard.

I have chosen to pursue this holy thing: a content heart.

This blog is my journey.  I want to share what God is teaching me—how He is growing a content heart within me.

Now, back to my problems…

 

2 Problems That Pushed Me Over the Edge

1. Circumstances: 

There is a consistent pattern in our life of having earthly things we depend on and hope for taken away.

I consider myself to be a Christian woman.  I often say we need to trust God no matter what.  Or at least acknowledge my ascent to the concept when my precious husband keeps saying it.  But there have been moments in this life that I have wanted to look God in the face and say, “Really? You’re taking that too? But I wanted….”  At this point, my heart reverts to a stomping toddler, clenching my dreams in my fists.

Sometimes, I honestly do feel justified in my response.  That was a good job we just lost.  That was a wonderful relationship with another family that just turned sour.  That was a dream we’d been striving for years to accomplish—gone in a moment.  We have gradually been led deeper into the valley we are walking, one thing after another taken away or denied.

In this valley, I have learned not to count on earthly blessings.  But…isn’t that…a good thing?

Clearly, I have a problem handling what is thrown at me.

What do I do if my circumstances never improve? 

This problem would not be as bad without the second problem.

 

2. Conviction

I’ve been living with the persistent pressing of the Holy Spirit against my soul to purge my complaining heart.

Yes.  This is a problem.

First of all, I like complaining and worrying!  (Wow.  Did I just say that out loud?  Again with the stomping toddler.)  The tears flow as I confess this.  My comfort zone is worry and discontent.  Which is probably one of the reasons I struggle with anxiety and depression (but that’s another post).  If something isn’t going wrong, I worry about when it will.

Tell me I’m not the only one.

Second, and more seriously, I’ve lived long enough and absorbed enough Scripture to know that what comes after conviction is hard.  If you take God seriously.

When I calm myself enough to look up from clenched fists and see His face—the Father taking a deep breath waiting for me—that is when it begins.  Surrender.  Of dreams, of desires, of comfort, of priorities…of complaining and worrying.

Conviction is a problem simply because it hurts.  It’s supposed to hurt.  Like a parent firmly reminding their child of serious consequences if they disobey.  That is uncomfortable.  And I have to choose:  am I going to surrender and let the Holy Spirit start changing me?

Or am I going to pretend I didn’t hear Him and hunker down in my comfort zone again?

Because letting God change you is not comfortable.  Pursuing holy things is often hard.

*deep breath*

I have chosen to take God seriously.  And He is already taking me seriously.  The very fact that I am publicly sharing my journey makes me more accountable for it.  God’s not letting me out of this one.

I have to confess, I don’t know what the inside of a content heart looks like.  But I have committed to this journey, and God has given me enough glimpses to know that this holy thing is what my heart truly wants.  To be able to say with Paul, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”

Pushed by circumstances and conviction, I step out in faith.

Here we go.  Welcome to my blog.

Let’s see what God does.