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Creative prayer as remembering truth

Friday July 26 2019

Creative prayer as remembering truth

The “impostor syndrome” is a name for those feelings when we doubt our accomplishments and wonder if we’ll be exposed as a fraud. A friend of mine sometimes feels this at work, and she recently asked for prayer that she wouldn’t let this thief steal her joy in her job.

Two years ago I wrote a post on this blog using a quotation from American journalist Fulton Oursler (1893-1952): “Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.” He’s using that same notion that we can allow certain thoughts and perspectives into our minds, and once they’re there, they act like thieves.

When we spent a lot of time feeling inadequate, regretting something from the past, or fearing something in the future, thieves are stealing the joy, peace, confidence, and trust that God wants to give us today. Prayer is a way to thwart those thieves. In prayer, we remember who we are as children of a loving God, and we cement our belovedness into our minds as we pray.

The first step is to name the thief and to rebuke it in Jesus’ name. “Fear about the future, you are a thief and I command you in Jesus’ name to leave me and go to the foot of the cross.” After rebuking the thief, don’t mention it again in your prayers. Instead figure out the opposite and name that over and over as you pray.

Confidence. Trust. Hope. Joy. Patience. Kindness. Love. Belovedness. Peace. Faith. The presence of God. The light of Christ. The truth of the Gospel.

Figure out what you want in your heart and mind to replace the thief, and ask God for it. Recent research on the way the brain works shows that when we focus on what we don’t want, we continue to nurture the brain pathways that support that negative idea. And in contrast, when we focus on healthy thoughts and behaviors, we actually create new neurons that support those positive things.

Since God made our brains, we can embrace this research as a call to name and rebuke negative things in Christ’s name, then move on to prayers for the ability to rest in God’s goodness. Here are some suggestions for how to do that.

1. Praying the Bible.When we pray a verse or portion of the Bible, we move cognitive truth from our minds into our hearts. The psalms are a great place to start praying the Bible, but it’s possible to pray any verse. Here’s an example: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Those words arenot a prayer, but if I ponder them, even memorize them, and meditate on them, I find myself asking for faith, assurance and conviction. And I find myself resting in God’s gifts of faith, assurance and conviction.

2. Praying along with music.As I was thinking about the impostor syndrome, an old praise song came to my mind. (You can listen to it here.)

I will change your name
Your new name shall be
Confidence, joyfulness, overcoming one
Faithfulness, friend of God
One who seeks My face

Praying along with hymns and praise songs is a major part of my prayer life. I love to find a hymn or praise song that contains the word or idea – the truth that God wants in my mind – to replace a thief. Music seems to cement concepts into my brain, and the truths expressed in words accompanied by music seem to have power.

3. Pray for what you want, connected to Jesus. I like to use my breath for prayers like these:

     Lord Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace
     Have mercy on me, I need your peace.

     Lord Jesus Christ, Light of the World,
     Have mercy on me, shine your light on my path.

     Lord Jesus Christ, Lord of the future,
     Have mercy on me, give me confidence about my future.

     Lord Jesus Christ, Lord of the past,
     Have mercy on me, give me peace about my past.

Two friends of mine recently sent out a prayer letter about their ministry. The letter contained these words: “Much of the work of faith has to do with us remembering the truth. Prayer is remembering that we are loved.” I want to encourage you to bring God’s truth to mind as you pray.

Next week: creative prayer nurtures stopping. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love getting new subscribers to my blog. Sign up below (for cellphones) or in the right hand column of the webpage (for laptops) to get an email when I post on this blog.

Two articles I’ve written that give hands-on suggestions for embracing God’s perspectives:

Freedom from Fear of Death

Thursday June 26 2014

Freedom from Fear of Death

On Valentine’s Day, 1994, I got the flu. Two days later I couldn’t breathe. A long diagnostic process followed.  At some point, the lung specialist described to me the possible diagnoses, one of which was fatal. He had put me on a cute little oxygen tank, but my brain still wasn’t getting enough oxygen to think clearly, so I misunderstood him. I thought he said the fatal lung disease was by far the most likely diagnosis.

It was a week before my next appointment with him, so I spent a week thinking I was going to die. I had moments of fear, but my 23 years of following Jesus had given me a level of trust that made me willing to face death if that’s where Jesus was leading me. The freedom from fear, most of that week, was palpable. Truly Jesus did “destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death”(Hebrews 2:14, 15).

Five years later I had a similar experience. This time it was my liver, which swelled up. Hepatitis. But what kind? The diagnostic process involved a seemingly endless series of blood tests, followed by an extremely unpleasant liver biopsy. This time I didn’t misunderstand the doctor. He said it clearly. The biopsy indicated I had a fatal liver disease, curable only by a transplant, which would not be likely to happen.

So I spent another week thinking I was going to die. Again, the years of following Jesus made a difference. “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). I could live or die, and God would make that decision. Most of that week, I was able to draw on all the years of experiencing God’s goodness in my life. I was able to trust God and experience Jesus’ peace.

The reprieve came in a letter from a sub-specialist at the university who had looked over my records. The specialist wrote to my own doctor saying that even though the liver cells indicated a fatal disease, I was missing a blood marker that always accompanies it. My hepatitis turned out to be an unusual reaction to a drug I was taking. I went off the drug and slowly got well.

Now I’m walking the death road again. It’s not me this time, but my sister-in-law. It’s not a misunderstanding or a false diagnosis, but inoperable cancer that has completely obstructed her bowel. Her lungs are failing, so she’s gasping for breath just like I did 17 years ago. Because of my husband’s witness, and because of her longing for peace as she dies, she has recently come to know Jesus. She has been following him now for only a few months. And Jesus has given her comforting moments of peace as she faces the end of her life on earth and anticipates the joy of heaven. But it’s not the depth of peace that comes from years of following him. I long to give her that deep peace, and all I can do is pray.

Following Jesus makes a difference in dozens, if not hundreds, of ways. Freedom from fear of death may not be something we need on a daily basis, but when death circles around us, peace from Jesus makes all the difference. Truly in Christ we are freed from the bondage of the fear of death.

(If you like this post, you can sign up for email notices every time I post something on this blog. The place to sign up is at the bottom of the right hand column on this webpage. This post originally appeared in 2011 on the Godspace blog.)