Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash
Today’s post is a guest post by a precious sister in Christ, Nikki. She is from Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. I’m so thankful for her willingness to share a bit of her story. I believe it may be a blessing to many other women:
I’m sharing with you an account of how I completely lost my faith in God by praying for my family. I was facing some severe family problems and began to pray in earnest.
Old Approach to Prayer
Below is list of the advice I followed during that period of my life:
- I sprinkled my entire house and all of my possessions with holy water and blessed salt.
- I said dozens of novenas (Note: a novena is a Catholic tradition of saying a prayer every day for 9 days). I bought a book of novena prayers and each one said at the bottom “This is a very powerful novena that has never been known to fail.” I said novena after novena expecting and hoping for some change and things only got worse and worse.
- I was told to buy a particular type of cross and get it blessed by a particular monk and place it over the front door of my home.
- I went to church more than once a week, expecting that God would be obligated to obey me because of that.
Everyone I went to for advice suggested a different prayer or ritual. No one advised me to check my own heart and clear it of any pride, anger, unforgiveness, selfishness or idols. The more I prayed and performed these gimmicks, the worse things in my family got and I ended up completely heartbroken, bitter and angry at God. I hated God and wanted nothing to do with him for almost 10 years…until I had a stranger approach me on a beach and led me to pray and give my life to Christ.
When I started to rebuild my relationship with Christ, I prayed for my family very hesitantly and with a lot of fear. I was terrified of getting my heart broken again. I wanted more than anything to preserve my relationship with God first and foremost, regardless of how other aspects of my life were going.
Losing your faith in God through following gimmicks is not isolated among Catholics. I know many Protestants who lost their faith in God through gimmicks like sending “seed money” to particular TV-evangelists or pastor, by “naming and claiming” things that they want, or by writing down a list of the things that they want and putting it in the centre of their Bibles.
Red Flags for Prayer
Because of my horrific experience, I would like you all to be aware of these red flags that you may be praying in the wrong way:
- Do you want your prayer request more than you want God? If you do, that is idolatry. Your idols will always destroy you spiritually, mentally, emotionally and even physically. So please work daily to identify any idols in your heart and tear them down. Don’t even allow your husband or children to be on the throne of your heart. Set Jesus alone on the throne of your heart.
- Do you trust the words of the prayer itself or the rituals you are participating in more than you trust God? No prayer is powerful and fail-proof. Only God is powerful. No prayer should be trusted. Only God deserves your trust. Keep that in mind when you are praying. (From Peaceful Wife, we pray to have communication with the Lord and to present our needs and requests before Him. Prayers should not be looked upon as “spells.”)
- Are you hanging on to any anger, unforgiveness, revenge or hatred? God is more concerned with the condition of your heart than whatever prayer you are saying. He will not answer our prayers if we are harbouring sinful anger and hatred in our hearts. (Ps. 66:18)
- Are you ignoring your God-given role? Husbands are advised to fulfil their role to love their wives so that nothing will hinder their prayers (1 Peter 3:7). Similarly, children should fulfill their role to honour their parents and married women should fulfill their role to respect their husbands so that nothing can hinder their prayers.
- Are you attempting to manipulate or force God to do what you are asking Him to do? God is not a genie in a bottle who submits to us. We are meant to submit to Him. If we treat God like some sort of cosmic Genie and think that if we do/say the “right words,” He will be forced to obey us and give us what we want, we are praying with very sinful motives.
- Are you praying for others in an attempt to control them or force them to change their ways to suit you? God does not allow us to have ultimate control and authority over anyone. Only He is sovereign. (From Peaceful Wife – even He doesn’t force people to obey Him, but gives people free will.)
Green Flags for Prayer
I have learned a lot about prayer and God over the past few years and I would like to share with you some green flags that prove that you are praying in the right way:
- Humility before God. (Phil 2: 5-11)
- Love, mercy and forgiveness towards others. (Mark 11:25)
- The understanding that God is in charge, not you. (Prov 19:21)
- Denying yourself and following Christ. (Luke 9:23)
- Wanting God’s will above your own. (Luke 22:42)
- Faith that God loves you and will do what is ultimately best for you. (Rom 8:28)
- The understanding that God uses our trials to help us grow in spiritual maturity and that we need to be willing to endure hardships and difficulties to grow. (Rom 5:3-4, James 1:2-4)
- Depending on the Holy Spirit to move and change people rather than me trying to take the place of the Holy Spirit or force my way. God does not force Himself on anyone. He will never take away anyone’s free will. If you are praying for someone, God will work on that person’s heart and invite that person to Him, but will never force that person to change (John 16:13-14). When praying for others, hold the outcome very loosely because their response to the movement of the Holy Spirit in their hearts is ultimately up to them.
If we pray in this way, we will be standing on the Solid Rock and we will have hope and joy even in the midst of great trials, whether God gives us what we want or not.
Trusting God in Trials
Right now, I am facing trials of many kinds, but rather than sinking into a pit of despair, hopelessness, and heartache, I am at peace and growing in my faith because I know that God loves me and is in charge of everything.
I actually focus 95% of my time with God on reading the Bible and discovering the truth and beauty of God’s Word and only about 5% of my time praying for specific outcomes for myself, my marriage and my family. My primary focus is on loving Jesus and building my relationship with Him, and not on my circumstances.
Habukkuk 3:17–19 sums up what our attitude should be:
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
I’m sure that Habukkuk would have wanted the fig trees to bud, the fields to produce ample food, and many strong, healthy animals in his land. He didn’t have any of those things, but his love for God lifted his spirits, gave him strength, and filled him with joy.
Praying with Humility:
And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed.” Luke 7:6-7
I hope that you can all learn from my story of misplaced hope and my discovery of what prayer is really about. I really would love all of us to have great relationships with Christ and rejoice together in heaven, which will be the ultimate prayer-fest!
Can you relate to Nikki’s story? What were some approaches you have used with prayer in the past that were unhealthy? What wisdom has God given you about prayer as you have grown in your faith in Christ?
Note – We will use the comments on this post to discuss praying to God rather than debating various theological differences between Christian denominations. Christ prayed in John 17:21 that all Christians will be one and that is what this blog strives to foster. Thanks for understanding!
Posts about idolatry
What Is Lordship Salvation? by www.gotquestions.org
This is truly one of the most beautiful posts I have read on prayer! It has taken years for me to learn in the school of Christ the advice you shared, but praise God I learned it!
I’m so happy to hear about the journey Christ has led you on. I love that he doesn’t let us get away with having wrong motives but keeps schooling us in holiness. 🙂
Thanks for reading this post and sharing your comments. It’s nice to see another Catholic Christian on this blog. 🙂
Any form of prayer can become a gimmick if our hearts are not in the right place. Even fasting or praying directly from the Psalms can become a gimmick if we are not following the “green flags” I mentioned.
God is more interested in what is in our hearts and our spiritual growth than he is interested in giving us what we want. We should also therefore be more interested in having pure hearts and growing in holiness than in getting answers to specific requests.
This is one of my favourite scriptures because it highlights that we need to be humble and repent if we want God to hear our prayers and give us the healing that we seek.
2 Chronicles 7:14
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will heal their land”.
Thank you for this timely post! My husband and I attended a powerful church service last night. The Holy Spirit moved, and there was a time of consecration at the end. We left sensing God’s peace and headed home. I felt clarity about the future (my desire for children and our calling) that I hadn’t felt in a long time. As we drove, my husband made some statements that had me wondering, “Did we attend the same service?? How could this be?!”
I tried to keep what he said from getting to me but his words gnawed at me and I ended up feeling outright angry (which is a healthy emotional response to conflict/disappointment- I’ve denied my anger for a really long time, so it’s actually good for me to experience anger as it comes– and then process it in healthy ways). I was praying today about how/if/when to let my husband know how I feel (not to “let him have it,” but to really discuss what I want and feel).
Right as I started reading your post, the thought came to me: What if my hubby isn’t hearing direction about these two things that are dear to my heart because God is still doing a thorough work in me? Perhaps as God continues to work on me, the blinders will come off my husband in God’s way and in his timing. This is not to say God has to do that, but I have contentment again to continue taking the log out of my own eye so I can be a cleaner vessel, more prepared for my future and to be a blessing. Thanks for letting me talk here. I really don’t have anyone I can share stuff like this with in my daily life.
Hi Growing Up,
I’m in my 40s and would love to have another child before it’s too late. My husband isn’t on board with the idea. I’ve had to lay that dream down and trust that God knows what is best for me and will work everything out for my good, whether or not I get to have another child.
The dream to become a mother can easily become an idol in a woman’s heart.
The desire for our husbands to want the same things that we want when we want them also easily become an idol.
April always says that the human heart is an idol-factory and it’s so true. Even good and noble things like having a baby or our husband’s salvation can become idols that harm our relationship with Christ.
We need to pray about these issues and purposefully tear all idols from our hearts so that our hearts can be righteous in God’s eyes.
God’s #1 goal for us is holiness and that should be our #1 goal too.
Lol, “an idol-factory.” I like that analogy… but I sure wish it wasn’t true! A bit off topic, but I’ve had a really hard time accepting myself “as is.” It’s like I try to eliminate every idol and clean up every flaw in order to come to Christ, when really he is the only one that can do that cleansing work. If I’m honest about my idols and issues and I bring them into his light by seeking his face/spending time with him, he will faithfully purify my heart because I’m his and he loves me and I’m already accepted by him. I’ve been trying to do his job for a long time, and it wears me out. I’m better than I used to be at resting in him though; it’s a process for sure.
Also, I’m in my mid-30s and we haven’t had any children, so that’s part of my sense of urgency in that matter, but you’re right that everything works out for our good. May God give you peace as you trust him with your future and the desires of your heart.
Growing Up Spiritually,
Striving can be a hard habit to break. But how wonderful that you are learning to let God do the work of sanctification and purification in your life. He is very good at it. We are not! I love what you are learning and how you are seeking to rest in Him and let Him clean you up.
Thanks for sharing this! It is very easy for our dreams to usurp the Lord if we are not careful.
I can’t take credit for that quote. 🙂 But it is a very sobering one to keep in mind.
“Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.”
― John Calvin
Thanks for the reminder about idols. That is a good thing to guard against always.
Growing Up Spiritually,
I think that sometimes God allows wives to receive a sense of direction first so that we can pray it into existence. Often, a husband won’t have the same vision for the family or goals at the same time. But that is okay. God can change their hearts and implant His desires in their hearts in His timing.
I know that happened with David Platt and his wife. She was the first one to realize how dangerous and sinful materialism was. And she began praying about it for their family long before her husband caught the same vision.
What a blessing to get to take something God has given to us and incubate it and pray over it privately, allowing Him to lead and to move the mountains out of the way according to His will.
I love your heart for the Lord and your desire to allow God to purify you. Beautiful!
Thank you so much, April, for your kind response. I like what you said a lot. For women to nurture and develop something that has been received from God quietly and then birth it into the natural makes sense since women are the ones to get pregnant after all. 🙂 A pastor I follow recently said that women in the Church (universal) need to grab hold of what God is doing in this hour and not let the moment pass us by. If we women submit to God and receive what he has for us, I believe the men will follow– not that this is the rule by any means, but women are more powerful influencers than many realize. Thank you again.
Growing Up Spiritually,
If we have truly received something from the Lord, then yes, He will also bring it to fruition in our husbands’ lives, as well, I believe. In His perfect timing. What a blessing to be able to pray in God’s will into our families and churches and into the world.
I especially love to pray God’s promises into being in our families and into the church and the world. Praying God’s Word is a very powerful way to pray. We can know we are praying God’s will and be partners with Him in bringing His will into existence.
Nikki – have you read “Hind’s Feet on High Places,” by Hannah Hurnard? It is so good -a Christian allegory. I’ve checked out the cd’s from public library for road trips to listen to this book, too. Really well-done and uplifting.
I’ll definitely look into that book. Thanks so much for the recommendation 🙂
Jesus gave an amazing example of how we are to pray when His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray in “the Lord’s Prayer”:
1. Jesus offered up praise and prayers to God alone.
2. He invited God’s kingdom to come on earth and His will to be done.
3. He asked for God to meet physical needs.
4. He modeled how we are to ask forgiveness for our sins.
5. He modeled how we are to forgive others so that God will forgive us.
6. He modeled how we are to ask God for help avoiding temptation.
In all of Jesus’ prayers and His instructions on prayer, it was all about relationship with God. It was about Him talking to His Father directly. (And every other example of a believer praying in Scripture, to my knowledge, was also to God alone.) We have direct access, through Jesus, to the very heavenly Holy of Holies! What an incredible and profound privilege and honor. May we seek to grow in our faith and in our prayer lives. Not that we trust our words, or any rituals, but that we trust God and invite Him to work in our lives and in the people and circumstances around us for His glory.
Much love to everyone!
The Lord’s Prayer or the Model Prayer:
I love hearing about God answering prayer. That is such a blessing! He has healed me of several things, too. And I have seen Him do so many miracles in family members’ lives relating to physical health, relationships, spiritual healing, and all kinds of provision.
God is very good!
Yes He is, April. God is very good! I’m glad that I know Him and glad that you too have experienced and witnessed the demonstration of His power, in the name of Jesus.
God bless you and yours, and your ministry!
Thanks, Gene Webb!
April this is a good article and it reminds me of something . I often prayed to God unbiblically and when I slip back into old mind sets, still can. What do I mean by this? I’ve mentioned some of this in previous posts but will again as its relative to the conversation although you can certainly edit it out if you like.
Without me realizing it I prayed out of a lot of unbelief and distrust, unwittingly attributing characteristics to God that were that of my father and other authority figures who had been unjust or untrustworthy. There were many such figures in my life which made it hard to think from any other basis. Additionally, because I had cried out to God during an abuse incident and did not hear any response from God nor witness any rescue come to pass soon after, I really didn’t trust God or think He could be relied upon to do anything about things that were of great concern rto me. So I would pray from a place of doubt and mistrust with my feelings as the indicator as to what was, or was not God’s response. I did not base my understanding of God on scripture but on my feelings which I trusted more. I regarded christians who would insist on putting aside my feelings in favor of scripture as nuts, self righteous pharisees and totally insensitive. And some of them were indeed, fitting that bill. They were in such a rush to offer the solution that they acted as if my wounds were inconsequential. And from my end, I was so hurt and felt so sorry for myself in the face of abuse and injustice that I was just not ready to value truth more than feelings or seek for anything beyond healing. Consequently my relationship with God was often an arm wrestling match, with me trying to persuade an unwilling God to do what I needed or hoped He would or ought to do.
I saw Him through the lens of my father who was very unwilling to do anything for me or to meet my needs, and whose stance towards me was one of devaluation and contempt. Dad despised women and had a very idolatrous relationship towards them; he saw women as withholding, manipulative and whiny users and entrappers, which affected his attitude towards me. He was also a sex addict and so our home included some violation and being aware of things we ought not to have been exposed to.
As a result, my needs and feelings were invalidated and I often had to “prove” that what I wanted, needed or felt was valid by arguing for it convincingly like some trial lawyer. I won mercy by extreme submissiveness and even prostrating myself as if before a king with the power of life and death. That our lives were full of drama is an understatement. His judgements of me were always negative and tainted by his own deep bitterness, hatred and unforgiveness of his mother. The result of all of this was a sort of idolatrous interpretative bias in my own heart as I struggled to come out from under all the nasty stuff my father had transferred onto me from his undealt with issues and my own hurt and reaction to it and to feeling unloved and unwanted. I think that our reactions to such things are a combination of being sinned against and sinful responses which would of course include a sort of idolatry as our lives become about seeking what was denied us. This can also result in anger at God who surely must have been a party to the whole thing, insofar as we might see things at the time they occurred and without any understanding of what God has already done in response to evil. Our focus in this headspace is usually life in this world in the here and now and wanting to be happy. We are often unaware of God’s perspective being eternal and about right relationship with Him as the source of all life and joy. This makes it hard to grasp a larger picture.
So my prayer life and the lens of my heart was tainted by these things so that I was in effect praying to a version of God mixed with my father. The idea that God was a loving and just Father did not compute for me and I found the idea revolting. One day I decided to disregard my feelings and stand on what scripture said as a higher authority. I always felt filthy and unforgiven so I decided to stand on 1 John 1:9(If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness). and believe that. That little decision turned out to make a huge difference, and suddenly it seemed that the universe swung around and snapped into precise order and I was able to see clearly. I realized at that moment that God was not obligated to respond to me if I continued to pray to Him as something He was not, rather than praying to Him according to the truth of who He was.
Hebrews 11:6 New King James Version (NKJV) says:
6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. And James 1:5-7 says if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
I definitely needed my prayer life corrected and redirected by scripture and still do; praying by our emotions which tend to reinforce themselves, usually leads to a wilderness and brings despair and hopelessness as it tends to go in an ever tightening and defeating downward spiral.
I think we ALL have to do this to some degree – separate the faults of our fathers from our understanding of God. For some of us, that is more difficult, especially if we had abusive or very ungodly fathers.
I am SO THRILLED that you decided to stand on scripture and that God opened your eyes!~ That is AWESOME!
I wonder if you might consider praying about allowing me to share any of this anonymously as a post?
How I praise God with you for His healing and goodness!
Hi Seven Times,
I am very inspired by your story. I can also relate to quite a lot of it. I also had parents who hurt and betrayed me deeply and it tainted my view of God.
What struck me most in your story is that your father’s treatment towards you was “tainted by his own deep bitterness, hatred and unforgiveness of his mother”. It goes to show how unforgiveness hurts others.
My father was also filled with bittnerness and unforgiveness towards others and he treated us badly because of that. I turned out to be also bitter angry, hateful and unforgiving towards him and others. Because of my own inner rage, I hurt many people as well.
I have had to pray for the pattern of anger and unforgiveness to break in my family line and in my own heart. I have had to fight tooth and nail to tear down the idols of anger, hatred, unforgiveness and revenge.
At one point, I stopped trying to get revenge on others and left revenge in God’s hands. Instead of becoming more forgiving and kind-hearted as a result, I promptly erected another idol of “wanting God give people what they deserve”. I had to work hard to tear down that idol as well.
My goal now is to guard my heart daily and tear down all strongholds and idols and become a merciful person. I want my son to have an example of a forgiving, merciful and compassionate mother so he can learn to be that way as well.
I stand on the promises of Christ that he can change us and transform us as we yield to him. I’m confident that as we draw close to Jesus, He will gently teach us and guide us to be humble and gentle in heart like He is.
Matthew 11: 28 – 30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”
Sure I can pray about it but I don’t think God or I would have a problem with it; unless I am suddenly let to keep mum, by all means go ahead and use what is helpful. The only thing I would add is that even though I had this experience, where I had real clarity about God, truth, etc as a result of standing on God’s word, the battle was then on and I am talking immediately spiritual warfare that was intense and targeted as well as my own internal battle as new reality challenged a lifetime of seeing and responding from an old basis.
I had and have trouble with PTSD and dissociation, to name two of the more troublesome trauma effects. And of course the usual suspects as far as needing to forgive, deal with bitterness or address idolatry. It took a lifetime to develop all these things in my life and its pretty easy to slip back into it and have to reclaim lost ground.
Paul speaks of the sin that so easily entangles; he’s right and that’s so accurate, how easily we can get easily entangled. I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking that I now live my life on that level of maturity because in fact, although I caught this glimpse of what its like to stand on truth in Christ, I didn’t know how to walk in it and soon fell into old patterns, bad relationships, etc and pretty much came unglued and backslid. I am now beginning the work that is has been so needed for so long.
Struggling and backsliding from time to time is normal. Don’t feel like you are alone or that you are experiencing anything unusual.
When I started trying to forgive, I also experienced severe spiritual attacks. The devil didn’t like the changes I was making. Bit by bit, I grew stronger spiritually and I’m much better now. It has been a long journey of more than 11 years and I’m still not fully healed. However, I’ve seen significant progress in my emotional and spiritual well-being and it has been amazing and proof that God can do anything!
Keep pressing forward and God will change you and heal you bit by bit.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. Praise God that He is able to heal even these deep, festering wounds from our childhood experiences.
Praying for your continued healing!
I’ll give you a bit more time to pray. No rush. Thank you so much for sharing. I am praising God for all of the good He has done in you so far and all that He will continue to do and how He will complete the good work He began in you.
Praying for God’s victory in your life and for Him to give you the light, discernment, wisdom, and continued healing that you need.
I hope to run your post after I am done with the 3 week fast from negative words. <3
Thanks April 🙂 And also Natasha for sharing your similar experiences. Prayers and encouragement much appreciated.
You are most welcome, sweet sister. <3
Note – We will use the comments on this post to discuss praying to God rather than debating various theological differences between Christian denominations. Christ prayed in John 17:21 that all Christians will be one and that is what this blog strives to foster. Thanks for understanding! Much love to each of you!
I’m very happy to hear this. In Matthew 23:37, Jesus said
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing”.
Jesus wants to gather us together. He wants us to love each other and support each other in our love for Him and His Word. He would never want us to debate theology and tear each other apart.
This blog is a beautiful place for Christians of all denominations can gather together in love.
Thanks, Nikki. <3
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