Monday 10 December 2018

Your First Christmas After the Death of a Loved One

Blue Christmas

It was early November that Mom took her last breath. All to quickly the holiday season crept through the front door that year. Though still feeling the numbness of her absence we began to pick up speed through all our usual festivities. School concerts, church gatherings, family, and more family began to add weight to our already heavy hearts. Christmas night was my breaking point. Walking through the front door my legs gave way below my body and I collapsed on the couch with a weariness that penetrated the depths of my soul. My stomach still queasy from the rich feast I had stuffed down (more food than I had eaten in months), my chest heavy with agonizing grief. It was just.too.much. 

The first Christmas without our loved one is perhaps the most agonizing time of the year. A season usually filled with laughter, nearness of family, and joy loses its sparkle under the weight of grief. If I could go back in time I would give myself four pieces of advice, but since time travel is impossible I will share them with you instead in hopes of slightly easing the burden of the grief in your holiday season.

1. Allow yourself time to be sad.

Christmas is truly a season of joy as we remember the birth of our Redeemer, it is certainly a time to pause and celebrate! This year, let your gift to yourself be a gift of grace when the joy doesn't come as easily. Be patient, allowing yourself to be sad. Joy will return in small moments though maybe not through this holiday season, but one day. This also goes for the coming years. Grief is a rather odd emotion sneaking up when you least expect it. Be purposeful in taking moments to yourself or with someone you love to be sad and remember the person who has passed. One day you will smile a genuine smile again. One day you will laugh again. One day you will make it through Christmas and enjoy it once more, but until then be gracious with your heart.

2. Expect fatigue

My body was beyond exhausted by the time we made it to Christmas. We had gone from death to funeral to Christmas and both my physical and mental health were deplete. Christmas day I found a quiet space at my grandparent's home, where we were visiting, and excused myself to rest for 30 minutes. Go easy on yourself this year. Slow down the pace and don’t be afraid to say “no” to events and invites. You will be tired as you work to process your emotions and down time will be essential. Give yourself scheduled breaks to be able to rest even if you don’t sleep.

3. Find a way to remember your loved one

On the top of our tree we place an angel that my mom had given to me just before she got sick. Every year our angel finds her place atop our tree and everyone in our home knows the angel is our precious reminder of Mom/ Grammy. You could put out a photo or ornament, light a candle, recite their favourite Bible passage, play their favourite song, or leave an extra place setting at your table. Whatever it is, do something to remember them and remind you of the cherished memories you still carry even though they are gone. It is in those sweet memories that you will find the healing balm for your wounded heart.

4. Know that how you feel won’t last forever

Christmas is no longer what it once was. Every now and then I still find myself grieving over what use to be, but we have found a new normal. This is true whenever there are monumental changes in our lives be it a death, a move, divorce, a new baby, or anything that brings about newness good or bad. Our traditions have changed a little to adapt. Our new traditions are growing sweeter again as the holidays no longer sting like they once did. It is hard my sweet reader but the crushing pangs of grief will lift, don’t take my word for it, here’s what God has to say to you:

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance… (Ecclesiastes  3:1,4)

 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Take heart. Know that God is near you, comforting you, and strengthening you as you rest.  


photo credits: Annie Spratt @ Unsplash

Monday 3 December 2018

2 Truths to Hang Tightly to When Riding an Emotional Rollercoaster

2 things our feelings cannot do

Emotions are odd things. They can swell up unexpectedly whether the moment calls for them or not, or they can be oddly absent when we are expected to have a response. Often we can even find ourselves depending on our emotions to be the driving force behind decision making. 

Emotions are subjective, not objective. They are dependant on the person experiencing them, and the entirety of who they are and where they’ve been is what brings about an emotional response. Emotions are not to be shrugged off but dealt with, however, there are two objective truths as Christians we must cling tightly to as we wade through the sea of emotions in our lives.

1. Our emotions cannot separate us from God.

There is a new kind of legalism taking over the church. This legalism implies that we must be optimistic at all times or else our faith is in jeopardy. We smile big to prove we possess Abraham like faith never letting on what’s brewing below the surface for fear others may perceive in us a weakness of faith. 

After Jesus was resurrected, but prior to his ascension he made several appearances. One, in particular, is my favourite. Two men are walking home from Jerusalem to Emmaus when Jesus shows up and starts walking alongside them. God makes the two men blind in their understanding of who Jesus is and they all begin to talk.

And he (Jesus) said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, Iooking sad. (Luke 24:17, parentheses mine, emphasis mine)

They proceed to tell Jesus in all their sadness what they had just witnessed during his crucifixion in Jerusalem. His death still fresh and lingering in their thoughts brought them to a devastating conclusion:

“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.” (Luke 24:21)

They “had hoped” past tense. Their hope was gone and they were sad, and yet walking alongside them was Jesus. In all their despair, the one who gives comfort was there all along! He walked with them talking as he went. At their home they invited Jesus in where he broke bread and blessed it at which point God revealed for the first time who their company really was. 

When we are blue, bitter, discouraged, frustrated we need to remember our emotions cannot separate us from God. In fact, as the two men found out, in their sadness and longing for a Redeemer he was closer than they recognized. What is important to note is that it is sin that causes separation from God not emotions, though emotions can lead us to sin if not kept in check. 

The two men experienced one last emotion that came with a very physical response.

They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32 emphasis mine)

God’s word, like Jesus’ presence to the men, is where we find the balm for our aching souls. We pour out our hearts like the Psalms of lament and allow God to comfort, redeem, correct our thinking when we’ve strayed, and walk beside us in all our emotions knowing that He already knows how we feel. In our honesty and surrender He can move in to begin to restore. 

2. Our emotions cannot not bind us to God.

Many of us have felt the euphoric rush of a good worship song, and no doubt the Holy Spirit can speak to us as we offer up our songs of praise and worship to God! It is an extraordinary feeling to be surrounded by God's presence! But long after the band's last song, when we go home to our ordinary lives, our prayers sometimes seem to fall flat. Sometimes we even experience extended seasons where the fullness of God’s presence seems absent in our lives. In these seasons we need to remember it is not our emotions that bond us to God, but the redeeming blood of our Saviour that justifies our eternal bond. 

When Jesus casts out Legion (found in Matthew 8 and Mark 5) even the demons had an emotional response to his presence.

Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; and shouting with a loud voice, he said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. (Mark 5:6-10 emphasis mine)

These demons very clearly had an emotional response. We know that demons believe in God and shudder (James 2:19). They can have wildly emotional responses around God yet we know they are not saved. Because of this we can know that whether it was the shudder at the name of God or tears shed while speaking to him in prayer it is still not an indication that we are saved and bonded to Christ. We do not need to have an emotional response each and every time as much as we long to sense God's presence.

When we hang onto our moments of tearful euphoria as our hope for salvation, we ignore God’s other gift of logic and our minds. Though logic does not carry the warmth of an emotional experience, it is our anchor in seasons of drought. We can know that God is real because his word tells us so. We can know we are saved because his word also tells us without error that those who confess that Jesus is Lord, that he died for our sins, and who repent are adopted sons and daughters in God’s family. God is still present and working in our lives even we don't feel it. 

When our prayer life feels stagnant and dull we can certainly ask God’s Spirit to refresh our prayer lives. However, should we find ourselves in a quiet season of life, we can know in our mind, and hold tight to our faith that God is still there, and our salvation still stands, emotions notwithstanding. 

So take a deep breath. Thank God for giving us emotions as a way to express ourselves, but don’t cling so tightly to how you feel allowing your emotions to be your driving force. Know that your emotions cannot keep you from nor bind you to God. They will ebb and flow like they always do. Instead, hold fast to the word of God that provides us comfort and correction to soothe our aches and promises to anchor our thoughts knowing he is still walking alongside us. 


photo credit: Nick Demou @

Sunday 19 August 2018

2 Reasons Why God Causes Separation Between Believers

There was a time, not so long ago, that I can remember pulling into our church’s parking lot Sunday morning and my stomach would instantly begin to churn. My husband and I would walk in, hear nothing, and leave empty, if not a little angry. The church was in the middle of a split and we were too close to those at the epicentre to not feel the impact of the rift. Our friends were pitted against each other and the oppressive hit of harsh words was shattering their hearts and long term bonds. From the sidelines our own hearts were broken as we witnessed the slow train-wreck in front of us. Eventually, Sunday mornings were too heavy to desire to walk through the front door. We left. 

For the longest time I wondered where God’s hand had been. This was HIS house! Why was he not working to keep his body of believers together? After some time away, and A LOT of digging into God’s word, I can finally look back and see God’s hand actually was on the circumstances. Along the way, I have found at least two reasons why God allows these events to unfold, painful as they may be. 

1. God separates to protect the humble, and humble the proud

During the time of the Judges, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25b) There were twelve tribes in Israel, and one tribe takes the stage in this example. Judges 19 tells a gruesome story of a Levite’s concubine being brutally raped, beaten, and left to die by men from the tribe of Benjamin. In retaliation the other tribes of Israel go to battle against the Benjamites. These tribes seem to be losing the battle against the ferocious Benjamin tribe until they stop to fast, pray, and offer sacrifices to the Lord. When their hearts are made right, God hands the Benjamites over the tribes and they are defeated. Out of 25,000 men in the tribe of Benjamin, only 600 manage to escape to the hills (Judges 20). If we look one more chapter over we see a key verse:

And the people had compassion on Benjamin because the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel. (Judges 21:15 emphasis mine)

The word breach here means a gap. By the hand of God division was made among the body of his holy nation. In this case, God separated the humbled tribes who had made their hearts right with God, from the proud tribe who had chosen to live how they felt was right in their own eyes.

Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept. They sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And the people of Israel inquired of the Lord (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it in those days), saying, “Shall we go out once more to battle against our brothers, the people of Benjamin, or shall we cease?” And the Lord said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand.” (Judges 20:26-28)

God was protecting those who had chosen to be obedient to his commands, from those who were tarnishing his Holy Nation. There are times when God steps in to offer protection and it looks like a painful division. He is protecting those sheep who know his voice and desire to follow it. But, as the Good Shepherd, he is removing the wolves from the pack as he providentially works to maintain his body of believers. 

Should we find ourselves in this situation, let us first take the position of a humble bended knee as we seek Christ. May we pause long enough to hold out our hurt and anger to God and ask if it was us who made the offence. Is it possible we have wandered too far out of God’s earshot to know His commands? Has our pride blinded our judgements? If so, we repent, and ask God for forgiveness. If it was not us, then we seek God and offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us.

There is hope in this circumstance regardless of which group you belong in. God did not completely destroy this tribe. His temporary breech in the tribes was for the purpose to humble the proud tribe who did what was right their eyes. Saul, a Benjamite, mentions this to Samuel when he says, "Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin?" (1 Sam 9:21) God used the separation to protect the humble from those who hurt them, but also to teach the proud who has true authority.

In the case of this cause of separation, we pray for pure hearts in ourselves, making sure our own pride is not the reason for a separation; and for the hearts of those who have already strayed.

2. God separates for the multiplication of His Kingdom

 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:36-41)

At first glance it appears as though two good friends have an argument and decide to part ways. If we dig in deeper to what happened we can see a different side to this split. 

Back in the day Paul (then Saul) was struck down and corrected by God. He is told to stop persecuting Christians and become a preacher to the Gentiles. When Paul lands in Jerusalem none of the disciples are comfortable letting this former murderer of Christians into their circle, except for Barnabas (Acts 9). So Barnabas, whose name means encourager (Act 4:36), becomes an encourager and exhorter to Paul. He spurs Paul on in his calling, and the two become travel companions as they preach the gospel message. 

For a time, a young man named Mark joins them along the journey. Mark departs the team (Acts 13:13), leaving a bad taste in Paul’s mouth. Barnabas, being an encourager by nature, wants to bring Mark alongside him once again (as Barnabas once did with Paul), but Paul is adamant Mark not join in. They are about to retrace their steps back to the cities they came from and Paul does not want the tagalong who left them once already to be brought with them. Thus, the two men part ways via a sharp disagreement. What we do see is that Paul takes Silas and goes back to Syria and Cilicia, while Barnabas takes Mark and goes back to Cyprus. 

We learn later in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians that he speaks lovingly of his friend Barnabas (1 Cor. 9:6). It becomes clear that the two eventually reconcile, or at least become settled again in their hearts over how they feel about each other. Paul also later tells Timothy, “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.” (2 Tim 4:11)

The unfolding of this disagreement reveals the guiding of God’s hand. God built Paul up through circumstances in Paul’s life to be a man who would unashamedly correct wrong behaviour within the churches. Paul visits those churches he and Barnabas planted as he retraces his steps and speaks boldly over bodies of believers. Barnabas, also revisits churches, thus splitting the load with Paul. but Barnabas does it by being the man God built him up to be, the encourager. He visits less hostile churches and gives Mark the second chance he needs to grow in his own ministry, thus making Mark an invaluable tool later on. 

God used the personal convictions of these two men to cause a division. No doubt, hearts were hurt as they sorted through who would go where. Long term we can see God split apart two to multiply many. His sovereign hand was at work guiding these two causing them to move apart so others could be taught, trained, corrected, and raised up stronger.

This was the case in what my husband and I were witnessing. A sharp contrast in convictions led to a parting of ways. Did it hurt? Absolutely! But, as years have gone by I can see both parties flourishing and are exactly where God needed them to be. 

If your heart is heavy-burdened over a split between yourself and a godly friend, or a separation in your church, take heart. God’s guiding hand is indeed at work. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)


photo credit: Pexels

Thursday 9 August 2018

For The Late Night Worrier: The Theology of Sleep

According to Statistics Canada there are approximately 3.3 million Canadians who battle insomnia. I am one of them. There have been times when my insomnia was brought about by chemical deficiency, but if I’m really being honest, I would say the majority of my sleeping problems are caused by stress. I am a Midnight Worrier. 

There is something about that moment when my head hits the pillow that causes my brain to wake up. I begin to unravel the day, and yesterday, and tomorrow, and 10 years ago, and 10 years into the future. Like a hamster in a squeaky wheel, my mind begins to race. 

What is it that keeps me going all. night. long? Like lingering question marks when I wanted a period, they are the unsolved problems of the hour/day/week. The questions I either could not solve, or did not have time to solve. And the deeper into the dark of night I go, the larger the question marks become, dancing around my head.

And then, with the quiet nudging of the Holy Spirit, I hear, “he makes me lie down in green pastures.” (Ps 23:1b) He is calling me to sleep. God knows. He knows the answers to my unknowns, because He is the all-knowing. My circumstances are real. My trials are real. My conflicts are real. But, they are not mine to hold, not for the 8 hours I ought be sleeping for, nor for the 16 hours that follow. He did not call me into midnight turmoil, he called me to the quietness of his side. 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)

In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat-- for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Ps 127:2)

When God made us he purposefully did not make us to be able to function without sleep. He knew we would need sleep because he made us to need it. It was not an arbitrary purpose either, he had a plan right from day one. 

The very first day of creation, God made light and dark, and separated the two. He began by making rhythm and pattern, not for his benefit, but for ours. He knew once humans were made we would need the peace of the darkness of night to reset. A time set aside each day where we shut down and shut off and be human, not gods.

“God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” (Gen 1:5)

He continued until day 7 when God himself rests. 

Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Gen 2:3)

He did not do this because HE needed rest, but one of the many implications of this is that God again set a pattern for us to follow. If God took time to stop creating, and we are not above God, then we certainly need to have moments to stop “doing”, and that includes quieting our obnoxiously loud thoughts.  

Laying down and resting is an act of submission that we are not miniature gods. Sleep requires us to acknowledge that whatever weighty thoughts or activities we are trying to solve are not ours to carry. We are the sheep, he is the Shepherd. “He will not let your foot slip-- he who watches over you will not slumber.” (Ps 121:3) He holds your circumstances, your deadlines, your relationships, your kids, your marriage, your health, and your future 24 hours a day 7 days a week. All of it is firmly in his hands. In full surrender that the faithful God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow is firmly in control we can lay down in green pastures and rest. 

It may feel like we are finishing with lingering question marks, but know that God, who writes your story, places the finality of periods where he sees fit. He knows perfectly what is to come, and when the sun goes down, it is time for you to rest while He continues to unfold his plans. 

Tonight, as you go to lay down, imagine for a moment that your bed is the mighty hands of God. Fall into them and know that, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day”. (Ps 91:4-5)


photo credit: Annie Spratt @ Unsplash

Wednesday 11 July 2018

How Much Faith do I Need to be Healed?

“If he just had a little more faith I know he would be healed!”

She had great concern for her friend and his current health crisis, and she wasn’t the first one to lament the seemingly lack of faith in a loved one. 

“How much faith does one need to be healed?”, I asked. Her puzzled look told me she had not thought about that yet. So I went on, and it sounded something like this...

The Bible tells us that “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move.” (Matthew 17:20b) Surely if such a minuscule amount of faith can move mountains it would be more than enough for anyone to be healed. 

But, just how much faith is a mustard seed faith? 

Mustard seed faith is the tiniest seed of a new found faith in God. It is the first utterance of a declaration that God is real and Jesus is your personal Saviour. It is the admittance that you believe in and belong to God’s family.

Her friend indeed was a child of God and had been for many years. We established he certainly had at least mustard seed-sized faith even if he had never grown in faith since he first prayed for God to be part of his life.

The problem with this notion that if we just had more faith all things would work out is that it is a self-defeating statement. It puts pressure on ourselves to rummage up enough faith to make things happen, and when they don’t we feel we have failed God. So we try other routes: more prayers, more good deeds, more tithing, more reading our Bibles...all great things...but when the desired outcome does not come we grow deeply discouraged. And not that moody-blue "I'm-having-a-bad-day" type of discouragement. We are talking about deep dissatisfaction to the core of our souls. We want to give up and question if God is even listening, or moreso, if he even exists. 

I had my friend open to the book of Job and read the very first verse: 

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. (Job 1:1 emphasis my own)

Blameless, upright, God-fearing, and he turned away from evil. This is a man of exemplary faith!  We could most certainly say that Job at least had faith the size of a mustard seed. Oddly enough, it did not keep Job in good health. In fact, this wealthy land owner was not only struck down in his own health, but experienced the death of his children, and the loss of his livelihood. It left Job wondering "why me?". A question we too often face when confronted with the painfully unexpected trials of life that seem to come wave upon wave.

While I can’t answer why, I do know this...

The only faith you need to have is enough faith to trust God has a plan even when the mountain does not move. Sometimes He needs us to faithfully start climbing instead of asking him to flatten the steep incline in front of us. 

Do not believe for one second that your future health and healing depend on you and your ability to muster up faith. You simply do not hold that kind of power. The hands that set the earth on its foundation are holding you as you go along no matter how grim it may appear in this moment. Maybe you will be healed, maybe not. The guarantee we long for does not exist this side of Heaven anyway. Our guarantee is the promise of eternal life through Jesus. With eyes fixed on eternity it makes any climb worth it. 


photo credit: Markus Spiske @

Sunday 10 June 2018

Lessons from the Highway

Not every moment is going to be easy, even when we walk it with God. There are no promises that everyday will be a smooth ride! Sometimes it's all to easy to become wrapped up in the all encompassing mess that is in front of us. Last week, while coming home from a road trip, I found myself being drawn into the tarred-up broken lines on the road. Below is a video to show you the metaphor I saw while driving that helps us to see above the broken road. 

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
                                                                                   ~ Jesus (Matthew 11:28)


Friday 11 May 2018

A Letter From Mom (Even Though I am no Longer With You)

I remember the first Mother's Day after my mom has passed. There was an entire holiday I felt I could not participate in anymore, an entire wall at Hallmark was no longer for me. Never again would I find her the perfect card to describe how I felt. This letter is part of a series of letters I have called "Dear Daughter". They are written to my daughters, and I have been sharing them with you from time to time. This one is written for them to read once I am gone, but actually I wrote it partly for myself from my own mom. I hope it helps your aching heart as you grieve a mom who isn't there this Mother's Day weekend.

Dear Daughter,

What I want you to know is that my love for you has no end.

From the moment I knew you were forming inside me I loved you.

I had a secret the world couldn’t see.

I treasured those moments when I carried you 

hidden away

 from harshness of this world.

It was just you and I.

The day I finally got to hold you was like no day ever before.

I had never seen a “you” before!

I saw your eyes and you looked at me.

Your tiny lips were pursed just right;

I couldn’t help but to kiss them.

I had plans and dreams with you;

Some of those plans worked out, other did not.

It wasn’t always easy though,

We haven’t always seen eye to eye;

But nothing will ever change how much I love you and treasure you.

Time passes, dear daughter, 

and as you know,

I will not always be able to walk beside you.

I will not always be close by, or even a phone call away.

You may not see me anymore,

But you need to know...

Just because you cannot see me does not mean I have forgotten you.

From the quiet moments of us the first night I brought you home,

To the moments leading up to my last breath,

Every one of those is embedded deeply into my memory bank,

a bank rich in thoughts of you.

Rest assured darling, you are still on my mind.

But there’s more you still need to know...

However we left each other, whatever words were spoken,

If it was needed, 

I have forgiven you.

You are my daughter and I your mother, 

That is bond that always offers forgiveness.

Rest peacefully knowing I do not carry that hurt with me anymore.

I love you.

Until we meet again,

Love you always and forever,


photo credit: Nikola Radojcic @ Unsplash 

Wednesday 2 May 2018

How to Get Past Your Fears of Praying Out Loud

"I'm too afraid to pray out loud."

It’s a phrase I have heard time and time again from countless women. It usually comes on the heels of the suggestion that we are to gather together and pray. I know this fear because I once felt this way too.

The moment prayer would begin I would start to rehearse the prayer in my mind. I would think up words to say and arrange them to sound “godly” or “spiritual”. Then, in a moment of quiet, I would recite my words out loud and hope to hear a few resounding “amens” from others as reassurance that I had said something worthwhile. 

The whole event was rather stressful and left me with anything but peace and a longing for the quiet of my home and my private prayers. As I grew in faith I came to realize much of what I was fearful of was silly preconceived notions of what prayer ought to be. As I picked through them I gained confidence in public prayer. Here are a few of those notions to help you if you too are one of those people who dread public prayers.

1. Our prayers must sound eloquent and wise.

False. There will be some who pray with words that would make any english university professor applaud. I’m guessing that those who pray like that also speak like that. You know how my prayers sound? In this phase of life they are about as grandiose as my three word sentences to my toddler. Simple, clear, concise, but not dragging and that’s ok. God doesn’t need eloquently worded prayers, he needs genuine hearts. 

Jesus new we would be tempted to pray in ways that would contradict a genuine heart for God in prayer:

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (Matthew 6:7 emphasis mine)

"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' (Luke 18:13 emphasis mine)

We don’t pray to impress the others in the room, we pray to draw near to God. He knows who you are, and he wants YOUR prayers in the way YOU pray them, not in the way others pray them. Don’t try to sound lofty, just speak as you normally do. After all, prayer is just a fancy word for talking to and listening to God. It's still just a conversation.

2. We need to pray exactly what others are praying for.

False. “We need to pray for our nation right now,” says the first person. It is a noble request worthy of prayer, so we begin to pray for our nation. But suddenly, God begins to stir your heart towards something else. Perhaps you really, REALLY feel like you need to pray for your pastor. Or perhaps you really, REALLY feel like you just want to bust out a worship song and praise God. Ok, maybe I’ve made you uncomfortable with that last one, but the point is this: God’s will is what we are seeking. As we seek him, he will naturally stir our hearts towards his desire. We cannot see the full picture, so while the focus may begin with a prompting to pray for our nation, maybe, just maaaaaybe God knows your pastor will need support to stand in the nation. Or maybe, just maaaaaybe God knows of a place that needs more prayer or praise, and the nation, in that moment, isn’t it.

Don't worry about speaking from somewhere out of left field. If that's what God has placed in your hear  speak it out! He know how it fits into the prayer even if you, or others can't make sense of it.

3. I don’t need prayers for myself.

False. Sometimes when we gather, the request is to prayer for each other. You know what’s really scary? Admitting you need prayer from others. It means you have to admit that you are struggling somewhere. It’s easy when someone says, "can I pray for you?" I’ve yet to meet someone who will turn that down. It’s different to volunteer your request to be prayed for. 

I have felt that fear, and can I just say that the fear of speaking up is ALWAYS short lived. At the end of the day, most people who are committed to the Lord know that we cannot walk this crazy world on our own. We are here for each other, and sometimes that means we are here to hold each other in prayer and petition.

When we stop buying into these false notions the fear of praying publicly will diminish. God will slowly give you more confidence as you go. If you’ve never prayed in public, try a sentence next time. Just one. That’s ok. Your obedient heart to serve God in prayer will not go unnoticed by Him. He will strengthen you as go bravely.