Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Standing in Agreement or Standing in the Way?

Standing in Agreement or Standing in the Way?

Not too long ago, I dropped my daughter off at her elementary school. As I was driving out the parking lot, one of the parent crossing guards approached my car. I rolled down the window and just as she had done to the car in front of me, she handed me a small slip of white paper. I took the paper, smiled and pulled out the parking lot.

Once I got to the next stop sign, I unfolded the piece of paper and was taken aback by the paper’s bolded, black text. It announced that the principal at my daughter’s school had been ‘wrongfully terminated’ from her position!

I give all praise to God that unlike the past, my first reaction was not to take sides and be upset with whoever committed this “wrongful act of tyranny”. Instead, I reflected on all the interactions that I had with this woman over the past few years. Her heart really seems to be in the right place in regards to wanting every child who attends her school to succeed. She was always urging parents to participate in their child’s education so that they will achieve. Also through our brief interactions, I was able to know more about her personal life. I laughed as I recalled the day she told me with delight in her eyes that her son’s wife was expecting her first grandchild. She even ran down her list of possible names the child would call her. (She settled on “Mee-Ma”). So with all our “history,” I could have chosen to take offense on her behalf. I didn’t. Again, to God be the glory!

Coincidently, during this time, my pastor, Rick Sherer, was teaching a series called “A Prayer God Always Answers”. Through the series, I learned that, just as I have many kinds of shoes in my closet, there are different kinds of prayers for different situations.

During the series, we learned about the prayer of intercession and agreement.

Simply put, the prayer of intercession is when you pray to God on someone else’s behalf. Believers are ambassadors for Christ and it is our duty to intercede for others. The prayer of agreement is just that. You pray to God in agreement with someone else for an expectant result.

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men”. (1 Timothy 2:1 NKJV)

For the prayer of agreement, you and the person you are standing in agreement with must be in (you guessed it) agreement. (Otherwise it would be called something else, right?) This means that, essentially, you are praying for the same thing.

“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven”. (Matthew 18:19 NKJV)

To pray effectively, your prayers must be specific. (How else will you know when a prayer has been answered if you don’t know what it is that you expected to happen?)
When you pray the prayer of intercession, your will cannot override the person’s for whom you are interceding. Even though I didn’t know all of the behind the scene actions (i.e. why she was terminated; whether or not there was a clause in her contract that said they didn’t have to give her a reason for terminating her, etc.), I knew that I could pray for her. After all, I did receive the piece of paper which told me that she was being unjustly fired so that would be the basis of my prayer. Surely, she had to be expecting the same thing as me.

With all prayers, and in your spiritual life, there is nothing too hard for God! We must remove the handcuffs and limitations that we place on Him.

Later that week, I decided that I would pray for the principal and intercede on her behalf.

I started praying and called out her name (Ephesians 1:16). Then I thanked God for her being the overseer at my daughter’s school. Then I prayed that God would send her to another school…

Wait. I literally stopped speaking mid-sentence.

How did I know that she wanted to be sent anywhere? How did I know that she wasn’t praying that her job be restored? Was she even concerned about the termination? After all, she wasn’t the person that informed me of the situation. Was she praying that the people who caused this be punished? Was she even praying at all? Was she a Believer? Now I had too many questions in my prayer, which raised doubt. And in prayer, there is no room for doubt.

One of great things about having a relationship with the Father is that you can be real with Him. When you don’t know what to pray, you need to hush, so that the Holy Spirit can guide you. So that is what I did. I confessed that I didn’t know what to pray for in this situation. I asked God to guide me and then I hushed.

Later that night during a conversation with my husband, I told him that although I wanted to intercede on the principal’s behalf and get in agreement with her, I wasn’t confident in my prayer because I didn’t know what she wanted. (Of course I could have asked her, but I hadn’t seen her).

My husband enlightened me with more information about the principal’s situation. He said that she clarified the information that we had received. She wasn’t terminated. Instead, she was laid-off, which means something entirely different. She also said that she was considering the real possibility of retiring and just enjoying life.

Imagine that! Here I was getting ready to pray that she be lead to another job where she was appreciated and well-received, among other things, and here she was thinking about putting her feet up and relaxing!

During that conversation with my husband, he also pointed out that by praying for her to be led to another place of employment, I was putting God in a box. Who knows what He had in store for her? A more effective (hence, answered) prayer would be for her to come to the full knowledge of Christ and that God get the glory out of the situation and that anything meant for evil be turned to good.

My husband was right. (As I type this, I realize that this was also a great Wedded Whoament. I listened to the Holy Spirit and followed His leading to go to my husband. I was able to utilize the gift God gave me – my husband.)

All of these things that I was lead to pray for were things that I had confidence in, even without knowing the background situations or what the principal desired.

Amazingly enough, after praying for her my prayer extended to the principal who be there in the fall, whether it was her or not. I prayed for the school’s administration. I prayed for the school district and the list went on and on.

No matter how well-intended I thought I was being, once I removed myself and my feelings from the situation and took the limits off God, my prayer was more fruitful and I am confident that God heard my prayer and that my prayer is answered!

“Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:24 NKJV)



"Reality" TV?

Recently, Pastor Rick challenged our married couple’s ministry, Heirs Together, to find a clip of a modern television show that exhibits wives who reverenced their husbands consistently. When the group couldn’t come up with any modern day shows, we resorted to past shows. 

A few people went to the “Cosby Show.” However, after some discussion, we digressed because there were times when Clair was a little feisty and borderline disrespectful to Cliff. So while she was a close contender, she wasn’t always a Wise Wife

Leave it to Beaver” came into the equation. Surely, we could find no fault with June, right? Wrong. We soon realized that Mrs. Cleaver didn't disrespect Ward, per se, but the Cleaver household functioned well because Ward was rarely home and when he was, he was dealing with the shenanigans of his two sons. The most consistent thing about June was that she always had breakfast, lunch and dinner ready for her family so that they could hold their discussions. And she wore pretty dresses and pearls so she was “easy on the eyes”.

It’s quite daunting to think that almost all wholesome family shows on television have been replaced with “reality” television. There are shows about the [ex] wives of athletes, shows about little people; shows about weddings; shows about chaotic, out of control brides; shows about rappers and their party lives; shows about what not to wear…shows about the lives of fishermen… and the list goes on and on. 

I once read an article about how President Obama does not permit his young daughters, Sasha and Malia, to watch a particular reality television show about a famous family because he doesn’t consider some of the members of the family as proper role models. Like this forbidden show, I am sure that many shows nowadays fall under this “do not watch” list.

Outside of my home, I work in family law. My job is to provide customer service to families who are going through the sometimes difficult process of coming up with parenting plans for their children. Many times, parents come to our office disheveled, upset and confused. I have the responsibility to calm them down, diffusing the tension they are experiencing. Sometimes I do that with a smile. On occasion, it is with a calm voice. At times it is just by listening to their stories without interrupting. Some of my coworkers have commented that I have ‘the patience of Job’ to deal with some of our clients. Yes, when I am at work, I am Tiffany the Top Model.

There are times when Tiffany the Top Model follows me to my house and everyone in the house is laughing and having a wonderful time. My husband is happy. My daughters are giggling and playful.

Then [insert aloud, thunderous boom here], there are times when Tiffany the Tyrant follows me to my house. Unlike Tiffany the Top Model, this Tiffany is short-tempered, snapping at everyone who comes against me. Maybe this is because I have had a challenging day at work. Maybe it is because it’s “that time of the month” or maybe it is because I am simply not in the mood to be cheerful. Whatever the reason is, my family is not happy to see this Tiffany come around so they all walk on eggshells not knowing where one of my bombs will land.

The Bible speaks of hypocrites and warns us against being like them. He describes hypocrites as being one way outwardly and another inwardly.

Just so, you also outwardly seem to people to be just and upright but inside you are full of pretense and lawlessness and iniquity” (Matthew 23:28 – Amplified Bible)

I know that today if my life were to be broadcast (and don’t be fooled, our actions are being recording by your Father in Heaven), I  probably wouldn’t be too proud of the show – especially if the film crew wanted to visit my house on the days that Tiffany the Tyrant was home.

This “WHOAment” has made me see the importance of being the same at all times. If something bothers me, I need to vent that frustration to God and not to my family. They don’t deserve to be subjected to my ill attitudes – especially if this is not the same attitude that I have at work. (See the Whoament about Fixing Your Face).

Every day, you have an opportunity to be the person that God wants you to be. To get an assessment, ask yourself these questions:

If my life was filmed for the entire world to see, 24 hours a day, what would they see? Would people only watch to check out all the drama? Would it be a show that the entire family could watch together? Would people use clips of my show as examples of different aspects of a model Christian’s life (marriage, parenthood, community)? Would someone want to censor my show because of all the profanity and negativity it displays? Would my Father be glorified?

Although it’s easy to fall into the excuses of “I was having a bad day” or “I didn’t feel like it”. But what if God had bad days or if He “just didn’t feel” like blessing you?