How to Build Faith to Pray: Stories We’ve Heard

 

build faith. stories we've heard

We want to focus on how we can build faith today. One thing I do to build up my trust in God is to remember and reflect on stories of what he has done.

For most of us, praying to God can be hard if we don’t have that trust part of faith. If we haven’t fully trusted that God will do what he says he will do. If we haven’t fully trusted that God will answer when we come to him.

It’s like we are on this journey of finding power in prayer. And on this journey, we continue to build up our faith, our belief that God can do anything. As we are walking along, we might at some point begin to believe that he loves people… all people. Then we might eventually believe that he loves and listens to us… that all people includes me. Some of us can come to believe that God can do miracles today – whether that means healing hearts or healing bodies.

I’ve come to understand, and correct me if I’m wrong, that every journey happens uniquely. Our faith is built in a different order and timing. I don’t want to sound too individualistic in this.  But I believe that sometimes God loves this. Because our individual walks with God are indeed unique. And I know that I know that I know that he loves his individual relationship with each person on this earth.

He walks beside us, journeying alongside us as he did with the disciples in the gospels. He is continually developing and growing and nurturing our faith in Him and in His faithfulness to always be with us.

But we can go for years sometimes without allowing God to nurture and develop our faith. This could be because of past hurts or challenges. You might have felt really hurt and abandoned by someone. You might have felt really hurt and abandoned by God. This would have damaged your trust in God.

You may have gotten caught up in the busy-ness of life. Or in the relationships that have taken the place of God in your life – other people that you talk to about your hurts and your wants.

Whatever part of your journey that you are on, let’s be intentional today. Let’s allow our faith journey to move forward.

So how can we, with God alongside us, build our faith… so that we can begin to see “mountains” move in and around us?

Remember the Stories

Start with this question: How can I know that prayer is powerful?

By answering this, you are developing your trust… because you know that God can do x and y.

There are many ways of answering this question, but let me suggest today that you 1) Remember other people’s stories, 2) Remember stories from the Bible, and 3) Remember stories from your own life. We’ll talk about the third one next time.

 

Remember other people’s stories

Write a list of stories in your journal. Stories you remember from other people. Stories where prayer was answered.

If that skeptic voice pops up in your head – evaluate it. Ask God that if it’s true, to give you faith to believe. Make a choice. Will you choose to believe that God can do such things.

Concerning anxiety and/or depression, I can think of several stories through the years where God has met with an individual crying out to him on a bad night. Sometimes through the Psalms. Sometimes through people. Sometimes through hope given in other parts of the Bible. For them, this was a miracle… because it’s hard to get through a bad night. There are a couple of stories I know where God has answered prayers for deliverance from mental illness, and though these are few, they give us hope.

There are so many stories that I can think of from missionaries. Where God has warned them in dreams or in prayer of danger that was coming. Or when he has given them vision of his will in prayer. You’ll often hear stories from short term missionaries who received the money that they needed to go on their trip…after they prayed and surrendered to God.

I found this website via googling “answered prayer stories”, and was encouraged by some of these stories. Have a quick google if no stories come to mind.

I would also recommend asking your friends for their stories. Build up your faith through the testimony of others. And help them build their faith by reminding them where God has been present.

 

Remember stories from the Bible

Another way to build your faith is in scripture. Because if we are a Christian, it is so important to build up trust in God’s word. This reinforces and makes faith solid and unshakable. When you believe the Bible is truth, you have an immeasurable amount of tools for your journey. And you can allow the Holy Spirit to speak in you through scripture.

So in the Bible, how can you know that prayer is powerful?

Write a list in your journal. 🙂 There’s hundreds of stories you could write down.

Like when God was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3. They trusted God completely, claimed him as powerful, and he was with them.

There are many times in the book of Daniel that Daniel comes to God in prayer, and God reveals to him other people’s dreams. Check out Daniel 2, as his friends pray for him:

16 At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven…

God answers our prayer with power… and listens to those who pray on our behalf. It’s a beautiful thing to pray for another person, and expect God to come through.

There’s the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:

36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

And God answered by sending fire down from heaven. And I love that this was for his glory – that people would know that he is God. This is important to remember in our prayers. That God is the one with the power.

What other stories can you think of from the Bible?

A Prayer for Us

Dear Author, thank you for the power of stories. Thank you for the testimony of others. In the power of your Holy Spirit, bring to our minds stories of when you have listened and answered the prayers of your people. Reveal to us these stories through the people around us. Reveal stories in your word of truth. Give us faith to believe when our minds say no. Where we think it’s not possible, speak to us that it is not only possible, but that it has been done before and can be done again. Strengthen us with faith. Develop us on this journey. May we be able to look back today and see what you have already done. May we look back in the years to come to see how you have surrounded us with stories of your power the whole way. Thank you for this. We claim this in your name, Jesus. Amen.

Friday’s Lies: I can’t control my emotions.

Lie: I can’t control my emotions.

Truth: I have the power to change my thinking; therefore, I am in control of my emotions.

I’ve been digging around trying to find something, ANYTHING, that tells me that I have little (or even no) I'm Too ___. (1)control over my emotions! I like having that excuse – that it’s not my fault when I burst into tears and yell sometimes. But, I just can’t find that article, journal, blog, book, or anything. There is absolutely no research suggesting that men and women (with a fully functioning brain) can’t control their emotions.

Thus, we present to you this lie: “I can’t control my emotions”.

I didn’t even know it was a lie until today. I was going to tell you about the exceptions, but it seems that there are none for the average person. Many factors contribute to making it difficult, and even seemingly impossible, for us to overcome emotions. These can include brain-related trauma and illness, mood disorders, autism, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, deep-rooted anger issues, hormones and the like. But, the answer to coping with and controlling our emotions, across the board, is simple:

We train and retrain our mind to think differently. We think positively and logically. We stop and capture our thoughts. We get in control.

Our thoughts and emotions “aren’t fixed facts; they’re flexible” (Sherman). In his article in Psychology Today, Jeremy E. Sherman, Ph.D.  tells us that in every scenario, you can, essentially, be your own author. You just need to “tell a different story” in order to “automatically generate a different emotionally response”. Imagine that your sibling has been poking you and you’ve been asking him/her to, pretty please, stop poking me for the past ten minutes. Your frustration is boiling. You are getting anxious and stressed. Your face is turning red and you are getting hot with the type of anger that can’t be described. You’re annoyed. Your story is that you have had a bad day already and your sibling is making it worse. You don’t need this kind of crap.

Change your story. Your sibling is poking you because they love you. This is the only time of day that you get to spend with them. They just want your attention for a minute. After all, you love them as well. Remember when they were born and you felt on top of the world? You take a deep breath and decide that instead of screaming at them, you will poke them back and play with them for the next ten minutes, then tell your mom that you really need to do your homework. Would they please occupy your brother/sister while you work on it?

There is a choice.

Here is an excerpt from a study conducted over a full year and a half, recorded in Neuro Image:

“Aversive feelings such as anger, sadness, and anxiety often disrupt individuals’ attempts at self-control, resulting in impulsive behaviors and decisions. It remains uncertain how this happens. Common sense suggests that people who act rashly when they are upset fail to successfully inhibit their impulses because they are unmotivated or unable to do so. Yet just the opposite may be true: people may fail at self-control while they experience negative emotions because they excessively recruit inhibitory processes” (Chester).

Maybe we simply don’t want to change our emotions so we hide behind them. Our friend did something wrong and we believe we have the right to hold that against them. We inhibit ourselves, not allowing our brain to respond in a better way. The Chester study goes on to show that the more we practice positive emotions and positive thinking, the better we get at it. But, it can seem impossible if we have a habit of inhibiting our positive responders. All in all, “our beliefs and expectations about a person or event or situation directly influence …our feelings (Grohol). Other people may contribute to them, but they don’t cause our feelings. We get that responsible.

Even at the worst of my anxiety disorder, I learned that if I took control and told myself that I was going to be okay on the onset of a panic attack, it was less overwhelming. I could function afterward. And the more that I engaged in this positive self-talk, this self-encouragement, the more I was in control of my anxiety. It didn’t go away for a while, but the more and more I practiced this, the more it went away. It gave me my life back. Why don’t I apply this idea to my other emotions?

My friend and I were just talking about how women are defined by the stereotype that we can’t control ourselves – that we are crazy human beings that can go off at any moment. And all women are, at some point, viewed this way. I know that I am and, I see now, that taking on that stereotype is my own fault. I’m reminded of when I was in high school and all the girls were talking about how their hormones controlled them and there was nothing they could do about how they acted toward others. I remember thinking, I don’t have the urge to treat other people badly just because I’m PMS-ing. And I’m ashamed that I forgot that. Our hormones don’t control our thoughts. Our thoughts are what control our hormones.

We don’t have to yell at our spouses or our families, our roommates or our computer – we don’t have to act annoyed at them – every time we don’t feel well. We CAN control our emotions, so we CAN control how we treat others. It’s something to remember. Something true.

And now that we know the truth, we can be open to a whole new range of possible responses to others and to ourselves (Sherman). And I think that is rather exciting! We can get our lives back – our friendships, our marriages, our relationships with our siblings, with our kids, with our parents. It’s a positive thought, and I for one, think I might hold on to it. 🙂 Let’s write a different story and live better lives.

 

Resources

Sherman, Jeremy E., Ph.D. “Total Control vs. No Control Theory of Emotions: Can You Control Your Emotions or Not?” Psychology Today. N.p., 13 June 2010. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.

 

Chester, David S. “How Do Negative Emotions Impair Self-control? A Neural Model of Negative Urgency.” NeuroImage 132 (2016): 43-50. Science Direct. Web. 11 Aug. 2016

 

Grohol, John M., Psy.D. “We Are Responsible for Our Own Feelings | World of Psychology.” World of Psychology. Psych Central, 30 Aug. 2008. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.