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    The Essence of Prayer

    When Abraham Lincoln became president of the United States, he was tasked with leading a fractured nation. Lincoln is viewed as a wise leader and a man of high moral character, but another element to his makeup, perhaps, was the foundation for everything else. He understood that he was inadequate for the task at hand. His response to that inadequacy? Lincoln said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”

    When we come to grips…

    Tackling Indecision

    We live in a world that offers a wide range of choices—from paper towels to life insurance. In 2004, Psychologist Barry Schwartz wrote a book titled The Paradox of Choice in which he argued that while freedom of choice is important to our well-being, too many choices can lead to overload and indecision. While the stakes are certainly lower when deciding on which paper towel to buy, indecision can become debilitating when making major decisions that impact the course of our lives. So how can we overcome indecision and move forward confidently in living for Jesus?

    As believers in Christ, seeking…

    Tongue-Tied in Prayer

    When my baby brother underwent surgery, I was concerned. My mother explained that “tongue-tie” (ankyloglossia) was a condition he was born with and that without help, his ability to eat and eventually to speak would be hindered. Today we often apply the term to describe being at a loss for words or being too shy to speak.

    Sometimes we can be tongue-tied in prayer, not knowing what to say. Our tongues tie up in spiritual clichés and repetitive phrases. We arrow our emotions heavenward, wondering if they will reach God’s ears. Our thoughts zigzag along an unfocused path.

    Writing to first-century Roman…

    Sweet Sleep

    When my friend Floss lies awake at night, she thinks about the lyrics of the hymn “My Jesus I Love Thee.” She calls it her “middle-of-the-night” song because it helps her to remember God’s promises and the many reasons that she loves Him.

    Sleep is a necessary—but sometimes elusive—part of life. At times we may sense the voice of the Holy Spirit bringing unconfessed sin to our mind. Or we begin worrying about our job, our relationships, our finances, our health, or our children. Soon a full-scale dystopian future starts running on a loop in our brain. We assume we nodded…

    Hearing Us from Heaven

    At eighteen months old, little Maison had never heard his mother’s voice. Then doctors fitted him with his first hearing aids and his mom Lauryn asked Maison, “Can you hear me?” The child’s eyes lit up. “Hi Baby!” his mom added. A smiling Maison softly replied, “Hi!” In tears, the mother knew she’d witnessed a miracle. She’d given birth to Maison prematurely after gunmen shot her three times during a random home invasion. Weighing just one pound, Maison spent 158 days in intensive care and wasn’t expected to survive, let alone be able to hear.

    That heart-warming story reminds me of…

    Insight from the Spirit

    As the French soldier dug in the desert sand, reinforcing the defenses of his army’s encampment, he had no idea he would make a momentous discovery. Moving another shovel-full of sand he saw a stone. Not just any stone. The Rosetta Stone, containing laws and governance from King Ptolemy V written in three languages. That stone (now housed in the British Museum) would be one of the most important archaeological finds of the nineteenth century, helping to unlock the mysteries of the ancient Egyptian writing known as hieroglyphics.

    For many of us, much of Scripture is also wrapped in deep mystery.…

    No Misunderstanding

    Alexa, Siri, and other voice assistants embedded in smart devices in our homes occasionally misunderstand what we’re saying. A six-year-old talked to her family’s new device about cookies and a dollhouse. Later her mom received an email saying that an order of seven pounds of cookies and a $170 dollhouse were on their way to her home. Even a talking parrot in London, whose owner had never bought anything online, somehow ordered a package of golden gift boxes without her knowledge. One person asked their device to “turn on the living room lights,” and it replied, “There is no pudding…

    Man of Prayer

    My family remembers my Grandpa Dierking as a man of strong faith and prayer. But it wasn’t always so. My aunt recalls the first time her father announced to the family, “We’re going to start giving thanks to God before we eat.” His first prayer was far from eloquent, but Grandpa continued the practice of prayer for the next fifty years, praying often throughout each day. When he died, my husband gave my grandmother a “praying hands” plant, saying, “Grandpa was a man of prayer.” His decision to follow God and talk to Him each day had changed him into…

    The Ultimate Healer

    When a medical treatment began to provide relief for a family member’s severe food allergies, I became so excited that I talked about it all the time. I described the intense process and extolled the doctor who had created the program. Finally, some friends commented, “We think God should always get the credit for healing.” Their statement made me pause. Had I taken my eyes off of the Ultimate Healer and made the healing into an idol?

    The nation of Israel fell into a similar trap when they began to burn incense to a bronze snake which God had used to…

    Listening Matters

    “Come at once. We have struck a berg.” Those were the first words Harold Cottam, the wireless operator on the RMS Carpathia, received from the sinking RMS Titanic at 12:25 a.m. on April 15, 1912. The Carpathia would be the first ship to the disaster scene, saving 706 lives.                

    In the US Senate hearings days later, the Carpathia’s captain Arthur Rostron testified, “The whole thing was absolutely providential. . . . The wireless operator was in his cabin at the time, not on official business at all, but just simply listening as he was undressing. . . . In ten minutes maybe he…

    Priceless Lives in Christ

    Tears streamed down my cheeks during a frantic search for my lost wedding and anniversary rings. After an hour of lifting couch cushions and scouring every nook and cranny of our home, Alan said, “I’m sorry. We’ll replace them.”

    “Thanks. But their sentimental value surpasses their material worth. They’re irreplaceable.” Praying, I continued hunting for the jewelry. “Please, Lord. Help me find them.”

    Later, while reaching into the pocket of a sweater worn earlier in the week, I found the priceless jewels. “Thank You, Jesus.” As we rejoiced, I slipped on the rings and recalled the parable of the woman who lost…

    Of Prayer and Dust and Stars

    Lara and Dave desperately wanted a baby, but their physician told them they were unable to have one. Lara confided to a friend: “I found myself having some very honest talks with God.” But it was after one of those “talks” that she and Dave spoke to their pastor, who told them about an adoption ministry at their church. A…

    Seeking God’s Help

    For five years in the late 1800s, grasshoppers descended on Minnesota, destroying the crops. Farmers tried trapping the grasshoppers in tar and burning their fields to kill the eggs. Feeling desperate, and on the brink of starvation, many people sought a statewide day of prayer, yearning to seek God’s help together. The governor relented, setting aside April 26 to pray.

    In the days after the collective prayer, the weather warmed and the eggs started to come to life. But then four days later a drop in temperature surprised and delighted many, for the freezing temperatures killed the larvae. Minnesotans once again…

    Confident Prayer

    Having tried for years to conceive, Richard and Susan were elated when Susan became pregnant. Her health problems, however, posed a risk to the baby, and so Richard lay awake each night praying for his wife and child. One night, Richard sensed he didn’t need to pray so hard, that God had promised to take care of things. But a week later Susan miscarried. Richard was devastated. He wondered, Had they lost the baby because he hadn’t prayed hard enough?

    On first reading, we might think today’s parable suggests so. In the story, a neighbor (sometimes thought to represent God) only…

    Blocked Prayers

    For fourteen years, the Mars rover Opportunity faithfully communicated with the people at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. After it landed in 2004, it traversed twenty-eight miles of the Martian surface, took thousands of images, and analyzed many materials. But in 2018 communication between Opportunity and scientists ended when a major dust storm coated its solar panels, causing the rover to lose power.

    Is it possible that we can allow “dust” to block our communication with Someone outside of our world? When it comes to prayer—communicating with God—there are certain things that can get in the way.

    Scripture says that sin can block our relationship…