A Month (or More) in Prayer Journaling

I’ve posted about this on my personal Facebook as well as the Just Hold Fast page and it was something that had been on my mind and heart. I don’t pray enough, or didn’t. I don’t know the barometer of what is ‘enough’ because the Bible tells us to never cease praying (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). What I do know is it lingered there, in the back of my mind and I had not considered how to fight it with tools like journaling. I do all the expected praying, I talk to God when I first wake up, at meals, during bed times and if someone asks me to, I pray for them. I do not understand the practice of telling someone you will pray for them and then not doing it. You’re basically lying, even if well meaning and you forget because life has gotten you distracted.

We know prayer is a powerful thing that God wants us to do. How often do we forget to? Journaling can help and God saw that specific need in my life. Like the good Father he is, he provided a way for me to get what I needed to deepen my relationship with him and I want to share that with you.

Consider this, where do you think that distraction has come from? The enemy. He doesn’t want you to pray for anyone. In fact, he will throw up all kinds of roadblocks to prevent you from doing so. I’m guilty of being distracted, that is the reason why I am writing this and the purpose is to give you an idea of what consciously focusing on praying has done for me and my relationship with God. TL;DR, it’s way better than it was!

How it all Started

I’m going to blame this one on Tara over at Story of My Heart for giving me the thing I didn’t know I needed. Lots of folks have heard or seen the movie War Room which shows just how transformational prayer can be. The movie depicts the Jordan family who from the outside have this wonderful marriage but the reality is that at home their marriage is in shambles, it is a war zone. All seems lost and yet, God provides the wife with help from an older and wiser woman who leads the wife to the power of constant prayer and journaling it to show the good it can do. Things change, the family becomes closer and it is all because of God and the practice of talking to him.

I tell you all of this to say Tara gave me a copy of ‘The Battle Plan‘ which is a small book that goes along with the movies concept. The book itself is pretty diminutive in size but what it represents is something so much greater. I am late to the game with this book and the concept itself is not new. What the movie has done is re-envision the prayer journaling is and communicate its purpose. It has been re-envisioned in such a way that it helps Christians who are struggling to keep that prayerful connection.

For me, it has worked. What does around 3 months in prayer look like? It will be different for everyone, I’ve prayed daily and logged prayer requests that have both been asked for and simply me finding out about some event that someone would need prayer about. I was not perfect in this endeavor because I would often forget my journal after a week of work and I would try to rememeber who and what I prayed for so that on Monday I could fill it out. So what does that look like?

Prayer Journaling
Prayer Journaling

Why Journaling Matters

The whole purpose of journaling is not to give you ammo to feel like you are praying more than others, it is not there to make you boastful. I would argue instead that it does more important things like reminding you how powerful prayer can be. James 4:2 tells us that, “You do not have because you do not ask.” and when we turn away from Gods’ invitation to communicate with him directly we neglect the fact that this whole spinning ball and all that it entails exists because He simply spoke it in to being.

Journaling serves other purposes as well. When you journal and you see how God responds to your constant prayer it humbles you to see how much of an impact your work for His good will be in peoples lives. Journaling serves as a reminder to pray until it becomes a habit and then it keeps you on track.

Even with all of that I think that journaling about your prayer and connection to God does something infinitely more important, it dispels doubt. Christians and non-Christians alike doubt God. I struggle with that in times of high stress when I see no way out on my own and that is the key thing for me. I know that intuitively it is just doubt that is strangling me but my desire to operate on my own, outside of the influence of God. Journaling has helped center me and remove that issue from my life. It had tempered my need to control and allowed me to prayerfully serve others, regardless of their knowledge that someone out there, even a stranger, prayed for them.

Conclusion

I did not write this to boast or brag about my relationship with God. Instead I want to encourage you, with all of my heart, to pray more. Let me pray for you. Regardless of the circumstance and our desired outcome, God has a plan and when we embrace that, commune with him and serve others great things will happen. It is not something you do in the hopes of gaining ground with God because that is not how it works. We do not act and follow Jesus with the hope of Heaven as a reward. We follow his simple invitation to live as he has so that we live the way God intended us to. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus there is no Christianity. Jesus prayed constantly to God and he is perfect. We, flawed humans need a little help and I believe journaling is one of the most effective ways that we can continue to pray and keep a strong relationship with God.

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Breaking the Shackles of Doubt

Shackles of Doubt

We all have doubt. I doubt myself. I doubt the person who says they’ve never doubted anything. I really doubt the person who says they’ve never doubted God. It’s hard not too when we face a difficult time in our life.

Why is this happening? Why does God allow it to happen? What did I do to be put through this?

All questions we ask ourselves in times where we are experiencing difficulties personally, read in the news or from seeing someone we know go through a trial. It is fear and it is anger that drives these doubts.

My biggest fear isn’t death, it isn’t even whether or not God exists. I know I will die one day and I know God is real. My biggest fear is failure. I fear failing God, my soon to be wife, our children and my family. I fear failing at work or failing my friends. That failure does not paralyze me but it affects how I react to things when I do and also affects the choices I make. Can I risk hours, days and months chasing something while allowing my family to suffer? Well no, no I cannot. Or what if I speak harshly to my children or Bethany? It drives my choices or it did.

God has a way of kicking people in the pants when they really need it. I needed it. I got a kick in the pants. When I set out to write for Just Hold Fast (JHF) I thought big things like people would take an interest and I’d be able to get men together, fellowship and maybe set up some things we could do publicly to spread our cause, to spread the gospel. I’ve spent so much time worrying about helping people that I allowed doubt to creep in. No one is interacting on Just Hold Fast, maybe men won’t peel back that armor and expose their pain as easily as I have seen women do. It isn’t an expectation, it is a hope.

Bitter obedience is just disobedience baptized in right action.

A Seed of Doubt

I walked away from God because I didn’t understand what it meant to love Him like I do now. I didn’t understand what made Him so important. I do now, I ‘get it’ so to speak. Since that fire has been ignited it’s all I’ve wanted to do, share and maybe help someone if God puts it in my path. So I started this, I was overly ambitious and thought I could manage to do a devotional every single day. I could but after some time and doubt I stopped. I hadn’t posted anything for over a week. During that time I became bitter, family and friends who I thought were supportive didn’t notice. So I thought, ‘what’s the point if it doesn’t reach anyone because no one spreads the word?’  Still during all of that I soldiered on albeit bitterly as I started writing again.

A Kick in the Pants

So that kick in the rear I said I got? Came from Ryan Huguley, a man I admire because he gives a straightforward message and it is always something I can take home and reflect on. We are going through Philippians currently, it is a time when Paul is imprisoned yet he finds joy as he writes to the church at Philippi. Paul, who once persecuted Christians with a tenacity that was only surpassed with his conversion and the fanatical love for Christ he eventually showed, was ultimately going to be martyred and yet found joy in his work. The moment Ryan said, ‘Bitter obedience is just disobedience baptized in right action.’ my brain exploded. It had been three weeks since I had done anything related to JHF because I had become fed up. I was writing because I had committed myself to a lofty goal. I was performing right action but my heart was out in left field looking at the grass.

Facing Doubt

I had allowed doubt in what I knew God was wanting for me to creep in because of my own hubris. My need to succeed and to fulfill a prideful mission was blocking the way to glorify God. So what do you do about that? You address the doubt and you seek God for healing. He’s the only one that can heal these deeply seeded things. Talking with people can certainly help relieve the pressure but if that is what you put your faith in then you will face issue after issue because a Godly man is not the solution it is a stopgap. That doesn’t mean men of God cannot help, we can guide someone to God but God does the real work, the real healing. We are advocates of Christ. We are disciples destined to help others find Him. So I had to face that doubt, pray a lot and make sure that I would continue on this path regardless of some tangible reward that is ultimately insufficient for the needs of my soul, of any soul.

Three Verses for Doubt

God provides us everything we need even though we may not need it right then but we may need in the future. So what does the Bible say that can help us combat doubt? It says some very clarifying things that helped me. I pray they help you as well.

1) Listen to the word of God like you have never listened to it before. In Romans 10:17 it says ‘Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ’ (ESV). Put yourself in the path of someone who speaks the word of God in their life, a pastor, a deacon, someone from Church. Don’t allow yourself to stew and become bitter towards God.

2) Read the word of God like you have never read it before. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we are told plainly that all scripture is God’s word and we are also told what it is good for (everything). Correction and reproof are key because when we wander off the path and doubt we definitely need correction.

3) Speak the word of God like you have never spoken it before. When Christ was in the desert being tempted by the devil (Luke 4:1-13) it was in a way His right of passage. Immediately after this Jesus began his ministry and began the work that God set into motion after the Fall. During this temptation Jesus consistently defended against the devil by speaking against him using the word of God as his sword. He truly embodied having the whole armor of God (Ephesians 16:10-18).

I don’t know how much it will help exposing myself like this, sharing my doubt. I’m in a place where I don’t care if it affects 100 people or 1 person. God wants me to share myself and I am content with that. I know I will struggle and fail. I am imperfect but if I start to doubt I know I have the wisdom and experience to help myself. If God is willing, maybe I can help others too.

In Christ – Scott

Persevere in Faith

Persevere in Faith

The one who stands firm to the end will be saved – Matthew 24:13

Do you go to church on a Wednesday? Maybe depending on your denomination it is required and that’s okay. What about Sunday morning? Maybe back again in the evening? I grew up attending Grace Bible Baptist Church and would be there Wednesday and twice on Sundays. If you are in the Maryland area, it is worth the drive. It’s where I was saved, where I was baptized and obviously where I learned to love the Lord. It’s also one of the places I missed the most after I moved out of the city. I was still a kid then and it is in no way my parents fault but I stopped going to church. I was becoming more independent, I saw that I could work, make money and buy lots of stuff. I had lost the ability to persevere my faith. I didn’t have someone that was involved in church to look up to. I didn’t talk about God at school because no one else did. So I just stopped.

Failure to Persevere is a Slippery Slope

I didn’t stop believing in God. I never lost my faith in His existence or that Jesus died for every sin from beginning to the last. I just stopped pursuing a relationship with God because I was so young I didn’t understand how to foster a better relationship. I didn’t know how to persevere my faith. It’s something I failed in but understand better now. That comes with age and life experience of course. Sitting in church on a Sunday isn’t close to enough. It is good, it’s the easy stuff and there isn’t anything wrong with that but it also opens a soul to temptations. If you just attend to say you went to church are you really advancing your love for Christ? Maybe you are zoning out and not listening to the message when it is likely for you. God doesn’t stop knocking on the door to your soul even if you try to pretend He isn’t there.

Christianity is hard, don’t be fooled in to thinking it’s a few come to Jesus moments and you’re good. Life doesn’t just float on by when you are God’s child. That is why I want to encourage men to hold fast to their faith and persevere God because the rewards of Heaven make the fruits of life on Earth seem dead. Don’t just be a Sunday sitter, get involved, pray, love and seek God’s face. Persevere God because if we do hold fast to the relationship we have, no man can take the crown God has promised us (Revelation 3:11)

Daily Devotional – Through the Waters

Through the Waters

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. – Isaiah 43:2

Water is vital to the Bible. It is vital for us to live. Water provides us with healing of the body. The connection to water is strong in the Bible and there is a lot of symbolism that occurs with it. We are baptized in water to symbolize the resurrection of our life in Christ. We say that our sins are washed in the blood of Jesus and that is what the water represents during the baptism. As we pass through the waters all things are new. Water did more than heal, it also destroyed. In that destruction, each time, God protected His children.

The Flood

The flood occurs in Genesis 7:1-24 for the uninformed God spoke with Noah and saw him righteous. He saved Noah and his family against the destruction that He had promised. The Earth was flooded as the waters rose and everyone but those on the ark perished. God made a covenant afterward to never curse the ground for the sake of man again and He would never destroy every living thing as He had done. The curse upon the ground that God speaks of comes from the curse He had laid upon the Earth during the fall. This curse made it harder for man to find sustenance whereas in the Garden the fruit grew from it’s perfect ground and all things flourished. God lifted this curse as the flood had abated His anger, even in His disappointment of humanity, God found someone, some people worthy to love enough to save.

The Red Sea

The parting of the Red Sea happens in Exodus 14:1-31 in this God had delivered the Israelite people from Egypt and led them to a place call Pi Hahiroth where they were to encamp. God told Moses he would harden the heart of Pharaoh and that Pharaoh would pursue them. He did so bringing out a massive army. There, in Israel’s doubt of God, Moses lifted his hand and his staff and the Lord parted the sea so that through the night His people could cross to safety. When dawn was nearing and Egypt pursued them across the sea bed God cause their chariots to become stick. He then commanded Moses to lift his hand once more and when Moses did the sea closed around the army of Egypt and the waters swept them all away with no survivors. God was fulfilling his promise in Isaiah long before it was made.

Final Thoughts

I don’t know about you but I have issues with doubt. I genuinely think we all do because we were given free will. It can express itself in many ways and one of those ways is by listening to the enemy. He will lead us in to troubled waters much like the experience of the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus wanted to cross the sea and slept along the way. Even though He was with the disciples in the flesh, they doubted and woke Him. This was the first time Jesus calmed the storm for the disciples. It wouldn’t be the last.

We are constantly are struggle with many things in our lives and those trouble waters can be hard to navigate because we try to control them when we really need to stop holding on and just be held by Him. I certainly founder here but even in the storms God has not let me lose focus. I love Him more every single day because I am pursuing Him. I want my race (John 7:38-39) to mean something. With God as the captain you can navigate the toughest rivers and you will never be left to tread water.

Daily Devotional – Alone Time

Never Alone

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

At some point I feel that anyone, everyone will or does feel alone. Whether it is depression from not having a significant other or lack of social connections. Perhaps it is even a distancing from family that someone experiences. In every case it is unfortunate. For me it was a combination of being single and not having friends. We are wired for interaction with other people. Even those that come off as hermetic still find some joy in connecting with someone. This desire is because we enjoy the chance to share a part of us with someone. Even in our most difficult times when we think we are along we are not. God is there, he promised us He would be. We can fool ourselves in to thinking that He has turned on us but a Father doesn’t do that. He is there, always.

Time Alone Is Good

We need time to decompress that is just an obvious fact. A lot of times we don’t want to acknowledge that but it is good to get away from everything and just be alone for a time. When you have a supportive partner that can come in the form of them going to have their nails done while you have the kids and trading off so that you can do something you want to do. I say this knowing full well that often times I don’t get that myself and instead I put what I want aside. It is about finding balance in this type of action because we still have responsibilities such as family, work and other outside influences but we do need alone time. It allows us to center ourselves and focus on the important pictures and long goals instead of the daily trappings we tend to get caught up in.

Jesus Did It

Jesus spent time alone many times to pray (Luke 5:16) and we should to. My morning and evening commute is roughly 90 minutes total. I use that time to start and end my work day with prayer first and then I crank up music, sing like a mule and don’t care what someone at the stoplight may think about it. We should seek alone time with the Father. It is not like he is not there, he always is. Waiting to wrap us in His abundance of love and allow us to recharge in His presence. Time with God is cherished and always beneficial but we spend so little of our time with Him because of life. I have to make the intentional effort to be better at praying to Him. That’s the only true way to improve that, be intentional.

Final Thoughts

Often times we think we wait for God to reach out to us but it is so much the reverse. He is there, waiting for us to open our eyes and reach out to Him. Even when we may be alone physically or maybe we are in a dark place in our life. He is that voice whispering that you are enough. Get alone. Get on your knees. Reach up to Him and let Him recharge you. Even when we are alone we are really by His side and He is there, hand upon our head encouraging His children to grow.

Daily Devotional – Scary Shadows

Shadows

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31

I can remember being a child sometimes and in those moments I remember some of my fears that are now just amusing and down right silly. Especially of shadows. I hated going in to the basement as a kid because I watched a lot of horror movies. Totally cool until the movie is over and you’re home alone. That fear comes from the idea that I didn’t think I was in a safe place even though I really was. It’s like that now, with God. See, I can scare myself with shadows, these what-ifs and maybes because I doubt in His plan for me sometime.

Faith in the Shadows

God is light and the devil flees from his brilliance. I think that for me, a mantra like that reminds me that no matter the problem, no matter the difficulties that lie ahead if I can keep my focus on God then he promises to see me through. He is the Father and one of the primary duties of a father is to protect his children. When I was little and afraid it was because my faith in the protection my mother and father had given me was foundering. Not because they were poor parents, in fact I have been blessed with amazing parents! It was from my lack of faith in them because I was allowing fear to supersede my knowledge of protection. I know that God is my portion and that it is fulfilling beyond measure but I am human, I fail, I doubt. He loves me anyway. It’s what a Father does. No matter how truant a youth may be his hand is there to hold and lead you and I from the darkness.

Become a Shadow-chaser

This just popped in to my head while writing but why can we not help chase the shadows away? God’s light is within us, it is given to us when we acknowledge there is no higher power than He. We can use that to help lead others from the shadows in to the light. This does not mean we are giving the lost salvation but instead guiding them to Jesus. The shadows retreat within the soul. God’s hand is what chases that away, no man can do this thing but Jesus.

Final Thoughts

All of this reminds me of a favorite song, “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”

[su_quote]Well you may throw your rock and hide your hand
Workin in the dark against your fellow man
But as sure as God made black and white
Whats done in the dark will be brought to the light[/su_quote]

It is a warning to sinners. While we are repentant as Christians it should be a warning to us that no matter what we do, seen or unseen, God knows. The shadows aren’t nearly as scary as the disappointment of the Father in his children who wander. God is forgiving, the shadows, are not.

Daily Devotional: Stop the Doubt

Doubt

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” – Genesis 3:1

There was no doubt before the fall of man. He was in God’s image and he was pure. The trust between God and man at that time was unquestionable. Yet God also foresaw what would happen and warned Adam and Eve that obedience to Him was paramount. Yet the serpent was able to cause Eve to second guess God’s command. Man had lost his trust in God because he doubted the power that God wields over him, even when it was God who created him. Every time man has sinned it is because he doubted God.

Defining Doubt

Doubt is a feeling of uncertainty or a lack of conviction. Both have separate consequences. When I am uncertain of things it is often a lack of confidence in myself. This I think opens us up to not only failure but sin. We are uncertain of ourselves and if our conviction is lacking then we doubt God. Doubting God alone is a sin, He is Creator and worthy of all of our reverence. Luke 24:38 asks us, why are we troubled, and why do doubts arise in our hearts? I think that it is two-fold, Satan is whispering to us but also our desire to self-fulfill our destiny and not place it in His hands.

Overcoming Doubt

To overcome doubt I think that we need to understand that it is not a lack of belief in Jesus but more a state of limbo. Having doubts does not mean you have turned your back on Christianity which it may feel like. How we overcome this is by addressing it directly. If you find yourself wavering in some manner, that is doubt creeping in. Don’t take the “I guess it’s okay to doubt” or “I’ll work it out later” road. Make strategic war with it. Eradicate it by praying and do as Jesus did. Tell Satan take a hike and don’t come back no more.

Final Thoughts

Granted saying how to overcome doubt is easier said than done but Jesus told us that if we do not doubt in our hearts and believe in what we say (such as telling Satan to be gone) then it will come to pass. Jesus used the word of God as a weapon to send Satan away. We can too because in His death we have been empowered against the enemy. Do not let that leave your mind. Satan fears you and that is why he tries to subvert you. He cannot defeat you but he can make you a bad example. Stop the doubt. Toss Satan out.

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