Looking past the stops while reading the Bible

For the past month or so, I have been slowly doing a Bible study on prayer.  The study is called Becoming a Woman of Prayerby Cynthia Heald, published by NavPress.  Today’s study was on the roll of the Spirit in our prayers.

 The first question reads, “God knows our weakness in prayer, and He wants to help us.  How do the following Scriptures describe His support?” The first Scripture is Romans 8:26-34.  Now, for all of my undergrad, I used an NIV Zondervan Study Bible.  This particular Bible places a section heading at Romans 8:28.  Being a fairly new Christian with no knowledge of that point of the original Greek (and not knowing that in the Greek, there is no punctuation), I always started reading the last half of Romans 8 with the thought that “All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” I had always taken that verse as the beginning of a new section and topic in Romans. Imagine my surprise today when my study asked me to start at verse 26

When I began at Romans 8:26, 8:28 took on a new light. (I’m still working this out in  my mind and plan to meditate on it some more, so bear with me as I ramble through it on here.)  8:26-27 say that the God searches our hearts, where the Spirit resides once God regenerates our hearts and we become followers of Christ.  This Spirit inside of us is so closely intertwined with God the Father that the Father knows intimately the mind of the Spirit.  Likewise, the Spirit also knows our hearts and our minds.  He knows God’s will, and He places God’s will on our hearts.  The greatest part, in my opinion, of these verses is that the Spirit intercedes on our behalf to God the father “with groanings too deep for words” (NASB).  How wonderful it is that God knows our hearts because the Spirit knows our hearts.  The Spirit is the means of communication between our hearts and God’s heart.  So often I will say, “I don’t know how to pray,” or “I don’t know what to pray.”  God’s Word promises that the Spirit will intercede on our behalf and make the prayers of our hearts known to God. 

 Now, moving into 8:28.  The word begins with the word “And.” I believe that we can also read this word as “In addition to what was just said.”  The verse reads, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (NASB).  In light of the previous discussion, I have come to think that God works all things together for good because of the Spirit interceding on our behalf. So often I pray for things selfishly that are not good for me in light of God’s sovereign plan for me and in light of eternity.  However, because of the Spirit’s power, God hears the perfect prayers of the Spirit on my behalf, not my imperfect, selfish human prayers.  The Spirit, being one in essence God, knows the will of the Father and knows fully God’s sovereign plan for my life.  Because of this, God’s sovereign plan is perfectly worked out in my life by means of the Spirit’s intercession. 

 God revealed to me today through the Spirit new insight in Romans 8:28, a verse I have had memorized for years and that I quote constantly.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Oswald Chambers:

“God searches your heart not to know what your conscious prayers are, but to find out what is the prayer of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God needs the nature of the believer as a shrine in which to offer His intercession.”

Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit for His sovereignty in our lives and for providing us wisdom!

Billboard Blessings

The Weeping Theologian
I’ve been overcome with the Lord’s blessings today.  This weekend thus far has been no doubt the best since moving to Kansas in May.  I am not struggling with anxiety nor fatigue today. I am not homesick nor sad. I am not overwhelmed by the need to be alone. Yes, indeed, today has been a great day.

The Joy of a Home-Cooked Meal
As I prayed over my evening meal, I was overcome by the Lord’s goodness to the point that my eyes filled with tears that threatened to spill onto my classic American farm meal (round steak, fried potatoes, bread and butter and a tall glass of milk).  The meal itself brought me joy as I thought about the wonderful days of Mom’s amazing farm cooking. (My high school friends often told me that the only reason they were my friends was because my mom is such a good cook!) But beyond that, I have many things to be thankful for today.

Sunday Lunch with a Family of the Lord
A friend from town called today to invite me to his parents’ home for Sunday lunch tomorrow. What a blessing! He is from an amazing Christian family with 11 children in all. I have never met his parents, but I am excited to find out more about the woman who has the strenght to give birth to 11 children, feed them three times a day, homeschool them, clean the house and still manage to have time with the Lord! I am also excited to meet my friend’s father, whom I suppose to be a godly man to raise that many children to fear the Lord.  And, of course, there is always the new baby, born July 3rd! It will be a great meal.

Another Surprising Phone Call
Not long after that call, I received another phone call from a friend back home in Iowa. I had called him four or five times in the past two months, but he never returned my calls. When I answered today, I said, “You actually called me back!” to which he replied, “I know!” Excited but somewhat skeptical at his ability to call on his own (he is a guy , after all!) =) I asked him, “Did Sarah tell you to call me?” He said, “No, I wanted to call you.” As the amazement set in, he continued, “I’m coming to Kansas City next weekend for a job interview, and I want to come see you!” What an incredible blessing!  This friend and I were not uber close, but I did see him numerous times a week, either at various events for the ministry we were involved in or at his house where he and two other of my friends lived.  Even after I told him that I don’t live in KC but two hours west, he still told me that he wants to come. I was touched by his offer.  He has a car that we both agree may not make the trip, and it’s going to cost a lot for gas for the four hour roundtrip detour. Nonetheless, I am overjoyed that he is coming next Saturday! How refreshing that I will get to see someone from home. Finally someone will get my jokes about the Monroes taking over the world and about the necessity of syllogisms in daily life. (None of my friends here even know what a syllogism is!) Even though this work week is bound to be overwhelming and anxiety ridden, the anticipation of seening my friend will propel me onward.

Bonding time with the Roommate
My roommate and I had a great time making cookies. She is from Japan and has never made any cookies before!  It was wonderful to share with her the joy of baking that I have had since I was just a little girl standing on a stool in our big farmhouse kitchen just so that I could reach the counter.  She and I had great time conversing throughout our baking time as well as while I groomed and painted my nails (a blessing in itself, as I have only had time for it twice in the past two months.) My roommate does not know the Lord, so this time was good to set up a foundation for what I hope will lead to spiritual conversations in the future.

Phone Call Number Three
In the midst of making cookies, I received a call from my mom.  She told me that my high school’s baseball team played in the state championships today and won 5-4. What a blessing!  It is the first time we have won anything in a state sports competition. May they give the glory to the Lord and not keep a drop of it for themselves!

Yet another Phone Call!
As I made supper, I received yet another surprising phone call. A friend whom I met earlier this summer who now lives in Kansas City is here tonight. I am heading over to his place in just a little bit to hang out. I have been praying that I can be a light for Christ. He claims some sort of faith, but his life does not reflect it.  What an awesome opportunity to shine!

Reflections on it All
As I sit here and think upon the wonders of this day, I am reminded of a quote on a dear friend’s facebook profile:

“…the reason why God’s blessings drop upon us in a sparing and slender manner is, because our mouth is too narrow; and the reason why others are empty and famished is, because they keep their mouth completely shut. The majority of mankind, either from disgust, or pride, or madness, refuse all the blessings which are offered them from heaven. Others, although they do not altogether reject them, yet with difficulty take in only a few small drops, because their faith is so straitened as to prevent them from receiving an abundant supply. It is a very manifest proof of the depravity of mankind, when they have no desire to know God, in order that they may embrace him, and when they are equally disinclined to rest satisfied with him.”
–John Calvin, from his commentary on Psalm 81

Yes, I have seen today the blessings of the Lord today. They have been quite obvious. But doesn’t the Lord bless me every day?  Doesn’t he give me all these things–and more–each day that I walk on this earth?  Why is it that my mouth is so narrow that it takes a day full of billbaord blessings for the Lord to get my attention?

Lord, open my throat wide so that I may receive your blessings each day, and open my eyes that I may recognize each gift that you give me.