Monday, July 13, 2015

Ashes for Beauty

Harriet Michael's photo.

*The picture I posted is the one that ran in the newspaper, my senior year of high school when I won the “Bicentennial Minute” essay contest.

Isaiah 61:1-3 says in part, The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives … to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness …” (KVJ)
That is exactly what God did for me when He opened the doors to writing for me. He exchanged my spirit of heaviness for a garment of praise; gave me beauty for ashes.
The year was 2003 and someone close to me was hurting greatly after experiencing a trauma. I started praying, oh so, earnestly. And as I did, all of my prayers were focused on my friend, her pain, her trauma, her need for healing. But I happened to be reading the Psalms in my devotions. (I write the word happened facetiously as I do not think it was happenstance at all, but rather God’s divine leading.)
One day I noticed something interesting in how David and the other Psalmists petitioned God. They did not base their petitions on their needs. Oh, sometimes they did, and certainly they cried out to God, pouring their hearts out to Him and telling Him their problems. But these were not the basis for their petitions. Instead they based their petitions on God—who He is, His character traits, His power, for His glory, and so forth. This observation revolutionized my prayer life. I started asking for healing not because my friend needed healing, for example, but because God was the great physician, because He was merciful and full of loving kindness, etc.
Then I thought, “Wow, what else do I not know about prayer?” My missionary parents taught me to pray as a child, and I have prayed all of my life.  But I did not realize this truth; what else had I missed? 
I began a personal quest to understand prayer better. I read from Genesis to Revelation, seeking passages on prayer, or times when people spoke to God, praised God, or made requests of Him. In the Old Testament these were often in conversation form, but I still considered them prayer since they were communing with God. I journaled as I searched.
Four years later, I had a hand-written manuscript written. And my friend? She was and is doing well. Beauty for ashes for both of us.

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