Have you been discouraged in prayer on your fast because your causes of fasting are things you’ve sought God about for months or even years? Maybe you’ve even fasted about them before. Has the enemy whispered to you, “What’s the point?”
Oh friend, you’re not alone. The first day of the fast, I struggled to see the point in coming to God yet again for desperate needs. I’ve sought Him about these needs for years. He’s not been silent. Speaking to me through His word, He’s given me personal promises regarding each need. In most cases, these words were spoken years ago … but the manifestation of the answer has been painfully delayed.
I’m fully aware that after God gives a promise, you enter the fight of faith—a season where the promise undergoes a death sentence where every possible human means of fulfillment is sentenced to death. In other words, things get worse. Massively worse. It looks more hopeless than ever before. This is all a part of the process of faith. I know it. Have lived it and taught it.
You would think, knowing this, I’d be immune to the enemy’s attacks of discouragement. But I’ve bought his lies hook, line, and sinker. I’ve grown so discouraged in prayer. Because each year, not only has God not done what He said He would do… but He has let another crushing weight descend, another shoe drop, another seemingly unendurable scenario pile on.
Hard Pressed on Every Side
An ever-growing combination of trials has pressed me hard on every side. I haven’t mentioned these on the blog, and hesitate to now as it’s off topic for a fast. But I feel led to share, because it will be encouragement someone needs. Someone needs to know they’re not the only one walking through such a season.
A few of the sides of my life hard pressed involve:
- My own health difficulties that left me so drained mentally, physically, and spiritually starting seven years ago, that it was hard to function. That was before the following:
- Being a live-in caregiver to my Dad who has advanced Alzheimer’s …
- Enduring the heartache of seeing my Daddy who I love so dearly (and took for granted) rapidly slip away…
- Being a financial support to my parents with an income too meager to support myself and my medical expenses …
- Dealing with my dad’s brushes with death and the caregiving entailed…
- Sleeping on average one night a week when Dad was at home (for a year), and going days without sleep when he was in the hospital multiple times, stretching a body that already had 102 fever daily for months on end …
- Seeing my mother through one surgery per year, and a misdiagnosed health crisis that led to sepsis, and around the clock caregiving demands …
- Working daily to get a ‘nursing’ facility to provide basic, minimal care to Dad and other residents (including merely hydrating them, the failure of which caused my dad to be rushed to the hospital unresponsive and declared days from death)…
- Constant upheaval. Never could a plan be made that a caregiving related crisis didn’t emerge, often multiple crises at once. For example, when my mother was at home deliriously sick (with what I thought was just a virus, but turned out to be sepsis). I would get her to a moment of lucidity and keeping food down, and race to the nursing home to care for Dad amidst a horrible stomach virus and flu he had, trying to ensure he didn’t end up hospitalized. I’d race back home in the middle of the night to find mom had destabilized in the hours I’d been gone, and be up all night with her, only to begin the process again the next day … All while trying to work and keep up ministry commitments, while sick with the flu myself. The bulk of the past three years have been like this nonstop.
This list barely scratches the surface.
After three years of the endless demands of caregiving (between Mom and Dad, one was always in a major crisis, and sometimes they both were), it looked as if I was finally going to get a one or two month breather this past September, a time when I could finally catch up on overdue tasks at Shades of Grace. The time was desperately needed!
But on the first day of this “breather,” mold was discovered in my home, caused by failures an AC firm committed when installing an expensive, new unit several years ago.
Weeks of research and hundreds of phone calls confirmed what I’d hoped wouldn’t be true. The entire house would need remediating, in addition to the costs of fixing HVAC components. Remediation sufficient to stop the illness caused by mold would not only be costly, it would be virtually impossible, short of throwing away 90% of our belongings. It would be equivalent to a house fire. My doctor confirmed this was necessary if I wanted to return to health. Attorneys were consulted. I confronted the AC firm owner. The matter remains unsolved five months later due to cost. I’ve not been able to access my office (files, printers, computers) for the entire five months because the mold is most severe in that room.
I Could Never Have Imagined
I could never have imagined the tragic events of the past few years, chief of all, the loss of my dad to Alzheimer’s. I’d do anything—and have done everything in my power—to try to alleviate his suffering. My mom and I have fought intensely for any ounce of physical improvement possible, and any fraction his quality of life can be increased. It’s a daily, ongoing fight. My suffering, the consequences to my life, pale in comparison to the pain Dad is enduring. I’d give everything I have for him to get better. I’d give everything I am and have to see him receive just a second of relief each day.
The past few years have been one long, dark, traumatic season beyond comprehension. Relentless in nature. No sooner has one tragic event begun to improve than another sets in. Relief is short lived, days at the most. Each month, each year, brings exhausted physical, mental, and financial resources and only worsening circumstances. It’s been too traumatic to even seem real—like one day I’m going to wake up and realize it was all just a nightmare.
The relentless, compounded, constantly worsening crises, stresses, and sufferings mirror my decade of torturous illness—year after year worsening, in spite of God’s personal promises to the contrary.
I surrender to His ultimate will and way… to His timing … to His loving purposes for allowing it … to His higher wiser reasons for relentlessly increasing the heat of the furnace of affliction.
Yet at the same time, a body needs strength to give care, and serve, and love, and intercede, and fight for quality care. At the same time, bank accounts must have a supply to pay bills and buy food and medication. At the same time, I’m not getting any younger and the years of crises have stolen my present and future, or what I envisioned for them at least. (Which no doubt is one of God’s loving purposes for allowing all this—forcing me to surrender my plans!) *
Contradictions have abounded. I must wait on God to do what He said He would do … but things like bills, and the needs of parents, and demands of work and ministry do not wait.
The enemy seized on this and I let him. I let him discourage me in prayer to such degree that I stopped praying for some things altogether. I became disillusioned with God, concluding He was never going to answer. So what was the point in praying? I could pray and believe for other people, but not for myself.
Priority Number One In Prayer
So on day one of the fast, I knew what priority number one needed to be in prayer. I needed to ask God for the will and desire to pray once again—somehow with confidence and expectancy—for the needs and promises I’ve pleaded with Him about for years.
If this is you also, I believe what God spoke to me on this fast will encourage you, too.
Your Father Gives Good Gifts to Those Who Ask Him
Day one of the fast, God knew my need and spoke Matthew 7:7-11:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11, ESV)
For several days, God kept reiterating this scripture. Every time I turned around He was speaking it. It would be in an email devotional … a sermon … a video … a podcast … and the most unexpected of places.
God was abundantly clear: He wanted me to persist in prayer. He would give me grace, the enabling, to do so with confidence, expectancy, and faith!
He gave me the grace for this, and it began when I internalized the word and re-memorized this passage. As I took my thoughts captive and spoke and prayed this passage continually throughout the day, God reminded me of a few key truths in it.
Everyone Who Asks Receives
“For everyone who asks receives…” (v.8).
Notice it says “everyone” receives—not just a privileged few. It’s not just the spiritual giants who receive … or the ministers … or the rich … or the well-connected … or those with boulder size (not mustard seed size) faith.
No, everyone receives! This includes you! And me!
Persistence and Audacity at Midnight
The account in Luke 11 mentions the hour:
5 He also said to them: “Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I don’t have anything to offer him.’ 7 Then he will answer from inside and say, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I have gone to bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’
8 I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his friend’s persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs. (Luke 11:5-7, HCSB)
Friendship was not enough to move the man to get up and give the asker what he needed. What then moved him to action? The asker’s persistence!
“Persistence” in the original language means:
- Lack of modesty
- Impudence, effrontary
- Effrontary means shameless or impudent boldness; barefaced audacity
- Insolent or rude
The asker is shameless in his requests. He has the audacity to pound his friend’s door at midnight! Not because his children are starving or his spouse has gone without food for days on end. No, because a mere friend has arrived on a journey and he has nothing to offer him.
I can’t imagine the audacity, the rudeness to wake up a friend you supposedly care about in the middle of the night, for something you’d think could surely wait till daylight!
But the man will not back down from his quest. He won’t stop knocking. He won’t stop asking. He knows the man inside has the supply. He knows they’re friends, so he refuses to go away. He refuses to stop asking.
Because of this persistence and shamelessness in asking, the man will get up from bed and give the asker as much as he needs.
Given As Much as Needed
8 I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his friend’s persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
9 “So I say to you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11:8-10, HCSB)
The friend didn’t ration what he gave the persistent asker. He gave him as much as he needed.
You and I are friends of God. When we persistently, shamelessly ask him for the supply, He will give us as much as we need.
If You Then Being Evil Know How To Give Good Gifts
“Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11, ESV)
I don’t have children. So for my entire adult life, I could only try to imagine what it was like to relate to this passage—to what it would be like to have children and long to give them good gifts.
Being Aunt Gracie to my nieces and nephew was the closest I could come to imagining this. I love them dearly, and would love to spoil them if I had the means. But it’s not the same as being their parent and being responsible for them.
This all changed several years ago. Now, my parents are like my children. I am responsible for them. When my mom is in decent health and doesn’t need my caregiving, she is consumed with Dad. So big and small things, from phone calls, errands, to keeping bills paid and food in the pantry, it’s my responsibility.
When my parents need medication and the only way I can get it for them is to go without medication myself, I don’t hesitate to do so. When they need food, and the only way I can get it is to forego some of mine, I do it in a heartbeat, joyful over the privilege.
For the first time in my life, I have a frame of reference for this passage. I can’t imagine knowing my parents needed something, having the means to supply it, and choosing not to do so.
Even if something is not a legitimate need, I can’t stand the thought of not giving it to them. Little Debbie cakes are not a ‘need’ for my Dad, but they sure do brighten his days. Anything that will put a smile on his face or lighten my mother’s load, I’ll gladly, joyfully, gratefully do. Nothing gives me greater joy! Nothing fulfills me more!
I finally have a glimpse into my Heavenly Father’s heart. He can no more deny me a legitimate need than I can deprive my parents of necessities.
The Only Two Times Jesus Talked About Prayer
Jesus gave us only two parables about prayer, and the emphasis in both is on persistence (the friend at midnight, referenced above, and the woman and the judge in Luke 18.)
In both of these instances, the emphasis is on persistence. Jesus believed in praying with persistence—with importunity, shamelessness, repetitiveness so bold it might even feel rude.
In Matthew 7:7-11 Jesus tells us to ask, to seek, and to knock. The tenses of the verbs say ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking.
Why would you and I not knock on the door of heaven repeatedly for what we need, both spiritually and tangibly?
Everyone who asks receives. Everyone who seeks will find. To everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
If You’ve Been Discouraged in Prayer
Perhaps you, like me, have been persistently asking God for the supply to your needs, legitimate needs for you and your loved ones, not superfluous desires. He’s heard you, but hasn’t yet risen to come to the door and give you what you so desperately need.
Don’t lose heart. Keep asking. And ask with your finger on a promise to plead. This is where you gain your confidence in prayer—in God’s promises concerning your need.
Don’t exit this season of fasting without a promise from God concerning each of your causes for fasting.
God hasn’t yet fulfilled His promises to me, but one way or another, He will. When I pray, I pray with my finger on his personal promises for:
- Shades of Grace
- Spiritual Renewal
- Physical Health and Restoration
- Mold in my House
(You shared your causes of fasting with me when you joined Pursuit 21. So I have posted my causes and God’s promises concerning each on this page if you want to join me in prayer.)
Do you have God’s reply to your causes of fasting—His reply from the word?
If not, ask Him to show you His will regarding each of your causes of fasting. And pray and believe until the answer comes.
“The secret of prevailing prayer is simply to pray until the answer comes. The length of time is ultimately immaterial. It is God’s answer that counts. The length of time required may often seem perplexing and may prove a test of your faith.”
— Wesley Duewel, Mighty Prevailing Prayer
When you pray, have the attitude of George Muller who said:
“I believe God has heard my prayers. He will make it manifest in His own good time that He has heard me. I have recorded my petitions that when God
has answered them, His name will be glorified.”
― George Müller, The Autobiography of George Muller
Pray knowing that he who nows how to overcome with God in prayer has heaven and earth at his disposal:
“He who knows how to overcome with God in prayer
has heaven and earth at his disposal.”
— Charles Spurgeon
Everyone who asks receives. They receive as much as they need, because their Father who is in Heaven gives good gifts to those who ask Him.
- Have you been discouraged in prayer because God hasn’t answered?
- Have you let the enemy discourage you in prayer to such a degree that you’ve stopped praying for some things altogether?
- Have you become disillusioned with God and prayer? Have you concluded there’s no point in continuing to pray because He’s never going to answer?
- Can you pray and believe for other people, just not for yourself?
- How does it encourage you to know that if you, who are fallen flesh, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to you when you ask Him?
- Will you commit today to praying with persistence—with shamelessness and barefaced audacity?
- Do you believe that everyone who asks receives? And God will give as much as you need?
FROM THE ARCHIVES
- Repentance that Reaches the Heart
- Fasting Day 20: Three Promised Results
- Fasting Day 20: Returning in Power, Part 5
- Fasting Day 20: Returning in Power, Part 4
- Fasting Day 20: Keeping It A Part of Your Lifestyle
- The Calvary Road, Part 3: Sustaining a Soul Satisfying Vision of God
- 300+ Names, Titles & Attributes of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
- The I Am For Your Every Need (1): In Christ is…
- The I Am … For Your Every Need (2): Praise Party
* Note: God has taught me volumes the past few years and given me loads of comfort, truth, and encouragement to share. My the grace He’s given! My how He has sustained and taught and filled. For the topic at hand, I focused on the negative and being candid about my feelings. But I can’t not praise God. He’s been so faithful to carry, to speak, to sustain, and to show He’s busying Himself with our every step. I look forward to one day sharing here the comfort for life’s trails He’s given me in this season.
I should also note that I’ve never experienced fulfillment like that of giving myself away in service to my parents. When I’m with Dad taking care of hm, time and space and problems fade away. All that is eternal and lasting comes sharply into view and value. Bills, my health, the crises and chaos — none of it’s anywhere in sight.
God has also used Dad’s Alzheimer’s to give this perfectionist something she never possessed—natural gratitude. I always had to fight for it. Now it’s a natural part of daily life. It erupts from within. In the face of so much loss, every tiny blessing with Dad is a celebration. Every word or phrase spoken in context. Every nod that indicates he understands what’s being said. Every grin or belly laugh. Every hug and kiss. Every mannerism. Every moment it’s clear he’s as aware of and sensitive to the Holy Spirit as ever.
And for this season, I’ve had the greatest role model of them all — my mother. I knew she was one amazing woman who shouldered the weight of the world during the years of my severe illness, but I never understood what it was like to be in her shoes until now. And WOW, I stand amazed! She was caregiver to her parents in her hometown, while commuting four hours one way to care for me. The stress and heartache and pressures on her were unimaginable during that time—so much so that she experienced heart attacks, and car wrecks, and disaster of all sorts, yet waltzed through it all with signature wit and humor, grace and beauty. (You can listen to her tell her story here.) After caring for me for over a decade, she barely got me out of the woods when my Dad’s Alzheimer’s became apparent and advanced so rapidly. Speaking of someone not getting any relief, she’s not had any relief in decades. She’s my role model alright—demonstrating today the same perseverance, and faith, and strength, and depth of character that she always has. What a mom and best friend!
Yes the blessings of this season abound. God has given me many good and perfect gifts!