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MATTHEW WEST

SOMETHING TO SAY

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Dr. Kara Powell and her co-author Dr. Steven Argue have spent thousands of hours of research and interviews to help you grow with your children as they age. 

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Dr. Kara Powell and her co-author Dr. Steven Argue have spent thousands of hours of research and interviews to help you grow with your children as they age. 

Building on 10,000 hours of research, over 1,300 interviews and focus groups, and decades of world-class scholarship from the Fuller Youth Institute, co-authors Kara Powell and Steven Argue tackle the ever-evolving challenges and the unique opportunities parents of 13-to 29-year-olds face in their landmark book, Growing With: Every
Parent’s Guide to Helping Teenagers and Young Adults Thrive in their Faith, Family, and Future.

According to Powell and Argue, “When it comes to relationship with God, us, and our world, it’s never too early or too late to fight for your child, not against them.” By combining their research-based savvy with their own parenting highs and lows, the authors propose a new parenting posture: “We as parents need to take steps toward our teenagers and young adults in a mutual journey of intentional growth that trusts God to transform us all.”

In Growing With, Powell and Argue empower parents with three new strategies to help their young people have better connections with their family, faith, and world. These three breakthrough concepts, completely unique to Growing With, are applicable to every family.

More info:

You can get on the pre-order list for Growing With, and find more helpful information at their website.

A church in Steinbach, Manitoba decided it was time to stand up and fight back against sexual sin. In response, the equivalent of nine per cent of that city's population took part in a life-changing program. 

Pastor Ray Yoder is the Freedom House Pastor at Southland Church in Steinbach. He says that as the church began to go through a sermon series on sexual sin conversations began to pop up in the church and they realized they needed to do something more than simply talking about it. 

That's when they decided to start a small group multi-week series called "Conquer." Over 1,400 men signed up, in a city of just over 15,000 people.

Southland also runs a program for women dealing with pornography as well. Yoder says that it's not just men who struggle, and many women have found freedom from another program they started running there.

That pornography is not a problem within the Church is what Yoder says is a "happy delusion." He listed off the following stats which are from the United States. However, he points out, the numbers are very likely to be similar in Canada.

  • 47% of families reported that pornography is a problem in their home
  • Use increases infidelity by over 300%
  • Out of Christian young adult men aged 18-24 76% actively search for pornography
  • 33% of Women aged 25 and under search for pornography at least once a month
  • 68% of church-going men use porn on a regular basis
  • And over 50% of pastors use porn on a regular basis

Yoder says the response has been overwhelming, but would not have been possible if the church had not created a culture of confession and repentance first.

"These are topics that lots of Christians have questions about," Yoder said "but who's talking about it? We have to have biblical, reasonable answers for people that are interacting with culture. Everyone else is telling us something out there. If we don't have a gospel answer, what can we do other than get watered down and washed out?"

Have you ever given God the silent treatment?

I have.

It hasn’t been intentional. But prayer just felt forced and unnatural. I felt distant and didn’t know what to say. So I said nothing.

Yet by not going to him in prayer, I was essentially ignoring him.

There are a lot of reasons you might feel distant from God, and then not pray to him as a result, including:

  • Feeling disappointed or angry
  • Avoiding your feelings
  • Being out of the habit of prayer
  • Feel ashamed or guilty
  • Not know what to say or how to focus

The good news is that when you feel this way, it doesn’t mean that he actually is distant:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
– Ephesians 2:13

You are brought near to God because of Jesus. That promise doesn’t change based on the whims of your feelings.

Having said that, the Bible says in many places God wants us to know him. We have an opportunity to continually grow in our love and knowledge of him.

Jesus himself taught and demonstrated what an intimate prayer life looked like during his ministry and how to love God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength.

So how can we know God in prayer, especially at those times we feel distant?

If you’re feeling stuck, there are several steps you can take to feel closer to God and have a deep and dynamic prayer life.

How to Pray When You Feel Distant from God

1. Set Up Time to Talk

When I’m feeling distant from my husband, it’s a sign that we haven’t made time to connect. To remedy this, we set aside time in our schedule so that we can talk.

For some reason, it can be difficult to have this mentality with God.

But that’s exactly what works. Part of the reason you might be feeling distant is that you haven’t made time for God.

So make time for him.

There are two approaches you can take:

  • Set up a getaway for yourself where you can think and pray for a few hours. Get a babysitter. Turn off your phone notifications. Be somewhere without distraction. Jesus did this, notably when he was fasting in the desert and praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.
  • Revisit your daily schedule and figure out when you can pray. Maybe it’s in the school pickup line or in the shower, but wherever it is, make it a part of your routine.

I recommend having a prayer journal handy for these times. (If you’re not sure what to write, the Teach Me to Pray Journal can get you started.)

2. Confess What’s On Your Heart

Once you’ve set aside the time, the next question is what to actually talk about. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to pray and drew a blank.

Confession is always a good place to start. It’s humbling. It’s honest. It can also help reveal what’s really going on in your heart and mind, and may even reveal the truth about why you’re feeling distant in the first place.

Here’s an example from my own journal:

Today was hard, God. A lot of days are hard. And then I feel guilty for thinking they’re hard.

What am I doing? I feel anxious, uncertain, flustered, overwhelmed, impatient, desperate, angry, fearful and exhausted.

Will I ever be strong again?

Confession is powerful because it takes the burden off you and hands it over to Jesus. He wants us to rest in his strength and not our own (Matthew 11:28–30).

Don’t worry about what it should look like or getting it “right.” Just blurt it out. And if you’re not sure what you’re feeling in the first place, then confess that you don’t know.

3. Pray the Truths of Scripture

Once I start confession, it usually becomes apparent to me that something is off in my thinking. One powerful way to remedy this is by filling my heart and mind with meaningful scripture, to replace my wayward thoughts.

If you know your Bible well, keep some of your favorite scriptures on hand (or memorize them). If you aren’t sure which ones might be helpful, try printable scriputre lists that address a variety of different emotions.

When you pray, repeat or write out the scripture. You can meditate on it silently if you want to and let the truth sink in. Writing your own response can be helpful too.

Here’s how I responded to Psalm 63 in the same journal entry:

You are so good, God. As the psalmist says, I just thirst for you. My actions aren’t always prioritized correctly (and more often than not I’m just tired and unfocused)—but I know that you are what I need most.

4. Give Thanks

1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 instructs us to pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances. It doesn’t say, “Be thankful and pray only when you feel like it.”

Even secular psychologists know that expressing gratitude has the power to change the way you think.

I try to practice gratitude as a daily spiritual discipline. I have a separate list where I write out everything I’m thankful for. Some of it seems silly, but it reminds me that everything I have is a gift from God.

You can also thank God and praise him for who he is, not just the “things” he gives you, as I did in my journal:

You are good, God. You love me, you help me, and that’s all I need to know. Thank you.

5. Present Your Requests

One reason a lot of people feel stuck when they pray is that they approach God as if he were a genie or a wishing star.

God certainly does want us to present our requests to him and we shouldn’t hesitate to do so. But if all you pray about is your wish list, you’re going to set yourself up for disappointment.

And disappointment can lead to feeling distant.

So how can we present our prayer requests to God in a way that draws us closer to him, even when we don’t get what we want?

Take a look at Philippians 4:4–6:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Requests are just one part of the conversation you can have with God, mixed in with rejoicing and thanksgiving, as well as confession and guarding your heart and mind with biblical truth.

Here’s how I presented my requests to God in my journal:

Lord, you know me better than I know myself. I try to cling to you in my desperate moments, even though I feel like I can’t see straight.

Help me embrace this concept of weakness that I fight against so often. I want to rely on your grace, not my straw man strength.

Help me to be the mother I need to be, to inspire my children to love you, to love them the way you love me, to train them to know what righteousness is.

You know my heart, God. Thank you for listening.

6. Rinse and Repeat

I’ve had many prayers in my life that helped me draw nearer in my relationship with God instantly.

Others, not so much.

But that’s how relationships are. Sometimes there’s a spark of unity. Sometimes you have to be patient as you work things out.

We humans are obviously the ones who need to sort things out; not God. He’s patient with us, however, and he wants us to work out our struggles with him.

Don’t get discouraged if you try to pray and still feel distant from God. Give it time and persistence. Keep up with the daily discipline of prayer and set aside longer times when you can. Pull in other people to pray with you and for you. And watch as God works in your heart.

Ava St. Pierre knows what it's like to be a scared and helpless child growing up in a home affected by her mother's mental illness—an illness that resulted in violence toward her and six siblings.

She had no one to turn to and was forced to keep her shame, guilt, and condemnation wrapped up tightly in her soul. But Ava's indomitable spirit overcame her abusive childhood and while life was never easy, she used her God-given talents to become the best she could be.

Ava tells her powerful story in After The Storm: Breaking the Cycle of Abuse with Conviction, Connection and Compassion. The book, co-authored with daughter Sheree' Cogburn has also been made into an award-winning documentary short film that Ava wrote, edited, appeared in, co-directed and produced. Ava`s story illustrates how grace, forgiveness and God's unfailing love sets us free from our struggles so we may find the peace we seek.

As a multi-title beauty pageant holder, Ava St. Pierre learned how to achieve her best on stage with focus, vigour, poise and exquisite beauty. As a star athlete from age eleven, she learned how to optimize the power of physical strength and mental endurance. But for this gifted woman, life was rarely easy. Even as Ava witnessed her mother's steady decline, she chose instead to follow her father's lead—and live a life of genuine, empathic compassion and enlightenment, helping others survive after their own storm and speaking up for the helpless and haunted. Today, Ava is a powerful advocate for families and children affected by abuse.

After The Storm: Breaking the Cycle of Abuse with Conviction, Connection and Compassion is available at avastpierre.com.