I’m not gonna lie to you. I love Rome. I love the food, the irresistible aura of the Italians, the fact that you stand at a bar and order espresso and drink it while still standing there, the tiny little back streets that are just oozing with character, and the gelato- oh the scrumptious gelato! My stomach is grumbling now at the thought of it and I can almost taste it. Creamy, cold & fresh. Yum.
I will revisit Rome one day. I promise. For now, I’m content revisiting Rome at the time that Paul was writing letters to the Romans, trying to teach them about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, about God, and about the Christian faith. About how to live life as a Christian. I’ve blogged about it before, and I guarantee you that I’ll blog about again, but the Book of Romans truly inspires me. And I’ve decided that it’s time that I revisit Rome. Please join me on this journey….
So what brought all of this up?
I’ve been reading a daily devotional book about praying (as I think this is one area of my Christian life that I particularly struggle with), and it’s been surprising to me what I am learning. On one hand there is a “formal” method of how to pray (look at and dissect the Lord’s prayer), and on the other hand, God wants you to talk to Him freely, to have uninhibited conversation with Him, and to tell Him what you need, what you are struggling with, praise Him, and the list goes on. So which way is right?
I’m no expert, but I think the purpose of prayer is to acknowledge God: His power, His strength, His abilities, His perfect love for each and every one of us, and His complete and utter devotion to us, and to develop and enhance our personal relationship with Him. Prayer evidences our faith in Him (who would pray if they didn’t believe that something could actually happen as a result?) and helps us connect with Him on a personal level. And that’s what He’s really after in the end. And that’s also how we find out His will for us.
I’ve been having many conversations with people and with myself about this topic lately, and the consistent message that I am hearing is, ask God, talk to God, and believe that He can help you and has your best interests at heart. Ask. Talk. Believe. I can do that! So can you!
Let’s get in the Word.
So I’ve concluded now that I need to ask, talk, and believe. Totally doable. But what am I going to ask for and talk about?
One of the Bible verses that has struck a chord with me lately is my favorite verse (if it’s even really possible to have only one favorite verse of the Bible). I’ve included below both the NIV and The Message versions, because I think it’s important to see the similarities and distinctions between the two (I like The Message version for its layman’s terminology and straight shooting):
Romans 12:2 (NIV)
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 (The Message)
Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
If you’ve read my blog over the past month or so, you’ve seen a constant theme……Losing My Way……Judgment Day….. I’ve been struggling with being in my happy place with God. I’ve become unfocused and feel that I’ve become so well adjusted to my culture that I fit into it without even thinking and at times have been dragged down to my culture’s level of immaturity. But I want to have God bring out the best in me. Luckily, I have certain people in my life who are very good at pointing me in the right direction when I need them to; people who have been there, and who know what a struggle it can be to get out of a routine that it takes a while to even realize that you’re in.
You’ll be happy to know that I have been to church AND to Sunday School very recently (which is a start to accomplishing my goal of finding a church home), and it completely refreshed my spirit. I could tell that God was happy to see me there. I was happy to see me there. I remembered that I actually have a spirit – and a strong one at that!
So all of these things have led me back to Romans 12:2. I think deep down we all want to know what God’s will is for our lives, but I don’t know that many of us are willing to do what it takes to really find out what it is, and then actually listen to Him when he tells us. I know I tend to have a bias towards what I want to believe is God’s will and can analyze the heck out of something just to make it fit.
This brings me to my next Bible verse of the day, which in perfect timing, was brought to my attention by one of my favorite people recently:
James 1:5-8 (The Message)
If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all options open.
Now I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like when I ask for help from people, I get condescended to. And expecting that may prevent me from even asking for help in the first place. Is it the same way for you? The good news, is that God WANTS us to ask Him for help. How great is that! But we have to believe that He will answer our prayers, and believe it wholeheartedly. We have to really & truly think that He will show us His will for our lives, and be willing to accept it even if we don’t like it. Are you still on board?
Good. Because I think that this is very exciting. It’s like having your fortune told by the one person who knows everything about you; by the one who actually created your fortune. But unlike a hokey fortune teller, He is not getting paid. He just has the good intentions of any father who wants to keep their kids on track in life. And He has great plans for each of us, and if we just listen to Him, we will come to know what those great plans are. It’s not to say that they are what we would’ve chosen for ourselves, but they are His plans, so they have to be better than any earthly plans that we have for ourselves.
Bringing it back to music.
This discussion reminds me of a favorite song of mine that goes something like this:
(Excerpt from “What It Feels Like” by FFH)
This may not be the road I would choose for me
But it still feels right somehow
‘Cause I have never felt You as close to me
As I do right now
So this is what it feels like to be led
So this is what it feels like to just fall apart
To be totally unglued
Find out that if I accept my brokenness
I get more of me, I get all of You
So this is what it feels like to just walk away
From everything I thought kept me safe
To depend just on you for every meal
And find that it’s better this way
Can I do it? Can YOU do it?
Wrapping it all up.
So what does all of this mean? Well, for me, it means that I need to prepare my heart for accepting the will of God, and continue to pray about it. George Müller wrote, in reference to determining God’s will for making decisions: “I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that is has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lords’ will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is”.
I’m going to give this a shot. And I’m going to continue to go to church and to Sunday School. And I’m going to become best friends with my God. I'm going to ask, talk, and listen. I’m revisiting Rome and I have a feeling that this is going to be a life-changing trip.