“Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays“Soren Kierkesgaard
What do you pray for in your life?
If you were anything like me as a kid, you prayed for your favorite toys and electronic gadgets to show up on Christmas, acing your exams, winning the soccer match and longing for your favorite pizza to manifest for dinner.
Later in life, you might have prayed for admission into the college of your dreams, professional success, marital harmony, healthy children, and lots of moolah $$
What you pray for.
Often in life, we pray to God for material possessions (a new Iphone, pay raises or your own tropical island), personal favors (like the Giants winning the World Series or the cop letting you go without ticketing your) and for a stroke or luck (winning the lottery or your stock broker actually being right for once 🙂
Nothing wrong with praying for favors.
In fact, God is there for your favors. If you live by God’s laws and obey His command, you’re going to reap the rewards of His favor.
But sometimes, life puts us through trials and tribulations. We don’t always get what we want. The house, the man of our dreams, the job or the financial security we desired may not materialize.
We then blame God. And wonder why he has forsaken us.
You can pray for favor but consider praying for the prayers that can transform you.
The prayers than can transform your life.
“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” Psalm 100
You have more in your life than you can imagine. And more to be thankful for than what you desire in your life. Instead of wanting, why not be appreciative for the blessings you do have?
Why pray for the promotion when you can be thankful for the job? Why pray for a bigger house when you can be grateful for the one you’re already living in?
Instead of asking in prayer, be grateful in prayer.
Pray for strength.
We tend to ask God to help us solve situations, fix circumstances and change the calamities in our lives. When you’re down and scuffling with life, you ask God why He’s testing you? You wish God can abracadabra the situation and change it.
What if instead of asking for a change of circumstance, you pray for strength to deal with whatever tribulations come your way? It doesn’t matter how horrific, heart-breaking or soul-crushing, why don’t we ask God to give us the mental and emotional power to tackle the pains and hurts we confront?
Give us the ability to reach out to the get the help we need, to find the scriptures that soothe us, to have the power to bear life’s challenges.
Pray for humility.
Ever asked God for fame and recognition in the eyes of friends and family? Ever asked for attention and recognition?
Why not ask for humility instead. Humble with the gifts that God has given us. Humble for the special qualities we have. Humble for the many blessings we have in our lives.
When we’re walking around with our head held high and our egos on the loose, ask God to put our lives in perspective for us. Help us tame our ego. Help us think about others and not ourselves.
Pray for others.
We tend to focus on ourselves in prayer. ‘Oh, God help me win this game. Help me write this book. Help me find peace. Help me land the job.’
We are us-focused. Why not pray for the problems and challenges our family, friends, colleagues and neighbors face?
Ask God to help them, guide them, lead them and lead them. Let’s turn our focus from us to others. Let’s ask God to give strength to those who need it. Those grieving, those hurting, those who have lost everything.
Pray for hope.
Your situation may be unimaginable and dark. Ask God to fill with you hope. To remind you and take you towards the flicker of light at top of the summit. Similar to praying for strength, finding the inner abilty to always be more positive. To seek a better tomorrow. To be able to deal with what comes our way knowing it will get better.
Pray for self-awareness and understanding.
We often think we’re in the right and everyone else is in the wrong. We think we are the ones who have it figured out. What’s wrong with everyone else? Why does it seem like everyone else has lost their mind? Why is the problem so challenging?
Why don’t your parents, husband, clients or children understand you?
Seek understanding. That you may not know everything about yourself but seek the inner knowledge to know more about yourself. That your thoughts become clearer. Your intuition becomes stronger. Your awareness of your behavior, perspective and actions makes more sense to you.
You can step back and be more mindful of yourself. This may take prayer to achieve. It may take meditation.
Pray for compassion.
Pray that you’re able to empathize for yourself and others. Be able to take it easy on yourself. Pray that you don’t view yourself as a failure and you can accept yourself for the person you are. And that you can extend that same compassion for others. You can feel, understand and put yourself in the shoes of others.
That you’ll be able to share in their grief and problems.
Pray for patience.
Why do you demand everything happen immediately in your life? When it comes to the plane taking off on time or in God responding your prayers?
Why can’t you wait for five minutes or 5 years. Pray that you’ll have the patience to not know when, how long, how far or how often and that you’ll be ok with that.
Pray for forgiveness.
Forgiving those that have wronged you is hard. Although the wrongs may be petty, the monstrous ego gets in the way and tells us that we are right, we’ve done no wrong and that we deserve the apology.
Pray that you can forgive. Pray that others may not know what they’re doing sometimes. That others may be lost, confused, mistaken, unaware, and hurt your unintentionally.
Pray for wisdom.
Pray that you will be wiser with every passing day. That you’ll understand the world better today. Understand yourself better. Understand God better. Understand the truths of the world better. You will learn the lessons that God has been trying to teach you your entire life.
Friends, if you’re going to pray, don’t put God in a tough spot. Don’t demand your stock portfolio double or your damaged car won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Don’t pray for quick-fixes and Godfather-like-favors.
Pray for what really matters. Pray for the qualities that can transform your life.
Imagine growing up as a child in an alcoholic family.
Continuously confronting people in your life who were under the influence and behaving oddly. Bouts of anger, violence and confusion in your life?
As a child, you’d probably ask yourself questions like – were you the reason your parents or alcoholic loved ones drank?
Would they stop drinking if you changed your behavior or attitude?
Were you making it worse by causing more stress in their lives?
The story she lived.
Jody Lamb, is a Michigan-based children’s book author who lived this very story. She grew up with alcoholic loved ones and was pained by the family members in her life who drank.
As a child, all she could do was try to adapt to their behavior and lifestyle. She sought understanding but felt all alone because alcoholic family members were not discussed in public. In fact, she thought she was the only one going through such experiences.
She also kept a diary during her childhood to try to come to terms with what was happening at home. She found writing as a way to help her understand what the adults in her life were doing to her and to give herself hope.
The story she wrote.
In her twenties, Jody continued to confront the behavior of her alcoholic loved ones, especially as they hit rock bottom. She also reflected on her 8-year old self, her childhood dreams and if she was doing what she really wanted to with her life.
In this midst of her “quarter-life crisis” as she calls it and by reflecting upon her childhood journals, she decided to start living her purpose and changing the world – one child at a time.
She wrote and published a children’s book, Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool about 12-year old Easter Ann Peters, a child of an alcoholic mother. The story is not only about how Easter survives middle school but creates her own Operation Cool to live a cool life in spite of the craziness of her home life. Her plan includes making friends, being more social around boys and standing up to bullies – especially the world’s jerkiest seventh grader, Horse Girl.
Easter’s mother spends most of the day asleep, hardly reaches out to anyone around town and has become a person Easter no longer recognizes.
The tween novel explores life living with an alcoholic loved one and trying to maintain a sense of normalcy despite all the other social pressures facing 12-year-old Easter. The story culminates with Easter’s mother being sent to rehab and restoring a sense of normalcy in Easter’s life and her relationship to her mother.
This is a story about hope triumphing over isolation, confusion and sadness written for children going through similar circumstances.
I initially met Jody through one of my other favorite blogger’s blog, and realized that Jody was doing something remarkable in that she was taking personal pain and struggle to help others – especially children.
Not only through her books and writing but also through her advocacy, like this video here she filmed for Children of Alcoholic’s week:
Jody reminds all of us that we too can take our stories of pain and hurt and turn it into something positive and uplifting.
1) We all have stories of heart-break, pain and suffering from different parts of our lives. If you have journals from your younger days or when you were going through difficult times, reflect upon them.
2) What lessons did you learn? How did you become stronger, smarter or wiser from those lessons?
3) What are you willing to do with your story? Can you share it with others? Can you write about it? Can you send it into publishers, even if you get rejected 30 times? Can you make a public service announcement? Talk to a community group? Share it in a blog post?
4) Can you start an advocacy group or join one which talks about the issue? Are you willing to raise public awareness and public dialogue about what you experienced? Talk to the media so you can help others facing similar situations?
5) Are you willing to embrace your vulnerabilities?Some of the stories of our past and our struggles are sad and embarrassing. We don’t want others to know about the unpleasant and prickly pieces of our life. The defeats and low points.
They say a diamond is a just a piece of charcoal that handled stress exceptionally well. We want to shine as the diamond and stuff the charcoal pieces into a drawer no one will ever see.
Do you have the courage to tell us who you are?
6) Are you ready for the world to accept you as you truly are? Are you ready to allow your personal story to help, embrace, and uplift others?
Jody’s story truly inspires me and hopefully, you, to talk about the things that matter in your life. You never know who’s out there who needs to hear you.
You may be the one person who someone in pain or struggling can benefit from. It may be a child, someone being abused, someone in fear or in a vulnerable place.
Who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down?
“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” Oprah
Need more friends in your life?
No, you don’t!
What!!?? How could you say that V?
Well, I can say that, dear friend and blog reader of mine, because if you’re anything like me, you have an abundance of friends in your life. Or maybe HAD?
From our school and university days to our work days, we make friends. We are regularly around folks who are initially suspecting strangers, then mildly warm acquaintances to finally being best buds we want to spend every minute of our time with. (Well, not every minute – that might make you a stalker!)
Some of us might actually need more friends in our lives. If you don’t have any, yes, you need one.
If you have some (friends that is), you should strive to nurture those friendships instead of finding new ones.
Why friendship matters?
During three critical periods in my life, friends were there for me. And helped save my life. Ok, my sanity, at least.
When I was in my final year of high school in Northern California and my family moved back to Malaysia, I moved in with family friends. Along with them, many of my friends from secondary was how I was able to keep a sense of normalcy in my life. I was 17-years-old and found myself completely alone during the most important year of school. Friends were there for companionship, advice and help.
During college, I again found myself in a new city, living in a college dorm. I didn’t know a single person on campus when I arrived during what was probably one of the rockier years of my life. Getting adjusted to college life and complete responsibility for myself would have been tough if I didn’t have the help of room-mates, dorm-mates and friends.
Most recently, after my divorce, friends were the people in my life that I could most rely on for objective advice, non-judgment and understanding. As painful as divorce was, one of the many positive results were the unbending friendships which only became stronger.
Friends are there through the rough and smooth patches of travel. They are there to celebrate the dazzling moments but really are there when you crash, fall down, or fall apart.
A friend can share advice, change your perspective or even be a shoulder to lean on.
A friend in a moment of need can help you through the most prickly of life circumstances and salvage your well-being.
If they can uplift you perspective, rejuvenate your life, mend your soul, rally your drive – aren’t they changing you life? And your outlook on the world?
How do you keep your best friends forever (bff’s) instead of making new ones every 6months?
You don’t need new friends. You don’t need a lot of friends.
Value the ones you do have. Strengthen the friendship in your life.
How you ask?
Visit my guest post over at Mary Jaksch’s blog and find ten simple ways to strengthen your friendships (Please leave me a comment over there and let me know about the rock-solid friendships in your life and what you’ve done to sustain them)
What happened to that Swedish dude on his gap year? Bjorn? Oh..Bjorn?
My friend Bjorn is a culture mutt. So much so that he even named his blog that. He’s originally from Sweden, lived in Europe, married a funny Filipina girl (from Los Angeles – where else?) and now lives in Thailand of course.
Today, he tells you about some bad decisions he made earlier in his life and how he turned it around. Take it away vän!
Never before had I tasted failure of such epic proportion.
I was so depressed that I left the booth at the volunteer activity I was helping with and lay down in a nearby field feeling the weight of months of loneliness and confusion as a 16 year-old, far from home. The gap year experience I had so been looking forward to had proven to be a total disaster. As I looked up at the Philippine sky I was tortured by the agonizing question: how had I gotten here?
It had been the dream of my adolescent life: finish secondary school in England and work abroad for a year with an international volunteer organization. At first all had gone smoothly. The organization had waved the rule that you had to be 18 to join. I finished secondary school and within weeks I flew from London to Manila, riding the high of adventure-fueled adrenaline.
At first I loved my new life. Palm trees, the warm weather, Filipino food and great new friends. I cruised through a month of training at the end of which would come the big announcement of where each trained volunteer would be sent to work for 11 months.
When the announcement came I had mixed feelings. I was being sent to a little fishing village in Western Pangasinan (in the northern part of the Philippines). That was fine. But the bad part was that I didn’t at all know the two other guys that I was being sent out with. The friends I had made during training were all being sent elsewhere. I was being sent on a remote work assignment with total strangers.
Hasty preparations were made for our trip out and before I knew it, I was on a bus with my two new workmates and huge cultural and language barriers to boot. My workmates spoke some English but the nuance that you could communicate to someone back home in England was nearly impossible to get across.
Even Worse News
Cultural problems came up quickly. Although both my workmates were Filipino, they were from different areas and only one spoke the local dialect, Ilocano. The Ilocano then decided that the other guy was lazy, that he was not pulling his weight. There was a lot of passive aggression and then a fight. It was ugly. Instead of doing something positive for our community it seemed we were crumbling from within.
My own private frustrations were building as I was quickly discovering that the only role that I could find to lead was that of a children’s activities coordinator where games and songs required less in the way of my speaking Ilocano. And even that wasn’t going well. The kids were acting up. An old man made fun of me. I was running out of material.
Then the intense loneliness sank in. I had never missed home and my family so much. I knew I was not doing well when I could look out at the warm ocean, a minute’s walk from our house, and not even want to jump in and enjoy it. I felt all alone.
I couldn’t really communicate with anyone.
It was 1997 and the closest phone that I could feasibly use to call home was a 30-minute jeepney (an open-backed truck of sorts) ride away. Contact with home was sparse. When a letter would come in the mail it was always a really huge deal. I read the letter excitedly and then often re-read it. But then there would be nothing for days, sometimes weeks.
As my thoughts snapped back to the present, the realization that I had been massively under-prepared for this year abroad struck like a sledge hammer. I lay in the field feeling the horrible mix of regret at what had clearly been a bad life decision to leave home at such a young age, blended with utter angst about how I could possibly get out of this mess.
It was one of the few periods of my life where I genuinely dreaded every day. I couldn’t take anymore of this. I had to put a stop to it. The agony had to end.
It was this realization, this line in the sand where I vowed that I would do anything to change my life situation, that was the genesis of what I can now look back on as one of the greatest comebacks of my life.
The realization that my life was pure hell forced action. I contacted my supervisors at headquarters and pushed for relocation as soon as possible. It was uncomfortable but it worked. I was reassigned to an English teaching assignment near Manila with my best friend from my training days. Two months later even better news came. I had landed a completely different volunteer position in Northern Sweden to complete the second half of my gap year. I would be leading out in children and youth activities in a little town near the arctic circle.
Things were automatically 10 times better. I got to see my family on the trip to Sweden and as soon as I arrived at my new service post I met great friends. A large family practically adopted me. They had me over to their house to eat, play sports and watch movies practically every weekend.
As my physical and social environment improved and as I basked in the joy of new friendship, the pain of loneliness and adolescent angst lifted. I was so much happier. I felt like myself again. And I was able to do work that I am still proud of today.
Time passed a lot quicker now that I was enjoying life and before I knew it, I was saying goodbye to a huge crowd of new friends that had gathered to send me off in style. As I finished the year at a summer camp in Southern Sweden there was plenty of time to reflect on the year that had passed.
What started as a catastrophe had turned into one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.
Key to this change had been my acknowledging I had made a poor life decision with massive consequences. Even more importantly, I had realized that despite the fact that I had made a bad decision in embarking on a very difficult journey without the necessary emotional and overall life maturity, I had the power to make far better decisions to turn my life around completely.
I’m in my 30s now but the clarity I experienced about the power of decision making is burned into my memory for life. It took a fishing village for me but the details do not matter. We all have the power to turn failures into successes with the power of careful decision making.
Do you have a similar experience where the power of good decisions became crystal clear in your life? I would love to hear about it in the comments.