Don’t Lose Heart: God Hears Your Prayers

Scripture Focus: Luke 18.1-8
1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Reflection: Don’t Lose Heart: God Hears Your Prayers
By Dena Dyer

Jesus often elevated women in his circle and stories, which was unusual at least and scandalous at most. In fact, the parable of the persistent widow is a specific example of the respect Jesus brought to women (especially those who were mistreated, misunderstood, or vulnerable in some way). 

In this particular parable, the widow asked a judge over and over to grant her justice, to no avail. According to the laws of the time, the judge was required by law to give her a hearing–but he refused because he was unjust, uncaring, and unfair.

However, he eventually got tired of listening and gave in to the widow’s persistent pleas: “But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” (v. 4-5)    

Jesus says that God is the opposite of the judge—just, compassionate, and fair. He encourages his disciples to continue to make petitions, even when answers are not evident or immediate. 

I love this story, because somewhere along the line, I bought into the lie that God might view me as a pest if I prayed for a certain thing too much. I think it may have solidified for me when my boys were little and could “wear the horns off a Billy goat” (as we say in the South) asking for a toy or privilege.

God isn’t like us—or the unjust judge. He doesn’t grow weary of our prayers. Just listen to Isaiah 64:4 (NKJV): “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, Nor has the eye seen any God besides You, who acts for the one who waits for Him.” 

Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT) encourages us: “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

At the end of the parable, Jesus says that He longs to find faith on the earth. If He was going to discourage believers from praying too long and hard about something, that would have been the time. Instead, He related the story to urge his disciples to “pray and not give up” (v. 1).

Let’s not become weary of praying or lose heart, because if we are asking according to God’s will, He hears us and will answer in His time and way. Also, let’s be sure to seek what God seeks—like justice for those who have long been denied it–with determination and persistence. 

Finally, let’s act when He tells us to, because often prayer and action go together. After all, you and I may end up being the answer to someone’s prayers.

About Dena: Dena Dyer is an author of eleven books, including Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts with Tina Samples. She’s also a speaker, worship leader, Anglophile, and movie lover who lives with her husband, youngest son, and rescue pup near Fort Worth, Texas. In her day job, she serves as Executive Assistant to Jamie Aten, founder of Wheaton’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute. Find out more about Dena’s books and resources at her website or follow her on Instagram or Facebook.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Early in the morning, I cry out to you, for in your world is my trust. — Psalm 119.147

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 17 (Listen – 5:00)
2 Corinthians 10 (Listen -2:45)

Read more about Don’t Waste the Waiting
Do our prayers focus on us and our problems, or on what will draw us closer to the heart of Jesus? Or does weariness win over worship?

Read more about Praying Through Weeping—Guided Prayer
If prayer is relationship, then when God weeps, we should join. What friend would weep, whom we would not join in weeping.

Don’t Waste the Waiting

Scripture Focus: Luke 2.36-38
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Reflection: Don’t Waste the Waiting
By Dena Dyer

The prophetess Anna was widowed after only seven years of marriage. But instead of wallowing in grief, Anna dedicated herself to the service of the Lord and trusted that she would see the Messiah before she died. Upon seeing Jesus at his temple dedication, she gave thanks to God and spoke about Him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. How good of God to allow Anna to see our Savior before she left this earth!
 
Anna recognized Jesus as the Promised One, thanking God for Him. She exemplifies Romans 5.2-5 (NIV): “And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Anna’s suffering did not lead to bitterness, but to perseverance. That perseverance formed her character. And her character, forged in the fires of waiting and worshipping, led this prophetess to a fervent hope of seeing God’s glory.

Do you and I have this kind of hope, one that isn’t fixated on what the world might give but what will most glorify God? Do our prayers focus on us and our problems, or on what will draw us closer to the heart of Jesus? Or does weariness win over worship?

Most days, my prayers are for financial provision or health for me and my loved ones, instead of for God’s glory to be shown and His purposes fulfilled.

Anna’s faithful love for the Savior convicts and challenges me. It breaks apart my excuses for not worshipping more (protests of “I’m too old/too tired/too weak/too busy” seem silly when I hold them up to her example) and points me towards a life of persistent, faithful surrender. Instead of waiting out her last years with worry, Anna stayed connected to God and His people. She was fruitful, and God multiplied her act of obedience.

During one particularly long waiting season, after running ahead of God in various ways, I confessed my impatience and frustration. During that moment, I distinctly felt the Holy Spirit say, “Don’t waste the waiting.” I understood this to mean that I was to submit and trust, instead of running ahead of my Heavenly Father. And after a time of repentance, I did just that. And though my situation remained the same, my next few months felt a lot more peaceful and joyful.

I wish I had allowed the season of unanswered prayer to turn me towards God and not away from Him. What if, like Anna, I had worshipped God instead of fretting? Instead, I wasted months when God could have been holding me close to His heart, teaching me His truths and growing my relationship with Him. It was my loss. I hope you’ll learn from my mistakes; don’t waste the waiting.

About Dena: Dena Dyer is an author of eleven books, including Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts with Tina Samples. She’s also a speaker, worship leader, Anglophile, and movie lover who lives with her husband, youngest son, and rescue pup near Fort Worth, Texas. In her day job, she serves as Executive Assistant to Jamie Aten, founder of Wheaton’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute. Find out more about Dena’s books and resources at her website or follow her on Instagram or Facebook.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Show us the light of your countenance, O God, and come to us. — Psalm 67.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 10 (Listen – 3:19)
2 Corinthians 3 (Listen -2:25)

Read more about Waiting at the Beautiful Gate
The man Peter and John heal in this passage is a man who waited.

Read more about How Are You Waiting?
When we do the joyful work of anticipation and preparation for Christ’s Advent, we may find that it is actually we who are coming home.

How to Cope with Barren Seasons

Scripture Focus: Luke 1.5-7
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

From John: This month, on Tuesdays, we welcome guest writer, Dena Dyer. Dena graciously has donated her talents to our ministry in many ways, including sharing her wisdom about writing with our student writers in online sessions. I know you will be blessed by her series this month on weary women of the Bible.

Reflection: How to Cope with Barren Seasons
By Dena Dyer

Imagine with me: Elizabeth, a barren older woman married to the priest Zechariah, prepares a simple supper of fish, bread, and figs for her husband. Perhaps she hears children playing, and her heart grows heavy with the sound. 

Suddenly, Zechariah bursts through the door, motioning for his wife to sit. He rushes around the room, finding first a tablet and then a writing instrument. Elizabeth’s brow furrows as she sits down. Her hand flutters towards her chest, as if to quell the furious beating in her heart. Has he become gravely ill? Is that why he isn’t speaking? Or has something happened in the temple?

As her worries mount, Zechariah reveals on the tablet the astounding news the angel Gabriel told him. 

At first, she laughs in disbelief, just like her ancestor Sarah did. Then she sees Zechariah’s face. “You’re serious!” she exclaims, as her husband takes her in his arms. They embrace for a long time as tears stream down their faces. Their God has blessed them, more than they could have ever imagined. 

Luke 1:25 notes that Elizabeth said, ‘Look what the Lord has done for me! My people were ashamed of me, but now the Lord has taken away that shame.” In biblical times, infertility was seen as a curse. Husbands with barren wives could even divorce them and find another woman to bear their children.

Elizabeth’s name means “God is my oath” or “My God is good fortune.” God took note of the elderly couple’s obedience to keep their oaths to Him, and they experienced the good fortune God showered down on them. Elizabeth gave birth to the baby who would grow up to be John the Baptist. He paved the way for, and baptized, the Savior of the world. Indeed, God overwhelmed her with mercy. 

Later in the first chapter of Luke, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit when her cousin Mary, pregnant with the promised Messiah, visited the older woman. Elizabeth says to Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear…Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’”

We all have barren places in our lives, areas which are littered with broken dreams and unanswered prayers. God’s ways are mysterious, which means we don’t often get to see the big picture or realize why He allows us to suffer. Yet, He challenges us to draw near to Him and pour out our souls, trusting in His character instead of shutting Him out or running from Him.

If we’re to have a heart that honors Him, let’s model our faith after Elizabeth’s and Zechariah’s and not allow unanswered prayers to determine whether we’ll be obedient or not. Because we know He is rich in mercy and extravagant in grace, let’s pray in confident expectation that God is working ALL things, even barren seasons, for His purposes and glory.

Whether we see our prayers answered here or in our future heavenly home, we will be blessed when we believe that God will fulfill His promises to us.

About Dena: Dena Dyer is an author of eleven books, including Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts with Tina Samples. She’s also a speaker, worship leader, Anglophile, and movie lover who lives with her husband, youngest son, and rescue pup near Fort Worth, Texas. In her day job, she serves as Executive Assistant to Jamie Aten, founder of Wheaton’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute. Find out more about Dena’s books and resources at her website or follow her on Instagram or Facebook.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and glorify your Name forevermore. — Psalm 86.12

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 1 (Listen – 3:54) 
1 Corinthians 12 (Listen – 4:25)

Read more about From the Belly of the Beast
Prayer and thankfulness seem natural around a table of friends and family. But prayer can be even more powerful in the dark places of our lives.

Read more about Under His Covering
She trusted him to provide for her in a myriad ways and leaned on him to give her strength throughout Jesus’ birth and life.

Jesus Concealed and Revealed — Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, March 10, 2021, based on readings from Luke 24.
It was selected by reader, Jon Polk from Hong Kong
“The Emmaus Road account is one of my favorite gospel stories. I wonder, “How did they not even recognize Jesus?” And then I’m reminded of all the times in my life when Jesus has been right alongside me and I didn’t recognize or acknowledge him. Keep your eyes open and you will see Jesus all through your day, often in places that you wouldn’t expect him to be.”

Scripture Focus: Luke 24.27
27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Reflection: Jesus Concealed and Revealed — Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Disciples don’t always seem to recognize the resurrected Jesus. Do we? 

In younger years, I thought this was part of the miracle of the resurrection, but now I think the explanations are far more likely to be practical than out of the ordinary. 

I used to think that Mary mistaking Jesus for the gardener was a miracle, but with age comes experience and wisdom. After living through intense times of mourning in my life, my own tear-blurred vision has made clear to me that probably Mary’s tears were what obscured Jesus, and not a heavenly veil.

I used to think that Jesus blinded Cleopas and his wife on the road to Emmaus, but with grief comes understanding. After walking away from many funerals and deaths of friends and walking through other deep, emotional losses, I know that physical senses are dulled by grief. After what they experienced, it would have been a miracle if their eyes had risen from trudging the road to see the face of the stranger. Even if they had looked up, the shadows of grief in their minds and the shadows of the setting sun on the path could easily have concealed him from them.

However, I do think Jesus helped them miss him—perhaps only by looking away when they looked at him or by wearing a hood or head covering that partly concealed his face. I also believe he did so for a purpose. He was preparing them for his absence and revealing to them his eternal presence. 

Jesus walked along the Emmaus road simultaneously concealing his physical presence and revealing his presence throughout the scripture. He made himself unrecognizable to them on the road so that he could make himself recognizable to them in the Torah. He hid his face from their eyes but burned his features within their hearts. The couple confessed to each other later, “Were not our hearts burning within us?” 

This same Jesus is with us. He sidles up to us and asks, “What are you discussing? What things weigh you down? What are you grieving?”

As we trudge along a path of grief may we listen to his Spirit. He will reveal to us the joy of his presence. 
His presence with us can make our hearts burn, even when they are weighed down with grief.
His love can make us run back, through the darkness of night, to tell others that light and joy have come.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, and as I have power to lay it down, so I have power to take it up again; and this is the command I have received from my Father.” — John 10.17-18

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle


Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 16 (Listen – 3:45)
Romans 14 (Listen – 3:28)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
Have we heard from you yet? Tell us about posts from the past year (September 2020 – July 2021) that have helped you in your faith.
https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about In the Face of Grief
The resurrected Christ seems to have a special preference for appearing to the grieving. Why then do we seem to assume that this stopped when he ascended?

It Came Upon The Midnight Clear — Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, December 23rd, 2020, based on readings from John 13 and Luke 2.
It was selected by reader, Russell in Saitama, Japan
“I always thought this was a strange Christmas carol, in that it never mentions Jesus or His birth. I’m glad to know that the author was ‘passionately focused on Christ,’ in spite of this omission.”

Scripture Focus: John 13.13-15
13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

Luke 2.13-14
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Reflection: It Came Upon The Midnight Clear — Readers’ Choice 
By Jon Polk

After graduating in 1837 from the Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Edmund Hamilton Sears settled in as pastor in the country town of Wayland. The church was impressed with his character and preaching and Sears, who never had ambitions for a prominent city congregation, was enamored by the quiet beauty of the little parish.

One can sense parochial tranquility in his most famous hymn.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old…
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Sears’ family would quickly grow to four children, compelling him to seek out a larger church which could support them. In 1840, he accepted the pastorate of a church in Lancaster, where he would serve for seven years.

The work in Lancaster was difficult and Sears suffered from illness, depression, and an eventual breakdown. Ultimately, his condition deteriorated to the point where he was unable to project his preaching voice loud enough for the congregation to hear.

To facilitate recovery, he returned to Wayland for a year of rest. When healthy, he was invited to return to the Wayland church part-time, which freed him to use his gifts in writing.

In the aftermath of his personal struggles, he wrote “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” in 1849. At the time, the U.S. was reeling from the Mexican War and struggling with slavery as the Civil War drew near.

His sadness is palpable in the lyrics.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long…
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring…

Sears’ theology was passionately focused on Christ; he preached “The word ‘Jesus’ opens the heart and touches the place of tears.” He maintained that Christ alone had bridged the great divide between God and humanity.

As a result, he believed that we are responsible for implementing God’s peace in the world, consequently he preached for equality of women and men, opposing killing even in war, and against the evils of slavery.

This work towards peace is reflected in the carol’s hopeful ending.

When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Following his life struggles, Sears managed to find his own peace and eventually a new purpose as a full-time writer. In his most read work, The Fourth Gospel: The Heart of Christ, he writes, “My consciousness at one time may give me an inward sense of moral ruin and disorder. I may see a creation rise out of this chaos… a peace more sweet than the tranquility of the morning… It comes not from inward beholdings of the Deity, but of what He does…”

Listen:It Came Upon A Midnight Clear by Over the Rhine
Read: Lyrics at Hymnary.org

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn an oath to David my servant:
“I will establish your line forever, and preserve your throne for all generations.” — Psalm 89.3-4

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 9 (Listen – 4:42)
Romans 7 (Listen – 4:09)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
Have we heard from you yet? Tell us about posts from the past year (September 2020 – July 2021) that have helped you in your faith.

https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about Ennobled by the Incarnation
Jesus comes not to condemn our humanity but to share in it. The incarnation is an ennobling epiphany