by Mary Somerville
Under the general heading of bearing the emotional and spiritual burdens which come to us as pastors' wives, we have been discussing ways to grow closer to Jesus Christ, who is our Source of strength. Last month we talked about journaling; this month's topic is prayer.
We also nurture our oneness with Christ through prayer. As we pray, God imprints His own image of Christ's character on our lives—His love, His wisdom, and His compassion toward those for whom we pray. We surrender to His will as we pray, "Lord, Your will be done." We don't pray for our own gain but for God's glory.
In Jesus' model prayer, He included confession: "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." When we come into the presence of our holy Father we are to come seeking forgiveness and cleansing, and that is what He gives us (1 John 1:9). Then we enter just as pure as Jesus, without fear or hesitation.
Not only do we come to Him with confession, but with thanksgiving and praise. The psalmist wrote: "Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise" (Ps. 100:4). And "He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me" (Ps. 50:14, 23). We glorify God through our thanks and praise of Him. Let's pour out our grateful hearts for who He is. As we read His Word we see His character portrayed in so many ways—His sovereignty, His love and forgiveness, His omnipotence and omnipresence. We see His beauty and perfection, His holiness and justice. We see His mercy and grace. This results in a heart of praise and thanksgiving for all He is and has done for us.
Jesus said, "Ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you" (John 15:7b). I want to take Jesus up on His desire for us to ask of Him and to be challenged to pray for God-sized prayers—things that only He can do. God gave Sarah a child when she was 90 and her husband 100. That's God-sized. God put His Son in Mary's womb. That's God-sized. Is there anything too hard for God? If the answer is no, then let's go to Him in prayer, expecting great and mighty things!
It has been my practice to keep a prayer journal. This is where I record my requests and the dates when they are prayed for and answered. If you don't have a structure for prayer, why not try this faith-building exercise? It encourages not only your own faith but also those for whom you are praying.
In my journal I also keep a "Bonus Prayer List" based on the promise, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart" (Ps. 37:4). I ask God to grant these requests only if it would delight His heart to delight mine. It has been a joy to see God answer many of these special requests.
Here is an example of one of these bonus prayers. I requested of the Lord to be able to go overseas with my husband to minister. This was a sincere request because we have always been deeply interested in foreign missions. However, it was quite a leap of faith because Bob was not in demand as an international speaker.
One day as Bob was flipping through my journal he glanced at my Bonus Prayer List. "What? Is somebody going to ask me to speak overseas?" he laughed. It was just a few weeks later that a man came to our church representing the Biblical Counseling Association in Germany to ask my husband to speak for three weeks all around his country. "And by the way, we want your wife to come too," he added.
As it turned out, the seminary where my husband earned his doctor of ministry degree in biblical counseling recommended him. While we were in Germany speaking on biblical counseling, we were also able to meet with missionaries for our mutual encouragement. Bob called that venture "Operation Isaac," because he laughed. Since that time, knowing the desires of our heart in this area, God has given us the privilege of ministering to missionaries in all parts of the world. He delights to delight us as we delight ourselves in Him.
Cultivating the habit of daily praise and intercession is the best way for the wife of a man in ministry to cope with all the burdens. We cast all our cares upon the Lord, who alone is able to carry them in the ultimate sense (1 Pet. 5:7). Prayer becomes like breathing. Each need that we become aware of should be cast over on the Lord. We are to pray about everything. When we are told a need, we pray about it then and there—if it is over the phone, on the street, or in a restaurant. It can be done silently or audibly. We shouldn't carry a burden a minute longer than we need to but rather cast it upon the Lord. He will show us our part in caring for the need, but He is the ultimate burden-bearer.
I challenge you to increase your "knee exercises." Start with five minutes, 20 minutes, a half hour, an hour a day, and see what God will do!