One Habit of Highly Effective Christians
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How often do/should you pray? How long do/should you pray? Can you pray too much? What do/should you pray about? Is it possible to pray wrong? Are there certain words/phrases you need to use? What if you feel like God’s not listening? If God knows everything, why do I need to pray? Do I have to kneel every time I pray? What if you don’t have time to pray? Does praying really make any difference anyway?

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Have you ever asked any or all of those questions? I have. I really struggle with the particulars of prayer. It’s not that I don’t pray, I do. The problem, for me, is that I’m pretty sure I’m missing some important component.

True confession time – I have a really hard time doing anything on a set schedule. It’s not that I don’t try or don’t want to keep a schedule. I really do! I make schedules and lists for myself all the time. I just rarely follow them, even though I know that certain things, (exercise, Bible study, cleaning, and prayer, for example) cannot be done correctly without scheduling them.

It’s not that I don’t want to do those things, I do. I know they’re all important. And it’s not that I don’t ever do those things, I do, just not regularly or often enough to really get the benefit of having done them.

I remember reading a story some time ago of an 85-year-old woman who got trapped in an elevator for four nights and three days. She was all alone – no one else in the building and no signal for her cell phone. Can you imagine how terrifying that would be? She came to the conclusion that she could either panic or pray. She chose to pray and turn the elevator into her own prayer closet.
When the woman was interviewed later she actually said that she had felt God’s presences with her giving her both strength and joy. She said that she felt like the whole experience was a gift from God to provide her with an opportunity to develop a closer relationship with Him.

Isn’t that amazing? I really covet that kind of a relationship with God. I’m fairly certain, though, that the woman had spent many years keeping appointments to spend time alone talking with God before being trapped in that elevator. That’s different than what Ron Halvorsen calls “crisis praying.”

“We usually don’t say much about prayer, and we don’t pray much, until a crisis comes into our life. Aunt Tillie is sick, so you go on your knees and you pray for the next few days that Aunt Tillie will get well. Or Uncle John. Or someone in the church is sick. That’s crisis praying. When you are sick, have you noticed that you pray more than you did before you got sick? That’s crisis praying. It still works, but is not as effective as the continual spirit of prayer.”1

Praying in a crisis is a good thing, but it shouldn’t be the only time we pray. And I think it can kind of mislead us, give us a sense that we are praying, so everything’s ok with our prayer lives. And can you imagine if the woman trapped in the elevator only had that kind of prayer experience? After the first few hours in the elevator, with no signs of rescue, she may have come to the conclusion that God wasn’t listening and given up.

When I was teaching, quite a few of our “classroom management” techniques involved learning the difference between “reactive” and “proactive.” You probably know the difference – reactive is dealing with each crisis as it comes along, while proactive is working in such a way that many of the crises don’t happen in the first place. The proactive route takes more time to begin with, but it works better than reacting to every little emergency as it comes along. I believe that prayer can be looked at much the same way. Like Halvorsen says, crisis praying still works, but is not as effective as the continual spirit of prayer.

Another author describes the importance of prayer as the key to success in any field of endeavor.

“Some things make you successful whatever path you take – whether you’re on the ‘mommy track’ or in a full-time career outside the home. You need to be with God daily. You need to be in constant prayer. You need to incorporate God’s Word into your life, constantly evaluating your life to make sure you are following God’s lead.” 2

That’s proactive praying – being with God daily. Do you remember when you or your kids were taking some kind of music lessons? The question was always, “How often do we have to practice?” and the answer was, “You only have to practice on the days that you eat.” How often do we need to pray? On the days we eat would be a good place to start, but probably the time we spend in prayer needs to increase to the point that it’s almost like breathing, don’t you think?

“Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children. ‘The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.’ James 5:11. His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. ‘He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.’ Psalm 147:3. The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watch care, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son.” (Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 100)

Ron Halvorsen describes prayer as

“not what you say, it’s who you are. You see, prayer is your experience. It’s the breath of your soul. You don’t grab a breath at church, and then hold it until next week. And you don’t have to hit yourself on the head and say, ‘Breathe, Halvorsen!’

“No, it’s automatic. You see, once you come into that experience with God, you come in that experience with Jesus, you are with Him always in what you think.”3

The question is, how do I get to the point that talking to Jesus is a part of everything I do? I need to stop just reacting with crisis prayers and start, with the help of the Holy Spirit, building the spiritual discipline of personal prayer, worship and bible study time into each day so that when the crises do come, I can see them as opportunities to draw closer to God.

Where do we start? Sing it with me:

Into my heart,
Into my heart,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.
Come in today, come in to stay,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.

Amen.

  1. Ron Halvorsen, It Is Written Script: 1241 The Power of Prayer ©2012 It Is Written International Television
  2. Kay Coles James, Marriage Partnership, Vol. 11, no. 2.
  3. Ron Halvorsen, It Is Written Script: 1241 The Power of Prayer ©2012 It Is Written International Television
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About Lillianne Lopez

Lillianne, who has been writing her thoughts about the Sabbath School lessons for about 6 years, spends most of her time with her 2 sons as well as various dogs and cats. Lillianne is an Academic Instructor for adults who have various types of intellectual and physical challenges.

Comments

One Habit of Highly Effective Christians — 34 Comments

  1. This teaching on prayer has really changed the way I have always viewed prayer.

    It is indeed suppose to be something we do naturally like breathing.Jeremiah 33:3 'Call unto me,and I will answer you;I will tell you wonderful and marvellous things that you know nothing about.'The Lord calls us to prayer.
    The Lord knows all things,He knows our needs even better.One might ask why He does not just give us whatever we need without having to ask for it.
    The Lord our God gave us a free will.He honors His word to the letter.This is where prayer comes in.
    When we pray we allow the Lord to interven in our situation.We also woship and give thanks as we pray.

    Like(2)
    • [Moderator's Note: Please use full names to help maintain integrity.]

      Prayer is like sleep,one must sleep other wise all kinds of problems will happen In your life,like an accident for lack of sleep
      So is prayer,you need it to survive against the darts of satan

      Like(0)
  2. Please help me to understand, why is it that God sometimes does not give us things we have ask for in prayer, instead we see other people receiving them?

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    • Alinane, you ask a good question many have asked. I think of the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:4 when Elijah was so stressed out by the kings and queen and Baal worshipers that he asked God to just let him die. Interestingly, while God often answers our prayers with a yes, No or later, Elijah's answer was no! He never got to die! Instead God took him to heaven in a chariot without ever seeing death. So when God does not give me what I ask for, I know it is because He has a much better idea then I could ever dream up myself. God knows what is best for you and others. He gives you what you need to be happy and God knows what others need to be happy and grow in character too.

      Like(1)
    • That's the whole point of prayer. You take it to God in prayer and ask why, while others are receiving it, you're being denied. He will tell you if you just listen. Maybe there's a sin you're holding on to? Maybe you're not sincere in prayer? Maybe you don't feed on His word daily? There are many reasons which we can't tell you. The Holy Spirit is very near to each and everyone of us. Take advantage of it and ask Him what's up. BTW, I noticed it's better not to focus on other people and their blessings. It can lead to coveting. Maybe the right attitude is to say: thank you Jesus for blessing others with the same things I've been asking. I pray that they don't forget you but give you praise for it. FYI, I can't wait for my turn. According to your will, let it be done. Either way, we're cool because our relationship is more than this. Help me to love you unconditionally as you loved me.

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      • Newton Shaw said: "Maybe there’s a sin you’re holding on to? Maybe you’re not sincere in prayer? Maybe you don’t feed on His word daily?"
        ----------------------------------------------------

        I would like to strongly suggest caution in giving people the impression that seemingly unanswered prayer is as a result of some defect in the individual. We should be hesitant even to suggest this.

        We do not know what kind of burden others may be struggling under; and people can easily be derailed into a works-based mindset (i.e. that they must "do something" to in effect "appease" God so that their prayers may be answered.) That is almost automatic in human nature.

        Alinane, many times God has already begun to answer our prayers long before we see the need to ask for anything. It is very common to feel frustrated and as if God has abandoned you.
        I cannot guarantee that God will give you exactly what you want. What I can guarantee is that God is actively working in your interest (even more than you are!).

        God is not a passive observer that you have to stir into action by your pleas. In other words, God does not have to be convinced or persuaded to work for you. he already is working for you!

        We are the ones who have to be convinced to trust Him!

        What has helped me in times like this is to give up worrying and try to take care of other people despite not having my own needs met and to trust that God will take care of me.

        I also find help in looking for evidence that God is working for me in other ways. It is usually something small. It could be as simple as Him having helped me get to work on time one day in the week when I was running late.

        God hears you and He cares Alinane.

        Like(2)
        • Amen. What you're saying is true. I was just brainstorming based on these biblical verses: Psalms 66:18, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord WILL NOT hear."

          Also this text, 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If my people...forsake their sinful ways...then I will hear their prayers..."

          These texts are clearly telling us there are conditions we must meet if we want God to hear us. The good news is that He will help us through Holy Spirit to meet them. That's why the Bible says, "Seek first the Kingdom of God before asking for that Benz or BMW or a marriage partner or a good employment." Also keep in mind, "It's God who works in us--both to will and to work for His good pleasure." Phil 2:13.

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  3. Sometimes God does not give us the things we ask for because he knows the dangers those things are to us while we don't. Just like a parent does not give everything a child asks for because the parent determines the appropriateness, timing, dangers, benefits etc before honoring a particular request for a child. The parent does this as a result of love and will not knowingly provide anything that will cause harm. In other words, a good and loving parent will not give their child anything that might harm them regardless of how bad their child wants it. Sometimes the child does not see or understand their request may be harmful to them. So also is our heavenly father. Only difference is, our heavenly father has far more insight into the future and knows what is best for us and so all his decisions are based on knowledge obscure to us. Sometimes, it is simply our timing too.

    Like(1)
    • Sometimes God is just waiting for the right time.

      Other times He needs to prepare you for the experience.

      An answer to a prayer for a new house might just begin with handyman classes!

      Like(1)
  4. Lillianne, while my story is not as traumatic as the lady who got stuck in the elevator, a couple years ago my flight out of DFW got cancelled due to severe weather. I looked around the airport for a place to sleep and found an empty chapel room. I posted on my facebook, "Spending the night at the DFW airport chapel. Send me your prayer requests." I said the part about send my your prayer requests as a joke since I was spending the night in an airport chapel. Well, prayer requests kept coming through my Facebook all night long. Some private messages as well as public. Something said in jest turned into an all night prayer vigil for me, and it turned into a very meaningful night, alone at the DFW airport.

    Like(1)
    • Bill, the Holy Spirit has a way of communicating His will to our minds and hearts that do sometimes surprise us. Glad you listened. Great experience. Thanks.

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  5. Mini testimony here too. Deuteronomy 4:7 says to call upon God for "whatever" reason. For example: my key that opens the front door of our apartment building always gave me problems. It works but it’s a hassle. You have to wiggle it around before it opens. It can be frustrating. Sure I can have it exchanged by talking to the manager but I’ve been busy, plus he charges a couple of dollars for it. So one evening, I got tired of the problematic key and shot up a prayer right there on the spot. I felt kinda silly praying for a key. But I reminded myself of that verse from Deuteronomy, "call upon God for whatever reason." So I prayed. Lo and behold, within the same week, I run into the manager. I told him my problem. He made me a copy right away and give it to me free of charge.

    I give thanks to our God for even listening to our prayer about “silly” issues. The big lesson is also: if you pray for “silly” things in your life, guess what, when the big storms come, you’ll automatically go to prayer mode. So think of it as a training. I have also offered prayer while on a toilet when the you-know-what doesn’t exit smoothly and give you trouble (yes even vegetarians experience that sometimes lol.) Another silly subject I prayed on is actually this past Sunday. I couldn’t decide if I should have Indian food or Mexican food for dinner. So I shot up a quick, informal, prayer and asked God to lead me where he wants me. I ended up going to Indian place—where I was actually used by God to minister to a group of people. That’s another testimony. God is real. Call upon Him for whatever reason.

    Like(1)
  6. I often undergo a great deal of self-introspection when it comes to prayer. There's many a times when I just ask myself whether am worthy to pray unto God. Sometimes I just lose the concentration I have when I or someone else is praying and end up thinking of so many other different things. Its like when I pray,am not even sure that am really praying and God is listening to me. How do I change that? How does one kneel down and pray and feel themselves talking to Jesus. Help me friends. :(

    Like(1)
    • Hi Linda. My first suggestion is to get away from the idea that there is a “correct” way to pray. Think of prayer as the privilege to talk to the Creator of the Universe who takes great interest not only in what you have to say and ask for, but also in what He wants to share with you. With some practice, you can quiet your mind and let Jesus in. Whatever gets in the way of that or distracts you from it, take it to our loving Father. He is more than able to help you with it. Don’t stop, keep praying. Have faith that He hears and answers the prayers of His children… for whom he paid an unimaginable price.

      You know, if you got a phone call from the president or from a person you really admire, I doubt you would get bored, distracted or disinterested. Think about what you are doing when you pray. You are in the presence of and communication with the only God… the Creator God… the one Source of everything in the Universe… the Provider of your very next breath.

      Like(1)
    • Linda, simply trust the promises of God. If you don't know them, find them and keep them close (memorize some of them?). Yes, at times our thoughts will wander and once you realize it, pray for help on that matter and bring your thoughts back. The habit of doing this will change the pattern of wandering as you persist in controlling it.

      The best prescription for effectual prayer is knowing the One you pray to, claiming His promises, and trusting Him fully. Oh, and "wait on the Lord" with hopeful expectation. Remember also that "if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." Confession/repentance is vital for effectual praying. The promise is this: "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path".

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  7. The only time when I struggle so much with how I am going to approach a person, and what I am going to say, and how I am going to say it; then wonder if the person is going to listen to me, or even bother to hear me, is when I am dealing with a person who is a real pain.
    And if I keep wondering if they are going to answer my requests and wrestling in my imagination whether they will say no or yes or wait or maybe or just say get out of my face, I am dealing with a boss who I really don't want to work for; or trying to meet the requirements of an accreditation system who I am working extremely hard to please, driven/motivated by fear as to whether they will accept or reject my request. Then I celebrate how good I am with great back slapping when they give me a little pat me on the back.
    God is bad relationships, the IRS, the Regional accreditation system, Medicaid and the unemployment office.

    Think I will become a hermit, and ask Doug Batchelor to use his cave. I and my buddies should know where the best garbage cans are to be found.

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    • I hope your point is not lost. It is extremely important.

      We are hesitant to ask for help when we are not assured of the character of the person we are asking for help.

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  8. If prayer is "the breath of the soul", there will be different prayers at different times, just as breath is more relaxed when one sits watching a beautiful part of God's creation, but more deep and rapid when running (for whatever reason). Prayer that is a habitual part of life will continue in all situations and will fit the situation at hand.

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  9. Please brethren, what place does silent prayer has in one's personal life? Is it effective? Is there a limitation? A drawback?

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    • How could any prayer, silent or otherwise, be a drawback? Breathing, whether quiet or loud, keeps us alive. I'd say most prayer is the silent type, unless we are alone most of the time. Most must mingle with others through the day and silent prayers are how we walk with God through the busy part of our day.

      Wonderful that God reads even our thoughts.

      Like(1)
    • Sometimes I am shouting at God when I am praying silently. Other people do not need to know when the issue is between me and God.

      Like(1)
  10. Hello everybody.... I have this challenge... I am currently in matric and desire to study Medicine next year... I pray so hard for God to help me get accepted. I even fast every mondays and thursdays... One of the brethren commented and said 'when God answers you, its either a yes, no or later'... Most of the times i get comments from ALOT of people that, "God might have a better plan for me than being a Doctor", i keep hearing this comment from various people that i actually fear that it is God who is speaking to me through those people... This affects me big time because whenevr i pray for acceptance, its like i've reached a conlusion that God doesnt want me there, thus i pray with 'doubts'.... i keep asking God that let my will, on becoming a doctor, be His will because i really dont want to end up doing something i dont like for the rest of my life.... Am i doing the correct thing? Am i instructing God how to answer my prayers?? I really want to be a doctor so badly!

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    • Ororiseng, fasting is to clear the mind/heart of every distraction in order to hear God more clearly, not to influence God. Also, it wasn't until Abraham laid Isaac bound on the altar that every obstacle between him and God was removed. Have you laid your desire for this specific occupation on the altar? This will not mean you will never be a doctor, only that you are willing to do whatever God wishes above your own wish. Unless you are willing to do that, God cannot use you as a doctor or anything else. He wants YOU. Once He has all of you, He will direct your path. Jewel quoted from Psalm 37, which helps us to understand our need to be fully the Lords, allowing Him to guide us, no matter what it means. Perfect trust in Him is shown by committing all things to Him.

      I knew someone once who wanted to support the Lord's work by becoming wealthy, and felt that God would bless this scheme because of their stated intent. It never happened. God has already seen tomorrow and will lead us perfectly, if we follow perfectly. The choice is left with us.

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    • My humble advice would be to pause for a moment and take a breath. Realize that God knows how badly you want this.
      He knows your fears and doubts, and He is not angry with you about it either.

      What helps me is the following definition of "faith":

      Faith is a willingness to act in the face of uncertainty.

      So my humble advice is to go forward.
      Act (work towards your goal), even though you are still uncertain.
      If medicine is God's will for you, He will allow the doors to open for that to happen. Persevere. Do the best you can with studying, but do not obsess about it. Leave room for God to work.

      And remember that while God can speak through other people, He primarily speaks through His word. Focus on serving God the best you can (which means serving others). Most of all, believe that God wants you to be happy, and that He is actively working for this in your life.

      Like(1)
    • HI Ororiseng, As a teacher, I understand your position as I have had students in a similar situation. Every student is different and I have always felt the responsibility weigh heavily on me as I discuss their future aspirations. Sometimes I have had to tell students that no amount of praying is going to help them as they are simply not suited. Other times I tell students that they are worrying unnecessarily. And often my advice to a student is to go for it as they have a good chance, but that it would be wise to have plan B.

      You do need to listen to those who know your ability the best. That is often the way that God talks to you. If those who know your ability well are advising you to think of Plan B then perhaps that is what you should be doing. You also need to be honest with yourself. God may also be talking to you through the grades that you are getting in class.

      Prayer is not a substitute for study. My prayer for all students going into examinations is that they will have clear minds to use the knowledge and understanding that they have faithfully learned and developed. That is my prayer for you as you prepare for your matriculation examination.

      Like(1)
  11. [Moderator Note: As stated in Comment Guidelines, please use your full name when commenting on this blog. Thank you.]

    Hello Ororiseng,
    I have never placed a posting on any blog before, but I was moved with your concern and prayers for becoming a doctor. Do you believe that a God who would die for you would ever withhold anything "good" from you? Absolutely not! In fact, Psalm 84:11 says, "For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." Psalm 37:3-5 says, "Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."
    Rest assured that God will open the door and make a way for you to become a doctor if He knows that (1)it will bring honor to His name and (2)lead you and others into a closer relationship with Him. And besides, if it didn't lead to both of these outcomes, you wouldn't want it for yourself anyway, would you? Your answer to this question will help you to examine your true motives for wanting to be a doctor - and motives are paramount to God! Be blessed and don't stop praying.

    Like(1)
  12. As I read through all your comments, the question still rings in my mind- does prayer therefore cause God to change his plan or we are talking to him to hear his side of story only. The comments I am seeing seem to suggest that as I pray God is interested in conversation but his outcomes hold anyway thereby making prayer only transactional and having not impact on outcomes. If that is true, then we should never ask God for anything but just talk to him about "stuff" and not ask him for anything - awaiting corrective comments

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    • Brian, how would you then relate to the invitation of Jesus to ask anything from our Heavenly Father? How about the idea that without our invitation, God cannot help us? God promises to put enmity between us and Satan, yet the world is filled with sinners who love sin, so this seems to tell us God can only put the enmity in those who ask for it.

      I believe we benefit from prayer as it draws our attention to God and leads us to know Him better. We also search more diligently for His "exceeding great and precious promises" that we might claim them. Without faith, it is impossible to please our heavenly Father. He wants us to trust Him but He can only invite.

      Would you want your child to feel that it was pointless to ask you for anything? Do you map out their life to the last detail and leave them with no choices to make? Our choices and decisions are a vital part of this great controversy and without our free-will, there could be no freedom, which is what the truth brings us.

      As for changing God's plan, what part of His plan would you want to change? I believe the greatest purpose of prayer is to help us accept His perfect plans. He clearly has our best interest in mind and has proven that without any room for doubt. He has perfect plans for each of us, and wants to lead us to accept them. We are the ones needing change, not God.

      Perhaps you know the story of Israel's victory over Jericho? What happened next with the city of Ai when Israel went up against it without praying first? What followed once Israel turned to God in prayer? Would the rain have come after the 3 1/2 year drought if Elijah had not prayed? We read that the rain came in answer to his persistent petitions of faith.

      Too many more examples of prayer leading to God's action on behalf of those in need of His help, and many more of failure for those who relied on their own ability, wisdom and strength. Our petitions allow God to work out His perfect plans for us, but without our consent, God is helpless to help us.

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      • I believe that sometimes God changes His mind--even if His ultimate plans remain the same. God engages with and responds to us.

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        • I find that an interesting thought Andrew, but how does One who sees the end from the beginning arrive at any moment where He says, "Oh, I guess that didn't work. I'll have to try something else."?

          We read in Genesis 6:6 that God regretted He had made man on the earth, but what does that mean in God's reality? I'm not sure we can fully understand, but must recognize His abilities as the Eternal Creator who is not limited by time in any direction. We consider a realm not within our grasp, and while we might draw personal conclusions, who can say for sure? I believe God is never surprised. His apparent changes actually reveal His long-suffering, forbearance and mercy towards us.

          One "change" we can point to is the warning given by Jonah and the actual results, yet God knew what the results would be long before Jonah changed his mind and followed God's initial instructions. God knew the fish would be needed...etc. It seems then that WE are the ones that can and must change, and God leaves the choice up to us.

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  13. I heard a little ditty about prayer that is cute yet very meaningful.
    God says to pray that I know
    Sometimes I ask too fast and He says, "Slow"
    Sometimes I ask wrong and He says, "No"
    When I do ask right He does say, "Go"
    And gives me the joy to receive and bestow.

    Like(1)
  14. [Moderator's note: Please use full name to help ensure integrity]

    Nicely said. Crisis praying! Reactive and proactive.

    Sounds like 7 Habits teaching.

    Thanks from a former 7 Habits trainer.

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  15. I believe prayer is a breakthrough...l have a question l often ask God that for ,how long,?l pray for others,with others and almost everyone gives a joyous feedback...but when it comes to my turn its always an addition of prayer requests...nothing really gets over but im always on halt.Im not saying that he doesn't care,l believe those who wait upon the Lord....im growing weary...physical,spiritual..please pray for me...

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