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Relationship with God

Will You Take the Journey?

You don't have to read very far into the book of Acts to learn how treacherous were the journeys taken by the early Christians, especially the Apostle Paul. Travel in the ancient Mediterranean was challenging in ways we can't even grasp today. When they weren't traveling by boat, they were on foot, with the danger of robbers at every pass. 

Would we be willing today to take such physical journeys for the sake of the gospel?

As I pondered this question, it led to another. What about emotional journeys?

I'm talking about journeys of the heart: forgiveness, repentance, honoring others, loving our enemies, confronting someone with truth. 

These journeys of the heart are perhaps more treacherous than the physical landscape traversed in the book of Acts.

Discomfort? Inconvenience? Pain? 

Possibly all of these await us around every bend in the road of our hearts. 

Yet as followers of Christ, we are asked to take those journeys, regardless of how uncomfortable we might feel along the way.

I would encourage you today to spend some time reading in Acts. Follow Paul on his travels, as he carries the gospel to the Gentiles through hostile territory. Read about the persecution of the early church in Jerusalem. Perhaps listen in, as Paul's friends warn him not to go to Jerusalem, where he will be arrested.

Then ask yourself, prayerfully: Are you willing to journey, in the same way as Paul, through the deepest roads of your heart? No matter where God takes you?

Dear God, please help us today to trust in You. When You call us to search the deepest parts of our hearts, to live out Your love in ways that might be uncomfortable for us, remind us You travel right by our side. When we pass through the deepest waters, You will be there. We can trust You. In Jesus' name. Amen

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Janet Eriksson is a missionary of prayer in Dahlonega, Georgia and founder/coordinator of the Hometown Prayer Mission. She also volunteers with The Center for Inner Healing. She would love to hear from you at hometownprayer.org.

Why Every Intercessor Needs Inner Healing

Imagine you're on a battlefield. Your sword is broken. Your armor has holes. Your knees are weak. You keep tripping over the ground. Your enemy taunts you, and those taunts become a torment so loud you can't hear your heart pounding.

This is what it's like to be an intercessor without inner healing.

Inner healing invites God into every dark corner of your heart. Any weaknesses you have, He will expose for healing. Psalm 139:23-24 should be every intercessor's heart cry to God. It's like pouring peroxide into a wound and watching the infection bubble to the surface for healing.

When you submit your heart to God for inner healing, you are bringing your heart into His sanctification process (Philippians 2:12; Hebrews 12:15). We don't know the depths of what we hold in our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). That's why we need to ask God to show us and heal us.

If you are trying to go into battle as an intercessor, without inviting God to search every area of your heart for healing, you will find your heart is exposed to the enemy. The enemy hates intercession so he will look for any place he can grab hold of you and torment you.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Ask God to begin showing you areas of your heart that need healing. Ask Him to begin the healing process and be willing to submit your heart fully to Him.

Don't go through inner healing alone. I'm part of a whole tribe of people going through the journey of inner healing together, and we keep each other on speed dial for help, prayers, and accountability. Find your tribe and stay connected.

Lots of great inner healing ministries exist – one might be right in your neighborhood. The ministry that I love and have participated in for the past 10 years is The Center for Inner Healing. Whichever inner healing ministry you become involved in, be sure it is biblically based, Christ centered, Spirit filled, and invites heart encounters between you and Jesus for your healing.

Whatever you do, don't let the enemy take potshots at you on the battlefield of intercession. Identify the wounds in your heart and allow Jesus to bind them up (Psalm 147:3, Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18). 

Then you will be able to intercede under the shelter of God's wings (Psalm 91:4), hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:3), with clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm 24:3-4).

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Janet Eriksson is a missionary of prayer in Dahlonega, Georgia and founder/coordinator of the Hometown Prayer Mission. She also volunteers with The Center for Inner Healing. She would love to hear from you at hometownprayer.org.

How I Slept in a Glass Box in Sweden

My senior year of college, I studied in Poland. This was a year and a half before the Berlin Wall fell, and the uprisings had started. It was a rough place for this pampered American girl to visit. It was hard to get food. Things were scary. But God was watching out for me.

In June 1988, I graduated from the University of Florida at the Polish university campus. The plan was then to travel by train (my request) to meet my family in Oslo, Norway, for a vacation. Norway was our ancestral homeland, and we had planned this trip for a long time.

I got on the train, with about 10 suitcases, and had a long layover in West Berlin. Once again, I had requested that layover, so I could have one last day in the city that had become one of my favorite stomping grounds.

By the time I boarded the train for Malmo, Sweden, where I would transfer to the Oslo-bound train, I was exhausted. My physical appearance betrayed the long travels I had taken, and the even longer year of upheaval I had lived through. I was so tired I slept through the Baltic Sea crossing, which I had really wanted to see. I was awakened by a knock on the door and opened my eyes to see a tall, blond man in uniform, asking for my passport.

The Swedish border guard actually laughed when he saw my pristine passport photo, my current bedraggled appearance, and the stamp that indicated I had been living in Poland. He was probably more than a little amazed I had a private first-class cabin on the train. I was not used to traveling first class and didn't have a dime to my name, but that cabin was my mom's graduation "touch" on my travel arrangements.

The train went a little farther and then we stopped in Malmo. It was to be a short transfer to the train that would take me to Oslo, and I was ready to bring this journey to an end. However, as I stepped onto the train platform and hauled out my 10 suitcases, I learned that the station was closing for the evening. There would be no Oslo-bound train until the morning.

One of the station conductors suggested in broken English that I take a taxi to a hotel. I explained that I had no money and that I was supposed to meet my family in Oslo. My travel had been pre-paid and one of my Polish friend's family had packed food for my trip. But I had calculated reaching Oslo late that evening. I wasn't prepared for a stop in Malmo. 

I told the conductor I would just stay in the train station overnight. It wouldn't be the first time I had done something like that during my travels. 

But he wasn't having it. He said the station was to shut down completely, doors locked, no passengers left inside.

I looked at him and shrugged. "What can I do?"

He must have been a dad, by the kindly way he looked at me. I could only guess he must have thought about what if his daughter were in this situation.

He told me I could stay overnight inside the station. But for my security, I would have to sleep in the glass conductor's box out on the platform. He let me fill up my water bottle, and then he and his colleague locked me in the box and told me they would be back at 5 a.m.

So, that's how I spent the night in a glass box in Sweden.

People who have heard this story have typically reacted in horror. But really, it wasn't that bad. I had spent so many worse nights during my adventures abroad. This was a clean train station in what appeared to be a safe city. I felt safe in that box. I sat in the conductor's swivel chair, put my head on the little desk, and went to sleep.

At 5 a.m. the conductors returned and let me out. The station was open then, so I could move into the lobby and wait there for the train. I was hungry. But I had no money for food. A man from Czechoslovakia sat next to me. He spoke English really well. He traveled to Sweden often on business. He showed me where I could buy breakfast but I told him I was without currency. He said, "Just a minute" and went over to the kiosk and bought me breakfast.

Then he reached into his overnight bag, brought out some cheese sandwiches, and handed them to me for the train ride to Oslo. Anyone who knows my love of cheese would guess this man was either an angel, or God had already prepared him with extra cheese sandwiches to share with me. Either way, I will forever remember that man and be grateful.

When I arrived in Oslo, hours later, I just about crawled into the hotel where my mom had reserved a room for me. My family wasn't due to arrive until the next day, but the room was already paid for. It was a 5-star hotel used by the tour company we were going to travel with. I must have looked a sight. The reservation clerk seemed to think I was lost. I don't blame her.

As she studied my passport and stared at my face, I said, "I know. I've been traveling a long time."

Finally, she seemed convinced and she gave me my room key. I ordered room service: a cheeseburger with all the fixings, and a large Coke. I still remember the price: $16. It went on the room tab. I figured I'd apologize to my mom the next day, and pay her back later. An hour later, I was sound asleep beneath a downy comforter.

When I look back on that trip, and so many other moments like it, I can only say, from the depths of my heart, "Thank You, God, for Your protection, provision, and love. You are so good."

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Janet Eriksson is a missionary of prayer in Dahlonega, Georgia and founder/coordinator of the Hometown Prayer Mission. She also volunteers with The Center for Inner Healing. She would love to hear from you at hometownprayer.org.

Really Present, Really Listening

A classmate shared today about an interview with Mother Theresa, in which she was asked about her prayer life with God. When asked what she said in prayer, she answered, "Nothing. I listen." When asked what God said, she answered, "Nothing. He listens."

How powerful and true. Often we are taught (though don't necessarily "do") to listen in prayer, but often we forget that God also listens. So often we are waiting for God to speak, but how much more comes from His listening. How amazing that the creator of the universe wants to listen to us! I also love contemplative prayer, in which we just sit with God, not even listening, but just being. 

This also makes me think of how our prayer time with God is a model for how we spend time with others. Do we have conversations in which we really listen to the other person, and are fully present with the other person? So often, we are partly listening, partly thinking what we want to say, and partly thinking through our grocery list in our head.

How much more vibrant would the kingdom of God be if we learn how to listen and be present with others?

We can begin to learn this by being fully present and listening in prayer with God.

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Janet Eriksson is a missionary of prayer in Dahlonega, Georgia and founder/coordinator of the Hometown Prayer Mission. She also volunteers with The Center for Inner Healing. She would love to hear from you at hometownprayer.org.

Adjust the Picture

I have many reasons to be discouraged. I have just come through a long and difficult season, and I'm still going through it. You may be able to relate to this as well. God certainly understands and His heart hurts for the discouraging times we go through.

But I can't find anywhere in the Bible where God tells me to be discouraged. I find many places, almost on every page, where He gives hope for encouragement. It's not easy to stay encouraged sometimes. But God does not call us to be discouraged.

How do we stay encouraged during difficult seasons? Ephesians 2:4-10 gives a much-needed perspective. If my vision of what's going on around me leads me to discouragement, I need to widen the lense. I need to readjust my vision to accommodate what is going on, so I can be encouraged.

When things seem to fall apart, I need to remember that Christ holds all things together and is drawing every person to Himself (Colossians 1:17; John 12:32). I may see a small glimpse of that picture and it looks like a destructive whirlwind. I need to widen the lense and set my vision on Jesus. The bigger picture looks very different!

Ephesians 2 tells us we are seated in heavenly places with Jesus. Our lense of every moment in life must be set from that location. From our view, seated in heavenly places with Jesus, there is no discouragement. There is only God's unending love for us, and the ways He allows us to participate with Him as He redeems and restores in the lives of His people.

Will you join me in allowing God to re-set our lenses? Ask Him to help you see as He sees, and to see how you fit into His beautiful picture of what He is doing in the world. Take some quiet time with God right now, and let Him adjust your lense. Let Him encourage you, even in your most difficult moments. God bless you.

This song, Heavenly Places by Amber Brooks, based on Ephesians 2:6, always reminds me of the encouragement and bigger picture I have in Jesus.

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Janet Eriksson is a missionary of prayer in Dahlonega, Georgia and founder/coordinator of the Hometown Prayer Mission. She also volunteers with The Center for Inner Healing. She would love to hear from you at hometownprayer.org.

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Ephesians 2:4-10 (NASB)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

My Daily Prayer Refreshment

I was reminded this week of how refreshing prayer can be. I was eating a slice of watermelon – who doesn't love that wonderful summer refreshment! At the same time, I was reading about prayer. I felt so refreshed just thinking about spending time with God. I realized my time with Him is even more refreshing than eating a slice of watermelon, or running in the rain, or going for a swim. Nothing is more refreshing than our God!

If you would like to spend some refreshing time with God today, here are a few simple ways to get started. You don't need to be overwhelmed and try to do them all. Just pick one that feels refreshing to your heart: 

1. Sit with God. Just be with Him. Try this for five minutes and see how you feel.

2. Get to know God. Ask Him questions about Himself. Ask Him to share His heart with you. Look up one of the "names of God" in your Bible – the Internet has many great resources on where to find the names of God (John Paul Jackson, 365 Names of God is a great resource). Choose one name that is meaningful for you today. Reflect on who God is. Talk with Him about one of His names, and what that means to Him and to you.

3. Pray for someone. Pray for someone you know who needs prayer. Or just pray for the first person who comes to your mind, even someone you might not have seen for years. You can also ask God to give you the name of someone to pray for. He might prompt you to pray for someone you know, or He might lead you to pray for someone you have never met, who lives on the other side of the world.

4. Pray a Bible verse. Choose a favorite verse, or find one you haven't spent much time with. Turn the verse into a simple prayer.

5. Pray for an upcoming event. Does your family have an important event coming up? Maybe an event for your children at school? Is something coming up that you are excited about, or nervous about? Does your community or church have an event coming up that could use some prayer? Spend some time with God, just talking about and praying for that event.

6. Ask God for a Bible verse you can pray for your family. Ask Him to give you a specific verse to pray. It might be one verse for your whole family, or a different verse for each person in your family. Listen quietly. See what verse He leads you to pray for each person. This is a prayer strategy, and it can become a very powerful part of your daily family prayers. Share the verses with your family. Ask them what other verses they hear. 

How did your "prayer refreshment" time go today? Try the same thing again tomorrow, or pick a different way to pray. These are just a few ways to get started. See what else God inspires in you. 

Start with five minutes of your day, and grow from there.

God will love this time of refreshment with you. It's like sharing a slice of watermelon with Him. You will enjoy this time as well. You will be amazed how it will affect your day.

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Janet Eriksson is a missionary of prayer in Dahlonega, Georgia and founder/coordinator of the Hometown Prayer Mission. She also volunteers with The Center for Inner Healing. She would love to hear from you at hometownprayer.org.

Watermelon

Praying as God’s Child

I was reminded this week of the importance of "just" spending time in prayer with God.

Often, we get caught up in the prayer needs that surround us, including our own. We focus our prayers on the needs of others, or on the obstacles that lie in our path.

The Bible tells us, in 2 Corinthians 3:18, God is transforming us into the image of Christ. Transformation comes when we spend time with Him. He changes our hearts through our time in His presence.

We are God's children. Prayer is an opportunity to spend time with, talk with, listen to, share our love with, and just be with God. 

While God does give us people and situations to pray for, and while He does want to hear our hearts about the things we struggle with, He wants first and foremost to be in relationship with us. We are to love Him with our whole heart (Matthew 22:37-38), and that means spending time just being with Him.

Our prayer time should orient us to God. We should come to Him first as His child, and just be.

That's where the heart change takes place. That's where we become more like Him.

Have you spent time with God this week, just talking with Him as His child? Just being with Him? Try spending five minutes a day like this, and see what happens. You will notice a difference.

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Janet Eriksson is a missionary of prayer in Dahlonega, Georgia and founder/coordinator of the Hometown Prayer Mission. She also volunteers with The Center for Inner Healing. She would love to hear from you at hometownprayer.org.

Prayers for Sweet Sleep

Several of my friends and I are struggling with sleep. Sleep deprivation is not only exhausting but also unhealthy. We have each tried different remedies – even prayer! – and nothing seems to help. 

One of my friends reminded me that God put us in relationships, and we need to pray for each other. When one of us struggles, our family and friends need to pray, and vice versa. 

So my friend offered to send the three of us a group prayer text at night, praying over us for good sleep. What a wonderful idea! Her reminder was so important: When we struggle, we need to ask folks to pray. We are all in this adventure called "life with God" together, and He has given us the support we need.

What are the things you struggle with, where prayer would help? Who can you ask to pray through those things with you?

Don't be afraid to ask! God created us for relationship, and that means we get to help and pray for each other. You might be surprised that when you ask your family and friends for prayer, they will also share their prayer needs with you.

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Janet Eriksson is a missionary of prayer in Dahlonega, Georgia and founder/coordinator of the Hometown Prayer Mission. She also volunteers with The Center for Inner Healing. She would love to hear from you at hometownprayer.org.

Prayer is a Daily Refreshment

As part of a school assignment, I ran across a delightful article on prayer. I felt so refreshed upon reviewing this article that I wanted to share it. Here is the link to the article, followed by the review I wrote for class. I hope you will enjoy reading this article as much as I did, and be reminded of the daily refreshment we have through prayer.

The Importance of Personal Prayer

Review of Balducci, Rachel. (2014). The importance of personal prayer. Catholic Digest, 78, 54-57.

This is a delightful and profound article on prayer. It is profound in its simplicity: our life just goes better when we make time to pray.

Prayer cultivates Christ-likeness. Prayer is a key to our transformation, because through prayer we spend time with Jesus.

The author quotes Father Brett Brennan that we have two ways to become more like Jesus. One is through prayer, and the other is to experience the fellowship of the suffering of Christ. Wouldn’t it be preferable to make prayer a priority?

Prayer nurtures our relationship with Christ, grows us in grace, allows us to share Christ with others, and reminds us of our utter dependence on God. In other words, prayer fills us with Christ.

Prayer is not about the amount of time or a ritual. It is heart conversations with God. Even 15 minutes a day of intentional prayer is helpful.

Our biggest hindrance to prayer is that we don’t make it a priority. There will never be an ideal time for prayer; we will always be busy. We just need to do it.

No matter what is going on, prayer fills us with Jesus, who is our source of peace. We were made to be in relationship with God, and prayer is a gift that helps us grow in this relationship.

The article also contains 5 helpful suggestions for making prayer a daily habit.

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Janet Eriksson is a missionary of prayer in Dahlonega, Georgia and founder/coordinator of the Hometown Prayer Mission. She also volunteers with The Center for Inner Healing. She would love to hear from you at hometownprayer.org.

 

Conversation Starters with God

These conversation starters are offered to help you begin talking with God. Set aside 15 minutes of your morning or evening. Choose one of these each day that speaks to your heart … or try some ideas of your own! Enjoy your time with God.

1. Make a list of 3 things that happened today that you want to talk to God about. Take a few minutes now to talk to Him about one of those things. Then sit quietly with Him. You might feel a response from Him, or not. Either way, He is responding to your heart. The more often you do this, the more you’ll begin to notice His response, and how it changes you.

2. What is the highlight of your day that you want to share with God? Share that with Him now.

3. Take out a photo album, or pictures on your phone, or photos you have framed. Talk to God about one or two of your favorite photos.

4. Set a chair for God at your table and share a meal with Him today. Just enjoy that time with Him.

5. What is your favorite thing about YOU? Share that with God, and thank Him for it.

6. Invite God to go on an errand with you today. As you do the errand, keep remembering He is there with you. Can you feel His presence? If that's hard, ask Him to help you be aware of His presence, and His constant love for you.

7. Go to the dollar store; pick up a coloring book and crayons. Color a picture! Smile as you realize God is watching you, and know that He is smiling too as you color. What would you like to talk to Him about?

8. Sit with God. Silently. Just enjoy each other’s presence.

How is that for starters? What other conversation starters can you try out? 

Make it a plan every day to spend time talking with God, and sharing your heart with Him. He loves this time with you, and you will feel so blessed spending this time with Him.

Next, you might want to visit 31 Days of Prayer Starters, as you continue your conversation with God.

When you are ready to go deeper in your conversations with God, the 40-day Amazing Prayer Adventure is waiting for you. But don’t stop your daily conversations with God. It’s the best time in the world.

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Janet Eriksson is a missionary of prayer in Dahlonega, Georgia and founder/coordinator of the Hometown Prayer Mission. She also volunteers with The Center for Inner Healing. She would love to hear from you at hometownprayer.org.

Karen Castleberry serves as head intercessor at The Highlands Church in Gainesville, Georgia. Join us on our journey to a deeper relationship with Jesus through prayer.