What Does Hope Do for Mankind?

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”—1 Peter 3:15 (NIV).

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The three of us clasped hands and bowed our heads. We were standing in the middle of a discount department store aisle, praying for an employee who was battling brain cancer. Covering the lower half of her face was a protective mask to ward off the threat of germs.

My friend, Sonya, knew the employee and introduced us. As the woman’s story unfolded, I learned it wasn’t her first battle with cancer. Her fighting spirit drew me in as did her positive attitude.

The best growth comes through persevering through trials.

As we continued shopping, we struck up a conversation with another store employee who had beat cancer. She shared her amazing story of healing. Placed on hospice, her only hope was divine intervention. Prayers were answered and this amazing woman is, indeed, a walking miracle.

Both women have placed their hope in God. Hope. What does it look like? For me, hope shines brightest when I’m at my lowest.

Hope is the word I recently chose to study in the scriptures. Each morning, after I read my daily devotional, I turn to the concordance in the back of my Women of Faith Bible and look up verses referencing hope. One of my favorites is Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

What Kind of Inheritance Will You Leave?

“A man in a crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to give me my share of what our father left us when he died.’”—Luke 12:13(CEV).

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Many families have been destroyed after a loved one passes on, leaving a material inheritance behind. A better legacy to leave behind is a spiritual one. While we usually associate the word “inheritance” with material possessions, a spiritual legacy cannot be measured.

A spiritual inheritance is passed on during our lifetime through godly words, actions and prayers. However, as stewards of a spiritual legacy, we have to develop our own spiritual lives first.

If we have a desire for the Lord, it becomes contagious.

As a mother and grandmother, I’m seeing the fruits of my own spiritual growth and prayers. Recently, I drove over four hours one way to experience the joy of my two oldest grandchildren’s decision to follow Christ. Although they received the Christian sacrament of baptism when they were younger, they didn’t fully understand the implication. Cheyenne, 12, and Brennan, 11, chose to celebrate their decision to receive Christ as their Savior and Lord once again by being baptized through full immersion.

Ten Ways to Pray Simply

“But she knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, help me’”— Matthew 15:25 (CEB).

Prayer

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Have you ever uttered a simple prayer like the one in Matthew 15:25? I have. In this scripture, Jesus is approached by a Canaanite woman. After telling Jesus about her daughter who is possessed by a demon, the disciples try to push her away from Him. Jesus waits in silence until she utters a three-word prayer that motivates Him into action.

Prayer, for some, is a mystery and a challenge. We let busyness and problems crowd out time with Jesus when He wants us to recognize our need for Him each day. Have your priorities overshadowed the need to seek Him in prayer?

British pastor Charles Spurgeon once said, “…True prayer is measured by weight, not by length. A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer in it than a fine oration of great length.”

If you’re at a loss for words, just pray, “Lord, help me.”

We can utter a simple prayer of only one sentence and God will answer, not by how eloquently we pray but by how much faith we pray with. Remember what Jesus told the disciples about faith in Matthew 17:20?  “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Have You Discovered the Best Stress Reliever?

“But Jesus would often go to some place where he could be alone and pray”—Luke 5:16 (CEV).

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When I arrived at a neighbor’s house recently, she was on hold with a company, trying to get help with a refrigerator problem. Hanging up after a bit, she asked me to take a look at the temperature gauge in the freezer section. Since her refrigerator is a newer model, the gauge is digital. I tried my best to figure it out but was unable to help.

Concerned about the frozen foods thawing out, my friend redialed the company’s number. As her phone was on speaker, I could hear the “mechanical” voice repeat a list of options. One of the final choices was to call a different number. My friend had to replay the final message three times before we got the correct number written down. Eventually, she made contact with a live person who was able to solve the problem with her freezer. While the solution was simple, the process she went through to get there was complicated.

Solitude is a time for being alone with God in complete silence.

Our lives have become more complicated in the 21st century. While technology has, in some instances, made things easier, in other ways it has contributed to modern society’s stress levels. With cell phones, computers and 24/7 cable television, we are kept in a perpetual state of “on” with information overload. Constant stress can lead to severe health issues, including physical, mental, emotional and behavioral problems. What if we learned to deal with stress in a biblical way?

Instead of turning to unhealthy habits like overeating and substance abuse, including alcohol and drugs, what if we chose the path Jesus took when He needed to escape the pressures of His ministry? Seeking God in solitude was Jesus’ habit when the going got rough.

When We Pray from the Heart

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers”—Philippians4:6 (TLB).

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Praying aloud in a group setting wasn’t easy for me before I made Jesus the Lord of my life. If the group leader asked for a volunteer to lead the prayer, I remained silent, waiting for someone else to speak out.

My thoughts raced with the following: What if I don’t know what to say? What if my words are jumbled? I don’t even know how to use eloquent, “religious-sounding” words. I’m just plain scared! What if I just sound stupid?

As my walk with God has deepened, so has my prayer life. I’ve learned to pray from the heart. I’ve learned formulas don’t matter as long as your heart is in tune with His. This doesn’t mean I ignore praying as Jesus taught His disciples. (The Lord’s Prayer is recorded in two of the gospels: Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4.)

There is no formula to prayer—it is simply conversing with God.

Evangelist Billy Graham says, “There is no formula to prayer—it is simply conversing with God. It is essentially talking with God as you would talk with an earthly parent who loves you and wants the best for you. God is your Heavenly Father who loves you perfectly.”

When You Choose to Forgive

“Forgive, and you will be forgiven”—Luke 6:37 (NRSV).

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Upset she had cheated my son out of $30, I didn’t want to forgive her. I was also mad at myself because I had been used in the process. I guess it’s because I trust too much, trust others to do unto me as I would do unto them. However, I failed to remember not all people are trustworthy.

My son had agreed to purchase two items through an online site where people buy, sell and trade merchandise. Because the seller lived in a community closer to me, and because my son works odd hours sometimes, he asked me to contact her, set up a time to meet and pay for the merchandise. I agreed.

We met nearby in a public place where we made the exchange. Because I trusted that my son and this woman had made the deal, and he knew what he was getting, I got into my vehicle without checking the merchandise. Placing them in the cup holder beside me, I noticed a small part had fallen off one of the items. Picking it up, I discovered the part could not have broken off just by my handling it. It had been broken when she handed it to me.

Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right, it makes you free.”

I knew the seller hadn’t gone too far up the highway so I called her. I was trying to be gracious when I said, “The merchandise I just purchased from you…something is wrong. A piece fell off.”

Do You Know the Most Dangerous Prayer?

“And so, dear brothers, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living sacrifice, holy—the kind he can accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you”—Romans 12:1-2(TLB).

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In May 2002, I began to pray what some call the most dangerous prayer of all: “Lord, use me.”

Each day that month, I walked down to the lake where I had been living since my 28-year marriage had ended the previous August. Sitting on a concrete picnic table overlooking the lake, I sought God’s will for the rest of my life. Each prayer ended with asking God to use me for His purposes. While I was still three years away from retirement, God was working in my heart to prepare me for the next chapter of my life.

Fast forward to April 2005 when—after nine months of arguing with God about that direction—He made it clear to me I was to leave the area where I had lived since I was 16-years-old and move to a larger community where I knew very few people. May 2005 marked the end of my 30-year teaching career and the new adventure He had planned.

What happens when we surrender our plans to Him? You can bet He will use us, as well as bless us as a result.

Born in 1870, author Lettie B. Cowman, along with her husband, left the United States in 1901 to work as missionaries in Japan. Along with other friends, they co-founded the Oriental Missionary Society as well as several Bible Training Institutes.