Category: Prayer

Seek the Lord

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By Paula Marolewski, September 10, 2010 10:52 am

“I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4 

I am ashamed to admit it, but the fact is that when I am afraid, I often forget to pray.

God’s name should be first on my lips when fear hits. He should be the One I turn to immediately. But instead, all too regularly, I forget. Instead of calling on him, I try to rely on myself. Instead of turning to him, I turn my whole gaze inward, focusing on the fear, focusing on my lack of strength, focusing on me, me, me, me, me. No wonder fear gets such a strong grip on my soul!

The psalmist knew better: “When I was afraid, I sought the Lord. He’s the one I turned to. He answered. He delivered.”

Now, a word of caution here: relief is not always immediate. God’s answer and deliverance may unfold over months or years. God will definitely call you to give it your 100%. God may require that you make changes to your lifestyle and behaviors and thought patterns. God might ask you to look certain fears dead in the eye that you have avoided for years.

God doesn’t promise a timeframe around deliverance. He just promises that it is a sure thing.

So seek the Lord. Pour out your needs before him. Ask him for his help. For his strength. For his resources. For his deliverance. “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened” (Luke 11:10).

  • What is your first response when fear hits? What do you do? Why?
  • Do you truly believe that God is willing and able to deliver you from your fears? Why or why not?
  • Have you ever, in essence, demanded or expected God to work a miracle – and when he didn’t do so, you became disappointed in him and apathetic about further prayer? If so, address this with God in prayer. Seek counsel if necessary.
  • What resources has God given you to help you overcome your fear?
  • What further steps might God be calling you to take in order to overcome your fear? 


© 2010 Paula Marolewski,

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Placing Responsibility Where It Belongs

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By Paula Marolewski, July 11, 2010 4:25 pm

I am deeply grieved today as I write. And the reason is this: at this very moment, people are turning away from God and sinking into despair, their faith in shambles, bitterness and grief clutching at their chest, because they don’t understand – or perhaps want to accept – two simple words:

Free will.

Two short words. Easily defined. Even the theology behind them can be stated in words of single syllables:

Free will means I can choose what I want to do.

So where does the doubt come in? The despair? The broken faith? The bitterness? The grief?

It comes here:

Suppose you have a friend or family member who is making choices that are wrecking his or her life. Maybe it’s drugs. Or alcohol. Promiscuity. Pornography. Wanton spending. Staying in an abusive relationship. The list goes on and on. The bottom line is this: their life is in chaos, they are screaming out in agony, they may actually be on the short road to death and even hell, and you love them with all your heart.

What do you do? You advise, you plead, you intervene, you act. And you pray.

And then … nothing happens. Nothing changes. The pain in the other person’s life just goes on and on and on.

And you pray.

Still nothing happens. Nothing changes. The pain is worse than ever.

And you pray.

And … nothing … changes.

Then comes the day when you stop praying. When the despair sets in. When the doubt that was creeping at the edges of your consciousness springs into full bloom.

You find yourself doubting God’s love. His power. Even his existence.

You bitterly resign yourself to “whatever he wants.”

Your entire spirit collapses within.

And maybe, you even hate God.


Because God didn’t do what you wanted him to do. Because God didn’t save your loved one. Because God didn’t work a miracle in the other person’s life.

And surely, that would have been for God’s glory and the other person’s good, wouldn’t it? Your prayer wasn’t selfish. It wasn’t focused on you. All you ever wanted was for the other person to be saved, to be happy, and to give God the glory for a beautifully changed life – delivered from all the pain and garbage they had been experiencing.

What was wrong with that?

Here’s the answer:

There is nothing wrong with wanting those things. That is, indeed, what God wants, too. He doesn’t want your friend or your family member to be caught in the web of pain. He longs to deliver them.

But here’s the catch:

We’re talking here about a loved one whose pain is the direct result of the choices they are making. This isn’t about someone in pain because (for instance) they have cancer and God has not brought healing. A person with cancer didn’t choose his or her illness in any way. Today, we’re talking about people who are making poor, unwise, or sinful choices that are directly impacting their lives in a negative way.

And because we are talking about choices, we are talking about free will. And free will is always, forever, and exactly that:


That means … are you ready? … God can’t change their life unless they choose to let him do so.

God … can’t?

Correct. God can’t. Because that is the nature of the gift of free will. When God gave us free will, he gave it to us with no strings attached: nothing and no one, not God himself, can impose their will on us. We are truly free to choose. All the time. In every circumstance. Period.

But, you say, God is all-powerful!

Correct again. God is all-powerful. But he also obeys his own rules. Because he gave us free will, he limits his power in that respect. He will not use his power to overcome our free will. Otherwise, free will would no longer be free.

Let’s bring this home:

When a friend or family member is choosing a destructive path in their life, you can pray that God would do everything that is within his sovereign power to influence, guide, and direct them toward repentance and healing. That might mean that:

  • God would pour out his grace on them.
  • God would entreat them constantly through his Spirit.
  • God would remove the veils of deception from their mind.
  • God would give you and others words that would speak to their heart.
  • God would order circumstances to influence them.
  • God would convict them concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment.
  • God would place a yearning for himself in their souls.

And so much more! God is all-powerful – and all these things are well within his power! You can therefore pray for all these things and look for them in the person’s life. I am sure you will see God moving in these ways.

But there is one thing that you must remember at all times: God can do and will do all these things when you pray. But he cannot do one thing: he cannot force them to change their life.

God can pour out his grace, his love, his power, and his truth on the person: but they can still choose to refuse his grace, ignore his love, disparage his power, and spit on his truth.

Or, they can choose to respond to his grace, accept his love, delight in his power, and embrace his truth.

It is their choice. It is not God’s choice. It has everything to do with them. It has nothing to do with God.

That is the nature of free will. We are truly free. We can freely choose evil and hurt and pain and folly, just as we can freely choose good and healing and joy and wisdom. 

So if today you feel like turning away from God, if you are doubting your faith, if you are in despair because God hasn’t answered your prayers in saving your loved one from a destructive path, or if you’ve already turned your back on God … remember this. God hasn’t failed you, nor them. He is doing everything he can to speak into their lives.

I know it hurts. I know you are grieving and in pain. I know you are anxious for them. It is right to feel all those things, because you love them. And though you may not realize it, God feels all that, too – much more than you ever can. He loves the person you are praying for with all his infinite love … the love that brought Jesus to Calvary.

But we are free. We are always free to choose our way.

Therefore, the final choice to change is, and must be, their own.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

Praying through Fear and Doubt

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By Paula Marolewski, July 11, 2010 4:19 pm

The other day, I was praying and found myself saying urgently, “God, don’t fail me!”

I stopped, caught by my own words.

I was praying to the God of the universe. The God who not only speaks truth, but who is Truth. What he promises, he will do. What he says, he will accomplish. He is all-powerful, all-loving, and in control. Why then, did I pray, “God, don’t fail me!”

My uttered plea was really the result of my fear and doubt. Fear that God would lie or talk in double-speak, like the anthropomorphized gods of Greek and Roman mythology. Doubt that God loved me or had the power to do what he promised he would.

So right there, I flipped the prayer around to the way I really needed to be praying:

“Lord, you know my fear and my doubt. You see my anxious thoughts. You know how frail I am; how easily I fall. But I pledge right now to stand on the truth of your Word – that you are always truthful, always loving, always sovereign. God, don’t let me fail you!”


© 2009 Paula Marolewski


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Sentence Prayers

God in a Box

Prayer and Passivity

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By Paula Marolewski, March 15, 2010 10:18 am

I’m very concerned that we sometimes use prayer as an excuse for passivity. We hide behind our bed on our knees because …

  • We don’t want to put forth the energy to research solutions to a problem we are facing.
  • We don’t want to use our reason to think through a situation and decide what is the best course of action.
  • We don’t want to do what needs to be done.

So because “we don’t want to,” we act very spiritual and say “I’m still praying about that.” What we really want is for God to remove us from the situation or remove the situation from us without our lifting a finger to help.

Just a word of warning here: God isn’t in the business of delivering answers on silver platters.

  • If you have a problem, expend the necessary energy gathering information about it so that you can be knowledgeable.
  • God gave you a brain, and he expects you to use it. He will help you make a wise decision if you ask him to, but you have a part in the process.
  • There comes a time when you have to get off your knees and do something. God won’t take action for you.

Don’t make prayer an excuse for passivity. Pray – then stand up in the power and grace of God and take action.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Seedling: Can You Hear Him?

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By Paula Marolewski, February 14, 2010 5:23 pm

“And your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” – Isaiah 30:21

“Your ears will hear a word behind you …” I get the feeling that Isaiah wasn’t talking about God standing a few feet away, cupping his hands around his mouth like a megaphone, and hollering at the top of his lungs to get our attention. Instead, I picture him close beside us, just over our shoulder, giving a helpful whisper in our ear.

If that is the case, can you hear him?

Can you hear him through your cell phone or iPod, or would he have to physically disconnect you just to get a word in edgewise?

Can you hear him over the noise of the TV, radio, sports, or movies?

Can you hear him through the chatter of family, friends, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter?

Can you hear him in the midst of your own turbulent thoughts, to-do lists, and busyness?

This is not about casting a judgment on any of the above. Cell phones are great, iPods are fun, TV can help us relax, Facebook provides valuable interconnectedness, etc. It’s simply a question of balance. All those things are “loud.” They grab and engage our attention. We need to instill a balancing amount of “quiet” in our lives as well, so that we can “hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’”

  • How would you describe the balance of your life: do you have a healthy amount of quiet time in which you can focus on God and hear his voice?
  • Where do you most often get out of balance in life? Watching TV or surfing the Internet? Too much chatting on the phone? Trying to accomplish too many things in too little time?
  • If you feel like your life has too much “noise,” what steps will you take to carve out areas of quiet?


Copyright © 2010, Paula J. Marolewski. All rights reserved.

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Asking the Right Questions

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By Paula Marolewski, December 21, 2009 10:14 am

The question is not . . .

     Do you bow your head before you eat?

but rather,

     Do you bow your knees before your Father?

The question is not . . .

     Do you curse when you’re mad?

but rather,

     Do you bless when you’re angry?

The question is not . . .

     How many times did you go to confession last year?

but rather,

     Have you confessed your sin today?

The question is not . . .

     Do you go to church on Sunday?

but rather,

     Are you the church every day?

The question is not . . .

     Do you read your Bible?

but rather,

     Do you obey God’s Word?

The question is not . . .

     Did you take communion this month?

but rather,

     Do you have communion with Jesus?

The question is not . . .

     What did you do for Christ last year?

but rather,

     What are you doing for him today?

The question is not . . .

     What we do not do.

but rather,

     All that we do.

The question is not . . .

     How little we can get by with.

but rather,

     How much we can sacrifice.

The answer is not . . .

     Whenever it is convenient, and whatever is easy.

but rather,

     All that I have, all that I am, every day of my life, with every ounce of my strength.

For we must live for God –

     And God alone.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Giving God Permission?

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By Paula Marolewski, November 23, 2009 10:10 am

Yesterday, while talking with a friend, she commented that her pastor had used the following phrase in prayer:

“Lord, we give you permission …”

She inquired what I thought of the phrase, because, she said, it made her very uncomfortable.

I thought about this quite a bit, and I would like to offer the following for consideration:

First, I suspect that what is meant by the phrase is the following (greatly expanded): “Lord, we recognize that we have free will. And because of our free will, we can quench your Spirit from working in our lives. We don’t want to do that. We want you to act and move in our lives as you desire. We therefore choose, with our free will, to cooperate with your Spirit, rather than to frustrate your Spirit.”

If that is the intention of such a prayer, there is certainly no theological issue with it. However, there may be a semantic issue with it.

The semantic issue is what my friend was responding to when she said the phrase “we give you permission” made her uncomfortable. And it is this: the term “permission” carries with it certain connotations. Namely, “permission” often indicates hierarchy:

  • A parent gives permission to a child.
  • A teacher gives permission to a student.
  • An employer gives permission to an employee.

If the listener brings that connotation to bear on the phrase, then there is a disconnect: the phrase can be construed by the listener to mean that we (humans) are in a hierarchical position above God. We give him permission because we’re on top of the heap.

Now, if the phrase is taken with that connotation, there is a theological problem, because humans are most emphatically not above God – not even when there is a question of free will. God is sovereign, period.

The conclusion? Simply this: when you are speaking, particularly in a public situation, be aware of what connotations your listeners may bring to the words you speak. Be on the lookout for situations, like the above, where what you say may be misconstrued. If possible, re-phrase to avoid problematical interpretations. 

How might we re-phrase the above to avoid this possible misunderstanding? Perhaps this way:

“Lord, we earnestly ask you to …”

After all, we wouldn’t be asking God to do something we didn’t want him to do and that we weren’t willing to cooperate with him on. And this phrase puts us clearly in the appropriate position as supplicants before the throne of God. 

Certainly, we can’t be 100% sure that 100% of the people who hear us will understand what we are saying – and what we intend to say – with 100% accuracy. That would be impossible. Just be alert, be aware, and be careful. Do your best.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Nothing Had Changed – Or Had It?

By Paula Marolewski, October 13, 2009 4:34 pm

In I Kings 19, we read the story of Elijah running for his life from Queen Jezebel. Seeking refuge on Horeb. The wind, the earthquake, the fire. Then the still, small voice of God.

And when Elijah went forth from Horeb, he did so in strength.

Yet think on it – nothing had actually changed: Jezebel was still after him. The Israelites had declared their allegiance to Yahweh on Mount Carmel, but you don’t see much evidence of actual repentance. Ahab was still a louse.

But something had changed: Elijah’s perspective. His faith. His confidence.

What had happened? Elijah had listened to the still, small voice of God. He had re-established his relationship with his King. He had communed with the great I AM. Therefore, even though nothing had changed, everything had changed: Elijah knew that God would walk with him through the problems, and would resolve them in his own way and in his own time.

How often do I complain to God about all that’s going wrong in my life, and fuss and fume because “God isn’t answering”? The fact is, I want God to fix my problems the way I tell him, and I want him to do it now. But God calls me with his still, small voice. And this is what he says:

“I am with you. I am sovereign over all creation. I love you. I am acting on your behalf. Will you trust me?”

If I refuse his answer, I go forth from my own Horeb a broken, embittered soul; devastated because nothing has changed.

If I respond to his promise, I go forth renewed and restored, and – in his own time and in his own way, starting with me – everything changes.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Wisdom and Courage

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By Paula Marolewski, October 6, 2009 9:20 am

As I was praying for a friend, the chorus to an old hymn came to mind:

“Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the facing of these days…”

It summed up what I was praying, but it made me think: how often do we pray just the opposite? How often are our prayers really composed of the plea:

“Answer my questions and get me out of this problem!”

Praying for wisdom is not the same as praying for answers. When we pray for wisdom, we are asking God to grant us the discernment to make wise choices. When we pray for answers, we are asking God to simply “tell us what to do.” Children need to be told what to do. Adults understand the necessity and accept the responsibility of making wise choices.

Again, praying for courage is not the same as praying for God to take the problem away. It is certainly appropriate to pray for deliverance (the psalms are full of such prayers), but we have to recognize with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that:

“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).

These three men knew that God could deliver, but they also drew on courage, knowing that God might not choose to deliver them. And in fact, they needed that courage, because while God did finally deliver them, they were first bound and thrown into the fire!

Let us learn to pray for ourselves and others that God will truly:

“Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the facing of these days…”


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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The Abdication of Responsibility

By Paula Marolewski, September 29, 2009 7:06 am

Frequently, I hear people praying something like this:

“God, if this isn’t your will, then shut the door. Just take it away.”

I challenge that type of prayer as a spiritual abdication of responsibility. We are not praying in that instance for wisdom to make a right choice about the situation. Instead, we are praying that God would remove the possibility of making a wrong choice about the situation. And that, to me, is passing the buck, and is the antithesis of spiritual maturity.

Will God sometimes close doors that aren’t his will? Yes. But should we count on him always to do so? Emphatically “No!”

Think of it in terms of raising a child. When the child is very young and toddling around the house, you do remove him from harm’s way. You literally shut doors on danger. He doesn’t know any better, and he can’t know any better. You don’t expect him to. He’s too young.

Now fast forward eighteen years. The child is now a young man. Would you consider him mature if you continued to remove all possibility of him getting into trouble or making a foolish decision? No. He is only considered mature when he is able to make a wise decision with all options open to him.

Don’t pray that God will remove the need for you to make a decision. Pray that you will have the wisdom to make the right decision.

© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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