Posts tagged: Prayer

Dare to be Decisive

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By Paula Marolewski, July 11, 2010 4:27 pm

Consider I Kings 17:1:

“Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.’”

We see something about Elijah in this verse that is very important: Elijah was decisive … and that decisiveness was key to all that he accomplished.

Too often as Christians we mistake waffling and indecision for submission. We preface or finish everything we say with “if the Lord wills.” Originally, such a phrase was meant to indicate our recognition of God’s sovereignty over our plans – and that is good and appropriate. But the phrase has now degenerated so that the real effect is a general uncertainty about how to proceed. How can you walk confidently if at every step you are wondering if the Lord is going to change your direction?

Elijah demonstrates true submission: the submission that results in decisive action. He served the Lord every day (“As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve”), indicating that he was in constant prayer, worship, and communion with God. This regular service put him in the place where he could hear God, and God told him to declare judgment on sin through a drought on the land.

Elijah’s submission to the Lord gave him the courage to be decisive when it came time to act. He marched up to King Ahab and delivered the message of judgment. No hesitation. No minced words. No “if the Lord wills” … the Lord had already willed it. Elijah was confidently carrying out his orders.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,


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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My Trust IS the Lord

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By Paula Marolewski, November 5, 2009 9:51 am

A thought for the day from Jeremiah 17:7:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD
         And whose trust is the LORD.”

As I read this verse this morning, I pondered why Jeremiah put in both phrases: “who trusts in the Lord” and “whose trust is the Lord.” I thought of it this way: sometimes, when we put our trust in the Lord, we subconsciously (or consciously!) expect him to act in a certain way. In essence, we are saying, “I trust in the Lord to do this certain thing that I want.” But he doesn’t always do what we want – that’s a fact of life. And if that’s as deep as our trust goes, our trust and faith are going to be shaken quite regularly.

That is why, I think, Jeremiah put in the second phrase: “and whose trust is the Lord.” So that when God does not do the things I want or expect or desire, I need to trust who he is, that is, his character and nature: loving, gentle, kind, just, purposeful, gracious, patient, etc. This is where we find unshakable trust and faith: no matter what happens, no matter what he does or does not do. We know that he works all things together for good, because he is good. We know his actions, whatever they are, are loving because he is love.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Dark Alleys and Christian Discipline

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By Paula Marolewski, October 15, 2009 7:54 am

Long ago and far away (longer ago than I care to admit!), I trained in karate. I learned many lessons there that translated to the Christian life. The value of Christian discipline is one of the biggest:

Imagine for a moment that you are walking at night down a New York alley. There are no streetlamps lighting your way, and you get jumped by a dude who not only wants your wallet, but fully intends to beat you to a pulp.

Now, if you are habitually a couch potato, I can pretty much guarantee the result: you will get beaten to a pulp.

But if you regularly trained five or ten hours a week in one of the martial arts, you’d have a really good chance of getting away with all your body parts and fluids intact.

The same is true of the Christian life. Satan jumps us when we are at our most vulnerable. If we haven’t been spending time in prayer and in the Word, if we haven’t made a habit of confessing our sin and seeking sanctification, if we aren’t in fellowship with other believers and engaging in worship … in fact, all the Christian disciplines … then we are going to fall, and we’re going to fall hard. We’re going to get beaten up badly.

But if we have been on our knees every day, if we study and meditate on the Word of God, if we consistently seek spiritual growth, if we find our deepest friendships within the Body of Christ, etc., then we are going to 1) recognize Satan’s attack when it comes – whether that is in the form of persecution, deception, or temptation; and 2) know how to respond effectively. We’re going to “Stand firm” as Paul urges in Ephesians 6.

Don’t expect to develop strength and skill when trouble arises. By then, it’s too late. Spend the time and make the effort now … then you’ll always be ready to stand firm, come what may.


© 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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