Today I am honored to feature the work of my friend Cari Johnson. Like a breath of fresh air and sweet communion with the Lord, her words are always refreshing to the soul.
When I pray, I really do want God to hear me and move; but mostly, I would love to have answers. I want rescue and provision and healing … clear resolution that fits my timeframe. If we’re being completely honest, I would love to have a color-coded spreadsheet of approved/denied requests delivered to my email, but that hasn’t happened.
Our God is the Ancient of Days, who holds tomorrow, and yet He refers to Himself in the present tense. The Great I AM invites us to join Him in the “now”. Step by step, with every breath, in each moment, we can commune with the Holy One who holds us all together as the pieces of His redemptive plan fall into place.
Let’s compare two prayers from the Old Testament: the prayer of David in Psalm 18 and the prayer of Habakkuk nearly 400 years later. Both men’s prayers indicate an intimate reverence for the Lord, and an unshakable belief that God is faithful. Each man has prayed fervently to the Lord for relief. David is dramatically rescued and delivered, but Habakkuk remains in danger of ruin. Despite the earthly turn of events, each man prays to God sincerely and faithfully with thanksgiving.
Listen to David’s triumphant praise:
For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
He made my feet like the feet of a deer,
And set me secure on the heights.
Habakkuk, grieving the utter destruction of Jerusalem, describes the devastation. With no figs, no fruit, no food, and no flocks, and no end in sight, he says:
AND YET … I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
He makes my feet like the deer’s;
He makes me tread on my high places.
David’s songs of earthly victory give language for Habakkuk’s praise as he struggles toward eternal victory. BOTH men recognize a mighty God, and rejoice that He is at work in their lives, calling them to, and equipping them for higher places.
It is to the heights of communion that the Lord calls us. Whether we sense that God is settling us securely in the heights, or making us to tread our high places, He has promised never to leave, and His love cannot fail. Regardless of shifting circumstances, and no matter the earthly outcome, we keep praying for answers, knowing full well that praying really IS the answer.
Praying is a lot like breathing. It provides the sustaining rhythms of dependency for life. We inhale with belief and hope that is based on faith, and then exhale with surrender that requires faith as well. Over and over again. Inhale, exhale. Inspire, expire. With every prayer breathed, we die a little more to ourselves and almost immediately receive fresh inspiration.
As a little girl I suffered from severe asthma. During an attack, I could breathe in as deeply as I wanted, but I couldn’t fully exhale. With every gasp, my lungs would flood again, and I found less and less relief. The weight of that impurity and imbalance made me weary and weak.
Last fall when I had Covid, at first it felt familiar like asthma. But later, it was different – my breathing became labored. I couldn’t fully inhale without triggering a sudden fit of coughing, so I settled for shallow breaths and deep exhales which made me weak and weary.
I’ll admit that sometimes my prayer life becomes asthmatic … I billow in deep and hope-filled beliefs, but I simply lack the ability to fully surrender. In other seasons, my prayers fall frail … I take in thin amounts of truthful hope while draining out a swell of surrender that feels more like defeat.
With the Lord’s help, our prayers can thrive – not too burdened, nor too shallow; but balanced by present peace. There is peace in the presence of a God who knows us and hears us and loves us. The joy of loving Him gives us nimble strength as He makes our feet like the deer. And so, we “Rejoice always, [we] pray without ceasing, [and we] give thanks in all circumstances;” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Lord, thank you for the unique perspective each one of us brings to Your table and to Your work. Thank you for the circumstances and challenges that you’ve allowed to inform our faith and shape us into more of Your likeness. As we seek You first, and call on You for guidance, protection and provision, teach us to pray in healthy, continuous rhythms of Your goodness and Your grace. Amen.
Cari D. Johnson lives in Beckville, Texas. She has been married to Phillip for 27 years, and together they enjoy parenting their seven children ages 25 to 8. Besides her people, some of her favorite things are well-written books, a clean kitchen, kettle popcorn, and kind words.