Monday, August 10, 2009

Wise words from wise women III: A Mother's Prayer Time from Elisabeth Elliot

A Mother's Prayer Time

Elisabeth Elliot: I would strongly suggest that you might keep a family prayer notebook in which one or two things that you are praying about together as family would be written down, so that later on, when you may have forgotten all about having prayed, you will go back and see that you did pray and that God did answer.

Lisa Barry: Something that always challenges me is a great leader who testifies to the support of a praying mother. But how much am I praying for my children? Do you find it hard to set aside that quiet time with the Lord? Can you identify the things that keep you from that daily appointment with God? Is it busyness, lack of discipline, or maybe something else? Well, as you consider where the problem might be, let's find out what practical suggestions Elisabeth Elliot has about a mother's prayer time next on Gateway To Joy.

Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says, "and underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend, Elisabeth Elliot, talking with you mothers today about a mother's prayer time.

A question which is often asked is, "How is the mother of small children to have any kind of quiet time?" Well, it's a good question and I can understand the difficulty. And let me say at the outset that it is impossible to have exactly the same time every day, because we all know that there are emergencies of all sorts and sizes and shapes with children.

If you normally get up at 5:00 to have a quiet time with the Lord and it is at 5:00 that your three-year-old decides to vomit all over his bed, and all over the floor, and all the way down the hall to your room, then obviously something else has to be done first. And rest assured, cleaning up the vomit is the will of God, I believe, at that point and so you can do it for His glory.
I have had a lovely letter from the mother of five, and this is what she says:
"Thank you for encouraging and inspiring me. I homeschool all my children, ages one-and-a-half months, three years, five-and-a-half years and eight years. Also, I am pregnant with my fifth child." I would assume that that baby has been born by now, so I say she's the mother of five. "I especially like it when you talk about your daughter, Valerie, particularly in reference to her homeschooling, housekeeping and child rearing. It's so refreshing to hear your awed attitude toward your daughter and her pursuits.

"My mother has particularly resisted my efforts and it makes it very difficult. It's really a tough job, and there's no way I could do this if I didn't know I was responding to the call of God in my life in regard to my children. With very little outside support," she says, "out of necessity, I draw my strength from God each morning at 4:00 a.m. When I don't, I am sorely chastised. I drop in the bed and am thankful for the next day. I mention this because with discipline you can rise early, even if you are raising several young children.

"I was not a disciplined teenager and slept all morning if I could. And later, in our early marriage, was not a 'morning person.' But now the day is so much better when my spirit has been uplifted and refreshed. I feel so much better knowing the power of the Holy Spirit has been released to work in my children's lives and in the nation, if the Spirit so desires. This whole process of change hasn't happened overnight; but with continued persistence, I was, and still am, making little gains step by step. Thank you for your continued encouragement for the stay-at-home mom and her contribution to society."

I do appreciate that letter so very much, but please don't be telling your friends Elisabeth Elliot is saying we've all got to get up at 4:00 a.m. No, that is not what I'm saying. I've just read you the testimony of one woman who is not naturally a morning person, but she has found that the Lord gives her strength to get up at 4:00 a.m., and He makes it worthwhile. He meets her there.
So, what I am saying is not that you have to get up at 4:00 a.m. necessarily, but I am saying that it's important that you do set aside a time. Purpose in your heart to keep your appointment with God, and if real emergencies occur, take them as His intervention. Don't fuss with yourself, but look for a later opportunity that day.

The busier we are, the more we need quiet time. I think it was Martin Luther who said that the busier he was, the more hours of prayer he needed. If it was a very especially full day, then he had to have three hours or four hours (I've forgotten what it was) for prayer.

I would also strongly suggest that you have a quiet time in the middle of the afternoon if you have small children. And my daughter has managed to have this quiet time set aside every afternoon. It doesn't mean that everybody takes a nap and it doesn't mean that everybody reads the Bible and prays.

It does mean that everybody has to be alone in a quiet place--alone, if possible. Now, right now they don't have a house big enough for each child to have separate bedrooms, so they have to sometimes sit on the sofa in the living room, be in their rooms, be somewhere alone where they're quiet. And it is perfectly well understood that each child must learn to occupy himself for a solid hour.

If this seems impossible to you, let me tell you what I saw with my own eyes when I was there some months ago. Quiet time had come. Valerie goes upstairs and takes a nap, at least for 20 minutes or so, and everyone in the house was quiet. The children could read or play quietly with their toys or puzzles or paper dolls or something. But it's understood that nobody talks, nobody traipses up and down the hall, nobody can come to Mommy and say, "Mommy, what do I do now?" And it gives Val that saving grace of a quiet hour in the afternoon.

But I was standing there ironing in the family room and Valerie had set the four-year-old and the six-year-old on two ends of the same sofa, and they sat there for the entire hour. Valerie had put a timer on the coffee table in front of them, and those two children, four and six, did not open their mouths. They sat on that couch until the timer went off. But, of course, you have to start early enough to train them.

Keep a prayer notebook. You don't certainly have to write down everything that you pray about. But I would strongly suggest that you might keep a family prayer notebook in which one or two things that you're praying about together as a family would be written down. So that later on, when you may have forgotten all about having prayed, you will go back and see that you did pray and that God did answer.

One mother that I know fasts every Tuesday and Thursday. Her older children are in school. Her youngest child is being homeschooled. And she said, "Of course, I feed her breakfast, lunch and dinner on those days, but she knows that I'm fasting, and she will always have that example before her."

Let me suggest that you make sure your children know that you pray for them. It won't hurt them a bit to know that you are on your knees for them; and one of the many great prayers in the New Testament that you can use for your children, and I often use for mine, is in Hebrews 13:20-21.

Here's a beautiful prayer:
"May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in all goodness, so that you may do His will. May He make of us what He would have us be through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever."

Another prayer that I found in my mother's little red prayer notebook, which was in her possessions after she died, is this one, and it seems to be anonymous. If anyone can give me the source or the author of this, I would be delighted to give credit the next time I use it; but this is all I know:
Father, our children keep.
We know not what is coming upon the earth.Beneath the shadow of Thy heavenly wing,
Oh, keep them, keep them,
Thou who gavest them birth.Father, draw nearer us.
Draw firmer around us Thy protecting arm.Oh, clasp our children closer to
Thy side,Uninjured in the day of earth's alarm.
Then in Thy chambers hide--Oh, hide them and preserve them calm and safe
When sin abounds, and error flows abroad,
And Satan tempts and human passions chaff.
Oh, keep them undefiled,Unspotted from a tempting world of sin--That clothed in white, through the bright city gates,
They may with us in triumph enter in.
The prayer is called "Father, Our Children Keep."
And I want to read that first stanza again, because it's one that I'm sure so many of you are going to want to pray in view of so many threats that seem to hang over our children and our grandchildren. And we feel so keenly, more strongly than ever, the desperate need of prayer for them.

And let's never forget that we are cooperators with God in our prayers. That's the most important thing about prayer to me. Not that I should get the answer that I'm looking for, but that I should align my will with God's and give him my voice and my heart and my time and my energies to cooperate with Him by prayer. The first part of this prayer poem again:
Father, our children keep.We know not what is coming upon the earth.Beneath the shadow of Thy heavenly wing,Oh, keep them, keep them,Thou who gavest them birth.

May God make us all faithful in our prayers--prayers for our children, prayers for our home, prayers for our marriage, prayers for the world. "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done" should be a prayer that every one of us offers up more than once per day. God bless you.

Lisa Barry: That was a beautiful prayer called "Father, Our Children Keep" and I'll tell you how you can get a copy of that in just a minute. I guess the reason a poem like that moves us so is because we want so much for our children. And yet, that can give way to fear if we're not careful. There are so many spiritual hopes we have for our families, and yet we lack the resources to get us there.

Well, until now, that is. Elisabeth Elliot has written a book called The Shaping of a Christian Family. And rather than give point after theoretical point, Elisabeth simply reveals what her family was like growing up. Her parents were extremely disciplined and principled. And because this is a real-life story rather than a theoretical one, it's easier to apply. We believe what someone says when they've been there and tried it and proved it to be workable. Give this book a try. Your family might never be the same.

Again, the book is The Shaping of a Christian Family.

Copyright © 2009 The Good News Broadcasting Association, Inc. (Back to the Bible) Lincoln, Nebraska, USA Used by permission. All rights reserved

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