My first 40 days

This year I decided to do lent for the first time. For some reason when the opportunity presented itself and I had the chance to give up all of my favorite things for an extended amount of time, I took it.

For 40 days I gave up coffee, candy, social media and alcohol. I wish I could say that the hardest part was the no coffee but lets be real, it was giving up candy.

Before this year I didn't really know much about Lent. Growing up my family wasn't big on Easter, we would go to church the weekend of but besides that we wouldn't do Easter egg hunts, or baskets or anything. I grew up with the sense that Easter was another holiday that society capitalized on but didn't truly understand.

The last 40 or so days have changed my entire view of this season. Easter is more than just another day out of the 365 that we get each year. The concept, the truth behind Easter, is the foundation of the Christian faith.

For those who aren't super familiar, the 40 days leading up to Easter, lent, is meant to model the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness. The bible says that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness and he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights and when it was over he was tempted by the devil. Hebrews says that because Jesus suffered and was tempted he is able to help us when we are tempted.

On Easter Sunday, as I sang a set of worship songs to a congregation full of people the truth of Easter reverberated in my soul. I realized that regardless of what we add to the day, how we enhance it and make it marketable, Easter is and will always be about Jesus.

Lent for me was not about just taking a break from things that I enjoy. It wasn't about forcing myself to stop going on Facebook and to lay off the candy for a few weeks. Lent helped me to be able to narrow my focus, It took away the heavy distractions and clutter that often fogged my view. Lent pulled away the junk in my life and pointed me straight to the giver of life, it pointed me to Christ.

Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It's what happened after the disciples saw Jesus hanging on a cross, crucified. Jesus, their hope for the future, was gone. The messiah had seemingly been defeated and death had won.

The truth though is that death is defeated and Christ is risen. He rose again on the third day and renewed the disciples hope in him as their savior and as the savior of all mankind. The darkness of the weekend and the sight of him hanging from a tree was erased by the joy of seeing him again in all of his honor and glory.

Easter is so much more than just pastel colors and packed church services. Lent reminded me that the resurrection is the Christian story. It's the three years that Jesus spent preaching and reaching out to the lost coming to an abrupt halt and then beauty, glorious beauty, being born from the ashes.

Lent was the path that I needed to take to become truly connected to the Easter story. It was the defining moment that made Easter not just another bible story but rather the moment in history that makes everything that I believe in truth.

"If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn't rise from the dead then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything stands is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead."  - Tim Keller

A Better way to pray.

About a month or so ago my older brother tagged me in a post on Facebook. It was on the page of a well-known Pastor based in Colorado Springs and it was reaching out to bloggers and writers to give them the opportunity to review one of his books before it's re-release.

I thought to myself "what the heck, it's worth a shot," emailed them a link to my blog and my Facebook and waited for a response. A few days later I got an email telling me that they had reviewed my content and believed that it aligned well with their mission and message and that attached I would find a copy of the book.

The book is called A Better Way to Pray and it's written by preacher and author Andrew Wommack. I was introduced to Andrew Wommack and his teachings years ago by my father and I've followed his work ever since.

I'm really excited to share my thoughts about the content of this book but also to share with you some things that I took from it that I think are beneficial.

Let me just start by saying that if you've never heard Andrew Wommack preach or read one of his books before, he has a very distinct tone. His words, though filled with love, are quite direct. He doesn't hold back with his use of exclamation points and he words things in a way that makes sure that the message is always very clear.

I often found myself laughing out loud while reading this book because I could hear his voice jumping out from the pages and I couldn't help but to giggle.

With that being said the message within the pages, though at times convicting, is truly life changing. While taking notes I found that there were so many things that stood out to me that to try and write about them all would take up too much space. So instead I decide to point out three keys thoughts that really stuck with me from the book and last but certainly not least how the book has affected my prayer life.

1. The importance of thanks.

Whatever we focus on is magnified. If we focus on our issues, they grow bigger but if we focus on our gratitude it becomes the biggest thing in our lives. Prayer is a time where we can lavish God with our thanks and gratitude towards him.

Does God needs to hear us say thank you? No, not necessarily but when we spend time thanking God for what he's done for us and acknowledge our many blessings our problems become so small in comparison. Chapter 5 entitled Make a prayer sandwich emphasizes the importance of starting and ending our prayers with praise and thanksgiving. It's through that process that we magnify God and all that he's done for us instead of magnifying our problems.

When we begin our prayer time by expressing our gratitude by the time we get to our requests we're not only reminded of how small they are but more importantly how BIG God is. I encourage you to spend  the first five minutes of your prayer time thanking and praising God. I think that you'll be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

2. The primary purpose of prayer.

The primary purpose of prayer is not receiving from God, yes that is A purpose but not THE purpose. Prayer is a time of fellowship, intimacy and relationship with Christ. God knows every single thing that we need in this life. The Lord knows that we need to eat and make money and provide for our families, he knows these things. When we come to him constantly making requests, he's not upset but we're missing the true blessing that comes from prayer.

Prayer is a time for us to commune with God. It's a time for us to share our lives with him, to laugh, to cry, to simply invite him into the most intimate parts of our souls. This book reminded me that God is not just some magical genie waiting to grant our wishes. Rather he's a father, waiting to be invited into the lives and hearts of his children. A Better Way to Pray emphasizes the fact that God wants us to talk to him not only about our problems and our concerns but also about the things that make us come alive.

God wants to be our closest friend and most intimate relationship and prayer is a time for us to build that dynamic with him. I invite you to explore the beautiful relationship that you can have with Christ by spending your prayer time getting to know him rather than just getting things from him.

3. Loving God is all that matters.

We were CREATED for intimacy with Christ. It's almost to simple to grasp but it's the truth,we were solely created for the purpose of loving and being loved by him.

Of course, when you love someone, you desire to do their will and to do the things that make them happy but if all we ever did on this earth was love God, he wouldn't be upset with us. Through this book I was reminded that God is love and everything that he does and everything that he calls us to do comes down to that same thing. It is and will always be about loving God with all that we have.

God sent his son to die on the cross for our sins so that we could spend our days in fellowship with the king. When we realize that Jesus is not our escape route but rather our invitation to community, we are then able to enter into a life filled with love and a relationship with our best friend, Jesus Christ.

Ways that my prayer life has changed.

After reading this book, I realized that the majority of my prayer life and my relationship with Christ has been spent seeking things instead of just basking in his love. I realized that though I claim 'Christian' as the most important title to my name that I rarely take God at his word believing that he'll do what he says he's going to do. I realized that though I'm willing to walk away from relationships for my 'beliefs' that I don't even truly know the God that I'm claiming to have devoted my life to.

I didn't walk away from this book feeling condemned or bad about myself but rather I walked away from it feeling like I was about to embark on a life changing journey. I finished this book and I honestly felt so much freedom. This book equipped me with the tools, the confidence and the knowledge of who God is to be able to pray in a way that's not only effective but also a way that edifies and glorifies God.

Now the adventure starts to make this not just knowledge floating around in my head but rather something that I believe and know to be true in my heart.

I know that this post was EXTREMELY long but this book has truly given me a new thirst for God and who he is. It's made me realize that in John 10:10 when it says that Christ came that we may have life and have it more abundantly that it involves so much MORE than what I've experienced with him so far.

For those of you who are interested in checking out this book, I have an extra copy and would love to send it to one of you! Comment your name and email address below and in a few days I'll randomly pick a name and send that lucky person a copy!

Until next time friends.