A Prayer About 8th Grade

Dear Heavenly Father,

First of all, can I just stop and thank You for how amazing You are? You really are, God, and You are the perfect Father. You have taken care of me so much over the past week. That doesn't mean everything went perfectly. But You carried me through when it didn't, just as You promise (Isaiah 41:13). With that being said, there are some things I definitely need to pray over this school year. Three of them specifically.

1. God, please don't let me take my eyes off You.

The minute I do this is when everything goes south, God, and I know You warn me about this (John 15:5). I was in a situation right before school started where I didn't consult You about my feelings about something, and I let the pettiness of what I was feeling take over. I got sucked into the world. And I'll talk more about that here. But the biggest thing is that I need You to please remind me that You are the most important thing in this life (Mark 12:29-30), and I need to focus on the work You have for me (Ephesians 2:10) and what is to come (2 Corinthians 4:18).

You used a lot of different situations this summer to strengthen my faith in You and learn more about You, and that is so awesome how You do that, God. You have also blessed me with a lot of wise, humble people devoted to following You that inspire me every time I see them to live for You. Thank You.

But now I can't forget that.

2. I have to be in this world, so help me be a light for You.

Don't let me forget the things You've taught me. In fact, help me apply them daily to my life. And taking it even beyond that, help me to share You with others. Give me opportunities, and let me be bold for You. It's school--a public school, no less--but don't let me get discouraged because I know You're with me even there (Joshua 1:9).

I actually just read that verse today.

‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’
— Joshua 1:9 NIV

Even if I face times of loneliness or persecution or whatever it may be, and that will probably happen sooner or later if I am being bold for you, just like it happened last year, help me to remember this verse. And those, I'm learning, are the opportunities I can really thrive. When I feel lonely, that's an opportunity for me to submit to You and work on our relationship. When I am persecuted for my faith, well, I guess that means I'm doing something right because the Bible promised that would happen (1 Peter 4:12). But it also promises me this:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
— Psalm 23:4 ESV

The trials and persecution I face aren't something I have to do alone. You also promise this:

‘The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.’
— Exodus 14:14 ESV

And here is where Jesus promises the trials, but he also leaves us with hope:

‘I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.’
— John 16:33 ESV

I also would really like to keep James 1:12 in my mind, Lord, so please help me to remember this on the days I want to quit:

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
— James 1:12 ESV

And here's the one I really love. When I was at my grandparents' house this summer, my emotions were all over the place. I went up there expecting a week full of all the fun and meaningful life talks, and I'd cross everything off my bucket list, and I'd connect perfectly with everyone, and it would be memorable for many years to come. And oh, it will be memorable, God. So here's the thing about that, and I'm bringing this up now because I really feel like You worked on my heart there, God. Your ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8); they are so much higher (Isaiah 55:9). I know this. So of course I shouldn't have been surprised when those two weeks did not go as I planned.

But that was okay, God. At first, I didn't think so. But it was. I learned some very important lessons, and I'll share my top three because they're relevant to this, and I need You to always keep them fresh in my mind.

1. People are lost. But nobody is beyond revival. NOBODY.

I can be a very prideful person, God. I just can't stand seeing people make excuses for their sin or excuses for not pursuing a relationship with You. I remember I was working on my fruits of the Spirit. I wanted to pick one in particular I struggle with the most, and I wanted to commit to working on that area of my life. I decided that was patience. Not only do I want everything right now, I don't have much patience with people. I got an opinion from my mom--I wanted to hear what she thought it was, and she said that too. So I prayed over and over, "God, help me be patient. Help me be patient with people and love them like You love me."

Grams and I watched a movie, called The Perfect Stranger. Not only did it answer some great questions with equally great answers, the girl in the movie was so stubborn. But You didn't give up on her. And because of that, her heart was softened. There's this quote I love that says people need love the most when they are unlovable. And I really do believe that. I don't know how kind I've been, God, and I'm asking You to help me see people as You do. Believe me, You opened up my eyes to that over the two weeks.

I believe that you can revive anyone, Lord. People will go on with their list of sins people have committed that could never be forgiven, but that's just not true. If they confess and repent, You forgive them (1 John 1:9). So I believe that if a criminal who is guilty of a terrible crime repents to You and believes in You and what You've done for them, they can be saved. And the same with someone who's rejected You all their life or someone who's committed adultery or whatever it may be. I mean, look at Paul! I was inspired to look more at Paul's story that week as I processed some situations, and wow. It makes me have a desire to go into prison ministry because those people are, like, the worst to society. They're forgotten. Dismissed. Hated. But this is something I learned on a much deeper level that week, too.

2. You are so loving.

You want everyone to repent and know You (2 Peter 3:9). The most passionate atheist, the first degree murderer, the one who has neglected You their whole life... You love them all, God. And I need to love those people. I can't even bring myself to be mad at them, Lord. I am mad at their sin, and I am mad at people's tolerance of sin. But that is as far as it goes. I can't bring myself to be mad at a specific person because they are so blinded and so broken (2 Corinthians 4:4). Instead, I just feel the urgency to pray for them. I made a list of all these verses about Your love, forgiveness, hope, and plan for each one of us, and these are just a few, Lord:

Love-Bible-Verses.jpg

I can't bring myself to hate a prisoner. Instead, I want to pray for them, and I could just cry thinking about what they're missing. I want to go talk to them and share You. I can't bring myself to hate an atheist or anyone, Lord. And I'm thankful for that. Thank You for working on my heart like that, Lord. There was this quote by C. S. Lewis I remembered seeing, and something just really dawned on me.

He died not for men, but for each man. If each man had been the only man made, He would have done no less.
— C. S. Lewis

That means the annoying younger sibling. The person who sits next to you that you can't stand. The atheist. The prisoner. Etc. That opened up my eyes, Lord, and help me to remember that when I am about lose my patience with someone or give up on them.

3. God, I need You. And that's it.

I had a very rude awakening over the two weeks about me idolizing something, God. But I'm thankful I had that awakening because my goodness, I didn't know my obsession with it was so bad. You know how I feel about marriage, God. I talk about it here. You've known it's something I want. You know how overwhelmed and stressed I can get about finding the guy. I've even been to the point where I think, the end of the world can't come now, because I haven't got married yet. That right there should've told me something about my obsession, so I don't know, God, I think I was in denial. Anyway, thank You for opening up my eyes because here's what I realized.

As You know, I've been interested in prison ministry, and so I was looking at that, and there was this one story in particular I was following. And I just remember thinking, especially with the people who are going to be in prison a long time, they're not getting married most likely. And they won't have kids. Or really do anything overly successful and meaningful with their life. And I just remember sitting there thinking about this one kid especially, like, oh, my gosh. What is he going to DO?

Thankfully, You convicted me, Lord. I realized that if MARRIAGE is your highest goal in life or kids or a job or anything other than You... Yikes. There's a problem. I had a problem. If the thought of not having something in our life other than You makes our life without meaning, that's not good. I realized that if the prisoners or anyone, really, has a relationship with You, then they've got what they need. If they remain in You, they will be fruitful (John 15:5). And You will provide for them (Matthew 6:33). That is where our meaning is.

And lots of times we have to completely fall apart in order to realize this.

If we're building something on the wrong foundation and make lots of errors with it, God, and we build it the wrong way, most of the times we can't just tweak it to fix our building. We have to destroy it first. We have to make it new. And oftentimes this is what needs to happen to us so that we can realize all we need is You. Here's another great quote I found:

Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.
— Charles H. Spurgeon

I had these plans for a great week full of all the fun and everything, God. But there were days I felt sad. Very sad. I tried to carry the weight of the world, and I felt so much anxiety about the problems in my life. And I tried to cover it up with fun. I told myself I had to wait for something, like if I just get THIS, it will all be okay. I tried to convince myself people could make me happy. But no. None of that got me far. I had to break, God. And I mean, TOTALLY break. To the people reading this, have you ever felt so hopeless about a situation (or SITUATIONS) that absolutely nothing could fill your void? And no matter how hard you tried, you couldn't be joyful? That's how I felt, God. And I had to learn to cling to You, and I never EVER want to forget that brokenness because honestly? I need that. I need that to remember that I am NOT in control, You are. And I never want to forget how You answered me and gave me amazing peace. The peace didn't come instantly. It took a lot of dedication to spend time with You. But You gave it to me, and You gave me this verse:

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
— 1 Peter 5:10 ESV

Thank You, Lord. Thank You. Thank You for reminding me that I need to love others but also give them the truth. Thank You for humbling me. Thank You for showing me the importance of prayer and a relationship with You. I will have to be in this world, Lord, and while I am, please let me remember these three things. You can save anybody; I need to pray and continue to love everyone like You do; and I need to cling to You alone.

3. Last but not least, while I have to be in this world, Lord, don't let me be of it.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
— Romans 12:2 NIV

This, Lord, every day, please. Remind me of it. Don't let me get sucked into the worldliness of this world. Keep me broken if that's what it takes, Lord, just don't ever let me turn away from You, God. Show me Your will, each and everyday, and how I play a part in that. I pray that I would be obedient no matter what it costs me. I pray that I would always surrender to You, Lord.

Forgive me of all my sins against You, God. I hate my sin. I don't deserve Your grace, but I am so thankful. Help me to fight the battle against sin everyday, and please always help me to find time amidst the craziness of this life to be still (Psalm 46:10).

Because if I've got You, the joy I feel because of that is only the beginning.

So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
— John 16:22 ESV

So let that joy radiate in me, Lord. Make me a bright light for You. I love You so much, God. In Jesus' name I pray.

Ashlee

- Comments are turned off because this is my prayer to my Father. Know that I'm praying for all of you! Thanks for reading!