A Prayer for a Forgiving, Compassionate Heart

This is the ninth of ten strategic prayers I am writing in response to Priscilla Shirer’s book, Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer. Shirer wrote that if she were Satan, she would make sure that you keep thinking about old wounds and the people and circumstances that caused them to “ensure that your heart was hardened with anger and bitterness. Shackled through unforgiveness.” If you have ever harbored feelings of anger, bitterness, and resentment towards another person, you know the damage it does to you and to your relationship with the offender.

Strategy 9 – Against Your Heart

He uses every opportunity to keep old wounds fresh in mind, knowing that anger and hurt and bitterness and unforgiveness will continue to roll the damage forward (Hebrews 12:15).

PRISCILLA SHIRER

I have experienced the bondage of unforgiveness. For years, I resented my mother for cheating on my father and trying to turn us kids against him, for making me and my sisters buy groceries with food stamps under the condemning eyes of adult shoppers, for leaving me, at seventeen, in charge of four younger siblings while she stayed all night with her boyfriend. When Mom almost died, I finally found the grace to forgive her, to let go of these old wounds. I thank God that I had the chance to forgive her. I miss my mother, the wounded, flawed woman who taught me to have compassion for others, and regret not having had more compassion for her.

Forgiveness for the Offender (2 Corinthians 2:5-8, NIV)

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 

Today, my mind is not tormented with thoughts of personal hurts and grievances. But I do grieve at what has happened in my country and I struggle with feelings of anger, resentment, and bitterness at the people I blame for it.

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Heavenly Father, before I bring my need, I bring my heart. Thank you for forgiving my sins. I confess that I do not forgive others as easily. I need more of Your grace and kindness.

Lord, I am troubled by the divisions in my country. The lies and conspiracy theories that fueled an assault on democracy make me angry. I am angry at the people who silently accepted, condoned, and promoted the lies.

Lord, I am struggling to understand and to forgive the people, including friends and family, who put a wicked man in power and voted to keep him there. It’s tempting to paint them with a broad brush but I know that his supporters are not all alike. Some of them claimed that You put him in power even though they chose to mark his name on their ballots. Some of them chose him because of the single issue of abortion or because he promised to stand up for Christians. Some of them chose him because they are Christian Nationalists and think that Republicans can “take back” America for You. Some of them chose him because they are xenophobic and he promised to build a wall to keep Mexicans out. His most radical and fervent supporters adore a wicked man because they are wicked, as we saw so clearly on January 6th.

Lord, I especially feel betrayed by fellow Christians who were willing to trade Christian values for political power. They were willing to accept racism and to tolerate dishonesty and vile, vengeful, divisive language in exchange for the Republican agenda. Of course, they have not betrayed me personally but their hypocrisy severely damages the witness of the Church.

Jesus, I need more of your compassion. Even as you faced death for testifying to the truth, you prayed for your enemies: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ Help me to have compassion for the people who see but do not perceive, who hear but do not understand.

Father, You are good to the ungrateful and the wicked. You cause the sun to shine on the evil and the good and send rain on the righteous and unrighteous. Help me to love my enemies, the enemies of truth. Help me to be good to them with no expectation of receiving anything back.

Lord, as I struggle to forgive those who have aligned themselves with wicked men, help me to remember that my struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the powers of this world’s darkness and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. The secret power of lawlessness is at work, deluding those who delight in wickedness.

Father, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon. For it is in pardoning, that I am pardoned.

Amen

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Photo by Daniel Mingook Kim on Unsplash

Matthew 5:44-45

Mark 4:12

Ephesians 6:12

2 Thessalonians 2

A Prayer for Inner Purity

I committed myself to writing a prayer in response to each of the spiritual challenges that Priscilla Shirer listed in Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer. I considered skipping a prayer on purity because at this stage of my life, the issues Shirer mentioned aren’t my issues – the moral compromise, the unhealthy habit, the enticing addiction, the allure toward sexual impurity. Still, I found myself reflecting on the impacts of sexual impurity on my extended family and myself and I found myself praying Psalm 51:10.

Strategy 7 – Against Your Purity

He tries to tempt you toward certain sins, convincing you than you can tolerate them without risking consequence, knowing they’ll only wedge distance between you and God (Isaiah 59:1-2)

PRISCILLA SHIRER

As Priscilla wrote, giving into temptation is never harmless. “The waves of your choice will ripple outward into your heart, mind, soul, and body, possibly even to future generations.” I’ve witnessed the consequences of sexual impurity in my own family. A marriage shattered by infidelity. Children growing up without a father. A mother making choices without considering the impact her decisions will have on her children. Teenage pregnancies and marriages doomed to failure. Broken families. Broken hearts.

Yes, the impacts of our choices go beyond our bodies. When I was a young woman, I succumbed to temptations of the flesh. I engaged in mental gymnastics and tried to justify my sin, even trying to bargain with God. My disobedience wedged a distance between us. My Father’s face was hidden from me. When I prayed, it felt like He did not hear me.

Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

Isaiah 59:1-2 (NIV)

Now that I am older and wiser, my temptations are the temptations of a wayward heart. I know that some of my thoughts and feelings are not compatible with a heart that belongs to God. Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

2 Timothy 2:22

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Heavenly Father,

Before I bring my need, I bring a grateful and contrite heart. Thank you for watching over me and protecting me when I was young and foolish. Thank you for being the God of second chances! You are a God of mercy and I love you with all my heart.

Lord Jesus, you have shown me the blessing of a pure heart. Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God. I want to be more like you. You taught me that a good person produces good out of the treasure of her heart. When I say something that is unkind, when I am impatient with others, when I judge others, I am not being the person you have called me to be.

Father, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you. Let no unwholesome talk come out of my mouth but only what helps to build others up. May my words benefit anyone who listens.

Father, rid me of all bitterness, rage, and anger. When my thoughts turn dark, may I think instead about whatever is good, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – about anything that is excellent and praiseworthy!

Father, thank you for forgiving my sins. I am clean because of the words you have spoken through my Savior. Savior, I pray that your words remain in me so that I remain in you and bear good fruit. Cultivate in me the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, so that I always keep in step with the Spirit.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Lord, create in me pure motives, pure desires, pure thoughts. Lord, I want to store so much of your goodness in my heart that it overflows and pushes out all impurities. May I be kind and compassionate, forgiving others just as you forgave me. May I love others as you love me, even those who are hard to love.

Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it. Seal it for Thy courts above

Amen

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Psalm 19:14

Psalm 51:10, 17

Matthew 5:8

Luke 6:45

John 15:3-4

Philippians 4:8

Galatians 5:22

Ephesians 4:29-32

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

A Prayer for My Calling and Contentment

I am still slowly reading Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer (Priscilla Shirer). The chapter titled “Your Fears: Confronting Your Worries, Claiming Your Calling” was especially timely. As I read it, my church was going through a sermon series on being called – called to flourish, called to walk worthily, called to the cross, etc. I’ve been praying about my calling for years and at last, I am ready to claim it.

Strategy 6 – Against Your Calling

He (Satan) amplifies fear, worry, and anxiety until they’re the loudest voices in your head, causing you to deem the adventure of following God too risky to attempt.

Priscilla Shirer

Shirer began the chapter with a story about a friend who had been trying to decide whether she should cut back on her caseload as a counselor to follow a calling to write about her experiences. She was plagued with doubts and worries about what might happen. What if I can’t do it? What if it all ends up being a total waste of time and energy? What if it’s all just some sort of ego trip or head game, something I’m projecting onto myself?

In a really long sentenced that I’ve shortened, Shirer wrote, “if God has given you clear direction…and your only real reason for resisting Him is because you’re afraid of what following Him down this path might mean or cost or entail, then you’re not only on the threshold of being disobedient, you’re about to miss an opportunity to give God some fresh new glory by doing what He’s wanting to do through you…”

Unfortunately, there is no burning bush. It isn’t always easy to tell if God has given you clear direction, especially when you feel pulled in other directions and you keep hearing the voices of worry and self-doubt.

It is simplistic to suggest that fear of the unknown is the only reason for resisting God’s calling. Four years ago, I thought I was taking a leap of faith when I quit my job of eight years. I intended to begin a new chapter in my life. Instead, after a couple of months, I found another accounting job and I’m right back where I was, longing do something meaningful with the rest of my life. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

I find my desire for safety and security at war with my desire to do something more meaningful, something that fulfills and motivates me. I have battled to make the right decision even though my job has left me feeling trapped and unfulfilled.

In another chapter of Fervent, “Your Pressures: Reclaiming Peace, Rest and Contentment,” I found clues that explain my own resistance to God’s calling. In my 35 year career, I have felt pressure to keep doing, to keep performing, to keep achieving, to keep being the perfect employee, to keep bringing home the bacon.

Strategy 8 – Against Your Rest and Contentment

He (Satan) hopes to overload your life and schedule, pressuring you to constantly push beyond your limits, never feeling permission to say no.

Priscilla Shirer

In this chapter, Shirer wrote about the biblical command of the Sabbath. Why is it so hard, she asked, for some of us to rest, pull back, take a deep breath, and step away from our day-to-day responsibilities? She suggested that it is because we think the way a slave thinks. We’ve been trained to not say no. While I wouldn’t describe myself as a slave, I have felt like a person living in bondage, like I owe my employer a debt I can never pay off, like I can’t leave because people need me too much.

Fear and insecurity also play a role in the way we respond to the pressures of life. We worry about impressing people and proving our worth. We act as if the only way we can gain favor is to work and produce. We’re afraid we won’t have enough, won’t be enough, if we don’t keep going, pushing, achieving. Shirer wrote that the pressures we put on ourselves can be a sign of idolatry. We make idols out of our reputations, our achievements, our self-reliance.

Fear and insecurity have kept me from following God’s calling. The pressure to achieve and to please other people has kept me bound to my career.

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Lord Jesus,

Thank you for being patient with me as I struggle with my doubts and insecurities. Anyone else would have given up on me by now. You have always been faithful, never leaving my side. You are my hope and my strength.

Father, my pastor said that the more we get to know You, the better we will hear Your call. I pray this is so. It has been hard for me see the clear direction of Your calling when I keep hearing the voices of doubt and worry.

I can’t help but wonder if the persistent longings of my heart are You calling me. Why was I so obsessed with the desire to leave my home of thirty years to move to a state I had only visited once? Why, after thinking about moving for a couple of years, did I finally make the leap just a few months before the pandemic? And how can I explain the presence of people in my life who unknowingly gave me the courage to step out in faith?

Lord, Priscilla said that a free woman has the God-given ability to know when You are asking her to do something. A free woman has the discernment to know her limits and to know when she needs to pause. Thank you for giving me the clarity and the gentle nudge I need. I want to be free of the ties that bind me to my job.

Just as I felt a persistent yearning to move, I now feel a persistent longing to retire, to stop earning and achieving. The desire to do something more meaningful with my life, to be Your hands and feet, has not gone away. I can see now that by clinging to the attachments of this world, I am missing out on the opportunity to do what You want to do through me. Forgive me for resisting this yearning.

Lord Jesus, I am weary of working. I am ready to take your yoke upon me and to serve others for you. I pray for courage. I pray for the right timing. I pray that you will lead my employer to the right replacement.

Amen

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Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

Praying for My Future

I continue to reflect on Priscilla Shirer’s book, Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer. While I don’t sense that I am personally being attacked by Satan, at one time or another, I have faced the spiritual struggles she listed in her book. In writing this prayer, I remember how horrible I felt when I was going through a difficult struggle with another person.

Strategy 5 – Against Your Past

If I were your enemy, I’d constantly remind you of your mistakes and poor choices. I’d want to keep you burdened by shame and guilt, in hopes that you’ll feel incapacitated by your many failings and see no point in even trying again. I’d work to convince you that you’ve had your chance and blown it – that your God may be able to forgive some people for some things, but not you…not for this.

PRISCILLA SHIRER

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Heavenly Father, my soul continually remembers my mistakes and poor choices. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I did it anyway. I am filled with regret for hurting another with words I cannot take back. I feel like such a horrible and wretched person. I have sinned against you and am filled with guilt and shame.

Lord, I am humbled by my many failings. I don’t know how You can love a wretch like me but You do. Your love for me never ceases. You are my hope.

Lord Jesus, I am so tired of carrying the weight of mistakes I cannot undo. Take away this heavy burden of guilt. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin (Psalm 51:2). Lord, I want to learn from you. Teach me to be a better person.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Father, my soul praises you. Truly, Your love never fails even when I fail You. Thank you for forgiving me, for redeeming my life from the pit of despair. You have crowned me with your love and compassion. Great is your faithfulness!

Lord, Your mercies are new every morning. Thank you for giving me another chance to make the most of my life. When I stumble and fall, may I learn from my mistakes and remember that You are making me new! Yesterday is gone. Today, show me Your ways that I may walk with You. Help me to look forward with hope for my future and not back to the past I cannot change.

Amen

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Lamentations 3:22-24 (ESV)

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

Psalm 103:1-5 (NIV)

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

A Prayer for My Family

Priscilla Shirer, the author of Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer, believes that Satan strategically attacks us and recommends that we write prayers to counter his attacks. I am still not convinced that the devil is behind my spiritual struggles but I do see the importance of praying strategically. So far, I have found every issue Priscilla has raised worthy of fervent prayer.

Strategy 4 – Against Your Family

He wants to disintegrate your family, dividing your home, rendering it chaotic, restless, and unfruitful (Genesis 3:1-7)

PRISCILLA SHIRER

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A PRAYER FOR MY FAMILY

Heavenly Father, before I bring my need, I will bring my heart. From the bottom of my heart, thank You for my family. From the day I was born, through all the ups and downs, my family has been a source of unconditional love, friendship, and joy. My family shaped who I am, teaching me, among other things, the value of hard work, perseverance, empathy, and faith.

Father, one of the most important life lessons I learned from my family is the power of forgiveness. For too many years, I resented my mother for things she did and did not do as a single parent. It was only when we almost lost her that I saw her with grace-filled eyes. I am ashamed for holding a grudge for so long. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to forgive mom before she died.

Lord Jesus, when any family member disappoints me, I pray that You will help me to forgive as You forgive me. Help me to see things from their perspective and to remember that we are all a work in progress.

Father, I pray that You will open my eyes to the ways I need to change. Show me how I can be more loving, more supportive, sister, wife, aunt and friend.

Father, thank you for my husband, my best friend for 34 years. Lord, sometimes he gets depressed and withdraws from me and I don’t know how to help him. You know what is on his mind and in his heart. Please help him with whatever he is struggling with.

Lord, I pray for the health and well-being of my large, extended family. Please protect my brothers and sisters and my nieces and nephews and my great nieces and nephews. Please guide them as they face their own struggles. For all my loved ones, I pray the words of The Blessing.1

The Lord bless you and keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you 
The Lord turn His face toward you
And give you peace
May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children and their children

Lord Jesus, above all else, I pray for the salvation of family members who do not know You, especially those who have outright rejected You. You know the names on my heart and I lift them up to You.

Amen

  1. The Blessing, Elevation Worship with Kari Jobe & Cody Carnes