Monday, February 2, 2009

ASK THE EXPERTS WEEK Bestselling Author Neta Jackson on Prayer and Praise

Today I feel so privileged to chat with bestselling novelist Neta Jackson. Neta is the author of the Yada Yada Prayer Group series and today she’ll be sharing about Prayer and Praise. Neta’s latest title was Where Do I Go?, the first book in the new series The Yada Yada House of Hope. Neta, welcome to Words to Go!

NETA: Thanks, Patty! I’m glad to be here.

PATTY: Neta, what would say is your fav scripture?

NETA: I call Philippians 4:6-8 my “rule of life”: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing . . . Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” I have needed to do this again and again to “retrain” my mind and my spirit, from a state of anxious worrying to one of peace and trust in God. (Okay, I’m still in training! J)

But my verse for 2009 comes from Psalm 73:25, 26: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” That’s my prayer for 2009, to desire only God.

PATTY: You and I were recently talking about prayer as it becomes praise and worship to God. You said to me that you had come to know “the importance of praise and adoration as a regular part of our prayers—which is actually an important part of spiritual warfare.” In what way do you believe that praise to God should be a “regular” part of our prayers? What would that look like on a daily basis? Do you mean singing along with a CD or songs on the radio?

NETA: I have an African American sister who has taught me so much about praise—that praise and worship should be at the heart of our prayers. If prayer is actually conversation with God, and a primary means of our communion or intimacy with Him . . . well, how would my husband feel if all my conversation with him was, “Please do this, I need this, thanks for that . . .” but I never told him I loved him? Or, if I think about the privilege of coming into the Throne Room, do I jump right into my long list of requests and petitions? Or do I first fall on my face and worship! That’s what the elders and creatures do in heaven—they worship! “You are worthy, O God, of honor and glory and praise . . .!” Even the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray begins, “Our Father in heaven! Holy is Your name!”

I still struggle with this, jumping right into my requests to God, unburdening my cares on Him. But I’m trying to learn to take a few minutes just to focus on God alone, Who He is, what an awesome God we have, who deserves all our praise and adoration. Funny how it helps me to “come apart” to be with my Beloved, and also helps to put my requests in perspective.

PATTY: It’s just taking the time, as you say, to make that a regular part of your quiet time. The second part of that statement is very intriguing to me. Would you like to explain how prayer that is praise is spiritual warfare?

NETA: Well, what is spiritual warfare? Satan using any toe-hold he can get to take us down, to take our eyes off Jesus. And Satan works best in an atmosphere of doubt, discouragement, worry, and fear, or when we’re listening to those lies of self-condemnation. That’s when we’re feeling weak and vulnerable. But praise and worship? Those aren’t Satan’s working conditions!

PATTY: Right. We forget the power in praising sets the enemy to flight.

NETA: I’ve been learning that praise and worship is one of my most powerful weapons to fight the enemy! Psalm 8:2 (TNIV) says, “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and avenger.” That knocks my socks off!

PATTY: That’s a potent scripture.

NETA: If even the praise of little ones can establish a “stronghold” against Satan, that means my praise can too. For one thing, our praise invites God’s presence into the situation (Psalm 22:3 says that God “inhabits/lives in” the praise of His people). For another, we remind ourselves, Who really is the victor here? When we fill the atmosphere in our hearts, in our homes, even surrounding our everyday tasks with praise and worship for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords . . . Satan has to flee. (A good example is Paul and Silas in jail, their feet in stocks, their backs sore from a flogging. What did they do? They sang and praised God! And whoa! Did things change!)

PATTY: Right, that’s not just a story for kids. It’s an important element to practice.

NETA: Admittedly, when I’m feeling discouraged, or attacked by Satan—when everything seems to be going wrong—it’s hard to “get my praise on.” I need help. So I put on a CD of praise or worship music, turn it up loud, and just fill the house! I dance and shout hallelujah. Or I “pray Scripture”—the psalms are wonderful for telling Satan off and reminding me that my God is the victor.

PATTY: I did that recently when I was the only one at home. We can’t “see” the war we’re engaging in. We’re literally walking on water, trusting God to lead us into triumph.

NETA: There’s also strength in numbers. I’ve been watching some nature shows recently, and the predators always try to drive their prey away from the herd or flock or whatever, to get it alone. Same with us. I know when I’m down, it’s tempting to stay away from others, not go to Bible study, stay home from church. I’m embarrassed that I’m not Ms. Victorious Christian, or I just don’t feel like praising . . . but that plays right into Satan’s MO.

PATTY: I’m so glad you said that, Neta. I’ve watched as a member of a fellowship group suddenly withdrew into isolation. Her group members were mystified. She later confessed that she was feeling so low that she isolated. Then she started imagining that the very ones who had loved and supported her had turned against her. Alone, you’re a target.

NETA: If I’m having a hard time praying and praising, it’s all the more crucial that I get with others who can fill the atmosphere with their praise and prayers. To hold up my hands like Aaron and Hur did for Moses when he got tired.

Okay, okay, I’m stopping. I just get excited talking about prayer and praise. Even though I grew up in a strong Christian home, I had no idea prayer—coming freely and boldly into the presence of Almighty God—could be such an exciting journey.

PATTY: Oh, we could do this all day. I encourage Words to Go followers to add your feedback, personal stories, etc. I agree with Neta that praise and spiritual warfare are linked. I’d like to know your thoughts.

Tomorrow, we’ll continue our prayer thread with none other than conference teacher and author Thelma Wells!