Thursday, February 5, 2009

MYSTERY GUEST FRIDAYS Welcomes Bestselling Author Terri Blackstock!

Praying for our children is the topic today with our special Mystery Guest Friday author, bestselling novelist Terri Blackstock. Terri’s fiction is described as “Up All Night Fiction” because once you start reading one of her suspense novel’s you won’t want to put it down. Terri’s latest novel is entitled Dawn’s Light, and she has a new one releasing in a couple of weeks—Double Minds. I have to say that I’m also a big fan of Terri’s writing and she’s my dear friend too. Welcome, Terri!

TERRI: Thanks for inviting me, Patty. It’s great to be here talking about this important issue for Christians.

PATTY: Terri, you and I have been prayer partners over the past decade. As a matter of fact, you probably would have blackmail power over me, but then, it’s a reciprocal partnership, so I guess we’re both safe. That’s the beauty of having a prayer partner. Our kids are now grown, but that mom’s vigil has not stopped has it?

TERRI: No, it hasn’t. In fact, I find it much more difficult to be a mother of adult children than I did of young children. When they were still at home, I had more control over the things they did. If I saw them walking out in front of a truck, I could jerk them back. It’s been difficult finding the peace to know that I can’t be there to jerk them back anymore.

PATTY: Our children have come-of-age at the same time, so we’ve both had to learn to release them in a trust arrangement with God. What is key to you as a mom in trusting God with your kids?

TERRI: I can only do that through prayer. I’ve spent the last few years learning how to really be on my knees, figuratively and literally, for my children. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the way I pray, and when things are going well, I pray less. My resolution for 2009 is to get my prayer life organized and to learn to pray with more power. I had that in my mind, and I probably prayed about it off-handedly at some point or another, but here it is the second week of January and I had really done nothing to begin working on that. And then a couple of days ago the Lord directed my eyes to a book that’s been sitting on my bookshelf—How to Pray by R.A. Torrey.

PATTY: He’s a fav author in the Hickman library too.

TERRI: I’d read it when I was working on my last novel, Dawn’s Light, where I explored the subject of unanswered prayer. It’s very short, only 100 pages or so. And I felt the distinct impression that God wanted me to read it again. I started it this morning and was reminded why my prayers sometimes don’t have much power. Torrey says that when we pray, we should “have the thoughts of Him definitely in mind and be more taken up with Him than with [our] petition.”

I realized that never happens with me. I’m always more focused on my petitions than I am on God. But what if we went into His presence with awe and humility, taking our time and not just rattling off our list, realizing that God is bending down to hear us, that in getting His ear, we are truly taking these petitions to the One who can do something about them. That reminded me that I can go boldly to the throne of grace, and expect for God to answer.

But first I have to make sure that I’m really in His presence. When I do, that awe quiets me, and my prayer is filled with more reflection than it is with supplications.

And as I read this book, I became more aware that Jesus sits at the right hand of God, and his work now is to intercede for us. So when we pray for the people or things or the children that are on our heart, we’re praying with Jesus, who has the Father’s ear. That’s what it means to pray in Jesus’ name.

PATTY: Terri, praying for our children is a job that as moms we thought might lessen as they became adults. How, as a mom, have your prayers changed since your girls were young and now that they’re grown?

TERRI: I don’t really think that my prayers have changed because of their maturing, but they’re changing because of my maturing. I know more about prayer than I did when they were younger, and I know it because God has put obstacles and trials in my life as I’ve gotten older. Those are the things that have grown and matured me. How often have we said, “If I knew then what I know now ...” But the fact is, I didn’t know those things then. I have comfort in knowing that God does give children to imperfect, immature young people who haven’t learned all of life’s lessons yet. So he doesn’t expect us to do it all exactly right as we’re raising them. I do sometimes look back with guilt on the things I did wrong as a parent, but I don’t think God calls me to do that. It’s not a surprise to Him that imperfect parents will raise imperfect children imperfectly.

PATTY: Could you leave the moms visiting us today some advice about praying when it seems useless to pray? I know that there were times when I would ask you to pray for me, but honestly my faith was so wobbly, I didn’t know if we would ever have a breakthrough. What sort of encouragement do you have for moms who might feel like giving up as the official prayer covering over their kids?

TERRI: There have been times when it’s seemed that my prayers were hitting a stone ceiling. That’s why I wrote about unanswered prayer in Dawn’s Light. The parents in that book are praying for a child who’s been injured and lies comatose, and they wrestle earnestly in prayer for her. In Christendom, we like to talk about praying in faith, asking and receiving, seeking Him first and God giving us the desires of our heart ... But what about those times when you pray for someone’s healing and they die? Or when you ask for someone’s salvation year after year, and they continue to reject Him? What do you do when the results of your prayers weaken your faith rather than strengthening them? That does happen. So I read everything I could get my hands on about prayer, and had the father in the book doing the same. And I came to a realization that I allowed my characters to come to. That God’s purposes are like a beautiful symphony. We want to be in on His will; we want to join in His work. But when we try to join in with our squeaky little violin, we wind up playing “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” while He’s playing Beethoven’s 5th.
PATTY: That's a gorgeous example, Terri.
TERRI: His symphony continues even when we’re way off. Eventually, if we continue to pray and practice and listen and learn, we begin to play along in the right key, the right song, and then it’s all clear to us. God was doing something we didn’t understand. He had a purpose so much greater than what we could fathom.

I think we need to go to God knowing that’s happening, understanding that God is doing a work in our children’s lives that we aren’t attuned to just yet. We may not see His direction, or hear His symphony, but it’s playing nonetheless. So we keep going to Him and trusting that He’s working, and praying and reflecting and listening and learning. Our prayers are being heard and acted upon. And one day we will see the results.

I think prayer is the hardest work of the Christian life, and it’s the part that Satan attacks the most. In fact, Satan is extremely successful at distracting us from this. But prayer is the key to the Christian life. It’s the way we abide in Christ, and the way we partake of the atonement. Without a powerful prayer life, we’re missing out on all of what God has for us.

Patty, thanks for asking me to explore this issue with you this week. It’s been providential. I think the Lord used it to remind me of my resolution, and to give me a jump-start so that I would keep it this year.

PATTY: No, Sister, thank you! What a wonderful way to finish off our week-long discussion on prayer.

If today was your first visit to Ask the Experts Week, just scroll down and enjoy the feast. I'm still getting a lot of emails. Great, but please do take a moment and post here so that the authors are encouraged by your words to go.

Have a great weekend and an awesome day of celebration and worship to the One who gave us His Words and told us "go!"