It’s no secret to my friends and family that Casting Crowns is one of my all-time favorite bands. When I was little, I would sing as loud as I could their song, “Praise You In This Storm.” To this day, the lyrics automatically come to mind when I see the tiniest bit of drizzle on a window. However, somewhere along the way from my childhood to early adult life, I seemed to forget what those lyrics actually meant during some pretty steep lows in my life.
Don’t get me wrong. I remembered the song, but my prayers became scattered for a few years and I also had this ridiculous notion that it was selfish to pray for myself. So I limited a good bit of my teenage years, a time when I REALLY needed the prayers myself, to only praying for the needs of others, but even those prayers were occasional and not an everyday thing.
And for some reason I was surprised that I struggled to hear God’s voice for a while. It wasn’t until I found an incredible group of girls towards the end of my freshman year of college that I began to hear God again. Alpha Delta Theta wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill sorority. First and foremost it was a Christian service sisterhood. We weren’t even technically a part of Greek life, but a group that fell under the care of religious life at our university.
We always closed our weekly meetings, which included announcements and a devotion, with a prayer where we circled up and linked hands. Prior to praying though, we would list down all the prayer requests, but the thing that really grabbed my attention was that we would also list the praises we shared with one another.
As a girl raised in the south, we were taught not to brag about our accomplishments because it could cause someone else to be jealous or wish you misfortunate. Hearing prayer requests was certainly not new to my ears, but hearing the praises reminded me what has been missing from my prayer life.
I wasn’t continually thanking God or giving Him the credit He deserves for all the wonderful things He has given us. Also, the prayer and praises at those sisterhood meetings reminded me of what those lyrics meant to my beloved song by Casting Crowns. We praise Him no matter what. Through the storm AND the sunshine. Through the valleys AND the mountain tops. Through the lows AND the highs.
My oh my I still remember those times when the praises outshined the list of the prayer requests at those meetings. It wasn’t often because of how broken our world is and we tend to feel the weight of that more so than all the beautiful and wonderful blessings we are surrounded by everyday.
After my time in college, the world went through a period of loneliness. Certainly a time of storm, a valley, and a low for many. When things started relaxing, my mom and I were given the opportunity to start teaching the children at our church on Sunday mornings. We alternated Sundays, and when I taught, I started asking the kids for prayer requests AND praises. It took them a few times to understand the concept, but now over a year later, I am humbled by their responses.
Just as I have matured and grown in my relationship with Jesus this past year, I have had the immense blessing of watching those kids grow as well. Their prayer requests have grown from ones about just them to praying over others as well. Their praises have gone from just “we got a new kitty” to “thank you Jesus for waking us up this morning and giving us oxygen.” They have gone from wanting me to pray all the time to them going “me, me, me” when I ask who wants to pray over the requests and prayers, and talk to God.
This past Sunday inspired this blog post though. One little boy, who has been asking amazing questions over the past year about what an awesome God we serve, said “Ms. Raegan, we need to thank Jesus for teachers and BLkids (my church’s children’s ministry).” While this may just be an “Awh, that’s so sweet,” to some of you; to me, that is God speaking through that boy. I’ve seen that boy complain about school, his teachers, classmates, and how much he doesn’t want to go. He’s complained about BLkids and not wanted to come on some Sundays. He’s asked me how much longer until big church lets out so he can go home and eat lunch. Now, he’s lifting up his school teachers and leaders in our children’s ministry as a praise.
I remember when BLkids was only a prayer request on my list, and not a praise. Some days were a struggle to prep for the lesson. Some days it was all I can do to keep my calm while they wanted to do anything but listen to the Word of God. Some days I’m not even the one doing the teaching, like this past Sunday where they reminded me to rejoice over all things because God has given us so much, especially when we didn’t deserve it. I’ve learned a lot from those kids. They have helped me grow in my own prayer life. While I still pray over those children and the ministry, I count it as a praise and blessing that I get to serve God with those kids.
The awesome prayers and praises from this past Sunday also went right along with the current Bible study I am currently working on throughout the week. Beth Moore’s updated version of David, Seeking a Heart Like His has been so good for my soul and in helping my understanding of God’s Word.
I’ve heard and studied the story of David as a shepherd boy to the King over Israel numerous times. I was hesitant in starting this study because I thought, “Okay, what else can I possibly know and learn about David?” But I’m so glad I got to reread 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel through this study. I’ve gotten to see things through a different lens, and understand more what it means to seek God’s heart.
This week’s focus has been on some of David’s virtues, with one being his continual worship of God. Even when others made fun of him, he praised God because he KNEW God is the only reason he made it as he took his throne over Israel. Before becoming king, David went through lots of valleys and low points before making it to that mountain, and David praised the one true God through it all.
One verse from this week’s study struck me in the heart, and I’m committing it to memory, just as I have with Casting Crowns’ song, “Praise You In This Storm.”
2 Samuel 7:22 says, “Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.” Amen, David! Thank you for sharing that with believers to come long after you.
I haven’t finished the study yet, and I’m certainly not finished with teaching kids at the church. God definitely isn’t finished working on me either. I actually would like to ask each reader to pray for those who teach in children and youth ministries, myself included (see, I now can ask for prayer myself). We need it, and so do pastors and churches. Also, below is a prayer for you from me, reader.
Thank you for all the blessings you have bestowed upon me and my family. Thank you for speaking through writers and musicians that point us to your Word and to you. Thank you for children, and the way you use them to teach us. Father, my heart is overflowing today with praise for You. While I may not know the needs of each reader who takes the time to read this post, I know you do, and I lift those up to you. I pray each reader will praise you in the storm and the sunshine because without You, we are lost in both. I pray the person reading this, if he or she does not already feel the Holy Spirit within, that they come to know You personally, not just about you, so they too can sing your praises for the rest of their lives. In Jesus’ wonderful name, Amen.