Note: The post below may look like an excerpt from a book on prayer, but it is actually an excerpt from the book Weight Loss for Christians, by Sherry Elaine Evans. It's the time of year, after the holidays, when millions of us make "healthy goals" for the new year. If you have a goal of conquering a bad habit; there may be no weapon stronger for replacing that bad habit than meditating on God and His word!
I do believe in the power of prayer. I also believe in the power of the lessons that can be learned from unanswered prayer. In this chapter, I want to return to my personal story, and consider some reasons as to why my initial prayers alone were not answered in the way I had hoped.
God often does not answer prayer in the way we expect. The important lesson overall here is this: When God doesn't answer in the way we expect or hope for; it is because He knows a better way. He has a better plan; or he has something for us to learn about Him. He has to deny our direct request so that we are not misled. He has to deny our direct request so that we may find His methods and His ways.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and neither are your ways, my ways, declares the Lord.” - Isaiah 55:8
Eventually I came to understand that God did not answer my prayer, at first, because he wanted me to discover something that may be even more powerful than prayer alone. God wanted me to learn to use the power available through reading and meditating on His Word. God wanted me to replace my bad habits with habits that would help me to focus and rely more deeply on Him and His word.
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Before I recognized that I needed spiritual food instead of physical food, I realized that I was addicted to snacking and overeating. I was an addict! I was bound in a vicious, destructive cycle. Just as an alcoholic is addicted to alcohol, I was addicted to satiating my cravings with snacks. Just as excess alcohol will ruin the life of the person who imbibes; my poor food choices were slowing ruining my life, stealing my energy, and stealing my joy during a time of my life when I should have been enjoying some of the best years of my life with my family.
My nightly snacking and reading rituals were not just simple, harmless "me"time. I was caught in a cycle of addiction. In order to handle this addiction, I had to overcome it in God's way -- by using the powerful word of the Lord as my conquering weapon!
I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.
I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. -Psalms 119:15-16
Just praying to God and simply waiting on Him to act was not enough. God wants us to draw close to Him; and then he guides us. The Bible says, "Draw near to God; and then He will draw near to you." (James 4:8) Yes, we can draw near to God through prayer. Many Christians do get closer to God through prayer. The truth for me, however, was that I was not using prayer to be close to God. My heart was not in the right place. I was not seeking Him first. I was using prayer mostly to thank Him and then to make requests of Him. When I began reading the Bible more and meditating on certain verses which helped me understand the right priorities for my life; then I actually truly began to draw nearer to God.
And when I focused on drawing nearer to Him, He then met my needs and requests in full. I sought His truth first, and then the rest of my needs were met. (Matthew 6:33) The actions I needed to take became clearer. When I chose to focus on God’s word, I finally gained a truly supernatural motivation which literally conquered my cravings.
Many well known Bible teachers teach about the need to meditate on God's word. Beth Moore of Living Proof Ministries comes to my mind as one of my favorites. The power of meditation is discussed in The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. I had read and learned some from Christian leaders about meditation. So on some level, I knew that meditating on God's word could be useful. I had even completed a Beth Moore Bible study where she taught us to write verses on cards and meditate on them throughout the day. (I listened to her but I didn't do it at the time, because I really didn't understand what Biblical meditation was, and I really didn't think I had the time for it.) Meditation wasn't really taught in my church, though; and it wasn't something I even considered putting into action.
Eventually though, here is what happened for me to come to an understanding of all of this. During some time spent in Bible reading one day, I came across a verse that just "zapped" me. If you read and study the Bible with some regularity; you know what I am referring to and you understand the experience I am talking about. I can't explain the "zap" experience fully in words here. Some people may say that the scripture just really "spoke to their heart." For me though, it wasn’t a soft nudging of the heart. No, nothing gentle like a nudge -- as I said, the verse just zapped me, like a slap to the forehead combined with an "ah ha!” moment! In one moment, within a very short passage, the Lord had given words just for me and for my specific situation. After the years of prayer, he gave me the answer. And here is the irony, I already had the answer in His word. I had actually committed this scripture to memory previously, and I already knew it well . But I had never thought to apply it to my weight and dieting trials.
What was the verse that ended up zapping me, or slapping me, on the forehead in a precise spiritual way? Not ironically, it is one of the few verses in the Bible that refers to both food and emotions in the same sentence!
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food..? - Matthew 6:25
Previously, whenever I had read or considered this verse, I had always place emphasis on the phrase “Do not worry about….” However, when I read Matthew 6:25 this time, I read it with an emphasis on the phrase "Is not life more than food?" Suddenly, my entire way of thinking about food was transformed in an instant.
Getting spiritually "zapped" from time to time can be a good thing. It can light your motivation on fire. But motivational fires often burn out quick (like at the very next mealtime, perhaps?) This is when review of the scripture and meditation plays an important key role to keeping the motivational fires fanned and burning throughout the rest of the day, throughout the next day and week, and throughout the long journey that is required in changing poor habits.
The word of God can, and does, transform in an instant. And after that instant has passed, the continued reading and focusing on the word of God maintains the transformation. Biblical reading and meditation is the practice that leads to strong and long term maintenance of the transformation.
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