Bad Habits, Weight Loss, Prayer, and Meditation

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 Gods 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.


The above post is an excerpt from Chapter 4 in Weight Loss for Christians. Click here to find the ebook or paperback at 

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A Thanksgiving List vs. A Prayer List

Over a decade ago, a wise pastor gave my husband and me some advice on prayer.  He suggested a specific method of prayer that involved praying in a certain sequence. Briefly, this was the recommendation:

 1.Begin prayer by giving thanks to God for who He is, His attributes, and what He has done and has already promised to do.

2. Confess your sinfulness, and also thank Him that he has forgiven you.

3. Make your requests to Him.

I didn't realize at that time how this would change my perception of God; how it would change my perception of life's problems; and how it would change the way I pray. 

I've spent over a decade praising Him because...

I know He knows me, and He knows what I have faced in the past and what I will face in the future. I am thankful for that.

I know that He is all powerful, and that He is vastly greater than any problem I may face. I praise Him for that.

I know that He is vastly wiser than I am; and that He has the ability and the desire to work all circumstances out for a good outcome.  I am so incredibly greatful for that.

The list could go on and on; but let's look at just those three again:

He already knows what has happened and what is to come in my life.
He is all powerful; anything is within His ability.
He is all-wise, and He has promised to work all things, even problematic things, into a good end for each person who genuinely seeks His ways. 

When you start a prayer praising God for even just those three major attributes, then how do you even ask for anything specific? Why would you want to figure out a solution to your problem and then ask God to give you the solution you thought of?

Think of God as the Counselor. He is not just a counselor. He is the Greatest Counselor in the world. Do you go to an earthly counselor and say, "Mr. Earthly Counselor, I have this problem and I think I know how I want it to work out. Here is my plan, and what I want and what I think is probably best. So please tell me that my plan is good and let me have my plan. Thank you so much, you are such a wonderful earthly counselor."

No, you wouldn't go to a counselor or an advisor in that way. You don't go to an advisor merely to give him or her your understanding of the problem and best solution. You go to the earthly counselor because you know, or at least you hope, that the advisor has a greater level of wisdom or expertise in how to solve your problem. You want his or her advice, because you realize that he or she may see things differently than you do; and he or she likely knows of  a method or path of resolution that is better than what you can think of on your own.

So if God is the Greatest Counselor; why would you try to solve your own problem, and then ask Him to just bless it and let things go the way you want? Wouldn't you want His solution and His help in guiding you through the problem? Wouldn't you trust that His level of expertise is so infinitely greater than yours?

The Bible tells us, "You have not because you ask not." (James 4:2) Based on my experience, however, I believe this verse, when taken in context with all scripture, could also be read in an extended way such as this: "You have not greater things,  because you have asked for too many specific things. Your specific requests indicate that you lack understanding of just how infinitely great and powerful the Father is. See, you asked for a specific type of resolution; and that resolution was within my will, so I let you have the resolution you asked for. However, I actually had a better plan available, and if you had just asked and trusted for my bigger and better plan, then you would have received a surprise quite greater than your own proposed solution."

For clarification: there is nothing wrong with making very specific requests to God; nothing wrong with that at all; and in fact, He wants us to bring all our requests to Him. Oftentimes, however, it works out better to let go of your own ideas and your own resolution plans, and just seek His solution.

Now these days, when I have a prayer request,  I  mostly just pray something like this: "God, I have this problem _______. And I'm thankful that you are already aware of it and are able and willing to work it out for a good result. I really just want you to know that I want YOUR best solution, whatever it is -- and I want to thank you for the solution that you will provide; and I want you to know that I accept your solution, knowing that it is ultimately for the best.  I don't even want to ask you for a specific result, because all I want is your provision; I want it solved in your way, not mine...because your ways are so infinitely greater than anything I could try. I look forward to how this is resolved, Lord, and how it may bring me closer to you."

I will also explain, that sometimes a problem does require an immediate action of some sort, and you may not be sure of exactly what to do. You may not know what God thinks is best for you to do; but you have to make a decision based on some external deadline or consequence. In those cases, I will usually pray, "God, I have this problem, and I need to make a decision quickly. I believe this solution I thought of is best at this time, and this is they way I am going to proceed for now; however, if you have a better way, please make it readily apparent, because I want your ways over my own."

Based on my experience,  I believe the above prayers, when prayed authentically, in true faith, and with a willingness to wait on Him --  will always bring God's best resolution.

It  took at least 15 solid years of walking regularly with the Lord before I could have such a faith to pray such a way. I spent many, many years praying for things to "please be done my way."

And when it comes to Thanksgiving, I am truly most thankful for this: Knowing that His solutions are always available to those who seek His ways and are willing to wait.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, 
and do not lean on your own understanding,
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make straight your paths.
 Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

"Help Me God"

I did some google keyword research recently, because I was curious to know what types of phrases people were searching for on the topic of "God." 

Do you know what the number one search phrase with the keyword "God" is on Google?

It is this:  "help me God"

Thousands of people in the U.S. search for that exact term every month.

I have been there too.  The point in my own life where I had no other options but to call out "help me God" came during pre-internet times. So although I didn't google it then, I certainly called out "help me God." And I certainly sought His wisdom.

Here are some messages that have been preserved over the ages in the Bible. These are verses that have sustained me through difficult times. And I will certainly admit that some of those times have been due to my own poor choices,  and the suffering that comes as consequences of those poor choices.

"Help Me God"
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12  

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.  Luke 19:10

My people have.....forgotten their resting place.  Jeremiah  50:6

"For my ways are not your ways, and my thoughts are not your thoughts," says the Lord. Isaiah 55:8

The grass withers, and the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.  Isaiah 40:8

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit. Psalms 35:8

Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straightProverbs 3:5

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8

Initial Defiance, True Actions, and Lip Service - A Parable of Jesus

Actions do speak louder than words.  That phrase has become so trite, that we fail to fully let its truth sink in, especially if we are to consider our own words compared with our own behaviors. 

In the Lord's eyes, what you actually do is more important that what you say you are doing.  

That should be obvious, shouldn't it?

In the past, when talking with others, I have been amazed at the number of youths who have never learned, nor been taught, this very basic spiritual principle. There are also many adults who have never learned it.

Even more surprisingly is this:  many actually behave as if the opposite is true, as if what they say and how they appear is all that matters. 

Let's look at one of Jesus' parables, one that is not as well known as some of the others. I call this parable the story of the "Two Sons Who Changed Their Minds."

But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second son and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.”
Matthew 21:28-31a

This parable speaks to the fact that what we say is meaningless if it is not supported by what we do. Similarly, our outward projection of right-doing; is not a guarantee of our condition inside. 

Do you ever say you believe one thing, and then act in a way that contradicts what you say?

For example, do you say you trust fully in the Lord, yet your prayer life is only minutes a week, if that?

Oh no, the uncomfortable questions are coming -- prepare for them. Here are some more uncomfortable questions to consider:

Do we say we trust God and want to live by His will; but then refuse to confess and change our own ways in certain areas of our lives? Or perhaps we don't refuse to change; but we put it off, saying "I will make this change in my life in the future; it's too difficult to do it right now."

Do you behave one way at church or when around groups of Christians, another way at work, and then another way at home?

Would people outside your home say you are a "wonderful, Christian person;" while those who know you best, those in your own home, know you hold unrepentant attitudes and grievances in your heart?

In all of those situations -- which do you think is more important? Which is the truth about you -- 

your words?  
your appearance in public?
or your contradictory actions in the privacy of your home?

I have discovered that too many people surprisingly would respond to that question by saying - "the way I appear in public to others is what is most important."

Out of all the people in the Biblical towns Jesus visited, there was one particular group of people Jesus verbally lashed out upon. These were the hypocrites -- specifically, Jesus calls out to them: "You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."

All in all, at the end of the day, we want to be consistent in our actions, words, and thoughts. We want our actions, our words, and our thoughts to all be in line with the will of God. 

The first son, defiantly told his father he would not obey. Yet he later regretted his decision, changed his mind, and did what the father asked him to do.

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The second son told his father he would do what the father required; but then he didn't do it.

The first son is ultimately in the right; the second son is in the wrong. You would think that conclusion would be obvious -- but unfortunately, in this day and age, it is not.  Many people truly believe that "appearances" and "lip service" are everything. Their philosophy is like this: "Just act like you are going to do the right thing; and when you are caught in an act of dishonesty, just make up a good excuse." Such people act as if they believe their character will ultimately be judged by their peers only.  They think "as long as I can project an image of Godliness it doesn't matter if I am truly acting in God's will. No one will know the difference." Others think only their testimony -- only what they say -- is what matters; even if the evidence that others can see clearly contradicts what they say.

But the judgement seat of heaven is nothing like the courtrooms of America. There will be no jury of  peers to empathize with you. There will be no character witnesses on your behalf. The judge won't need any such evidence, because the judge already knows the truth about what you say, what you think, and how you make yourself appear versus what you actually do. 

These are the teachings of Jesus that make people very uncomfortable. I even feel uncomfortable writing this. It causes me to want to go into prayer right now, and genuinely pray as David did in Psalms 139: "Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts: And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."


Is there anything in your life that God has prompted you to do -- or to stop doing --  that you have not taken action on yet?

What was your initial response in your heart? 

Did you respond with a “no?”

Or did you respond with a “Yes, Lord."?

Now, go past your initial response and consider how you followed through.

Where are you today in regards to that initial decision of obedience or disobedience to his prompting on your heart?

Did you initially say “no,” but then ultimately changed your heart and followed through? 

Or did the opposite occur? Did you initially say “yes, Lord!” but then failed or “forgot” to actually do it? 

What do you need to do now so that your intentions and your actions are consistent with regard to the Lord's instructions?

-portions of this post are excerpted from the personal Bible study titled Why Is There So Much Trouble in Life? 14 Days of Parables with Jesus

What is the "Gospel of God" that Jesus Taught?

Now after John [the Baptist] had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled; and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” - Mark 1: 14-15

This is the very first teaching of Jesus' public ministry that we have recorded in the book of Mark. Yet, this teaching is often overlooked. We typically skim over it and don't really think deeply about what it truly means. 

This teaching is so profound – so simple and so  life changing – yet, I personally have not heard these verses preached or taught often. 

This is the very first recorded spoken message of Jesus, and it lays the foundation for all the rest that He taught in His ministry!

The time is fulfilled; and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.”

The message is very clear....or is it? The message is short and sweet. It is direct. It states one of the most important characteristics of the spiritual world.

What characteristic is it?
Its location.

Then it states a compound command.
Repent and believe.

The message should be clear; but it isn't crystal clear – because the full meaning encompassed by the rich Greek language is difficult to translate with simplicity into English. 

Let's look at the four verbs in the teaching.

Fulfilled. - The verb used here, in the Greek, was written in the past perfect tense. This means that it has already happened. Greek scholars have written that this phrase, in its original language, suggests that something very significant has already happened – an event so significant that it might only occur once in an eon. The time that has been fulfilled is the kairos – a very special time indeed. 

At Hand. - The verb used here, enzigo, is also written in Greek in the past perfect tense. So once again, Jesus has stated that “the Kingdom of God” and it's “at handedness” has already happened. . The message was this: the Kingdom of God is already present and near. I also like the translation of "the Kingdom of God is at hand." When something is "at hand" in the past perfect tense,  it means that it has already come close enough that it is within reach.
Repent. - The Greek word metanoia is used for repent. Interestingly, metanoia does not translate to “stop sinning.” Metanoia means to change one's mind or to change one's way of thinking
Believe. - Finally, the word used here is pisteuete. Many scholars report that this word could be translated believe, or even better as to trust. So Jesus wasn't just making a suggestion. He wasn't saying “Believe what I'm telling you, if you like.” Instead, Jesus emphatically gave this proclamation: the Kingdom of God is near, and all people can trust in this good news!

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Next, lets consider Jesus' audience for this message.  This wasn't a special message given to his special disciples and for them only. He hadn't even called nor assembled his disciple group yet. This message was for everyone. He was proclaiming it to everyone who would listen. This message was for the people then. But even better, as Jesus proceeds throughout his ministry, he will later explain that this message is also for all future generations too.   He gave this message to the people on the streets in approximately 30 A.D., and he later will explain that this message is intended to give truth and hope for all generations up until "the end of the age." (Matthew 28:16-20; John 20:29)

Let's now look at the message one more time, with an attempt to capture the richness of the original language:  

A special and defining event of time has already occurred.
The Kingdom of God has drawn near. It is at hand! It is present! It is within reach!
Change your way of thinking, and trust this good news.

This is the gospel of God that Jesus taught.  It is different from the gospel of salvation that we usually focus on in church. Both gospels were given to us in the New Testament. Let's now not forget the first gospel, the gospel of God, that Jesus taught us! When you study the teachings of Jesus, you recognize that much of what he taught was about how God's kingdom operates, how the spiritual world operates, and how God's spiritual kingdom interacts with the physical earth and its people. It is beyond fascinating what was revealed through the teachings of Jesus!

The gospel of God:
Change your mind about where you think God is.
Change your mind about whatever you think about the availability of God.
God is already reigning, and He is reigning near. His Kingdom is operating now, and it is operating closely. It is operating within our reach.

Never forget this message! It is the basic foundation for a life lived in love with God!

I want to wake up each morning with a remembrance of this message.

I want to write this message on a board or a plaque and place it in the living room of my home. 

Wait, I want to write it seven times on seven different plaques and place it in every room in my home, and also in my office at work, and also in my car.

I do not want to forget – day by day – hour by hour – and even minute by minute – that I can trust that the kingdom of God is near. Know that it is near, and trust that the spiritual world of God's kingdom does indeed interact with our physical world on this earth.

Do you take time in the day to simply recognize the truth that the “Kingdom of God is near?”

God, thank you for being near. Thank you that your spirit is available to us. Thank you for being within reach.  


(Here is a preview of next week's post, which expands on this week's post. Next week we will see how  even though God is near; he isn't like an automatic guardian angel for all people, everywhere regardless of whether they are living close to Him or not. The Bible teaches us in the Old Testament, that the spirit of God searches the earth, looking for those whose hearts are turned toward Him. (2 Chronicles  16:9).  The spirit of God is available and  searches to support those who are seeking Him and desiring to be close to Him. For those readers who prefer to focus on New Testament teachings, this same Biblical truth is told there too. Here, we are told to "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." (James 4:8)  It is that verse in James that profoundly changed my spiritual journey about four years ago. It is an do this, and God does this. You seek to be near to Him; and He will be near to you.  I'll save the rest for next week's post. - Sherry)