Surprised by Prayer: Some Stories and Thoughts for the Season, with Melissa Matthews

18 Dec Surprised by Prayer: Some Stories and Thoughts for the Season, with Melissa Matthews

Today I finally get to have my bride, Melissa Johnson Matthews, joining me on this episode of Dream Think Do. How cool is that? Plus not only am I joined by my favorite person on the planet but I get to discuss one of my favorite subjects on the planet.  That is prayer.

That’s right, we’re going after prayer. The subject of prayer and the reason for that is I think fourfold.

I came up with four different reasons so get ready.

Reason one, we’ve had a number of awesome guests on this year talking about meditation and how that plays into their lives and how that’s helped them. I’ve mentioned on several occasions that I enjoy and absolutely appreciate meditation and at the same time, I pray. I think meditation is complementary to prayer but at the same time different than prayer. Many of you have picked up on that and started to ask questions.

You’ve asked how prayer plays into my life. When do I pray? How do I do it? What does it look like for me? You want to talk about it and I love that.

So I’m going to answer some of your questions, and we’ll be talking with Melissa too.

She’s incredibly wise. Prayer is near and dear to her heart too and she teaches on this subject a lot. She teaches classes on prayer as well as she heads up a program called Alpha at our church. It’s an international program. It’s kind of a Faith:101 class and prayer is a big part of it.

When I think about prayer, I think about Melissa so I wanted to have her on to join me in this conversation.

Listen To The Podcast:

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INTERVIEW:

Melissa, welcome, finally to DREAM THINK DO.

Well, thank you. It’s really good to be here. Hey, DREAM THINK DO family, it’s good to meet you finally.

No joke, holy cow, like you’ve been a part of the family forever, you’ve helped to make all of this happened but now you finally get to be on the microphone.

Yes, dangerous spot people, dangerous.

Right and… everybody.. put a seatbelt on and get ready for Mrs. Matthews, this is going to be fun.

We’ve been married 26 years.

Yes, I believe so, if our math is correct, we’ve been married for 26 years.

Which is just amazing. Yeah, it’s pretty crazy and you haven’t aged at all.

Right. Thanks, honey.

Ok. So prayer is a big part of our lives. You teach on it, so before we start to dive into this, what should we speak to before we dive into this subject of prayer?

Well, I love talking about prayer. I could talk about prayer all day long and so, we may end up doing this a little longer than your normal podcast, but one of the things that we have to acknowledge before we start talking about this is that you and I will be coming from a Christian perspective. There are all kinds of prayer in the world. All religions of course and most cultures have a form of prayer in some way. It’s important to honor the fact that every religion is going to pray differently.

That’s the first step that we need to acknowledge. So you and I will be coming from a Christian perspective. That’s important because the things that we talk about are unique to a Christian perspective and to honor those other religions, I can’t speak to exactly what prayer means for them but prayer is such an interesting topic because like I said most people around the world pray and prayer looks different for every person. There are some folks that are more comfortable with a formula or more of a written or a ritual kind of prayer. Some people like to go as I like to say, kind of free-wheeling and four-wheeling, right? They experience it and they say it or they think it.

Prayer can take many forms and I am happy to just answer any of the questions that your listeners had or dig into whatever you’d like.

Great. The thing about DREAM THINK DO that’s been one of my favorite aspects is we’ve had so many different people on. We celebrate so many different vantage points, so many different perspectives on life. A lot of different faith backgrounds and all of that. It’s fun to get to speak from our faith background, and my hope is that you will find something useful in it whatever your background.

We’re always interested in learning from each other so I’m hoping you stick around but also, if you’ve ever been just curious, straight up curious about faith or prayer specifically, I’m hoping this episode is for you and especially for those that have submitted some questions. Man, we’ve gotten some awesome questions.

Melissa, when you think about prayer, how do you think about it? How would you define it?

That’s a good question. Prayer ultimately at the end of the day is just a conversation with God. It is an opportunity for you to build a relationship with Him. If you look at God and you look at who He is and how He is wired, then you come to understand that He longs to talk with us. He longs to be in a relationship with us. We see that in the very beginning of the Bible. I believe the Bible is true and the inspired word of God and so when I look at the Bible, I see from the very beginning, the very book of Genesis that God is wanting and desiring to be in a relationship with us. Prayer is a relationship, that’s all it is. It’s a very foundation of our relationship with God.

I’m reminded of like, as a married couple, if we only talked once a year, we wouldn’t have much of a relationship. But because we talk every day, multiple times a day and we connect over things and we disagree over things, then we have a relationship and it’s beautiful and it’s different than anybody else’s relationship in the world. That’s kind of the way it is with God too. Some people might think that that’s overly simplistic but if you look at the stories in the Bible, if you look at people who are vibrant and they’re healthy in their relationships with others and with God, you will see that it’s literally conversations on a regular basis with God.

Yup and that can look a lot of different ways but it is, it’s just continuing to build that relationship with God. There are so many different bible stories, biblical stories to speak to that. One of my absolute favorites is when the father brings his daughter to Jesus and she’s been having seizures and they don’t say what kind of seizures they are but it sounds like either she’s been hurt by like falling into the fire.

I mean as a dad, I can’t even fathom this. It would just be horrible, especially in that day and age where there’s just no way for me to help her.

This father brings his daughter to Jesus and asked Him to heal her, right? He’s heard about Jesus, healing people and he comes and says, “Would you please heal my daughter?” Jesus says, “Do you believe? Do you believe that I can heal her?” And the father says, “I do but help me with my unbelief.” What I love is that Jesus doesn’t ask how much he believes. “Are you 90% sure, are you 70% sure?” It’s just like, “I can work with that.”  

He doesn’t say, “Are you just 1%, do you just have 1% faith?”

It’s like he says, “I can work with that,” and I love that because then, Jesus heals the man’s daughter.

When I first started to pray, there was a component where I wondered, “Am I getting this right? If it’s a sequence that I have to have in a specific order or are there specific words, do I have this right?”

Right, is there like a secret formula that I should follow in?

I used to think about prayer like that and that story helped me to know God isn’t asking me to get it 70% or 80% or 90% right.

I know for me when I pray, there are days where I’m fired up and I’m feeling solid and I’m excited and I feel like, I’m right there with God, like getting to connect and all of that and then there are other days where I feel like I’m at 1% or less and I think still I just get that sense of God. I think we can over-complicate it but it is truly just that ongoing relationship and maintaining that relationship.

Some people have that awareness like if God is truly omnipotent – knows all and He is everywhere at once – then why do we need to talk with Him? He knows everything is going in our lives why do we need to talk with Him? So I love the analogy that you used on that front, for that ongoing conversation.

Yeah. That’s such a good question. It’s a real question. Why do I have to bring everything to God? Should I bring everything to God? Does God really care about all the details in my life? When I was wrestling with those questions initially, I likened it to our boys being in school. Our teachers did a great job and our school system did a great job of always keeping us informed as parents. I always knew when they were going on a field trip, I knew when they were going to have a math test. I know what they’re having for lunch, all these things that are going on.

I knew what their days would look like, but my favorite thing on the planet was listening to them and hearing their day through their voices, every day. I knew that they had slimy green hotdogs for lunch, right? I wanted to hear about the slimy green hotdogs for lunch. Now, I’m sure they didn’t have a slimy green hotdog but they’re boys, they may be made it up a little bit.

I wanted to hear all of that and it’s the same with God. If He loves us the way He says He does, then why wouldn’t he want to hear from us on everything. What is the stuff that we’re grumbling about? The stuff that we’re sad about? The stuff that makes us happy, the stuff that overwhelms us, all of it. He wants all of it. His shoulders are really big. It’s like how I used to tell the boys. “You know what, you can tell me everything guys because mom’s shoulders are really big. I can handle all the stuff that you got going on and I want to be in all those details with you.” I know that you’re the same way as a dad. I want to be in those details with them. Not only does it bless me but if I can walk alongside them if I can talk with them if I can encourage them, if I can help them to see things differently or if I just can listen because sometimes you just need somebody to listen. That’s what I want to do as a parent and that’s the way God’s heart is for all of us too.

Yeah, absolutely. It’s so true. It takes a little bit for that to sink in, I think and I know for us, we both grew up in Christian homes but that meant different things in some ways. We both were introduced to prayer at different times in our life, and then as we got married, we got to explore that together and really at a season where we didn’t go to church for a long time, right?

For sure, don’t tell my mom. Don’t tell my mom.

Exactly, exactly. I think that can be a common experience for a lot of people but for us, we had this pivotal experience. I spoke to it a little bit in the introduction. It was, I don’t know what you call it, a wake-up call. It was a Christmas Eve, we got a phone call. I got a phone call because you were at work, right? You were managing a Pier 1 in Billings, Montana and it was Christmas Eve, right? I mean, it was truly hallmark movie, Christmas movie kind of moment. I remember, it specifically was snowing outside. You were in Santa’s Workshop basically at Pier 1.

I’m at home getting things ready, doing I think a little bit of work, all that stuff and I get a phone call from your doctor. It was I think singularly, the worst phone call, I probably ever had because we’ve gotten close to this doctor. You’d had some tests, some weird stuff was going on and so she was calling to follow up with that and she called and as she was relaying this news, she was crying which I knew immediately was bad news. She felt so terrible that she was having to relay this on Christmas Eve but because of what was happening, she had to let us know very quickly.

We got the phone call that Melissa had cancer, which is horrible and our doctor who became a very close friend through all of this, let us know that we couldn’t wait like we had to start taking action immediately because the cancer was moving so quickly. I remember putting down the phone and just trying to figure things out like I literally … I prayed some growing up but there are just those moments sometimes in your life and this was literally, I dropped my knees. It was like my body … that was just my body’s reaction, I think in some ways just … I couldn’t do anything else.

I just prayed and it was ugly prayer like God, why her, why now, why us, what can I do, what could you do, all of those things and then I had to shake that off and actually drive to Pier 1 on Christmas Eve and tell you because I mean, the doctor said we had to start working on this immediately and I know you saw me walking to the store, your staff saw me walking to the store. I mean, I don’t know if you remember that.

I do. I do. You did not look yourself, that’s for sure. I knew that something was definitely up and in that moment, you just sort of respond as best you can, right, with your body and your mind and I just remember thinking, “Oh my gosh. Okay. Well, this is surprising news on Christmas Eve.”

Right.

It was devastating and hard and at the same time, I knew that we would get through it together. But it was rough, it was really rough and it really wasn’t until about 24 hours in when I was lying in bed, just really pondering all of this. I think for those of you who are cancer survivors or dealing with cancer right now, you might understand this but sometimes your biggest concern is the people that you love. That was my concern and caring for you and loving you through this very difficult thing and I remember lying in bed and I hadn’t had a conversation with God in years.

I grew up in a Christian home as you said but the Christian prayers that I prayed mostly when I was a kid were more like the prayers at lunch and prayers at dinner and the prayer that you say before you go to bed. I hadn’t had a real conversation with God in a long time. I just remember lying in bed and it was not pretty, it was not eloquent which is never required when you’re talking with God. You don’t have to be perfect to come to Him. I just simply said, “Lord, I just want a little Mitch,” and I cried and I thought this is not how I wanted this to go and this is not okay and I’m sad about this.

I just want a little Mitch and then all sorts of crazy stuff just started happening that are pretty unexplainable and I don’t remember a lot of the details. You’re better at remembering those details than I am.

Right, I mean, by that time we’d have numerous conversations with the doctor. Basically, we knew that the course of actions was going to basically remove your ability to have children. I know, you were worried about me. I, of course, was worried about you and I just thought we should do what we need to do to keep you safe, to get you safe, to get you healed and all of those things. Honestly, prayer was like last ditch. It wasn’t my go-to.  

We’ve done research, things like that and then it’s like, “Oh gosh, I supposed I should pray.” We started praying and then we reached out to family and my parents, your parents, my brother’s family, and their churches and everybody just started to ask their friends to pray. We’ve never done that before but again, we were kind of moved to do that and very quickly, a number of things started to happen. Things were progressing so quickly that we needed to move on to the surgery.

Basically, we had to find a surgeon in a major city because it was a super specialized procedure. We got basically the best specialist, probably top three in the country and we shouldn’t have been able to get into this guy, but we got into this guy in Salt Lake City, which was a miracle in and of itself. But then we had, what we now call our Six Miracle Day in January of that year. So we were scheduled to get you to Salt Lake to have this surgery, and a part of that surgery was going to just remove your ability to have kids.

Again, we thought, whatever it takes to make this happen. We’ve been praying, a lot of people have been praying. I didn’t even know to ask for a miracle. We just said, “God, do what you can do and all of those things and felt this piece. That was one of the things. I think it’s not one of the miracles necessarily we consider but in amidst of these times, we would still have these moments with peace that I think can only be explained as God-given moments of peace.

I totally agree with that.

The Six Miracle Day, let’s just walk through the six miracles, it’s kind of fun. We’re flying to Salt Lake City and we get to the Billings Airport, I’ll never forget this, miracle one, we get to the Billings Airport. We get up to our gate and we’re there early because we’re flying and I’m a nerd that way, and they make this announcement. I fly all the time. This is the only time in my life this has happened. They make this announcement probably about an hour and 15 minutes before we’re supposed to leave and they say hey, guys. Just want to let you know small plane and everybody is checked in so we’re going to go ahead and take off.

Our plane left about an hour and five minutes before we were supposed to leave which is crazy. Again, I never have that happened in my life. We wind up landing in Salt Lake. We made good time, land in Salt Lake and we land before we’re even supposed to take off from Billings, which is crazy. That’s miracle one. Miracle two, I think we could put it in the miracle category or just say Enterprise has amazing customer service, but we go and we get our rental car from Enterprise and literally, we walked from our plane, we got our bags with us, all that stuff. We walked from our plane and we are in a rental car in all of about seven minutes.

It was crazy how fast it happened. It made our head spin a little bit and we packed light. I mean, you basically, depending on the surgery was going to go, we were going to be there either a week or a month.

Yup. We packed light because I was going to be in the hospital room with you the whole time.

This was how long ago this was: we were literally carrying all my films and all the x-rays and everything that the doctor needed on the flight, which is unheard of today so that tells you how long ago this was.

Yeah, so we’re sitting in this rental car before we’re even supposed to really have taken off from Billings. Looking back on it now and I would put this in the category of a nudge from God, from the Holy Spirit but I get this nudge and I kind of classified it as just being a nerd and kind of uptight sometimes or whatever. I say, “Hey, how about we take all of your stuff to the doctor’s office today?” We weren’t supposed to go until tomorrow, the next day and that was just going to be a 10-minute or so pre-op visit and then the surgery was going to be on Friday.

This is Wednesday. We’re supposed to have an appointment Thursday, surgery on Friday. Mel, you were just like, “Okay, let’s do it.” I knew this doctor’s office was in a labyrinth of a medical community. We’ve never been there before all that stuff and this was this guy that’s like internationally known and respected, top three, top tier guy, all that stuff. Super difficult to get into and so we’re just expecting that we’re going to walk and find the office and drop this stuff off. Miracle three happens when we get there. We arrived, we have this stack of stuff that we’re bringing with … medical reports, tests, x-ray, all the stuff.

Once the receptionist realizes who we are, she’s like, “Oh my gosh, something just happened, it never happens but we just had a cancellation. Would you want to see the doctor today?” I don’t know if you remember this but she said, “Then you could just like do tourist stuff tomorrow.”

Yes, I do remember that, which I’m thinking, are you kidding me? I’m about to have surgery, major surgery. I don’t want to hang out.

Exactly. So that’s miracle three because we shouldn’t have been able to see him at all, let alone get in to see him early and all of that.

Right, right.

Part of it was because of when we got there and because of the plane and because of the car, so we sit for a little bit and then they take us back and so we’re seeing this doctor who is an oncologist and gynecologist. Very, very specialized in what he does but Mel has been through the ringer by this point so we get into the little exam room and I jokingly sit on the exam table and Mel sits down on one of the chairs on the side and this doctor comes blasting in, Dr. Johnson, comes blasting in and he takes one look at me, he can’t see Mel because she’s kind of behind the door.

He looks at me on the exam table, and again, he’s an oncologist, gynecologist and he stops, called me and says, “Wait, we don’t work on weenies here,” so I’m not putting that in a miracle category but he was hilarious and we loved him. I just immediately loved this guy. We hadn’t even been able to talk with them. Our doctor talked with him, we didn’t know what to expect, whether he was going to be a jerk or whatever but immediately just warm and welcoming and kind and turned and saw Mel and just kind of loved us and literally this is supposed to be a 10 minute conversation, talk with us about what’s going to happen with the surgery.

So miracle number four is he stopped and he sat down and he talked with us and then he said, “Hey, are you open to some more tests?” He’s like, he looked at Mel and said, “I know you’re exhausted but are you open to just a few more tests. I just get the sense and I’m supposed to do some more test.” I know Mel, I think your heart was kind of broken. You’d felt like a laboratory animal at that point, you’ve been poked and prodded. But you were like, “Okay, yeah, absolutely,” and so he started this process of another round of test which by all intents and purposes, we didn’t need but he decided to do it which I think was also a gift from God.

A gamut of tests, the whole thing. He would come back in from time to time poke his head in and then, at one point he finally stuck his head back in and said, “Hey, I’m going to have the nurse get you ready. I want you to meet me in my office.” Then, he zooms right back out and Mel and I are like, “Oh, boy.” We’re thinking, this could either be really good or really bad news. We don’t know what to think but they take us back and we’re sitting there, not sure what to expect and then he walks into this office and sits down on this other side of this huge desk, I’ll never forget. This doctor is a great guy but he was tiny.

He reminded me of Kermit which is terrible to say but he reminded of Kermit, he’s sitting on the other side of the desk. I probably shouldn’t say that but anyway, I’m just thinking, this is so surreal right and he’s talking with us about us. He’s like, “Listen, it just seems like you guys want to have kids.” And I thought at that time I remember thinking to myself, that is the cruelest question that he could ask because of course we wanted to have kids and we’d started to kind of get reconciled with this idea that we wouldn’t. We’d even started to look at adoption and things like that and I’m trying to understand what he’s saying.

I’m watching Mel and she’s starting to smile so I’m like, okay, something is up and he says, “So I want to let you guys know there’s a miracle that’s happened.” And he starts to explain it and that’s miracle five. He said, “Hey, listen there’s been a regression in your cancer and there’s no way to explain it other than a miracle. It doesn’t make sense. I can show you the stuff that we did a week ago, two weeks ago. There’s been a regression. Now, it’s not gone but it’s regressed, and what that does is that allows to do one procedure that wasn’t an option before.”

By this time, my brain is starting to engage and spark and I can tell Mel is nodding and I’m like, “Okay, this is good. Whatever he’s saying, this is good.” Then he goes on to explain, he said listen, “I wouldn’t do the procedure.” He’s like, “but my business partner, another doctor in the practice is the best at this in the country.” He said, “You’ve got to understand that he’s actually leaving for a trip for Russia tomorrow. I caught him just as he was leaving the office and I explained to him your case. I showed him the results and he has agreed to do this surgery today,” and because they’re the best of the best, they had their own surgical suite right there.

He said, “We’re prepping the suite right now and if you guys agreed to this, we’ll do the procedure. My business partner is going to do this procedure. I’ll scrub in with him. We’ll do this procedure, if it takes, you’re going to be cancer free. If it doesn’t, we’ll get you back here, we’ll do surgery, we were going to do.” Again, my brain is just trying to grasp this thing but basically, he’s explaining to us that if his business partner was gone, and he was leaving for Russia, the next day for a month long trip, this wouldn’t be an option either, so it’s the regression of the cancer but also the fact that his business partner was there.

This partner was there, allowed for this to happen and so then the sixth miracle was that they went and did that procedure and what’s absolutely amazing is they were able to get all of the cancer and they sent us home within days. We were able to go home … Mel is able to go home within days, as opposed to weeks or months or whatever they were expecting and was also incredible as we were pregnant with Ben within …

A month.

A month, good Lord, we got on that. Sorry but here’s the thing, with that, it’s absolutely incredible because God pulled off six miracles. However you want to figure those things up and I think in some ways, God can do everything, anything, all things, right but he chose to do a miracle, at least in this case through a number of different ways. He pulled off miracles through travel. He pulled off medical miracles from the standpoint of regressing the cancer but also, work through those doctors, through these positions, through the surgeons to pull up a miracle as well and for me, it was just one of those, where it’s like, he’s wanting to go those lengths.

This is how good a storyteller God is, is that later on, about a month later, it started to set in. The name of the doctor that acknowledged Mel, that took the time to do the study or the extra test and things like that, his name is the same name as Mel’s dad’s name. It was Gary Johnson, Dr. Gary Johnson and it struck me about a month later, when I was praying through all of this and the reason why it really struck me was that, I was actually reading through the Lord’s Prayer.

I was reading through that in the Bible and I was reading through this little commentary about the words that Jesus used specifically: “Our Father who is in heaven,” right? Father is a very formal term but if you really look at the words that Jesus used, Jesus said Abba, Abba, Father, which is incredibly intimate. When you look at the words that Jesus is using in the language He was speaking, that is one of the most intimate words. It’s like, it’s almost more intimate than daddy, right?

He was saying when you talk to your Father, call him daddy. He is that close to you. He wants to be that close to you. I look back on all those miracles and one of my favorites is that God would do it in a way where we would be reminded that daddy did it, right? That God took care of us and took care of Mel and it’s absolutely amazing and just this huge reminder of the lengths and what God will do for us. I’ll say, we have that story and then you’d think we’d be able to run through brick walls but I could tell you, even though we have that story and we’re reminded of it, we celebrate it this time of year, every year.

There are still times where we can have doubts, and there are definitely times where we’ve prayed and haven’t got the exact results that we hoped or that they came out differently or we prayed for people and there wasn’t the healing that we thought or those kinds of things but we can certainly talk about all those things too. I can tell you that that was one of those wake-up calls for me to say, “Okay, this is a God who wants to talk with me and wants us to know … us at that level, that intimate level as daddy. Yeah, that was a true wake up call, I think for both of us.

It was and I will tell you, we didn’t talk to God perfectly because there’s number one, no perfect to talk to God, just being real. I mean honestly, as I said before, I prayed that prayer, Lord, I just want a little Mitch and by the way, if you look at our children, they look exactly like Mitch, both of them. Be careful what you pray for, is that what that means?

There’s something to that too, yeah.

The thing is, you don’t have to be perfect coming to Him. You can bring anything to Him. The Bible talks about how, we sometimes don’t have words for the things that we’re encountering and that holy spirit is there and available and uses our size and our groans and the things that maybe we don’t even have words for and takes them to God on our behalf because sometimes we just don’t even know what to ask or how to respond and so if you’re in that space, and all you can muster is a sigh because there were moments during this whole process that all I could really muster was a sigh or a heavy heart, that’s enough sometimes. Words aren’t always required but if you want to use words when you pray, He likes that too.

He loves that too but it doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s interesting once we encountered this situation with my cancer and as it turns out, I’ve been cancer free now for over 20 years which is phenomenal. We started to delve back into this whole prayer thing and this church thing. Once we were pregnant and then also had Ben and we had some really rocky experiences with prayer and in general, it was an interesting season because I did not pray out loud. It was not something that was comfortable for me. In fact, the very fact that you and I are having this conversation about the prayer and the fact that I each about prayer is just the funniest thing to me, some days when I really think about it.

It was not something that was comfortable for me. I mean, I am Norwegian, German, French heritage with a little bit of Irish thrown in there, right? This is not a heritage that is super excited about expressing feelings and/or emotions, let’s just say.

Right, right.

The fact that speaking and talking prayer, because prayer can be a very intimate thing as well. It can be a very intimate expression and so, we were at a small group gathering at a church and we were going around if I could just tell this story quick. We’re going around the room and everybody else had these beautiful eloquent prayers and they were saying these things that sounded perfect like literally, angels were speaking in the room, right? People were quoting scriptures which is great and they were saying things that were very eloquent and it came to me in my turn and I just … I clammed up, I didn’t have words.

I wasn’t comfortable praying in front of people and I felt embarrassed by that and I felt shamed by that. Not that they necessarily did that but it was just my response. Coming out of that, I decided that I wasn’t going to pray out loud in front of people, ever again.

We drove home and it was like, that’s it.

Yup, not doing that again. Check that off the list. It really wasn’t until a few years later when we moved to Chicago and ended up in this beautiful church in Chicago that all of that kind of got healed up a little bit. I was in a group of women that number none, I’ve never been in a women’s group before and this one was especially healthy, so they taught me how to pray and how it’s about a relationship and so, from that point on, it’s been just this journey, but I think that it’s really important for everybody to know that just because I’m sitting here talking about this, doesn’t mean I have it all figured out.

I just spend a lot of time practicing and that’s why I might have a little bit more hours and then somebody else, and I might have smart thoughts on these things. Yeah, prayer is important and it brings something to the table that most people are looking for. God talks about in the Bible how there are rewards for prayer, that it will bring peace, it will bring joy, it will bring relationship and so if you’re looking for those things, prayer is a way to go and to explore.

Yeah. I love it. I know, for us, your cancer experience was a bit of a wake-up about our faith and to actually go to God and then I think what’s been amazing ever since is to realize that God actually wants to be a part of every part of our life and not just wait for those big moments. Of course, he wants to help us navigate those big things, the big challenges, the big breakthroughs, all those things but He wants to be in the details of it too.

Those eloquent prayers are wonderful, but that’s not what God is waiting for, from us on that. I love it. Well, man, there’s just so many good questions that got submitted. I want to go after some of these if you’re okay with that.

Yeah, I love it.

Mike Franz had sent one. He asks, “Has it ever been hard praying out loud,” what you just kind of spoke to but he said, “For me, I sometimes forget what I’m saying or I tend to shy away from praying out loud. It’s something that I’m working on. What are your thoughts or insights to make it easier?”

Yeah, great question. Prayer doesn’t have to be anything complex. It’s literally a conversation with God and so sometimes, we only have a few words and it can be “thank you,” or “help.” There have been plenty of moments in my life, where I’m like, “Oh Lord, help. Oh Lord help.” As far as trying to remember what you’re praying for or focusing, there are different strategies on that. You can certainly write things down and go through the list as you’re praying. You can do ABC prayers. This is my 96-year-old grandma’s prayer trick. She literally prays the alphabet every night with everybody’s names in the family so as she’s praying, so our son Alex always gets extra prayer because he’s A.

Top billing.

I know, right? She did tell me the other day though that she sometimes does start at the back of the list.

Just to mix up. That’s amazing. That’s incredible because she’s also been having to think through the alphabet which that late at night, forget about it, right?

Right, there’s a reason that she’s so bright at 96 years old.

Yes.

There are lots of strategies but I think the most important thing that I would just encourage you on Mike is the fact that, it doesn’t have to be perfect and praying out loud takes practice but don’t worry about it. Don’t put a ton of pressure on yourself. I don’t know, what would you add to that Mitch?

I love this question, Mike, for a number of reasons. One of which was that you might be able to tell, I’m kind of an intense personality. Oftentimes, I will go after something. If I really want to dig into it, I’ll get super passionate and fired up. I tried to do that with prayer and I was doing it mostly from what I think I’ve heard about prayer. I remember thinking that if I was going to get serious about this prayer thing, it seems like super spiritual people get up super early and they pray early in the morning.

And I’d get extra credit if I prayed on my knees. I remember getting up super early like 4 AM to pray because I’m going to be the super spiritual prayer guy and all that and I think you found me sleeping on the floor at about 6:30 that morning which is awesome.

Sometimes I do still get on my knees to pray but it’s not as a super spiritual thing and just us … but I will say, Mike, I love to pray in the morning. I try to pray throughout the day and prayer sometimes means being quiet and closing your eyes and just being in that space. Sometimes prayer for me is journaling and I love to journal my prayers especially early in the morning because my thoughts might be all over the place. I found that journaling it out can really help me to kind of just stay on track and to keep focused and it’s still a conversation.

It’s almost a letter to God. Each page of my journal is almost a letter to God in the morning, especially if it’s that part of my journal and I’m just saying, thank you, God. I often will start with thank you God for yesterday and I’ll list off a few things, big or small. There’s a Bible verse in Philippians 4 that says, don’t worry about anything, don’t be anxious for anything, Paul writes it and he writes it from a prison cell for crying out loud, if anybody had the right to be worried it was Paul.

He writes, “Don’t worry about anything,” and what I love about it is he didn’t say don’t worry about it and then try to forget about everything. He actually gives us a strategy for not worrying, because he goes on and says, basically instead, think about what is beautiful, what is right, what is lovely, what is worthy of praise. I think that is a great strategy, especially if any of you are like me that are little prone to worry. It’s a strategy to be able to list those things that you’re grateful for.

List those things that you see God doing or the good stuff that’s happening in your life. Some of those things that you’re concerned about. Things that are going to go on in your day. I’ll even get specific and say, sometimes if I’m giving a talk that day. My prayer would be, “Lord, let the right people be in the room and let them hear what you want them to hear. Let them hear those stories that will bolster them. Help them to hear the things they need to hear so that they can be more of who it is you created them to be.”

Sometimes it’s pushing through and praying out loud, and one of the best ways to do that is – Mel spoke to that earlier – is to find a small group of people or one or two people that are a safe place for you and just pray out loud together. Mel prays in amazing ways and now, she does it in front of large groups of people and people are blessed by it big time but it didn’t start there. It started by that one small group of friends in Chicago that helped her to become more confident and that grew from there. That’s a great, great place to start.

I would say one more thing, there is one other way that if you just want a little bit more of a roadmap or are comfortable with writing your prayer out into what we call a scripted prayer. It used to be, every day, when I drove the boys to school or right before they went to school, I would pray the same prayer with them, every day before school.  

It is something that boys can probably recite as well and they heard it every morning but the important thing to know about a scripted prayer or a prayer that maybe you read or is written and you revisit over and over again is sometimes those are some of the most beautiful prayers and as long as a prayer is heartfelt and is real and you’re not just going through the motions, it’s okay. You can have a scripted prayer. You can use the same prayer over and over again. As long as it’s a genuine conversation with God because He’s really great with that. I just wanted to throw that in there as well. If that is a way for him to address that, those issues then that would be a good way to deal with it.

I love it. All right, so we’re going to try to go after some of these quickly.

Is this going to be like a speed round?

I don’t know, maybe but Josh asked a question, “I love this, I’m glad you guys are going after this subject. My question would be, when do you know that it’s time to stop praying and start acting?” I love this question, especially as an entrepreneur because this one is near and dear to my heart. I used to think that those were separated. God moved in your case with cancer, right? I knew God moved in a medical situation. I could almost expect medical miracles and I’ve seen many, many more. We’ve seen all sorts of healings happen through God…

The bible talks about physical healing and a lot so that would be fun.

Exactly, right. Physical healing, all that and we’ve seen relational healing but for some reason, for the longest time, I used to think that in the business world, like there was some invisible line where God walks up to that line and goes, “I don’t go over there, right, good luck over there.” And I realize that could not be further from the case. In fact, when I really started to look back on this, I realized that Jesus’ first miracle was a marketplace miracle.

If you’ve ever done the math, his first documented miracle was water into wine. I remember digging out on this once and I figured out based on what those basin sizes were and cost of good wine because it said it was a really good wine. I mean, the cost of that wine, the value of that wine could be anywhere between 30 and about $50,000, right? Holy cats, that’s a business marketplace miracle. I love that. I used to think that basically, the way prayer worked was I would pray in the morning, pray about my day, pray for blessings over, you guys over my family, over my friends, over relations and pray a blessing over our business, interactions I was going to have during the day.

Then, I would move on and then say, “Okay, God, I’ll talk to you tonight.” It’s like I’m leaving the house now and then I’ll come back and then we’ll talk about what happened tonight. Philippians 4, invites us to pray without ceasing and that is a theme throughout the Bible. If you’ll look at Joshua and the first chapter of Joshua, God is leading them to the Promised Land and God says, three different times, “Be bold and courageous.”

As Joshua is ready to take the biggest step of his life and go into the Promised Land, God is saying be bold and courageous which means … you don’t tell somebody to be bold and courageous if they’re already bold and courageous. He only tells them to be bold and courageous if they’re not, right? He says be bold and courageous but he doesn’t say be bold and courageous because you’re talented. He doesn’t say be bold and courageous because I trained you up as a leader. He doesn’t say be bold and courageous because you’re well-funded and you’re good to go. He says be bold and courageous because I’m with you.

I’m with you and that is a promise that He has given all of us. Josh, my encouragement to you would be that yes, pray and yes, act, take action as led but also know that you can be praying all the time and prayer doesn’t always mean hands clasped, eye shut quietly in a corner. I mean, that could definitely be powerful but I know for me a lot of my prayers are eyes wide open in my heart or under my breath or as I’m driving. Well, I have great conversations with God while I’m driving.

Josh, my encouragement would be to say this is a both/and situation. Prayer and action are not mutually exclusive. Know that God is with you. God is with you all the time so be talking with Him all the time.

Well, I just would agree with you and it goes back to the relationship thing, right? You and I are in relationship and we talk every morning and we talk every night but there will be multiple times during the day where I think of you or I think about our children or I think about our family’s different situations and so I will just throw up a little prayer for you in that way. Lord, I know he’s got a meeting today, could you be with him. Those kinds of things. That’s the relationship part of this, is that it’s not … you and I are in a relationship so I think about you and I talk to you multiple times a day.

And you are right. It doesn’t mean you have to be on your knees praying and talking with Him. You can just … I mean, how many times a day do I say, “All right, Lord, I’m about to write an email, could you just guide my words?” You don’t have to say a prayer out loud. You can but you don’t have to say a prayer out loud.

Yup. I love it. Man, there are just so many … so many great, great questions. Amanda asked, this is one, I know you’ve got some thoughts on Mel. She says, “I’d love to hear the best way to go about praying for lots of people. My list is super long and it can feel overwhelming on how much there is to pray for.” Any thoughts on that one?

Well, I do. Well, of course, I just gave you my grandma’s secret sauce of the A to Z prayer, right so if there’s specific people or situations. Here’s the deal Amanda and I just want to give you permission to not feel like it is all your responsibility. God is generous and he sees all the things that are going on and so if all you have space and all you have the energy for is, “Oh Lord. I lift up all the people that I love and Lord I ask that your kingdom come and you will be done in their lives.” Sometimes that is all that is required. Now, if you want to specifically, think about and pray for each one of these people, I get that because you love them.

I also want you to know that God is really big and He knows your thoughts and He knows your heart and He knows the situations of everybody. You don’t have to be overwhelmed because when you’re overwhelmed, that means that you’re probably taking on more than you actually have to. I would just challenge you to ask God and to talk with God about that, about whether you need to let go of some of that and let Him be God.

I love it. That’s awesome. I can’t add anything to that.

I think it’s a pretty common question because we do get overwhelmed, because we love people and we’re burdened by situations and we’re concerned and let’s face it, we live in a world that’s not perfect and so we count our stuff and our hearts hurt and so yeah, lifting all these things up to God and sometimes it takes a lot of energy.

Right. That’s I mean, a credit to you guys. Amanda, you because I know you pray for a lot of people and that’s a part of your prayer without ceasing too because as people come to mind, you’ll pray. I love how you do that. I try to do that too but I don’t know that I do it as much as you do.

Can I give you just a prayer term that sometimes when … because lots of people come to mind when you’re praying for people, then you may be what we call an intercessor, just a person who prays for people and brings people to God. That’s a beautiful gift because think about this, some people may never get prayed for except for you praying for them. That’s pretty cool to think about and so that might be one of your spiritual gifts too. I’d be happy to unpack some of that with you, Amanda, offline too.

That’s awesome. I love it. All right, so there’s probably about 10 more questions so we’ll have to do another episode on this sometime. We’ve got time for one more question, and it’s from Jeremy. He said, “Some God things have been happening lately that I think have caused me to be overly sensitive to possible nudges from God. How do I know that it’s a God thing? I’m not talking about big things necessarily but things like getting a sense to go talk to a stranger about something.” I love that, so let’s break that down in nudges and then how do we know it’s God. Any thoughts on that?

Sure a nudge is just sort of like a prompting, some traditions would call it a burden for something. There’s just sort of like this little sense that you kind of have an idea that you should maybe do something. Maybe you should go talk to a person or maybe you should drive down a certain street or maybe you should pick up a book. This happened to be a few weeks ago where I was walking by a bookshelf in a store and I just kind of got a nudge that I should pick up one of those books that’s on the shelf. As it turns out, it was exactly what somebody needed about a week ago and I just happen to have it on my desk and I gave it to them.

That’s what I would call a nudge. Is that God? I would say it is and I believe that God wanted to bless that person and so I ended up picking up that book for them. That’s kind of what I mean by a nudge. Would you add anything to that?

Yeah, I would definitely agree and I think this is where … for some, this might be right in line with what you grew up with. For some, they hear that and that starts to make them feel uncomfortable.

I would say, it’s a little bit like a muscle. Hearing and being guided by those nudges from God, I think is a bit of a muscle. So you walked by the bookshelf saying, “I think I’m supposed to grab that book and have it with me.” There’s a story in Mark Batterson’s book The Circle Maker.

I was just reading it and I love this story where she got the nudge to take these wool socks and she put them in her purse and she wound up basically bumping into this homeless person that was in a doorway and the girl didn’t have any socks and she gave her these socks. They meant something to her, beyond keeping her feet warm. There was something even about those specific socks that made a difference. Sometimes it can be this magical thing. Sometimes it’s just going to be something super simple but just kind of work on that. Work on your ear for that and try to listen.

I would say, a part of that too for Jeremy is … and I know you’re doing that, you’re trying to listen to those nudges, trying to be guided by those nudges and walk those out and it’s that thing of … God will definitely stretch us and I will never say that God won’t call you to do something you’re afraid to do because He’s stretching us all the time. At the same time though there are ways to kind of put some boundaries up like one is … that’s one great reason to dive into the bible because hearing from God, you can hear from God through nudges but as you said earlier Mel, as you are reading the scripture, that’s one way of hearing from God.

Very much so, very much so. I mean, we have the word of God in written form, right here in front of us, right? Most of us have access to a Bible and so the best way to know what God will talk about is by reading His word and knowing what He has already talked about. What does He already say, what does He already love, what does He already know and what would He possibly have to say to me as a child of God? Reading His word will number one, introduce you to His voice and help you become familiar with His voice. But one of the things that I also want to say to people that you and I joke about all the time is that God is in a good mood.

When you read God’s word, read it as though God has a smile on his face, most of the time. There are some parts of scripture where it’s pretty rough and God is sad and his heart is sad. If you can read the word of God, you will hear what he likes to talk about and then when you know what he likes to talk about, that builds a foundation for you so that you can then hear when he’s not just reading … when you’re not just reading his word but also you’re listening through your own hearing, through your own heart, through your own experiences. God speaks in a multitude of ways. He can speak through other people in your life.

He can speak through coincidences. He can speak to you in dreams and visions. I mean those are all biblical and he wants to speak to His kids kind of like what we’ve talked about earlier. I love the story of the socks because here’s my question to someone who’s really wrestling, “Well, did I really hear from God?” Well, was that person blessed by those socks, was that a good thing? Regardless of whether or not it was God telling you to do that, that person was blessed and they felt loved. At the end of the day, that’s fantastic and that’s what we’re called to do. We’re called to love people.

We’re called to love people and so it’s really easy to get kind of wrapped around the axle. Is it God, or not God? I get it. If you’re not sure, read God’s word because that way you’ll have a sense of what He’s already talked about. I love what you said earlier, about surrounding yourself with people who care about what God says too and bounce some of those things off of them. Hey, I feel like I am hearing this from God. Do you think I’m crazy about this?

How other people have experienced God. Those are all ways that we can kind of filter the things that maybe are coming at us and here is one of the other things like the one about Jeremy’s question is that he is joy-filled.

That’s exactly right.

I love it because He’s excited about the possibility that God would speak to him, and who doesn’t love to be around someone who’s excited and wants to hear, right?

Yeah, exactly, exactly. I love it. All right well, we definitely … I think this is one of the longest episodes we had.

This is great so I love it but I do think, if you’re okay with it, I think we should wrap up this episode in a way that we’ve never done before and to actually pray.

Okay.

All right so that’s DREAM THINK DO, episode 207.

If you like this episode, leave a comment.  Let me know what stood out to you. What questions do you still have? What do you agree with? what do you disagree with? Let’s keep the conversation going.

As Mel said, we don’t do this because we know everything. We just do it because we’re passionate and we love talking with you guys about it. We love this dialogue.

We love this subject so keep the questions and keep the conversation going here or hit us up wherever we’re at on the social media.

Thank you, Melissa, for being amazing and for being on the show.

Thank you.

2 Comments
  • Carol Van Zee
    Posted at 23:09h, 21 December Reply

    Mitch,
    I was a neighbor to your family in Newton. Lisa Van Zee Hansen is my daughter, so you now have the connection. I so enjoyed reading about what you and your wife, Melissa, think about prayer. To me, it seems as tho you are still a young boy but I know you are now a young man with a lot of wisdom. God bless you as you and your wife share about your faith. The miracles you and Melissa experienced are awesome. Thanks for sharing part of your journey on FB. I think Russ was more Lisa’s age. I remember picking both of you up one day to take you to school. I remember your parents., Ron and Dee, I think. I hope they are doing well. God blessings!

    • Mitch Matthews
      Posted at 07:59h, 22 December Reply

      Thanks so much for checking in and for the kind words too! That means a lot! And yup! Lisa and Russ were in the same grade. I was a few years behind them. Thanks for being a great influence on the neighborhood and thanks again for the encouragement! All the best! – Mitch

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