Sharpening the Axe

 I like this :  “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my axe”   —Abraham Lincoln


I want 2012 to be a milestone of change and it starts now… here… with me “getting my house in order.” So, I am intentionally honing at the first of 2012 in a way that I trust will lead to some serious cutting away of the unnecessary in favor of a sharper, more impactful use of my future. I want to disentangle myself of the “clutter”; simplify and streamline so that I will be more available for what the Lord would direct me to do with my life. Once I get through the tediousness of reorganization I believe I will not only be freed from the space-hogging “stuff” of things and superfluous obligations, but will also free up time which I KNOW can be better spent.

How am I doing it? First, I have gone to greater lengths to seek God’s will. I am still dedicating daily time to reading God’s Word. I have been blessed by the “read through the Bible in a year” discipline for the last three years. Every single time I come to portions where I say “I don’t remember ever having read THAT before”.  I can testify that the Word of God is “living” just as  the Scripture itself testifies. It has great power for change. So I am starting year four of reading through it cover to cover on top of my other in-depth studies. After all I cannot “hide God’s Word in my heart” if I don’t read or hear it.

I further sharpen the axe, so to speak, by prayer. This one has become ever more important to me. Almost exactly a year ago, a very dear elderly woman in our church passed away. At her funeral service I was profoundly struck by the number of people that spoke of her as a prayer warrior. It was especially gripping when children and grandchildren testified to finding list upon list in her handwriting of specific prayer requests, with dates of prayer concerns and dates answered or additional updates. This prayer warrior had gone before God’s throne with concerns and praises of hundreds of people. . . she had interceded in a very actionable way… naming them specifically (whether dear family member or stranger) . The hundreds of names that this woman left behind and her children found shook my prayer life to its core. “WHY? Why Ellen, don’t YOU pray more? What impact are YOU having through prayer?”

When it comes to praying for others, my method of praying over the years has been more of a series of darts thrown heavenward. I guess because I am visual, I rely heavily on cues to remind me to pray for a certain person. My kitchen faucet is assigned to those who I continue to pray for salvation. My refrigerator door handle reminds me to pray for provision. My bathroom ( medicine cabinets) remind me to pray for those suffering physical needs. Newstime on TV… lots of prayer cues there, but also reminds me to pray for our government and public servants. When I see an emergency vehicle, traffic accident, obvious suffering, I immediately shoot off another prayer dart. I don’t mean to belittle this method of praying, but one thing it does NOT do, is it doesn’t keep an account like a prayer journal would do.

So – – – I resolved in 2012 to start a prayer journal. But that left me with the big question of HOW exactly do I DO that?!  I mean, when I was a teenage girl I started a diary (complete with lock and key to keep out nosey siblings) just as many of my friends did. However, inevitably I’d vow to write in my diary every day, and by early February I’d miss a day or two. My life just wasn’t that noteworthy. I’d feel guilty for missing my entries, then sharpen my resolve and maybe get an addition week or two of entries in a stretch. Next thing you know, I’d not have another entry for months and that one would be some special event had happened like a family 4th of July gathering or something!

Well, I’ve decided to walk as a Christian . . . by FAITH.  That faith is not in myself. No way! I am going to trust in God to give me both the direction AND the strength to achieve what HE wants me to accomplish. I know that I might fail. uh..strike the word “might”. . . I  will fail. Maybe repeatedly. However, this is NOT all about me. It’s about Jesus Christ. It’s about my wanting to be more like Him; to truly intercede for people on behalf of what has not only current ramifications for the person(s) I am praying for, but everlasting consequences. I truly ache for those who struggle through life without a Savior. I feel that ache as I visualize Jesus outside of Lazarus’ tomb and the gates of Jerusalem crying. So prayer is too important of a privilege for me to take lightly. Not that I was in any way insincere in my “prayer without ceasing” method of praying “darts” throughout my day, but I need to add something more.

I believe I need to start journaling prayer. It is not going to be easy for me, but I think of the ebenezers that were set as memorial stones of remembrance throughout the Old Testament. These were lasting testimonies to what God had done! So I have consulted a few friends to ask for ANY suggestions on HOW they prayer journal. Any advise at all is welcome. I know it is not a one method fits all proposition. I am handicapped in not having a step by step instruction method before me on this one. However, I believe that I must purpose to do this for the benefit of being able to look back on those lists, all the names, all the prayers and answers to prayers, listing the many praiseworthy “only by God’s grace” occurrences that people explain as miracles, etc.  I think that perhaps this will be a wonderful tool to remind me of God’s active involvement in our lives.

In regard to prayer. . . the very beginning of 2012 has brought to me a new spiritual discipline as our church has encouraged people to engage in prayer in fasting during the first 40 days of 2012. Not that I have never, ever fasted before. But this time I planned ahead; I took time to prepare for the time of fasting and prayer. All the other times were more like emotionally entering a short time of fasting contemporaneously. This time; like my determination of being more intentional in all the areas of my life, I am taking the time to grab up the axe of action and not just start chopping, but to take the time to grind that axe to a very sharp edge by using the Lord’s honing stone to sharpen me “before” I can be used more effectively.  “Grind on Master . . . I know there is some shiny metal under all of this rust and if anyone can get to it, You can!” In the meantime I would much appreciate your prayers as I press myself against the grinding stone that will reshape my future. Likewise, if you have ANY comments about how you handle this area of spiritual development I would be very grateful if you shared them with me.