Am I the only one to notice this trend of challenges? Whether it’s a 21-day no sugar challenge or a 30-day clean eating challenge or my own 30 days focusing on gratitude challenge, it seems like challenges are everywhere. I recently finished a 40-day challenge.
I purposely left what type of challenge it was out of the title. I wanted to draw readers in before they said, “Whatever.”
It’s based around the book DRAW THE CIRCLE by Mark Batterson, and I was skeptical about it at first.
After all, forty days seemed to echo Lent to me. And I’m neither Catholic nor Protestant, so I’m always leery of investing in “programs” designed by these mega groups.
But it was a prayer challenge, so I suppose those large religious groups might have a bit of expertise in that area. Or they should.
Why This Challenge?
I kept a prayer journal for several years, but about two years ago, I went through something difficult. It seemed like every prayer got a big negative answer from the Lord.
It discouraged me. I didn’t feel like praying to a God who wouldn’t honor my “promise prayers.” Yes, I was praying prmosies and verses and asking the Lord to perform them in my situation.
But He didn’t. Because He wanted me to move out of that situation (but we like our comfort zones, don’t we?) and that was the only way it would happen.
I’d been becoming more spiritually restless, too. When my passion for writing – my gifted calling from God – disappeared, I decided I needed Him more than ever. And I was the one who had moved away. I had stopped praying faithfully.
So when I saw this title, I decided it was time. To go along with my gratitude focus of thirty days in November, I would do this prayer challenge for forty days. I already know it will continue long after I finish the “guide” that goes along with it.
I’m not giving up on those circles I’ve drawn. I’m going to circle those requests in prayer until the Lord answers.
This answer is two-fold:
- I need it now and
- Finishing the year with something new is a good way to find my word for the next year
I love November. I love coming up with reasons to be grateful every day. The more obscure or unlikely these things are, the happier they make me.
And I was drowning in disillusionment. I’m Peter whose walk on water was interrupted with sudden sinking.
“Save me, Lord!”
And prayer is the only way I could call out to Him. He gladly grasped my flailing hand. Although I haven’t seen other answers to my specific requests, I’ve changed.
Prayer changes the person who prays. That’s the biggest and best reason to take up a prayer challenge. It doesn’t have to be this long. Even a seven-day challenge could return you to the center of God’s will.
What I Learned?
On the fifth day, I made a crazy specific request and “circled it” in prayer for the next three days. It had an expiration date: November 8. The answer to my prayer was a resounding, “NO!” Caps and exclamation point intentional.
The next day, I wondered what I was even doing. I wrote out the answer beside the circle with the original request, and I was pretty mopey.
About twelve days into this thing, I thought, “I can’t come up with forty different prayer requests. They’re already starting to sound the same?”
Which drove me to this request, “Turn my focus to others.” It shames me a bit to admit this. I’m supposed to be interceding for others regularly. Many of those first days’ requests were for family members.
By twenty two days in, I realize God was stretching my faith. Different characters and verses were echoed everywhere I went, and because I was listening, I heard them.
Now that the challenge is over, I’m back on track. I’m continuing with the circles I drew in the journal and adding new ones daily as I’m burdened. I’m out of my box, checking in with people to see if God has answered my prayers for them.
And I’m writing again. But I’m still in need of rest. And what I learned the most during this challenge is to LISTEN as much as a pray. God has something to tell me, and it begins by a narrowed view of my future. He’s shown me my “next step” for writing. After that? I don’t know.
I’ll try to keep you posted right here on this blog.
What sort of challenges have you seen? Have you participated in any of them? Do you think they’re good or just another type of “New Year’s resolution” that’s sure to be broken?