Wednesday, February 20, 2013

From Fear to Faith, by Julie Paik

Julie Paik is a dear friend and mighty prayer worrier.  For four years she has been blessing my life with her eloquent and honest prayers.  When I asked her to share her prayer testimony she wore her heart on her sleeve as she talked about how God graciously moved her from fear to faith through prayer.

Julie Paik's Prayer Testimony
Presented at a Moms in Prayer Rally
On February 2, 2013

You might think it takes an expert in prayer to give a testimony at a Moms in Prayer rally.  Not so.  I’m far from it.  I’m actually just a chicken redeemed and growing by God’s grace.

About 7 years ago, I left MOPS (a moms' group) with the noble intention of diving into our local public school.  My oldest son, Jonathan, was about to start kindergarten and my husband and I felt that God was leading us into our local school community.  It was a world with which I was pretty familiar; I had been a classroom teacher before I started staying at home.  Still, I am a stressed out chicken, and faced with a new environment for my risk-averse son, I felt desperate for the Lord to guide us through this time. I had heard about Moms in Touch many years before and even thought that maybe I should start a group at our school, but was scared of what people would think. Oh, the thoughts that swirled around in the confines of my mind: fear of man, fear of negative influences on my son in big, bad public school, fear of his not being accepted by peers or his teacher, fear of being perceived as an overbearing or negligent mom…you’re getting a little glimpse into my crazy thought life! I knew I needed to pray, so I prayed alone, which was good, when it happened, but mostly I was anxiously trying to guide my son through experiences by leaning on my own knowledge of the public school system, rather than on God Himself. 

Still, God is gracious, right? He provided Jonathan with a buddy who knows Him. They are still buddies and helping each other through the deep waters of middle school now! I can see now how God so sweetly answered my prayer back then for a friend for Jonathan, but my prayer life was pretty irregular and I wasn’t really keeping track of how God was answering.  I even questioned how God really answers prayer and wondered if it really did matter if I prayed. Wasn’t God going to do what God was going to do without me putting my two cents in?  

I lived in a battle zone between faith and fear, but in the summer of 2009 before I sent my youngest into school some friends encouraged me to ask the Lord for a partner with whom I could pray. This is when God used Michelle Fozounmayeh to invite me to pray. She just asked me if I would be interested in leading a Moms in Touch group with her at our children’s elementary school.  Yes! Another answer to prayer! And I didn’t have to go at it alone.  At least if someone ridiculed us, there would be two of us to take it instead of putting myself out there on my own! Remember I keep saying how gracious God is? He was gently growing my faith in Him.  

The Yerba Buena group started with four women and sometimes there were just two of us who could make it those Tuesday mornings, but having that dedicated time once a week, every week became a faith building gift to me.  We didn’t talk about issues and then say we would pray for one another as we parted; we prayed and asked God to act. It was a time to work out my anxieties about my children’s school lives in God’s presence along with women who could understand my heart and support me by agreeing with me in prayer and praying for aspects of an issue that I hadn’t even thought of and yet were so necessary.  Week in and week out during the last four years, I have had the blessing of hearing other women’s prayers in worshiping God, in the quiet breathing of confession time, in joyful or painful offers of thanksgiving, and in heartfelt petition to God, and even in the beautiful acceptance of asking for God’s will to be done above all else.  It’s a weekly remembrance of my great need for Jesus and His great sufficiency to meet all those needs in the way He deems best.

But still I act like I want to control God’s answers. I have found myself fearful of how God was going to answer or if He was going to answer at all. Sometimes I could see just what my child or his friend needs and couldn’t the Lord just answer according to what I envisioned?  But again, God has graciously taught me that praying invites His power and His presence into my life and into the life of the person for whom I’m praying, which is infinitely better than any scenario I could’ve imagined. Having a regular time, during which I can pray for our schools and my kids, has given me the opportunity to recognize prayer as a time of ushering God’s great power into a circumstance I have little ability to control. It brings me to the realization that I shouldn’t and couldn’t control the outcome of our prayers.  As He reminds us in Ephesians 3, God can do “immeasurably more than we can ask or think!”  

This greatness of God is what I was counting on when we started praying at the middle school last fall. I knew that Michelle couldn’t come and be my buffer at the start of this group, but the need for prayer was enormous and there’s only one Person who has the resources to meet that need! Still, the fear starting a new group gripped my throat, but God graciously brought beautiful women with whom I could put my faith in Him again. Through those times of prayer for our school with these women who have become my dear praying friends, God keeps encouraging me to ask Him to act in my kids’ lives in ways I know I cannot.  Sometimes I sigh in frustration or sadness when I hear about foolish and tragic things happening on campus, but instead of giving into the fear of darkness, I can just ask God to act and remember His beauty and His power.  I invite His immeasurable power into the lives of my kids and their peers, not because my prayer life is so great, but because He is!

Even with this assurance, sometimes this chicken still fears that my prayers are weak and will somehow dissipate into thin air, or I quickly give up on praying for something.  I tell myself that maybe it’s just not in God’s will if I haven’t seen an answer yet.  Enter God’s grace yet again. One of the beautiful ways that God has worked through my time praying with other moms is the fact that other people know what you have prayed for.  Those shared requests make it easier to keep praying together that God would act.  They also make it easier to see when He has answered in a visible way.  One of the women can see something that you might not.  Her child may have said something to her that was a clear answer to a prayer that your child didn’t really know about. Having a community of women with whom I can pray keeps my prayer life honest.  I can’t just rationalize away the answers God gives. We have one another to keep encouraging perseverance in prayer for things we haven’t yet seen answers. 

Would you believe that I come from a long line of praying women? It’s my blessed heritage.  My grandmother was well-known in our church for her powerful intercession and my mom’s praying voice is the first sound I remember hearing every morning when I was growing up. So imagine that Michael Jordan had a son who could not play basketball—that’s me!  Even as God patiently leads me in this journey from fear to faith, I still try to be or find the answer to the anxieties of my heart instead of actually lifting my prayers to Jesus.  I still struggle with wondering how God will answer.  I still occasionally wonder how much prayer really makes a difference. Good thing God is gracious.  At every fearful turn, He mercifully and patiently corrects me and guides me with His fatherly love for me. And praying with other moms has had the blessed effect of forcing me to put my faith in Him, once a week, every week for that hour.  With these women I have a shared record of God’s faithfulness and grace.  He really has worked through my prayers, frail as they may be. In my weakness He has been strong. 

In closing, let me share a verse with you.  It is a passage of Scripture I am holding close to my heart these days.  It’s from Psalm 34:4-5:
I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

This was written by Julie Paik and presented to a group of women at a Moms in Prayer Rally in February of 2013!

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