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Showing posts with label Testimony. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Testimony. Show all posts

Monday, March 6, 2023

Christians Are Witnesses for Jesus. Amen!

I'm not a die hard sports fan, but if I chose favorite teams, I would probably choose the Georgia Tech and Washington, and I'll tell you why.  My brother went to Georgia Tech.  He was eight years older than me and sometimes would invite me to come up and stay with him at college.  It was really cool.  And though we were never hard core college football fans, I guess if I had to choose a college team, I would choose Georgia Tech.  But really, our family's team was the Washington (formerly Redskins).  Why?  Well, even though I've lived most of my life in Georgia, I was born in Maryland (along with my brother and two sisters).  We all moved to Georgia when I was only about 7. So we left everything we knew behind and came to a strange new place--Macon, Georgia.  People thought we talked funny and we felt the same way about them.  And my family still rooted for Washington; it was sort of our thing we were proud of because of where we came from.  

In church service this past Sunday, I asked three people why they chose to be fans of their favorite team.  One was a Green Bay Packers fan.  One was a Georgia Southern fan.  Another was a Ole Miss fan.  I didn't warn them ahead of time that I was going to ask them why they liked that particular team.  I just asked them write in the middle of the sermon.  Not surprisingly, each one of them could easily share why they loved their team and each had a great story.  The Packer fan had a family connection to Wisconsin, near the Green Bay area.  The Georgia Southern fan and his wife both attended the college and actually met while working together at the original Zakby's in Statesboro.  The Ole Miss fan grew up near Oxford, Mississippi and saw a friend with an Ole Miss notebook when she was a young kid and eventually went there.

We usually don't have a hard time talking about our favorite teams.  If we're not into sports, there are probably lots of other things we love to talk about that seem natural--our kids, our favorite movies or TV shows, etc.

We like to support our favorite teams.  They’re important us for many reasons.

Today, I want to talk about being a witness for Jesus, because Jesus commanded His followers to be His witnesses.  I want to talk about 3 ways to be wintess for Jesus. If you are ready to learn, say Amen! Amen!

Acts 1:8
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The Book of Acts tells the story of how the early Church, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, told people everywhere about Jesus.  Every Christian told their family, their friends, their neighbors, their co-workers about Jesus.  It started in Jerusalem, where followers shared the amazing Good News that Jesus died and rose from the grave.  The Holy Spirit enabled them to do miracles, like the supernatural ability talk to people in other languages they didn't know so that those people could hear and understand the Good News about Jesus in their own native tongue.  No one was in need in the early Christian community because everyone loved each other and they looked after one another as family.  It was a beautiful movement--the original "Jesus Revolution". 

Then persecution broke out.  The temple authorities got jealous and started killing Christians and driving them from their homes and canceling their businesses.  Christians stared leaving Jerusalem and going out into the countryside.  They went out into Judea and told people there about Jesus and more people believed and followed Jesus.  Christians even went to Samaria—a country that was traditionally rivals and enemies of the Jews.  The Jewish Christians didn’t care.  They went to Samaria and told them about Jesus and the Samaritans believed and got saved and became Christians too!

Then the Christians went up into Syria and Turkey and told people there the Good News about Jesus.  Then they went to Greece and Macedonia and even to Rome.  Everywhere they went, Christians told people about Jesus.  They told about his death and ressurection.  They told how Jesus changed their lives.  Even when talking about Jesus could get you in trouble or even killed, Christians were faithful witnesses.  In fact, the Greek word for being a faithful witness--martyr--became synonymous with giving your life for your Christ.  Christians are faithful witness who tell people about Jesus.

Today, I want to talk about three ways to be a witness for Jesus.  1) Sharing Your Love for Jesus. 2) Inviting People to Church. 3) Recruiting people for Jesus.

Sharing Your Love For Jesus
It wasn’t hard for me to decide who to ask about their favorite team.  I knew, because some people are such devoted fans of their team, everyone knows who they support.  You can probably think of several people you know and which team they support.  You could ask them why and they would be glad to tell you.

Being a witness for Jesus can be as natural as sharing about your favorite team.  I hope your love for Jesus is something that everyone knows.  Hopefully, Jesus is the most important thing in your life and that comes through to everyone everywhere, all the time.

It doesn’t have to be hard to be a witness for Jesus.  If you have a real relationship with Him, people will know.  Sometimes, they will just see it. Maybe they saw you wearing a cross or overheard you talking about your faith or they knew you went to church last weekend or saw you doing Christian service.  

If you live for Jesus, people should be able to see your faith at work.  Are you doing the kinds of things that show people Jesus is your Lord?  If someone was looking to find out more about what it means to be a Christian, would they know to come talk to you because they know you’re a Christian?

Sometime people will see your faith and know you are a Christian.  Other times, you will tell them.  If you’re a serious Georgia Bulldog fan (or Alabama or whatever), no one has to twist your arm to get you to talk about your team. Right?  You probably look for opportunities to get in a conversation about them.  You love to talk about the game that's coming up this weekend or you want to celebrate the win last weekend (or cry about the loss).  It just comes natural.  Are you that quick to talk about Jesus?  Do you look for reasons to tell people why you love Him?  Do you relish the chance to share the difference Jesus makes in your life (or even be honest about how He's helping you overcome your shortcomings)?

Inviting People to Church
Following Jesus isn’t just a private thing.  We live out our faith in a community.  One of the ways you can be a witness is to invite people to experience Jesus at Church—the body of Christ.  Here again are some striking similarities with sports fans.

Being a fan of a certain team means being part of a community.  Right?  I mean, you get together with other fans and watch the game.  There’s a whole community.  It can be electric to be in the stands with thousands of other cheering fans, all rooting for the same team.  Or how many of you have gotten together with friends to watch the game on TV?  Even if you watch the game all by yourself, there’s this sense that you are part of something bigger.  You are part of a community and that matters.  And if you really want your friends to experience what it’s like to be a fan of your team, you would probably invite them to go to a game with you (or watch it on TV with you).

The same is even more true for Christians.  If you want people to experience the risen Jesus you know, you might want to invite them to church (or a Christian retreat or Bible study, etc.).  Christians experience the fullness of our faith in a community of believers.  Yes, your relationship with Jesus is personal, but it’s not only personal.  It’s something that takes place with other people.  Stories about Jesus always took place in a group setting.  Jesus called twelve Disciples and they worked together asa group.  Jesus was transfigured in front of Peter, James, and John.  The Last Supper was a meal shared with all the Disciples—even Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus.  When Jesus rose, he appeared to hundreds of people—often in groups.

Christians experience the love of Jesus most fully through other Christians.  We learn in groups.  We worship as a body.  Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three gather in my name, I am there with them.”  That doesn't mean Jesus isn't present when we are all alone.  He's with us when we are alone too, but there's something something sacred and essential about Christians gathering together.  And if you want your friends to experience what it means to really be a Christian, you probably should invite them to Church—the Body of Christ.

Recruiting For Jesus
There’s one more way to be a witness that I want to talk about:  Recruiting.  Sometimes, you just need to be direct.  Sometimes the situation calls for it.  Sometimes all it takes is, “Hey, come to church with me.”  But recruiting could also mean:  “Hey, my church is packing sack lunches on Wednesday nights for the school next door.  Why don’t you come help us out?”

Again, let’s go back to the sports analogy.  In order to build a winning college team, coaches have to get out and find the best high school athletes and convince them to come to their college.  Right?  But it’s not just the coaches that do the recruiting.  How many of you who went a certain college and had a good experience and you try to encourage others to go to that school too?  And it's not that you're trying to sell something people don't need, right?  If you know your school had a great nursing program and you have a friend that's looking for a nursing school, you'd be like, "Hey, the college I went to has a great nursing program.  You should check it out."  We would be doing them a favor by hooking them up with our great alma mater.  Right?

If we believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, I hope we will recruit people to be part that.  Don’t you?  We’d be doing people a favor to recruit them to be on Jesus’ team.  So why not?  A lot of people out there are looking for a team—they’re looking for meaning and hope and peace and love and healing…  Jesus is all of that.  Why not be the ones to tell people where they kind find what they’re looking for?

So there's three easy to understand ways to be a witness: 

  1. Sharing your love for Jesus,
  2. Inviting people to Church, and 
  3. Recruiting for Jesus

I Challenge You to Be A Witness for Jesus.
I’ve been giving you challenges throughout this series. Here’s one for today.  Make a list of specific people you know to whom you could be a witness.  Pray about how you could witness to them.

Could you share with them a spiritual struggle you need Jesus to help you with? 
Could you share with them a way you are growing spiritually because of Jesus?
Could you invite them to come to church with you (or Sunday school or Bible study…)?
Could you ask someone if you could start praying together. (Maybe you and a co-worker go out to each lunch every Tuesday.  Could you ask to start saying a blessing before you eat?)
Is there someone you know who needs to pray to accept Jesus as Lord?  Could you pray with them about it?

Start with a list of people. Write down their names.  Look at it every day and oray that God would show you how you could be a witness to them.  Let the Holy Spirit guide you and empower you to be a witness for Jesus.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Testimony of Rick Tomnsend


MY PURPOSE: Mark 5:19 says, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”


            I have always heard of Jesus, or about Jesus, but I was just not a follower of Jesus.  I was sprinkled as a young boy at the Methodist Church and considered myself a Christian although I probably didn't really know what that meant.  I never realized God was the one who gave me the ability to excel at sports... which was really my identity back then.  Playing sports was my life water...  I lived, breathed, and thirsted for playing sports when I should have been thirsting for the Lord.  And God said, "Where are you?" (Genesis 3:9)

            After being recruited to play football by a major university, I began using drugs and drinking, feeling a thirst to fit in.  I was still excelling at football... becoming one of only 14 two-time All-Americans at the University of Tennessee.

            In 1972 and 1973, I made Football Writers' All American and Playboy All American teams and was featured in Playboy magazine both of those years.  When I was drafted by the New York Giants in 1975, I felt that my thirst had finally been quenched.  Things didn't work out there and I went to the WFL, having a great year with the Memphis Southmen.  When that league folded, I went back to the New York Giants and was then traded to the San Francisco 49ers.  Life just rolled along and I was still thirsty.  I couldn't find my fill and I never looked to Jesus.  My well ran dry and although I wasn't able to quench that thirst...  I still didn't turn to Jesus, the only one who could quench it.  And God said, "Where are you?"

            My oldest son served time in prison twice and my youngest son spent 6 months in drug rehab, while my middle son was in college on football and academic scholarships.  In 2005, my wife of 33 years divorced me followed by the loss of my mom the next year.  And God said, "Where are you?", but I still didn't get it.

            In 2007, I met Debby and we married in 2008.  Life was looking better.

            In 2013, I was hospitalized with a carbon dioxide level of 117.  Normal range is 35-45.  Within an hour of arriving in the ER, I was on life support in the ICU - where I stayed for the next 13 days.  After coming home, I had to rehab for about 6 weeks.  My wife and I were walking at the track and she started having burning in her upper chest.  She had a heart attack a few days later and we were back in the ICU.

            I told her that as soon as she was able, we were going to church (I had not been to church in 30 years).  That next Sunday we visited Christ Community Church where we still go every Sunday. The third Sunday we were there I felt the Spirit enter my body while listening to "Give Me Jesus," now one of my favorite songs.  My wife said on the way home that I was not the same man she came to church with that morning.

            I now travel around speaking to others about the grace and mercy God has shown this sinner. 

            I now live every day to the fullest, praising God each and every day for allowing me to wake up and experience all the beauty around me.  I especially thank him for using me for times like these... speaking to others in the hopes of reaching people (even if it is just one person) who hasn't been saved and leading them to Jesus.

            Jesus says He is the only way to God the Father.  Some people may argue that this way is too narrow.  In reality, it is wide enough for the whole world, if the world chooses to accept it.  Instead of worrying about how limited it sounds to have only one way, we should be saying, "Thank you, God, for providing a sure way to get to You!"


Friday, October 28, 2016

Allie McClain's Testimony

Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.   Matthew 11:28

I love to hear people tell how Jesus changed their life.  Jesus takes our troubles and turns them into blessings.  Allie McClain struggled with depression as she hurt others with her selfish choices. Then, a crisis pregnancy turned Allie back to God. Jesus welcomed Allie home through her family and the people of Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church.  Allie shared her story with the world on Youtube with a video testimony (view her video here).  Allie went the extra mile and wrote out her story, which I would like to share with you in this blog:

I'd say a few years back, I was very, very far from where I should've been.  I was living in Nashville trying to finish school.  I was in and out of therapy.  Taylor (who is now my husband) and I were on and off.  I barely graduated...

I was far away from my family, my church, my God.  And I didn't have a lot of friends.

I became depressed, continually hurt others just because I was hurting so badly, and I didn't know how to get through it any other way.

One day, I was watching the light fountains that were synchronized with the nativity story at the Opry Land Hotel when my dad called and said, "I think God is tired of you putting all your faith in a man instead of Him."  I decided he was right, but I didn't listen.

I finished school and came home.  I hadn't changed much.  I still only thought of myself.  Then, Taylor came home too.  We were so troublesome together.  We had so many problems.  Finally, I really started praying and a few months later, I was pregnant.

Taylor was scared, so he decided it wasn't for him.  For 2 weeks before I told my parents, I was scared too.  I contemplated adoption, because I didn't think I was worthy.  I had plenty of excuses too.  I was mean, selfish, I always hurt others, and I wasn't married.

I asked God to change mine and Taylor's life no matter what the outcome.  I expected punishment, but I received grace.  I received a miracle.

The whole week after I told Mom and Dad, Taylor still wasn't in the picture and I remembered what my dad told me about my faith in God.  No matter the pain I felt, I decided to really trust God.  When I did, I found peace.

I began doing things expecting moms would do--looking for names, researching, not thinking of myself for once.

I think throughout a small amount of time Taylor saw the changes I had made in my life and I think he wanted that too.  Taylor told me the other day that he fell in love with me all over again.

Before I came back to church, I was so nervous.  Before all of PGUMC knew, I was hoping they'd just think I was putting on weight.  But when word got out, they hugged me, congratulated me, and acted as if I'd done nothing wrong.  To me, I believed God was changing my life with this special child, and I had several people from this church tell me they also thought it was true.

My son is now almost 2 years old and Taylor and I have been married for almost 2 years.

My favorite saying now is, "Don't tell God you have a big problem.  Tell your problem you have a big God."

Why be part of PGUMC?  No church is perfect, nor can you put all your faith in one.  But this church will accept you, your mistakes, and will extend the grace and love that many of us experience here.  And PGUMC will continue to support you in your growth.  They will hear your honesty and let you know how proud of you they are.  I'm still being told that.  The members here speak so highly of me to my mom and dad.  And not only does it touch me, but being a parent myself, I can only imagine how good it makes my parents feel.  Thanks PGUMC for showing me a little bit of what that feels like.

-Allie McClain

Allie, Taylor, and their son, Boone
boon (noun) - a blessing; a thing that is helpful or beneficial.

Watch Allie's testimony here

Monday, October 17, 2016

Wrestling with God, Part 3

            Jesus Christ changed Sara's life at Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church. Sara was deeply depressed, addicted to heroine, and on the verge of suicide. Jesus welcomed her with open arms through the people of our church and led her down the road to recovery. (Watch a video of Sara's testimony here.)
            I think about Sara’s story and how she wrestled—wrestled with depression, wrestled with addiction. It was a life or death struggle, but Sara did not wrestle alone. There were so many people who helped her wrestle or who wrestled on her behalf.  For the sake of time, I had to cut the footage of her testimony down to just over 4 minutes. There’s no way we could tell all the people who helped Sara—family members who stepped in and took care of Sara, rehab programs that intervened with professional help, people from other churches who were the hands of Christ to Sara, and so many others. All of these wrestled with God on her behalf. Who knows how many prayers were lifted up for Sara?
            Prayer is essential to the Christian life. It is not just part of the Christian life. It is the Christian life. Martin Luther said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Prayer is powerful. It changes situations. It changes us. Most importantly, it draws us into God’s embrace.
            Today, we will finish our study of the fascinating Bible story of Jacob wrestling with God. We will consider how we wrestle with God in prayer and the effect it has. 
            As a young man, Jacob was incredibly deceitful and cheated his twin brother, Esau, out of his claim to the family blessing and inheritance. Esau was furious with Jacob and vowed to kill him. Jacob fled into exile where he lived for about 20 years. During that time, God blessed Jacob with wives and children and servants and wealth. And as Jacob matured, he realized he must face his brother Esau. He decided to return home—not knowing if Esau would offer mercy or retribution.

Genesis 32:22-32
22 During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. 23 After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions.
24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 “What is your name?” the man asked.
He replied, “Jacob.”
28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”
29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.
“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.
30 Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip. 32 (Even today the people of Israel don’t eat the tendon near the hip socket because of what happened that night when the man strained the tendon of Jacob’s hip.)

            Jacob wrestled with God all night long. He was battered and bruised; his hip was torn out of socket and yet Jacob managed to hold onto God until God gave Jacob a blessing. The story reminds me of how we wrestle with God in prayer and the way it changes us, our circumstances, and—most importantly—how it draws us into God’s embrace.

Prayer Changes Us.
            Most people think of prayer as a way for us to ask God to change something. We ask Him to heal people who are sick. We ask Him to comfort those who’ve lost loved ones.  We ask Him to help us through difficult circumstance or for wisdom for tough decisions. This is called intercessory prayer and it is an important part of prayer, but it is not the whole of prayer or even the most important part of prayer.
            Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, once said, “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” 
            If we think of prayer in a spiritual sense as wrestling with God the way Jacob wrestled with God, what do we find? We find we are changed through prayer.  In the Bible story, Jacob was forever changed. His hip was torn out of socket. The Bible tells us he limped away from the scene. The encounter with God changed Jacob’s body.
            We also see that Jacob got a new name. He was no longer the “heel grabber” (which is what the name Jacob means); now he is Israel (the man who fights with God and men and overcomes). The encounter with God changed the core of who Jacob was.
            We also see Jacob received a blessing. We don’t know what the blessing was, but perhaps it was the encounter itself. From this day forward, Jacob need fear no man. He has wrestled with God, face to face, and won. Furthermore, the very holiness of God had rubbed off on Jacob.
            Prayer changes us. It changes our attitudes. It changes our thinking. It changes our spirit. It changes our mind. Sometimes, it even changes us physically. (Your knees might get a lot stronger if you are constantly kneeling in prayer!)
            William Law, a noted Anglican priest, once said, “There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as praying for him.”  You see, when you pray for someone, they may not change at all, but how you see them will definitely change. You will change and sometimes that is all that is needed.
Prayer Changes Our Circumstance
            Prayer definitely can change us, but sometimes God change our situation when we pray.  Sometimes, God heals people who are sick because we pray.  Sometimes, God provides wisdom to make a tough decision because we pray.  Sometimes, God makes a problem go away because we pray.
            Back at the beginning of August, I realized I needed to delegate some important ministry responsibilities at the church to other capable people. I had been doing these tasks out of necessity, but now it was time to give the responsibilities to others.  Two responsibilities in particular were taking up time that I needed to devote in other areas—leading the praise band and coordinating the sack lunch program. I began to pray that God would provide the right people to lead these ministries; and I prayed they would say yes as soon as I asked them. Within two weeks God answered my prayers for both and changed my situation.
            One day, God nudged me and said, “You know, Susan Cooksey would be the perfect person to coordinate that sack lunch program. She loves kids, loves teachers, and has been really committed to packing sack lunches over the last year. And she’s smart! She knows how to do this and could do a much better job than you’ve been able to do.” So I asked Susan and she didn’t even hesitate. She said, “Yes,” and jumped right in. It’s been going so well. She’s even figured out a few ways we can encourage the teachers with special gifts throughout the year.
            The other answered prayer, was that David Crawford agreed to lead the praise band and he’s been doing a great job! You might not realize how much work goes into the praise band. We rehearse about 5 hours for every one-hour service we lead. But David probably puts in several more hours than that picking out music, coordinating rehearsals, and handling technical stuff. He does a fine job and he was an answer to my prayers in August!
            John Wesley said, “God does nothing but in answer to prayer.” A shocking statistic was shared at the OneCry Revival in September. It was said that the average American Christian spends less than two minutes per day in prayer. Two minutes. Does that sound off?  How much do you pray?
            I do know this: in just about any given church, the prayer meeting is the least attended service. You may find 150 people in worship, but only 4 or 5 will come to prayer meeting.  (By the way, we have a prayer meeting at at Pleasant Grove UMC at 9:00 AM every Sunday. I would like you to join us. And I have a special introductory offer for you. Try it for one month, free!)  I wonder how many blessings we miss out on, how much trouble we have to face, how much more difficult life is simply because we do not pray for God to change our circumstances?  So pray!

Prayer Draws Us Into God’s Embrace
            Wrestling is an intimate sport. It’s very real, very humbling, very personal.  It’s honest. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have, what rank you are, what championship titles you’ve won. When you are grappling with another person, all that stuff goes out the window. All that matters is what works, what doesn’t, and who submits their opponent.  And it is very humbling when someone with less experience or who is smaller or weaker beats you—as sometimes will happen.
            Wrestling is very humbling. It’s hard to be dignified when you are straining with all your might to grapple another human being. Your legs and arms are all tangled up; your bodies are pressed together; you sweat all over each other. You know how that person smells, whether they took a bath or washed their clothes—and they know it all about you too.
            And I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Pastors get gas just like everybody else. And sometimes, when your wife cooked tacos for dinner, and then you go to jiu-jitsu and start fighting for your life with another person who is grabbing you and pressing down on top of you with all their weight. And you are straining with all your might not to get choked or arm-barred or crushed to death… Let’s just say, things slip out… And you can’t always control when it happens or the volume at which it happens… So you just have to let go of your dignity.
            Now, when we come to church, we try real hard to maintain our dignity. We dress up nice; we watch what we say, how we act, what kind of “image” we present. Maybe we should be less concerned about all those things. Maybe we should take off our masks and just be who we are.
            In prayer, it’s much like Jacob wrestling with God. It’s not about being dignified. It’s about letting it all hang out in a no holds barred grappling match with God. Pour your heart out to God in prayer. Don’t worry about “keeping up appearances;” God already knows everything about you anyway. Just concentrate on going after God with all you’ve got!
            Do you realize the privilege of prayer? Of wrestling with God in an embrace so intimate you can smell Him, taste Him, feel Him embracing you?  Do you realize how that encounter can change you? To have the sacredness of our Holy God rubbing off on you as your arms and legs and body entangle with the Divine and God struggles to wrestle sinful behaviors, attitudes, and ideas from your soul? When we pray to God, really pray, it draws us into His most intimate embrace.
Prayer is your way to wrestle with God like Jacob wrestled with God.  Through prayer, God changes us, changes our circumstances, and draws closer to Him.  I hope you will make prayer a top priority of your life.  What do you need to pray about?  Who do you need pray for?
I would like to invite you to write a prayer to God now.  Would you share a prayer in the comment section below?  Simply write a prayer about whatever is on your heart.  Pray for your family, your community, your church, your pastor, your children, whatever.  God will hear you and change you, maybe even change your situation, but He will definitely draw you into a closer relationship with Him when you pray.