There is a phrase that brings me great comfort found in Isaiah 61.

In Luke 4:18, we find Jesus standing before the religious leaders in the synagogue, echoing the words of Isaiah. Unfortunately, His words would be rejected by the very people who should have received it as good news.

Isaiah 61:1-3, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon Me, for the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent Me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory."

I cling to these words of hope and promise. It says to all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty instead of the ashes of mourning they were experiencing.

After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we New Yorkers, were all too familiar with the ashes that surrounded what once was, the Twin Towers. The clean-up seemed insurmountable for our first responders. It is difficult to describe the heartbreak.

There is another city that suffered destruction at the hands of it’s enemies in 1 Samuel 30.

King David and his men arrived home after being away on assignment and found that their enemies, the Amalekites, had made a raid; they had crushed Ziklag and burned it to the ground. They had carried off the women and children and everyone else.

When David and his men saw the ruins and realized what had happened to their families, they wept until they could weep no more. David’s two wives were among those captured. David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters and they began to talk of stoning him.

But David found strength in the Lord His God.

He sent for the ephod from Abiathar the priest which was special clothing used to pray and communicate with God. Then David asked the Lord, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?”

The Lord told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!”

David and 600 of his men set out and they came to a certain place where 200 of the men became too exhausted to continue. So David pushed on, with 400 of his men.

They found the Amalekites spread out across fields, eating, drinking and dancing with joy because of the vast amount of plunder they had taken. David and his men rushed into the fight, battling them throughout that night and the entire next day until evening.

David’s men crushed their enemies and got back everything that was taken, as well as his two wives. Nothing was missing: small or great, son or daughter, or anything else that had been taken. David brought back everything including all their flocks and herds.

There is much to be learned from David's example. Here are 3 keys to transitioning from "ashes to beauty":

1. Remember how God has delivered you in the past. 

David remembered how God protected him when he was in the wilderness as a young shepherd. God gave him the ability to kill a bear and a lion to protect his flocks.

David encouraged himself by turning away from discouragement, negativity and negative people. He remembered the goodness of the Lord in the land and the living.

David remembered that God gave Him the victory against the giant, Goliath.

Hebrews 10:32 says to think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even throughout terrible suffering, learning all God wanted to show you.

2. You cannot allow your emotions to rule you. 

The enemy of your soul wants to bring discouragement but focusing on how God delivered you out of previous troubles helps to break through depression. You cannot feed off the ashes of your troubles. Feed off of the past miracles of the Lord. Don’t allow yourself to be deceived by hopelessness. You can allow yourself to be led into bitterness, anger and unforgiveness. David did not sit in the sadness. He encouraged himself in the Lord.

The enemy wants to convince you that you will be dealing with ashes for the rest of your life. Remind him of God’s faithfulness to you because He’ll be faithful again. 

You must set your mind on things above. Pray scriptures out loud like Psalm 118:24, “This the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Stand on promises of His faithfulness and His blessings like I Chronicles 16:11-12, “Search for the Lord and for His strength; continually seek Him. Remember the wonders He has performed, His miracles, and the rulings He has given.”

3. When you’re going through troubles, you have to go into your secret place to get instructions.

Psalm 91 says, “He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”

David did not sit in depression like his men did. He used the ephod. He went into the presence of the Lord and got direction from God. You cannot allow your circumstances to keep you away from the presence of God. Even when you do not feel like going, you can trade the ashes for beauty and joy as you praise Him.

Some of you reading this may have given up on some things because you are sitting in the ashes of your situation. There may be a child who is in trouble. There may be seemingly insurmountable debt. There may be a terminal diagnosis. It may look like your marriage is over.

Well let me tell you, God works His best miracles right there in the midst of the ashes of your life. The Lord speaks to you in the midst of dead situations. It was at that moment when David encouraged himself in the Lord by reminding himself of God’s past faithfulness. The Lord said to go after it, to pursue, overtake and recover all that was stolen from him.

God wants us to go after those things that are messed up and broken. We serve a God who is able to take what looks like ashes and turn it into something beautiful. God took the burned out ashes of a city that day and turned it into a victory. He wants to give you the beauty of your dreams that you’ve walked away from. He wants to grant you those promises you’ve held onto for years.

All David needed was a word from the Lord. When David asked and God answered, He went after it. When David arrived at the place where his wives and children were being held captive, He recovered ALL that the Amalekites had taken. David rescued their families. There was nothing lacking. 

Know that the Spirit of the Living God rests on you and will give you instructions. The anointing of God will never leave you in a depressed place. The anointing of God will never leave you in a dry place.

Isaiah 44:3 says, “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring.”

So as long as the Spirit of the Living God is upon you, you should not live in a dry place. You will experience victory and the spoils, beauty for ashes.

Get ready to see everything that God has been doing for you behind the scenes. Let this be the month of beauty instead of ashes. Prepare your hearts for receiving everything God has been preparing you to have.

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How many of you can say you’ve had the privilege of having a praying mother and/or grandmother? If you have had a praying parent in your lineage, you are blessed. Mothers and grandmothers influence their children by Godly-living and hitting their knees before the throne room of God with consistent prayers. I had a praying mother. When I was eight years old, she knelt with me to pray and ask Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. I decided at that young age because I had her as a godly example. I know it’s the greatest reason I have kept my faith. James 5:16 says, “For tremendous power is released through the passionate, heartfelt prayer of a godly believer”. Even if your mother or grandmother has moved her residence to heaven like mine, the power you are experiencing in your life right now is the fruit of her prayers. My mother, various mentors as well as my husband have all influenced my prayer life. Today, I want to share with you 5 keys of effective, powerful prayer.

Key #1 - How you approach God matters.

Approach Him in prayer in humility and devoid of self-reliance. He looks on us as His child, as a mother would comfort her own child.

If you want nothing to happen, then remain prayerless because it’s only when you pray that things happen. It’s not by might nor by power but by His spirit. Be led by the spirit.

Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947) was described as one of “God’s Generals” in a book of the same name. I read his book while traveling to go be with my mom the night she died. I wanted to raise my level of faith. Wigglesworth said, ”I don't often spend more than half an hour in prayer at one time, but I never go more than half an hour without praying.” Talk about praying without ceasing! In his book, he states, “We must have this “Like Precious Faith” in order to have our prayers answered. If we ask anything according to God’s will, we are told that He hears us, and if we know that He hears us, then we know we have the petitions that we desire. Oh brothers and sisters, we must go into the presence of God and get from Him the answer to our prayers.

Mark 11:24 says, ...Whatsoever things you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them.”

Dr. Lester Sumrall’s (1913-1996) testimony of being mentored by Smith Wigglesworth makes my heart ache. When the evangelist was in his early twenties, he met Smith Wigglesworth at a revival meeting. Wigglesworth was in his older years and took an interest in the young Sumrall and invited him to visit. Their weekly visits lasted two years and he became a father in the faith and mentor to Lester. It shaped him into the man he would become and live to be, doing many great things for God. During their visits, Smith Wigglesworth would just begin praying and pray for a half-hour or so. Tears and travailing. Then, he would stop suddenly and break for lunch and their meeting would end abruptly. He had such faith to believe for the most amazing miracles. Wigglesworth had a vision of a great End-time Revival during one of their prayer visits that would span the globe. Sumrall believed he saw its beginnings before his death with the spread of the Gospel exponentially growing around the world on television, radio and what would one day be the internet. 

Key #2 - Your level of faith when praying matters.

You are not a beggar hoping for crumbs from the table. Instead, you are His child whom He greatly loves and wants to give good gifts.

Holocaust survivor, Corrie Ten Boom said, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?" 

The steering wheel is what gets you from point A to point B. There’s not a moment in time as a driver of the car that your hands are not on that steering wheel, hopefully, unless you are like my husband and I, sometimes getting pulled over for holding our cell phones! That steering wheel is what keeps you going on the straight and narrow, so to speak. The steering wheel allows you to navigate and be protected from the things that may come into your driving space. The steering wheel is needed every moment that you’re in the car. If you’re moving, you need your hands on the steering wheel.

But the spare tire, while necessary, is something that plays a secondary role. Like me, I’m sure some have never touched the spare tire in your car. Some of you may have no idea where the spare tire even is! You recognize that a spare tire is needed in case of an emergency. But if you’ve ever heard the flapping of a blown tire and had to pull off to the side of the road, your heart and mind race as you think, “I don’t even know how to change the tire. I’m not even sure how I’m supposed to get the spare tire out. I’m not sure what to do.” My husband's brother is always asking if the kids in the family know how to change a tire. I do not. I would not even think of trying and just call someone to have the tire changed.

Is your prayer life like a steering wheel or a spare tire? Does your prayer life guide you in every facet of your life? Is it something you have your hands on every waking moment of the day? You can’t take your hands off it, knowing that if you stop praying, your life can fall apart at the seams. Or is it a spare tire, something that comes out only in emergencies? 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says to “Pray without ceasing.”

Key #3 - Frequency and consistency matters.

Prayer is like a muscle. Use or lose it. As a child, I watched my mother every morning sit at the dining room table and pray and read her Bible. It was marked up and falling apart. It made such an impression on me that I wanted that type of prayer life. She was so assured of how real Jesus was. Even at the end of her life, she would say she would see Jesus in her dreams. She would hold His hand & walk with Him.

Psalms 63:1 & 6 is a psalm of David, regarding a time when he was in the wilderness of Judah. "O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night."

Psalms 84:10 says, "A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a doorkeeper (a porter/janitor) in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked." Psalm 84 was a scripture that my friend Janet and I, in the beginning of planting our church, would come to stand on. It was a foundational truth.

Early on, another church merged with ours. At our new location, I sensed God wanted me to fast and pray through the “Night Watches”. There was such heavy spiritual warfare during this 30 day fast. He was teaching me that there are times He wants you to commune with Him and learn to distinguish His voice. To learn to listen in quiet moments with no interruptions. 3:00 am and 6:00 am became times that God would wake me up to ”talk”.

Waking early is not meant to simply study God’s Word or to exercise discipline. Waking up early is when I meet God. My husband and I teach the importance of a fervent prayer life. Getting up early for devotions is key. Scripture says, 'early will I seek You..”

Isaiah 50:4-5 says, “The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom so that I know how to comfort the weary, Morning by morning he wakes me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away.”

In our previous church, our Pastor invited an evangelist couple to minister. Sheryl Brady, now one of TD Jakes’ campus pastors on television, made such an impact on my life. I’ll never forget what she said that Sunday. While leading worship, she spoke about how much she loved to be in God’s presence. As she woke in the morning, she would sense the Holy Spirit hovering, waiting to commune with her. When she said that, it made my heart ache. I desperately wanted that kind of experience. God knew my heart’s cry even at that very moment because she looked right at me and called me to come out of my seat. She spoke prophetically, saying that I had the heart of a worshiper. She had no idea!

More often than not, as I wake in the morning, I hear a song playing in my mind. It’s as if the Holy Spirit is waiting for me to wake up and worship. Now that’s communing!

But we have to take some action. In the story of Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:13 - "Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of living water springing up into everlasting life."

This woman asked Jesus where to find this living water. God was showing us that no matter the route, He will provide and nourish us. Of course, this water is found in the Word and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Prayer and meditation is the way to drink; so that we too may never thirst again. But WE need to drink. Jesus offers but he won’t force us to drink. It’s up to us how deeply and often we drink from His well.

Key #4 - Come expectant.

Whether its early in the morning, in the middle of the afternoon, during the watches of the night — we can expect glory, splendor, and majesty. We should expect God to meet us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I look back on some of the moments of my prayer life when all I could do is pour out my heart and soul in a gut-wrenching cry for Him to move on my behalf. That is travailing prayer.

E.M. Bounds wrote “Power Through Prayer”. He died in 1913 at the age of 78 years old. He came to faith in his early 20’s during the Third Great Awakening. After hearing an evangelist preach at a tent revival meeting, he left his law practice and went into seminary and was ordained at 24 years old. Living in the South during the Civil War, he was forced to join the Confederate army. Following an injury in battle, he was arrested then released. Returning home, he felt compelled to help rebuild and became a Pastor. He established weekly prayer meetings that lasted hours. It was said that he woke at 4:00 am to pray and prayed until 7:00 am then broke for breakfast. It is said that he was seen weeping during his prayer time. In all his years of ministry, he only had two books published. 13 works were compiled from his writings after his death. Two ministers that admired his work, tirelessly prepared his manuscripts for publication by 1921, almost 10 years after his death.

EM Bounds once said “God shapes the world by prayer. Prayers are deathless. They outlive the lives of those who uttered them.” My mom’s prayers are eternal!

In his book Power Through Prayer, EM Bounds said - “Are we praying as Christ did? Do we abide in Him? Are our pleas and spirit the overflow of His spirit and pleas? Does love rule the spirit—perfect love? These questions must be considered as appropriate at a time like the present. We do fear that we are doing more of other things than prayer. This is not a praying age; it is an age of great activity, of great movements, but one in which the tendency is very strong to stress the seen and the material and to neglect and discount the unseen and the spiritual. Prayer is the greatest of all forces, because it honors God and brings Him into active aid. There can be no substitute, no rival for prayer; it stands alone as the great spiritual force, and this force must be imminent and acting. It must be continuous and particular, always, everywhere, and in everything. We cannot run our spiritual operations on the prayers of the past generation. Many persons believe in the efficacy of prayer, but not many pray. Prayer is the easiest and hardest of all things; the simplest and the sublimest; the weakest and the most powerful; its results lie outside the range of human possibilities—they are limited only by the omnipotence of God. Meaning God, having unlimited power; is able to do anything.”

Key #5 - Fervency through travailing prayer.

Jesus demonstrated in the Lord’s Prayer that we should ask for forgiveness of our sins and to forgive others. Travailing prayer is a manifestation of the grief of the heart of God. We serve a Holy God that is grieved by sin.

James 5:16 (NLT) “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

Joel 2:17 says, "Let the priests, who minister in the Lord’s presence, stand and weep between the entry room to the Temple and the altar. Let them pray..."

Weeping between the porch and the altar is a mandate for leaders to assemble God’s people together for a time of prayer, fasting and consecration. The porch represents the flesh or the outer court of worship, the altar represents the Spirit, the place of sacrifice, the place of giving up and re-dedicating one’s life back to God. It’s time to weep between the porch and the altar until the Spirit of the Lord is poured out upon us.

Why is it necessary to take up wailing, mourning and crying? It is a time for the altar of our hearts to return back to God. Jeremiah says, “Oh, that my head were waters and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night.” (Jeremiah 9:1) 

Jesus also gave us the example of travailing prayer as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. Grieved and distressed, His prayer was about laying down His life and His own desires. Luke 20:44 says, “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.”

He said in Mark 14:36 - “Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Jesus looked deeply into the “Father’s Cup” he was about to drink and was terrified. Everything in his human flesh wanted to flee the impending physical torture of crucifixion. And His spirit groaned with dread at the far greater, impending spiritual torture of having the Father turn His face away, being separated from Him. Having longed and even pled, to be delivered from God’s will, Jesus expressed in these nine simple words a humble faith in and submission to God’s will that was more beautiful than all the glory in the created heavens and earth combined. He perfectly and obediently trusted in his Father.

How incredible are these examples of effective prayer? They have been instrumental in the formation of my spiritual life. I pray they become the same for you.

In summary:

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Updated: Aug 22, 2020

It most certainly has been an interesting few months, to say the least.

The spring brought us into a place of fear with Covid19. We saw civil unrest here in the U.S. throughout the summer with racial tensions and now we are entering into the fall where we will more than likely see the most difficult presidential campaign and election of our time.

I don’t mean to bring everyone down, I’m just stating facts.

I have a group of friends and we like to think of ourselves as “Hope Dealers”. Our strengths are encouragement, inspiration and motivation through Biblical foundational principles. One principle that I've learned is - there is an enemy of our souls that does not want to see us succeed in any area of our lives.

Yet, no matter what the circumstance is, God has a way of working all things together for good. It's important to know that we also have responsibility in this. We can’t just sit back and rely on God to do everything for us.

James 1:21-25 says, “Be doers of the word, not hearers only.”

It's important that we build our lives on the word of God. Satan tries to hijack our understanding of the word if we don’t allow it to get deep down into our spirit. If we don’t obey the word, then it won't change our thinking. We become like a person that looks at ourselves in a mirror and walks away, immediately forgetting what we look like!

Let me give you an example. This was a tough week. What should have been a week to celebrate some family milestones became a knock-down, drag-out argument between my husband, son and myself. Just because we are pastors does not mean we are perfect. No one is.

We all struggle. We all have our issues. I have a strong bond with my son but there are times when the enemy just wants to rip our family apart through him. The enemy will use every circumstance in your life to throw you off track in your walk with Christ.

I’m here to tell you, I’m not about to let that happen. I don’t take a passive stance. I always show love but when the rubber meets the road, you don’t want to poke the bear, so to speak. Yes, I’m the mama bear!

I needed to take a stand with my son. He knew he had made some bad decisions. After our argument, I let him go blow off steam alone while I did the greatest thing I could do. I got on my knees and prayed.

It may seem silly. Prayer in a moment when it seems like your world is falling apart sounds foolish. But let me tell you, it’s what sets things right. We have the ability to change the atmosphere in our homes as moms.

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 says, “Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”

So when all hell breaks loose, I get in prayer. Sometimes, it’s the best and only thing you can do. There are lies that we may believe that don’t align with God’s word. It’s only through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit that can break through wrong thinking and actions.

So here are some things you can do to not only cope with tough situations but stand firm and turn it around:

  1. Of course, pray. Get on your knees. Get some warrior friends to stand with you in prayer. I preached a sermon on the essentials of effective prayer. (Link is in my Instagram bio.)

  2. Don’t allow the situation to dictate your feelings. At first, I was upset but you cannot solve-problems and come to a greater resolution in anger. Take a minute, take a breather and use self-control. It’s a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). Redirect the negativity into positive productivity.

  3. Tackle the biggest problem first. Although I had to redirect time and energy to problem-solving and had to leave other things on my to-do list unfinished, I took the time and got down to the bottom of it. If you leave situations hanging, they just sit on your shoulders and distract you. Get the important things out of the way. Then get back to your to-do’s. This is an important tool I learned to break through procrastination.

  4. Speak the name of Jesus and know the power of the atoning work of the cross and His blood that was shed for you, backs up that name and all of heaven comes to your defense. Though the enemy may try to build a matrix of evil around us, we can call upon the name and blood of Jesus so that no weapon that is formed against us will prosper!

Oh and yes, everything is working out with my son. He's getting back on track. We are all a work in progress.

© 2018 camille