A picture of a directional sign with yes pointing the right and no pointing to the left with a sunset in the background.
Spiritual Direction

The Struggle of Yes and No

When you are actively praying and practicing how to pray (just like practicing trumpet or piano or voice or welding) you get better at catching what you actually need to pray. I imagine that reads a little obvious. Like “duh” but it occurs to me that it simply is not. Obvious, I mean. Not in the moment.

A friend and I were having a writing session. We gabbed for a while, and I did a thing I do sometimes with those I know well… I took notes as she was talking. (She finally asked “what are you doing” because understandably it was suspicious and possibly weird. And it should be because if your friend the writer takes notes while you’re speaking, you should definitely ask why. You could end up being the topic of the next blog. But that’s not why I was taking notes and I didn’t plan on this turning into a story. But here we are. Proof that you should double check on the writer friend of yours.

I was taking notes, as I told her, because I wanted to pray about the things she had shared with me that I knew needed a shower of grace. Ohhhh, a shower of grace. A grace shower. Wouldn’t that be nice? Just get in the shower and turn the dial to “grace”. Not hot or cold. Just grace. Yes, thank you, Jesus.

Anyway, she laughed, and we continued. But after our writing session I asked her if I could pray over those things. I didn’t just write down the perceived difficult issues. I wrote down the good stuff because we so often do not catch the good stuff. I mean what if you had someone (a guardian angel of notetaking perhaps) who walked around jotting down all those thoughts, those thousand and one thoughts, daily, that float in and out and then at the end of the day you took them and wrung them out on the prayer washboard?

Well that’s what I did.

Here’s what happens when you make this equivalent to a daily walk, voice lesson, teeth brushing. You get better and better at zapping the issues with the truth and get even better at discerning what a real problem is, what a habit is, what a thought-harassment is, and perhaps even more importantly, what you are missing that is going well.

And the more you do that the more you’ll begin to understand how to pray for these things, these thoughts. And what will be on the forefront of your mind? A better way of handling the issues of the day.

But you have to take that grace shower.

Also, when you do this another thing is likely to happen. You’ll get to the real point faster and with more courage you’ll be ready and willing to fight back.

I am old enough to remember letters. (The kind with stamps.) I also have many old letters found after my grandmother passed away. I know from experience, and I saw this over and over again as I read letters between aunts and great grandmothers that people dally around the real issue for about two and a half pages before they ask for the money, tell that the neighbor is sick, or that they still love you. It invariably happens about page three.

When you pray more, not only will you get to the real issues faster, you’ll be a better prayer detective. Which means you’re likely to experience peace faster, uncover your truth nugget, or simply release your inner “ah-ha”! Or “Eureka”! Or that confounded Yes or No without the obligatory anxious struggle.

You’ll recognize what the spirit specifically ignites in you that indicates “yes” or signals “no” before “maybe” hunts you down for immobilization.


You’ll recognize what the spirit specifically ignites in you that indicates “yes” or signals “no” before “maybe” hunts you down for immobilization.

But you must be steeped in prayer. You have to show up. You have to show up and step into that shower of grace daily (and repetitively) during that day. Does that mean you have to stop and kneel in the grocery aisle? No. (Oh but wouldn’t that be interesting if we saw people doing that? What kind of a world would that be?) But a consistent, CONSCIOUS, conversation and commitment to listening for a moment must be the order of the day. Yes, yes “conscious” was in all caps.

I do it too. “Oh, I’m always talking to God.” That’s nice. I’m sure God loves hearing your problems. All. Day. Long. It’s a good thing he’s God. Can you imagine if he was human? How many friends do you keep long term by doing that?

No, I mean you have to stop and “lift up” the moment, say your stuff, and listen. Then praise for what is going right (and wrong for that matter, which gets you extra credit for deeper faith, because He’s always on it) and be thankful. Full stop.

This is why it’s called a practice.

Back to the real issues on page three… My friend and I had a page three just when we were getting off the face-phone. It happened because we’d just prayed the shower of grace. A portal to the truth was opened and we walked through it. And we got some answers. Some full fruitful immediate satisfying and sound answers.

That can happen for you.

So. Pray. Every day. Take a notepad or use your notes app on your phone…whatever. And begin to be alert and aware of what you’re consistently worried about. I can bet, from experience, that you are not half as aware of what’s bugging you as you think. And also that many of your anxieties have become so second nature that you don’t even think to lift them up to the light. Things as simple as that electric bill you thought was going to be $80 and its $250. So you worry. But you don’t tell God, “Lord, I thought this bill was going to be $80 and its $250 because Texas is very hot and air conditioning is shockingly expensive. And then you can talk to him about provision, sure, but the real issue is your anxiety and the peace you need over the new bill… or the friendship… or the family dispute…or the new job…or the grief you’re experiencing…or the war overseas… or the decision to say, “This stops now.”

We have thousands of thoughts daily and they are often running roughshod though our brains. Scripture says to take every thought captive – as a prisoner – to obey Christ. That means to surrender your thoughts to the TRUTH. The thoughts must bend the knee to authority. Remember authority? Here we are again.

So I don’t normally do a “How To” but today I will. Here’s your Shower of Grace Assignment:
  • Get pencil and pad.
  • Take it with you today everywhere
  • Write down every stinking thing you think about that is at “issue”
  • Write down what’s going right
  • Write down what you perceive as wrong
  • Then sit down with it and lift every single issue (no matter how insignificant you think it is) up to heaven and ask God what He thinks about it and have a chat about it like you were talking to your best friend
  • Then? Zip it and listen, listen, listen.
  • Say thank you in faith that even the not so good stuff will turn around
  • Do it again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

If you do this, you’ll get better at vocalizing and articulating the thought machine and you’ll get better at listening (which may be more important for you.) This is coming from a person who likes to talk.

Also, iron sharpens iron; meaning that when you have a friend to pray with, or a pastor or a spiritual director, prayer-sparks fly and fire up. The engine turns. Awareness explodes. And it, answers, can happen faster. This has been my experience. We are able to catch other’s thoughts faster than our own sometimes. because we are emotionally attached to our own happenings. In prayer with your friends there’s greater opportunity to experience a deeper, more meaningful friendship than you may have known; when you pray with them and allow them in that way. It’s a beautiful thing.

Back again to page three. On “page three” of our face-phone-zoom-thing, the real issue came up. The thing that had been hounding her. The thing she wasn’t going to talk about because the thought harasser had convinced her she could handle it without the help of God. (See how that works?) But because we’d been praying, the Holy Spirit got to the real answer bypassing all the ifs, ands, ors, and especially the buts.

The words floated in the air, suspended, as the Holy Spirit entered into our spirits with a conviction (in this case a sound “no”) that couldn’t be denied. All the reason and rationale was blasted out of the darkness with a sharp shaft of focused light.

What happened next? Exhalation.

And a sort of “Phew, we almost missed that.”

But we didn’t. Because we did that scary thing… we prayed over it…out loud… in front of each other. Yep, we went there.

And there was a little pot of gold engraved with the word “No” (in this case) on the other side.

That can be you, too, dear reader. That can be you too.

Start right now. And now that I’ve written this, I’m going to say some special intercessory prayers for all who read this. Specifically calling on grace over you right now that you’ll be encouraged and helped in this. I can’t wait to hear what happens next.

This article was originally posted on Little Yellow Bird.  Want to read more blogs on spiritual direction? Go to FleurAlysDobbins.com. Interested in spiritual direction? You can find more information about that here.