I have been a Christian for as long as I can remember. Devotions, journaling, and Bible studies have been a part of my daily rhythm my entire life. Yet, sometimes I still struggle to find the words to pray. On days when my circumstances drown me with their difficulty, or the mundane nature of day-to-day life leaves me feeling pretty empty, doubt can swallow my faith—and words don’t come easily. Although it is necessary and beautiful to simply sit and be in the presence of God, it is also rich and beneficial to pray the words of fellow believers. Linda Evans Shepard’s book of prayers, “Make Time for Joy: Scripture Powered Prayers to Brighten Your Day,” provides the perfect resource for when your heavy heart can’t find the words to bring you back to joy.
THE PERFECT WAY TO START
Fear permeates much of our daily lives. Fear of our futures, fear of keeping our children safe, fear of sickness, war, violence—the list goes on. If you spend just ten minutes reading the news, you can easily be swept away in an undercurrent of fear, hopelessness, and powerlessness.
In the introduction of her book, before you even read the first prayer, Linda points readers to this Scripture: “I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand and say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid; I will help you’” (Isa. 41:13, GW). As we seek to find words for our heartache, this powerful reminder that Jesus will hold our hands and walk with us through whatever lies ahead is the perfect place to begin. I was encouraged, right from the start, by my deep need for Jesus to be my guide and my help no matter what I face.
There are a couple of different ways to use “Make Time for Joy” that will greatly enhance your prayer life. You can use this book as a daily devotional to walk you through the process of growing in your commitment to prayer. Or you can use it as a prayer aid by searching the table of contents to find a topical prayer in a moment of need.
At the beginning of the book, Linda separates the prayers into categories so you can find a prayer for your specific circumstance. There are categories such as ‘Joy Builders,’ ‘Worship into Joy, and ‘Reclaiming Joy.’ On days when you just can’t seem to find a sense of joy, you’ll be able to easily find a prayer that meets you right where you are.
My favorite category was “Defeating the Joy Stealers,” which contains prayers for when you are experiencing anger, depression, bitterness, or worry. In those moments it can feel especially difficult to find the words to say to Jesus. Joy feels distant, and hope seems impossible. But Linda’s beautiful truth-filled words will be a balm to your soul. They will reach down and lift you out of the pit, taking away the burden of coming up with the words to say on your own.
A CATALYST TO DEEPEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS
One of the reasons the book of Psalms is so powerful is because, even centuries later, we can resonate with David’s feelings of hope, despair, joy, and heartbreak expressed in his prayers. His words validate the emotions surrounding much of what we experience in our modern world—even though I am pretty sure none of us are hiding in caves to save our lives. When we read someone else’s prayers, they can serve as a mirror to our own hearts. Feelings deep within our souls, that we may have been afraid to face, come forward into the light.
When reading “Make Time for Joy,” you may find it useful to highlight or underline sentences that stick out to you. Then you can use those sentences as a starting point for your own prayers by journaling your thoughts about why the highlighted portions stood out to you. You can easily go from not knowing how to voice what is on your heart to filling pages with heartfelt prayers just by the prompting of someone else’s words.
PRAYING THE SCRIPTURES
Alongside each prayer are four or five Scriptures from different translations of the Bible. These Bible verses are a significant way to give roots to the prayer you just read. As you read and meditate upon the different Scriptures, you can select one (or more) to memorize. This will prompt you to reflect on your prayers all week and continue lifting your spirit each day. As you reflect on God’s goodness, love, and protection over your life these Scriptures will remind you time and time again that you are not alone. No matter what difficulties you face throughout the day, this will give you a greater capacity to ‘make time for joy’!
A WONDERFUL GIFT
“Make Time for Joy” is a great way for anyone to start or end their day. It would make a beautiful gift for a friend, family member, or neighbor. Perhaps you have someone in your life who you know has been having a difficult time—consider making a little care package for them to include this lovely book of prayers along with some herbal tea and cozy socks. You will certainly bring comfort to their life and joy to their soul.
Whether you are walking through a time of difficulty or ease, Linda Evans Shepard’s book “Make Time for Joy” will be the perfect help to reorient your heart toward the joy of the Lord.
Linda Evans Shepherd is an award-winning author, a successful speaker, and a media personality. The president of Right to the Heart Ministries, she is the author of 37 books, including When You Don’t Know What to Pray, Praying God’s Promises, and Prayers for Every Need. She lives in Colorado.
For more, visit www.sheppro.com.