Please join me in welcoming a very special guest to my blog today. This wise, encouraging, kind, spiritual soul has been such a gift to me my entire life. She is a gift to so many others that she impacts too. Her name is Tonia Bendickson.
She spent most of her childhood being awesome at everything she did and never had to wear hand-me-downs because she was the oldest. Although she did have to wear homemade polyester creations in obnoxious colors, which I later had the pleasure of sporting as well. She would relentlessly tickle me because it would sometimes make me pee my pants. Truth. But despite her occasionally torturous behavior, she always had this amazing ability of showing me the way through all of the ups and downs of our shared youth. She led by example, achieved wonderful things, and developed into the most caring and confident woman I know.
As an adult, she has been extremely successful in her career in television news. She spent several years as a top-ranked news anchor and was welcomed into the homes and hearts of her community. A few years ago, she left the media industry and has since been pursuing a more spiritual path. As the Outreach Director for Elevation Church in North Carolina, she gets to put her spirit of service into everything she does. And she is still welcomed into the homes and hearts of her community.
She is a leader. She is a spiritual adviser She is an encourager. She is an example. She is a nurturer. She is a prayer warrior. She is today’s guest writer. And she is my sister.
When I wanted to celebrate the superpower of prayer, I couldn’t think of anyone more equipped to lead that celebration than Tonia. Because prayer is one of her most powerful superpowers!
by Tonia Bendickson
Can you remember when you first started praying? My first prayer was simple, and slightly terrifying.
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
If I should DIE?!!! NOW???! I pray my SOUL to TAKE?
This prayer did not encourage me. It gave me nightmares. And just to see if I was overreacting, I showed the prayer to my 10-year-old, Cooper – who said, “That’s creepy.”
These are the humble beginnings of my prayer life. So clearly I’m no prayer expert. If you go to the Amazon.com bookstore to look up books on how to pray, more than TWO THOUSAND results come up. I’ve read only two of them, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, and The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie O’Martian. Both are really great, inspirational resources, and I loved them. But I think the one book that has helped me pray the most is Anne Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts.
Ann’s book guides us to begin always with gratitude. “Eucharisteo – thanksgiving – always precedes the miracle,” she says. My pastor, Steven Furtick has preached on this many times as well, particularly in a Thanksgiving 2010 staff teaching I will never forget – one of his points was – “Gratitude sustains joy and blessings.”
Those teachings guided me to begin my prayers always with a thank you. Now please don’t misunderstand – I don’t always FEEL grateful. I choose to SPEAK gratitude over my situations. And don’t get the wrong idea about my prayer life, either. When I hear people talking about “quiet time” or if they ask me “How often are you getting quiet time with God?” I chuckle – because I have two boys, and the only time it’s quiet in my house is between the hours of 10pm and 7am. So unless I make it a high priority to spend time in God’s word before 7am or after 10, it doesn’t happen. And, often when I pray in my head – I fall asleep… or my mind wanders… or I start thinking of things that aren’t prayers like what I’m going to make for dinner this weekend. So I like praying out loud – with friends, with my children, in my car, and with my husband.
Most of my prayers during the day are as simple as “Thank you, Jesus.” Or “Help me, Jesus.”
I wasn’t always like this. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to do everything on my own. I knew Jesus. I loved him. I invited him to be my savior and lead my life when I was in college. But without a community of believers around you to encourage you, guide you, and challenge you, you can fall farther and farther from God.
Living in Charlotte, being a part of what God is doing through Elevation Church and hearing great preaching every single week – I’ve grown closer to God, and I’ve learned to lean on Him when I feel like the world is crashing in on me. And this is give or take, about 15 times a day.
During a particularly challenging time in our marriage, I felt like God was telling me to “Talk less, and Pray more.” I went through another period of time where I felt like God was prompting me to pray some specific things for my husband for 30 days. And now, I’m in the middle of praying Psalm 91 for 91 days along with my friends in Young Life Africa.
I pray because I know I need Jesus. I pray because I know I can’t do anything that means anything without Him. I pray because WITH HIM, I know I CAN do anything He’s called me to do. I pray because I know I am in control of so little. I pray because I want the God of the universe who made me and loves me and wants good things for me to know I’m grateful. I pray because being quiet and grateful and seeking God’s wisdom gives me clarity, and courage to take on whatever lies ahead.
I don’t feel like a prayer superhero. And maybe that’s the great thing about calling on prayer as a superpower. For me, choosing to pray when I feel weak, ungrateful, fearful, or angry means that I can release those negative thoughts and feelings – and accept the promises God has spoken over my life instead. Pastor Steven’s book Crash the Chatterbox is all about learning how to do this – and I highly recommend it.
Special thanks to my sweet sister for sharing her perspective on prayer. I have seen the effects of her prayer first hand, and she certainly is a superhero. I have seen her reach out to strangers and embrace them and pray for them. I have seen her remind people they are not alone through prayer. I have witnessed her making a difference in lives in her community. And in my opinion, that is both super and heroic.
I’m so grateful to have the power of prayer in my life. And I am even more grateful to have the guidance and beautiful example of my sister through the years to help cultivate this power.
You have it too, this superpower of prayer. You need simply to surface it.
*This is the 30th post in a 31 day series called “Celebrating your Superpowers”. Catch it from the beginning by clicking here and you will be directed to an introductory post containing links to each day’s topic. Join me in celebrating your superpowers this month!