On Prayer

“And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?” our Lord inquires.

“Cast all your cares on Him, because he cares for you,” Peter says.

“Pray without ceasing,” Paul tells us.

My mind often objects to these injunctions. Doesn’t the Bible also say that God knows exactly what we are going to say before we say it? Doesn’t it say that God knows our needs before we ask him? It also says that God knows what will happen in the future. Why bother praying then, if he already knows what he is going to do?

You see my poor, finite mind trying to grasp a concept that is beyond time. Yes, God does know what I am going to do, but knowing is not the same as making. He knows that today I will sin, but he does not make me do it. In the same way, he knows what will happen next week, but he sees it with the prayers we have or have not yet offered in mind.

In his book Miracles, C. S. Lewis explains this concept. All of our prayers, spoken or unspoken, past or present, are visible to God from all eternity. This is the theological reason why God desires that we pray for what we need.

There is also another reason, however. I have never yet been friends with someone to whom I have never spoken. When Abraham was called the ‘friend of God,’ it was not an accidental relationship. Abraham had a habit of constantly speaking with his Maker and doing what he was told to do, reason or no reason. How are we to love God unless we obey him, and how are we to obey God unless we know him, and how are we to know God unless we speak with Him, and how are we to speak with Him except by prayer?

God is gracious enough to allow unworthy creatures like us to participate in the great things that he is doing. It’s like having an inexperienced person on your ranch who wants to learn how to train horses (like myself). Something is bound to go wrong. They are going to make mistakes, and maybe even create catastrophes. And here is where my analogy falls apart. You as my mentor would perhaps not be able to fix everything up, and you certainly wouldn’t have foreseen the problem. God on the other hand knows when and where we will mess up and is quite prepared to handle it.

When God’s saints (us) stop praying fervently day and night as Jesus said in his parable of the unjust judge and the widow, suddenly God’s kingdom stops advancing.

The power of a prayer of faith is the power of our God.

In that same parable about prayer, Jesus ends with a question. “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

So friend, let us join together in faithful prayer without ceasing and see what our mighty God will do through us for His glory!

The Horsegentler

“He just isn’t getting it.”

“He refuses to stop.”

“She won’t back up.”

“He hates the bridle.”

“She doesn’t like me. She is always doing her own thing.”

These and more are comments I hear on a daily basis at the barn. They can be summed up with the frustration-packed sentence: “He just isn’t getting it.”

These statements are how I know when it is time to take a step back and approach from a different angle. What is it about that horse’s personality and thought process that is creating this conflict with the owner’s personality and thought process? Often these owners have tried everything they can think of. Where am I going to go?

I’m going to go right back to the beginning. When a behaviour problem shows up in a horse, 99% of the time it didn’t happen over night. There has been a slow buildup of behaviours and thoughts in that horse that the owner or trainer has not noticed and left uncorrected. Finally, after exhausting all his other methods of saying, “I’m not comfortable,” “I don’t like this,” or “you aren’t making any sense,” the horse resorts to the behaviours that get him real relief. He tosses his head and avoids the bridle. He pushes through the bit and doesn’t stop.

And 99% of the time, these problems come up because the horse didn’t get something early on. They did not understand one of the key, foundational lessons that enables them to stop from rein pressure or drop their head for the bridle. Somehow the trainer’s message got corrupted. Now we need to go back and fix it.

I have mentioned Noëlla before. I mentioned that she had no ground manners and was just clueless about how to act around me when I was on the ground. Her biggest issue was backing up, and the lack of understanding on the ground translated to almost no backup in the saddle. Pulling harder did nothing, and by the middle of a frustrating session not only was she not backing up, but she also wasn’t stopping, and when she slowed down for a moment she would immediately speed up again, even though my pressure had not ceased. She was confused.

After that session I didn’t get back on her until I had done some major ground work addressing the real problem. Two sessions later her stop and her back up on the ground are immensely improved and in the saddle great progress has been made.

What did I do?

I went back to the very beginning and explained to her what pressure on her halter means. First was ‘go’ pressure. She knew that. Then was stop pressure. Very lightly at first I applied the stop signal. A finished response will enable the horse to stop in 1.5 strides, so after 1.5 strides I increased my pressure to achieve one light step of stopping. The remaining half step remained heavy and she barged through my pressure, but I rewarded her anyway. That is called Basic Attempt in the Learning Theory setup.

Continuing this process exactly the same, increasing pressure for the steps over the 1.5 steps I wanted, she was stopping smartly. By the end of the session her legs were no longer scattered all over the place, but were occasionally landing in a square position. In the next session we passed Obedience stage, and are moving on now to Straightness.

The books Academic Horse Training and The Truth About Horses where these methods are found in detail are both invaluable and come highly recommended from me.

So take your problem, consider it well, find the root, and attack it patiently from there.

The Horsegentler

Whatever you Do…

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

—Colossians 3:17

Whatever you do. At church, of course. With other people definitely. But whatever? ‘Whatever’ in my word and actions? Yup, that’s what Paul says. Whatever. Everything.

Washing dishes, walking the dog, wiping the counter after your little brother spilled his milk…again. Whatever.

Reading a book, running outside to dance in the rain, raking the fall leaves. Whatever.

Even the vacuuming, the chores, talking on the phone, sending an email. Everything is included in whatever. And we are supposed to do it all for our Saviour and Lord.

Jesus doesn’t just ask to be remembered at prayer time, or to receive a mumbled thanks before a meal. He isn’t happy with being stuffed into the ‘Sunday’ corner of our lives. No, he demands it all.

The beautiful thing is that this is not drudgery. When Christ lifted up humanity by becoming a human Himself, he did these things. He had younger siblings. He was obedient to his parents. He likely helped his father, who was a carpenter. He knows work, and He redeemed it, just like every other aspect of our lives.

Whatever we do for God, from serving one of His own who doesn’t have enough to eat or feeding the horses at chore time, turns into praise to God. When we do what He has given us to do, He is honoured and glorified in our lives.

That is how it is supposed to be.

But how does one praise God with a potato peeler in one hand and task after task looming while the baby screams and you just heard the horses fighting outside and Lou looks like he got hurt?

Honestly, I don’t know. Every day I ask God for his mercy and grace to remind me of His call to praise him with everything I do. I don’t make it, and I often forget the wonderful grace He has given to me. But each time He recalls me, I have a choice.

I could say, ‘thanks for brining me back to You,’ and change my attitude, or I can ignore Him and go on sinning.

Whatever is big, but it isn’t bigger than the God I serve. When I chose to follow again, I give my King praise and store up my treasure in Heaven.

The Horsegentler

Equine Studies Online

I’ve become aware of an awesome program recently, and am using it to top up my horse care skills.

The University of Guelph is one of the best universities in Canada, and it has an amazing reputation in the agricultural world. Besides having the usual courses at the university campus, though, Guelph also offers online Open Education classes! There are many topics, but of course the ones I am interested in are the horse ones.

There are four main courses of study: A Diploma in Equine Studies (10 courses), an Equine Science Certificate (6 courses), a Certificate in Business Management (6 courses), and an Equine Welfare Certificate (6 courses).

But the real beauty of these courses is that you don’t have to take them as part of a program. If all you really want to know is Equine Genetics, you can take just that class. If you register before the early-bird deadline, you only pay $400 CAD! This is university level education at a reasonable price.

It is open to people all over the world at the same price, so we get a wide variety of experience in the classes. Online is different, but it is an innovative way to bring the horse world together.

I am working on a Diploma in Equine Studies; after next semester I will be finished it. Go check out the courses offered here: http://www.equinestudiesonline.ca. Yes, the website isn’t the clearest… but keep poking around and you’ll get it!