I've always been told to never underestimate the power of prayer.
I've been a witness to answered prayers in forms I never would've imagined but I must admit, there were times I felt as though my requests were falling on deaf ears.
One day I came across an image on my Instagram feed that promoted a 30-day prayer challenge. The theme was to pray for someone that we may not have the best relationship with. I had just moved back to St. Louis after graduating from college and the people that I had the luxury of not “having to deal with" while away, were now in my space at any given time. Something prompted me to look more into this prayer challenge, as I wanted to have a stronger prayer life and get rid of the negative energy that I was exerting towards other people. The challenge, included a "30 Day Power Prayer Packet" that helped guide me through the challenge, as well as a scripture, a matching prayer prompt and devotional to assist in writing my prayers for the day. The challenge called for prayer for one person but instead, I chose three people: one being a married couple.
I purchased three cheap binders, two packs of college-ruled loose-leaf paper, and some fancy pens. I'll be honest, the first few days felt more like an assignment that needed to be completed before the day was over as I was filling out three different prayer journals. The journal consisted of me pouring out my emotion about why I felt the way I did about these people and why I wanted it to change--a lot of me admitting my frustration and bitterness of why we couldn't essentially get along and why I wanted to get to the bottom of it. As the days passed and the more I incorporated scriptures about peace and forgiveness into my prayers, the easier it became. I wanted to clear the air and initiate the reconciliation of our relationship.
The creator of The Prayer Project, Saunya Shelise Hudson, created the Prayer Project 30 Day Written Prayer Challenge to help people “push past their normal everyday prayer routine and help them begin praying more focused and specific prayers for others just as people do for themselves."
If taken seriously, there are three things that can be accomplished by participating in the 30-day prayer challenge, and I can attest to this.
Strengthening of your prayer life and your relationship with the Lord.
This challenge held me accountable in reading the word and making sure I was spending much needed time with the Lord. I had been so focused on completing everything I needed to do in order to graduate that my prayer life had been put on the back burner. I still acknowledged Him in the morning and sending up some prayers over my food, but was nowhere near the type of prayer life that I desired to have. Setting aside that time had to be intentional: just like school and work.
It softens your heart to hurt and anger by allowing you to release those burdens to God.
Shifting the focus from self and what's been done to me to how I can intercede on behalf of others was a game changer. By taking the time to concern myself with the problems and burdens of others (not in a worrisome way), it allowed me to shift my focus from anger to actually wanting to see this prayer get answered for someone else. There is power in forgiveness and it is way more than just a word. Forgiveness is a daily act and that intentional pursuit of forgiveness helped soften my heart one day at a time. Besides, staying angry requires too much energy.
“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken."– Psalm 55:22
It helps your attitude toward people improve.
Listen, praying for people whose ways I am not too fond of was and still is one of the hardest things I could ever do. It is much easier to talk down to and complain because that's the first thing my mouth wants to do. Directing the conversation from gossip to prayer helps remove the tension and shifts the atmosphere. The people I chose to pursue this challenge for were people that I had the hardest time with, but as a believer, it is my responsibility to intercede on behalf of others. These individuals were so used to conflict being the theme of our relationship that when my reaction became prayer and peace, it softened their hearts as well. God knows good and well that all these people He put on this earth that we all are not going to get along but He also made it a point to say, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." – Romans 12:18
At the end of the 30 days, I presented the journals to all three parties for their own keeping; All of which were very grateful that I had taken the time to pray for their needs and wants, some of which they never told me directly, but the intensity of the prayers touched on every need they were seeking. It helped me view them in a different light and see that our “conflict" wasn't because we wanted to be in conflict, but largely attributed to what was going on in our lives and how we responded to it. And to be honest, a lot of the conflict came from miscommunication. So many times we assume the intentions of other people and can be completely wrong. Most of the time we are completely wrong. After giving these people the journals, they were able to expound on their current situation so I could understand more and vice versa. I can't say that we all are the best of friends today, but the challenge helped me see past the problems and focus more on mending relationships and reconciliation.
How we react to certain people says a lot more about us than the person we are reacting to. This challenge will provide so much clarity about your self. It really does work.
If you are interested in joining the Prayer Challenge, you can sign up www.aloveperfect.com.
Follow the founder of The Prayer Challenge on IG @Saunyaaa and on FB at The Prayer Project.
Featured image by Getty Images
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Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Victoria Monét has had an incredible year. Thanks to the success of the widely popular “On My Mama” that went viral, the singer/ songwriter’s Jaguar II album debuted in the top 10 of Billboard’s Top R&B Albums chart. She also went on to headline her own sold-out tour. So, when the MTV VMAs happened in September, everyone was surprised to learn that Victoria’s team was told that it was “too early” for the “Smoke” artist to perform at the award show. However, a couple of months later, the mom of one received seven Grammy nominations, including “Best R&B Album” and “Record Of The Year.”
Victoria is currently in London and stopped by The Dotty Show on Apple Music and shared how she feels “validated” after being dismissed by the VMAs.
“It really does feel nice and validating because, in my head, the reason why I wanted to be a performer at the VMAs or award ceremonies like that is because I felt like I am at the place where I should. I would work really hard to put on the best show that I could, and I was excited to do so,” she said.
“And I guess the best way to describe it for me is like when you're like on a sports team, and the coach is like, ‘No, you gotta sit this one out.’ When they finally put you in, and then you score all these points, and it feels like that feeling. You're like, yes, I knew it wasn't tripping, but I knew I worked hard for this, and so it's been super validating to just have these accolades come after a moment like that, and I know the fans feel vindicated for me.
While her fans called the VMAs out on their decision, the “Moment” singer kept it cute and is still open to performing at the iconic award show. “I feel no ill towards them because it's just maybe that's just truly how they felt at the time, but I hope their mind has changed,” she admitted.
Feature image by Amy Sussman/WireImage for Parkwood