A Different Way to Pray…

pray

Did you know that when Paul was beaten, chained, and imprisoned, that his prayer was not necessarily to be released? His prayer was not “Lord, could You get me out of here?”, or “Could you relieve my pain or bring Your wrath against those who did this to me?” His prayer was that the grace of Jesus Christ would fall on everyone. Everyone. That their love would abound. That all hearts would surrender to the one and only Lord Jesus Christ. That all would feel His affection towards them. That eyes and hearts would be opened to Jesus’s love for them. Everyone.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.  And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:7-11 (NIV)

Paul longed for them. He loved them still. Paul’s eager heart for others convicts me and the type of prayers I’ve been praying lately. If true peace comes from surrendering our hearts and lives to Jesus, shouldn’t that be our prayer? Lord, I really WANT this other stuff, but what I really NEED is to be surrendered to you. And what I really WANT is for those who I love, those who have hurt me, those whom I have hurt, and even those I don’t know to love You too. I can’t make this happen, but I can pray for it. Will you take over my life and do with it as You please? Will you humble me to pray the same for others? Will you invade my loved ones and penetrate their hearts to the point that they can no longer deny Your love for them? That they will feel it just as they are?

Lately my prayers have been revolved around others beliefs versus my own beliefs and finances. Lord, will you forgive me for my attempts to control? I want my prayers to be more like Paul’s. Not for worldly security in whatever form that may be for me. Money, approval, tradition. But, fully surrendered to You. And, for those I pray for to desire the same. That our love for You and each other will abound more and more. That our love for You will be so strong that it changes how we treat each other. That our love will be so strong, that it throws comparison out the window. Irritation and differences out the window. Because when we KNOW that we are fully surrendered to Jesus, that’s all that matters. And, that may look differently for all of us. Let it be, Lord. Let it be.

Jesus taught us how to pray….His example is: In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13 (NKJV)

Teach us to pray Your heart, Jesus. To place our Father’s name and kingdom above all else. For our daily necessities, for forgiveness, for a heart to forgive others, for deliverance from our enemy, and God’s Glory forever. For a pure heart before You. I lay it down.

Mary’s Perspective

mary

I was thinking about Mary’s personal journey today. As a young woman engaged to be married, she was visited by an angel who tells her that she has found favor in God’s eyes. Because of this favor, He has chosen her to carry and deliver His son. She had questions…how can this be possible? I’ve never even been with a man! What will my fiancé think? Will my family believe me? Why would God pick me? Do all these questions really mean I’m favored….or in trouble? She only asked Gabriel one question…how can this happen? I am a virgin. Luke 1:34. His response was The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35

Once she accepted her divine yet incomprehensible assignment, God went to work on all the rest of her concerns. He sent an angel to inform, soften, and strengthen Joseph’s heart. And, he accepted his assignment too. People talked. Mary and Joseph both knew they probably always would.

People’s questions and accusations didn’t deter either of them. I read that one reason Joseph may have taken his extremely pregnant wife with him on the treacherous journey to Bethlehem was to protect her from a possible stoning because of the infidelity she was accused of. Joseph was the supportive and God fearing man that Mary needed him to be. Both of their reputations were at stake. Still, he protected her. He covered her. Just as God told him to. It took radical obedience from them both and that’s exactly why they were chosen. God knew they had it in them. I’m sure, at times, they questioned that as well. God didn’t.

Do you ever think about the humans involved in the nativity story? The living breathing human beings that allowed themselves to be ridiculed, judged, misunderstood, and turned away?? The King of Kings and Lord of Lords was born in a stable surrounded by animals. It didn’t matter where He was born. His delivery would deliver His people regardless. God, Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, the angels, and the wise men all knew that. Soon, the world would know. But now, imagine with me the people in this story that allowed their lives to be truly turned upside down for His Glory alone.

As a mother myself, I imagine Mary rocking her new baby to sleep and wondering “why God, why me?” I’m sure most mothers can relate to this feeling. but this story takes it to a whole new level. How could You entrust Him (Your Son) to my care? As the song goes…”Mary did you know, that your baby boy has come to make you new? This child that you’ve delivered , will soon deliver you.” Our kids have a way of doing that…..they readjust our priorities, they drive us to our knees, they change us. Their innocence is enough to make us crave ours again. Their curiosity arouses ours. Their answers teach us new insights. We never think we are ready, yet God entrusts us to more than we can comprehend.

It comforts me to know that questions are normal, they make and keep us human. God’s favor is not dependent on perfection, only willingness. His overwhelming love imparts obedience. If Mary hadn’t trusted God’s love for her and desired to please Him more than anyone else, the angel’s message would have sounded like a nightmare. Why would I do that, Lord? Why on earth would You put me through that? Instead her response was I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true. Luke 1:38

It was for His Glory, not hers. She found favor in His eyes. The rest, as they say, is history…..