Tagged: prayer

Prayer for a Focused Heart

Fire

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Do you find it easy for your heart to lose its focus on Christ and doing His Will? I think there is natural drift in all of our hearts especially when our little worlds feel chaotic and our eyes attend to  circumstances rather than remembering the generosity and grace of our Lord. And sometimes we forget that Christ’s design in coming into the world was to reform the world and in doing so, He expects that His followers would be radically identified with Him. As we identify with Him and follow Him, we seek to cooperate with the work of His Spirit in the reforming of our hearts and lives. Thankfully even as we make a mess of things, He still remembers His gratuitous covenant which He has made with us through His Son.

The prophet Malachi writes, “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness.”  Take a moment with the following prayer:

Grant, Almighty God, that as Satan strives to draw me away from my full attention in serving You through the circumstances of disorder and confusion in my world;  — O grant, that I may know that You still have a tender affection for me; and if I perceive that you don’t by what I find in my world, may I rely on Your Word, and not doubt that You always watch over my safety; and being supported by this confidence, may I always continue in the path of my calling: and as You have designed to make me a partaker of the greatest evidence of Your favor in being reconciled to  You through Your only-begotten Son; and being made one with Him,  may I never hesitate to cheerfully offer my services to You, however defective they may be, since You have once promised to be a generous  Father to us, so as not to rigidly test what I offer to You, but so graciously to accept it, that we may know that not only my sins, which justly deserve condemnation, are forgiven and laid aside, but that You also bear with my infirmities and my defects in my imperfect works, that I shall at length receive the reward which You have promised, and which I cannot attain through personal merits, but through the sanctification of Your Spirit, and through the sprinkling of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. — Amen.

(paraphrased from Calvin’s prayer at the end of his commentary on Malachi)

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What is Holy Saturday?

Solitude

Holy Saturday is the time in between John 19:41-42 and John 20:1:  Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there…(INSERT HOLY SATURDAY HERE)…Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb…

Holy Saturday is the day between the Good Friday Dusk and Easter Sunday Morning Dawn. It consists of over 30 Sabbath hours of time between Friday Sunset and Sunday Sunrise in which the gospel writers give us no details, it is just EMPTY SPACE and DEAD AIR. We know what Good Friday feels like: despair, darkness, defeat and hopelessness. We know what Easter Sunday feels like: joy, light, victory and hope. But does Holy Saturday have a feel?

Recognizing that the Passion Week represents a continuous historical narrative, churches typically pause to enter into emotion of Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday or Tenebrae) and some pause to remember the journey of our Lord on the Via Dolorosa on Good Friday. But then we enter into Holy Saturday, a time when the sanctuaries of the old churches are stripped bare and lay in darkness. No services are scheduled, no sermons are preached, no one gathers for fellowship and there is no Lord’s Supper in order to commemorate the non-event of Holy Saturday. Holy Saturday is a dead intermission, an empty void between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ when His body lays in the tomb. I’ve never heard a message preached about Holy Saturday and I don’t recall singing a Hymn where Holy Saturday is given more than a sentence. But in the sentence of Holy Saturday (or more accurately, the parenthesis) there is an eerie feeling of familiarity to me.

I see that we live every day in a similar yet post-resurrection tension as we wait for the King to come back to consummate the Kingdom he inaugurated 2000 years ago. In between His two advents, we sin, we feel guilt, anxiety, shame, restlessness, we deny Him, sometimes betray Him, life sometimes feels dark and we often wonder what to do next just like the disciples on that First Holy Saturday. The difference living parenthetically on this side of Easter is that we can always turn back with understanding to the significance of the Cross to find forgiveness and mercy and embrace the life and certain hope imparted to us through the Resurrection.

(Inspired by Alan E. Lewis: “Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday“)

A Good Friday Prayer

Groom, Texas

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O Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered death upon a cross for our sakes; We look upon You whom we have pierced and we mourn for our sins with godly sorrow; teach us how to forgive as you have forgiven us; display to us that we are to suffer as you suffered and prove to us that just as you have overcome that we shall overcome.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace. Lord, in Your great mercy, remember us when You come into Your Kingdom. Amen.

When Jesus prays for you

While our adversary the devil is a formidable foe who will use any allowable means necessary to opportunistically attack faith in the most vulnerable moments of life, take heart because Jesus prays for you! Jesus sought to prepare Simon Peter for the imminent moment of the Shepherd being snatched away,  “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Take courage because Jesus’ intercession is the guarantee that your faith, though shaken will not fail. When Jesus says, “I’ll pray for you” this is not the meaningless human resignation uttered when we don’t know what else to say or do for a struggling friend as if to say, “I pity you, good luck with all that!” Unlike my prayers, when Jesus prays, All of His Prayers are Answered, YES! So Christ guarantees victory for Peter, the Disciples and all who believe. The prayers of Jesus give us assurance that God’s grace will be victorious. Paul reminds us in Romans 8,

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. …nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Because you are among the elect, Jesus has been condemned for you and the Father has Justified you through the righteousness of His Son. This Son is risen and now sits at the right hand of the Father always praying for you as your great sympathetic high priest. Because He always has the Father’s ear and His prayers are always answered, YES, you will be a conqueror! Even more than that! Your faith will persevere to the end and you will always BE LOVED! And not only that but through the process of having your faith sifted coupled with Jesus prayers for your perseverance, when (not if) you turn back to Him you will become stronger so that you may help strengthen others.

Fear constricts the flow of grace while Faith opens its hydrant

I think the tendency of many people, even Christians, is to view God as stingy and holding back the best from us as if God is like a man who is afraid he will run out so he is always thinking about the cost. There is a lot of stinginess to go around in our churches today but God is not the source of this stinginess. In fact, if we will trust Him and walk with Him in faith, he promises to open up heaven itself to us and pour out blessings beyond our wildest dreams. (Cf. Mal. 3:8-11 The Message)

In Mark 5, as Jairus’ faith sinks upon hearing the news of his daughter’s death, the heart of Jesus desires to pour out blessings beyond his wildest dreams so he seeks to impart courage with the words, “Don’t fear,  just believe.” For Jairus to receive the blessing Jesus wants to impart, he must trust in Jesus because fear constricts the flow of grace while faith opens its hydrant. So don’t fear, just believe or else by fear and distrust, we can shut out the grace that Christ desires to impart, a grace that is not hindered by death. Jesus says, “if you simply transfer your trust to Me, you will not lack power. But you must allow my power to flow and not constrict it with your fear.”

You see, our faith can never grow beyond the power of God which resists boundaries. It is never that we have too much confidence in God; it is ALWAYS that we have TOO LITTLE. Our fear ties a noose around His benefits while our faith is the instrument that connects us to His power. Calvin comments, “Our own scanty desires hinder Him from pouring out His gifts upon us in greater abundance….our faith, however large, will never embrace the 100th part (smallest fraction) of divine goodness.” Jesus regularly attributed his healings to the faith of individuals as He did with the two scenes in Mark 5. We shouldn’t attempt to nuance or water  down our role of believing because faith always derives its content and virtue from the object in which it rests. It does matter that we trust, it does matter that we have faith. And He may not do it, if you fail to Just Believe. Faith is not about believing certain propositions but instead is a certain kind of confidence, a Gift of Confidence and strength that the Lord imparts to us so that we can trust Him. When you trust the Person of Jesus Christ, your heart enlarges beyond limits and your courage and confidence in Him grows. Do you want this confidence for yourself? Pray: “Jesus give me the kind of confidence in You that Just Believes!”

Trusting God when Bad News comes

Have you ever had a friend or spouse approach you with the words, “I have some good news and some bad news, which would you like to hear first?” This is common phraseology in our culture which is sometimes simply employed to communicate an outlook that is mixed with positive and negative elements, but in my experience is most often used to cushion impact of Bad News. Why is there always SOME bad news? Well, our reaction to receiving Bad News says a lot about where our trust rests. Psalm 112:6-8 says: “For the righteous will never be moved…He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.” (ESV)

In Mark 5, while Jesus was still speaking to the woman with the chronic bleeding problem, the desperate dad/ruling church elder named Jairus, who has been waiting on Jesus to come to his home to heal his dying daughter, received some Bad News from the home: “Your daughter is dead.”  This Message produces an even greater level of despair in the Dad. It saps his courage, his faith sinks like a punctured tire and a pit grows in his stomach the size of a basketball. This is perhaps the worst news a parent can ever receive, he has lost his pride and joy! His little girl, whom he loves is gone. Seemingly death places the concern outside of Jesus’ ability to help. But with instant access to the dad’s thoughts, feelings and blood pressure readings, Jesus hears the desperation, gives the deepest empathy and says to him,  “Don’t fear,  just believe.”

Can you imagine Jesus, with His steely eyes looking right into yours then with absolute knowledge of you and your life circumstances, can you hear Him speaking those strong yet tender words to you “Don’t fear, Just Believe”?

“Let nothing trouble you, Let nothing frighten you, Everything passes, God never changes, Patience Obtains all, Whoever has God Wants for nothing, God alone is enough” –Teresa of Avila

Tomorrow: “Fear Constricts the Flow of Grace while Faith Opens its Hydrant”

When God doesn’t answer “on time”

Typically when we share our anxiety about a circumstance with a friend, we expect the friend to respond with a similar angst to our situation. After all that’s how we know they care, right? But when a friend responds with nonchalance, we feel that they don’t really love us. Well sometimes we project this same expectation to God in respect to our prayers. We expect God to mirror our anxiety and sense of urgency so that He will act in a hurry. The problem with that expectation comes when immediate relief to our plight doesn’t arrive, we are left with charging God with apathy towards us.

But God lives and works on another timetable, one that is not driven by my personal anxiety. This is wonderfully illustrated in Mark 5:21-43 as Jairus, the desperate dad/synagogue ruler who comes to Jesus looking for the healing of his dying daughter. As they begin to move toward his home they are interrupted by a poor woman with a chronic bleeding condition. Dick Lucas writes that one of the most striking things in this scene is that, “Jesus takes the time to comfort and teach an unclean woman with a chronic problem, causing a Male Church leader in urgent need to wait.” Jarius deserves quicker attention: he has the clout, the status, the cultural norms, along with a more urgent situation and a higher quality of faith than the woman. Jairus would likely resent the interruption as Jesus lingers with a sick woman (who is not going to die anytime soon) while his dying daughter waits.

The woman tugs at the back of Jesus’ robe and gets his attention. Moments later the Synagogue Ruler is tugging on the same robe saying in his heart, “Come on Jesus, we need to go. Perhaps you don’t understand the meaning of the word ‘URGENT.'” The bleeding woman comes with a superstitious faith, she believes poorly and lives while Jairus comes humbly with surprising confidence, he believes well and his daughter is going to die.

Without spoiling the ending for you, it would be good to pause at this moment of interruption and delay to make a point from God’s perspective. The point is that delay doesn’t negate his answer and delay doesn’t negate his love.  God’s delayed response doesn’t equate to a lack of love and concern as His love is compatible with even baffling delays. His is the Perfect Timetable; the Just Right Calendar. The Lord would say to Jairus and to us in the midst of interruption and delay, “Despite how things appear at the moment, I love you and care deeply about your circumstances.” But He will not Hurry. He will not be rushed. He’s too Holy, Wise, and Powerful to Hurry.

How to come to Jesus

Sometimes we’re faced with a situation where we know we need Jesus but we don’t know how to start, what to say or how to come. In Mark 5, we meet a desperate dad who is also a synagogue leader. He’s not over-thinking what he should say or how he should come. He just comes. The text reads:

Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” And he went with him. (ESV)

Here are a few things we learn about coming to Jesus from Jairus, a dad of a twelve year old girl and Ruling Elder of the synagogue:

  • He comes Risking – Being highly respected both socially and morally as a Jewish church leader, he risks his reputation along with possible censure by the Religious establishment by coming to Jesus in broad daylight. The Jewish leaders did not care for Jesus and even treated him as the enemy so Jairus comes to Jesus risking everything that he’s earned: status, reputation, job security, friendships, etc.
  • He comes Humbly– Falling at Jesus’ feet daring not to come as an equal. He doesn’t come demanding, he doesn’t come looking for a favor based on the merit of his religious status or morality. He comes looking for something that he doesn’t deserve.
  • He comes with Surprising Confidence– Believing that Jesus has the power to actually heal his daughter from the disease which places her at death’s door, Jairus possesses a deep confidence in the Person of Jesus Christ. He comes saying in his heart, “Jesus, I’m not worthy, no one else can help, and You can do Everything!”

So here we learn how to come to Jesus. There are no magic words, there is no incantation, there is no attained status or moral integrity which is a prerequisite for coming to Him. We simply need to come risking, humbly, and with surprising confidence.