Friday, March 23, 2012

"...your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matthew 6:8)

I did a word study on prayer once and discovered that one of the original Greek words for 'pray' comes from two root words, one of them meaning 'to wish' and the other meaning 'to forward'.  I forward my wishes to God often!  In fact, I often word my prayers for others this way.  I wish for her healing...I wish her more of Jesus...I wish her love...I wish her peace...I wish her joy.  I like making wishes :)

I've seen Jesus answer a lot of those wishes immediately!  Other times I've had to be more patient.  It can be easy to ask 'why?'  Why aren't You answering that prayer the way I wish You would?  Why is she still suffering?  Why did that have to happen on top of everything else?  Why?  Don't You care?

My 'why' questions are often comforted by the truth: You do care.  You know what is best.  You love her even more than I do.  And I am often freed by this prayer: Your will be done...I wish her Your will not mine.  My will is shortsighted.  Your will is perfect.  It's not always easy to believe that, but my unbelief doesn't make it any less true.

This morning I was reading what Jesus has to say about prayer in Matthew 6.  I like how He doesn't describe prayer as a ritual, or an obligation, or give specific instructions beyond, "Make it personal.  Just between you and God.  Not for show.  Not for duty.  Not to get God's attention...He already knows...your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matt. 6:8)  The more I spend time praying, the more I'm convinced it's not about getting God's attention but God getting mine.

When Jesus does give specific words for us to pray in Matthew 6:9-13, I see an overall theme emerge from the heart of the Father. First of all, He is our loving Father, and He wants us to remember that and come to Him with our needs.  But how often do we really know what our true needs are?  What we think we need and what we actually need can be very different.  What Jesus describes here is a need for God's mercy.  A need for help, and He wants to help us.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven...God has a specific way of life in mind for me.  Not the life I think I need, or what society tells me I need, but His perfect will.  He has a specific plan, purpose, and ways to bring that about.  He hasn't left me on my own.  He wants to come and fulfill it.  He wants perfection for me in an imperfect world.  How awesome is that?

Give us today our daily bread...I have basic daily needs, and God, in His mercy, will provide for me.  But how often do I worry that He won't?  Do I think He's going to forget?  Do I think He doesn't care about me?  Or do I worry I don't deserve it because of things I've done or because I lack faith?  God doesn't give to us based on what we deserve, but on what we need.

Forgive us our debts...We need forgiveness, and Jesus invites us to freely ask for it.  Do you ever find yourself trying to please God, like you're trying to make up for something—like you owe Him something?  He doesn't want you to feel this way.  He doesn't want you to feel guilty.  He doesn't want you to feel obligated.  He wants you to be free.  Free from guilt.  Free from shame.  Free from heavy burdens of duty.  Ask for forgiveness, and then live free. we have forgiven our debtors...we need to be forgiving people.   To forgive others.  To show mercy.  To let go.  We need that.  Our hearts were not meant to hold grudges and be filled with bitterness.  We die a slow death that way.  Choose to live instead.  Move on.  If you don't think you can, ask for God's help.  This is His desire for you, and He will make a way.

And lead us not into temptation...I love that God wants to guide me in His perfect ways.  Temptations are like side-roads in my walk with God.  He's leading me on the right path—the path of good,  the path of blessing, the path of what I really need.  And then there's that tempting diversion.  But the right road is still in front of me to take.  I always have that choice.

But deliver us from evil...God is my rescuer.  I need to be rescued, but how often do I try and rescue myself?  To be strong.  To work out all the details.  To grasp for things I think will help or satisfy me, but they don't.  Jesus says, 'Don't do that.  Go to God for deliverance.  He knows you need it.  He will protect you.  He will guide you in paths of righteousness.  He will rescue you from the pit you have fallen into.  He will rescue you from that difficult person or circumstance.'

We need what God has to offer us.  The prayer Jesus gave as an example is a prayer of acknowledging that God wants to give us what we need.  When we pray in this way, we are declaring who He is...Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.  He is merciful.  He is loving.  He is gracious.  He knows my needs.

Why do we try to live life on our own so much?  Why do we strive when He says, 'Be still and know that I am God.' ?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My thoughts are a bit scattered today.  It's been a busy week.  Some people live busy lives every week, but I try not to.  I take my time with life.  I don't have more on my plate than I can reasonably manage.  This week was busier than usual because it was my daughter's birthday on Thursday, and we had activities related to that on Friday and Saturday also.  I didn't mind.  The older my kids get, the more I want to cherish the special times, so having a three-day celebration of my "baby's" 12th birthday was fine with me.

But some other things came up too, and I'm feeling the drain of it all hitting me on Saturday night.  I'd like to go to bed and sleep, but I know I can't.  There's too much on my mind, so I'm sitting here writing and telling you about it!  Seriously though, I do have something I want to share.  In my daily reading of Jesus' words this week, I was reminded that He says to be "salt and light" to the world.  I hope that's what I do with my writing; and I hope I do that with my life.  Most things are easier said than done, but when the truth is believed and followed we are blessed, and so are those around us.  

In Psalm 23 David says, The Lord is My Shepherd, I have everything that I need.  He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul...

A follower of Jesus is content.

A follower of Jesus is at peace.

A follower of Jesus accepts refreshment and restoration.

...He leads me in paths of righteousness for His Name sake...

A follower of Jesus follows.  A follower of Jesus is obedient.  A follower of Jesus believes and trusts.

...Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.  Your rod and your staff, they comfort me...

A follower of Jesus does not fear the darkness.  A follower of Jesus is never alone in her disappointment, shame, failure, sickness, pain, and suffering.   She doesn't shut God out.  She welcomes His discipline, His guidance, His peace, and His love.

...You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil.  My cup overflows...

A follower of Jesus doesn't fight her own battles.  She takes refuge in her rescuer.  She receives grace, protection, blessings, and honor.  She doesn't live in defeat and shame and emptiness.  She lives as His beloved child.

...Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

A follower of Jesus believes in His goodness and love.  She believes that everything is for her good.  The glory of eternity outshines the trials of life. 

It's been a busy week.  It's had its ups and downs.  Its success and failure.  Its joy and sorrow.  Its clarity and confusion.  And next week will bring...

Whatever...I'm following Jesus.  He will lead me to those places of contentment, rest, refreshment, right choices, trust, rescue, goodness, love, and hope.  And that's all I need.  Just Him.  Just His grace.  That's enough.

May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him, that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 15:13)