Learning to pray the Rosary – The Creed

wpid-img_20130820_173554I’m killing two birds with one stone.  I need to pray more, and take time to meditate and focus on Scripture.  I also need to learn the Rosary.  I can follow along with it, as long as I’m in the company of seasoned pray-ers, but my brain goes blank when I try to do it myself.  So, I’ve decided to add the Rosary prayers and meditations to my prayer journal, for the purpose of memorizing them to be able to recite on my own.

Catholic Answers has a very good article about the Rosary here.

I’ll share my journal pages and thoughts as I go.

Okay?  Great.

The rosary begins with the cross, we hold it in our hand as we make the sign of the cross over ourselves.  Beginning with the forehead (In the name of the Father), then down right about under our sternum (and of the Son), then from left shoulder to right shoulder (and of the Holy Spirit).

While still grasping the cross, we recite the Apostle’s Creed:

wpid-img_20130820_173733“I believe in God the Father, Almighty Creator of heaven and earth.”

Here, I’m reminded of the crash course I took in the names of God.  I see three of them:  Father, Almighty, and Creator.  In this opening line, we recognize our God in a paternal relationship, in control, and engaged in creative imaging.

He is our Father; He loves, protects, nurtures, provides and guides us, His children.

He is Almighty; He is all seeing, all knowing, all powerful, ever present, eternal, never changing, Supreme.  He is all-in-all.

He is Creator; He made it all.  In His own image, He created us.  From nothing He formed everything that exists.    And without Him, nothing was made that now exists, both in heaven and on earth.

This phrase is reminiscent of the one in the Lord’s prayer “…on earth as it is in heaven“.  Since He created it all, it stands to reason that His will continues to be done in it all, both here on earth and in heaven.

In this opening statement, we get a sneak peek into His Kingdom, power and glory and we affirm it every time we proclaim our faith through the recitation of the Creed.

…and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord

creed JCJesus asked Peter, “who do men say that I am?”  The answers are as varied today as they were then.  Some say “a great teacher”, or “a good man”, some even might recognize Him as “a prophet or sage”.  But, when asked “who do YOU say that I am?”  Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, answered correctly, “You are the Christ, the son of the Living God”.

It matters that we believe in Jesus, but it matters more, who we believe He is.

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit; born of the virgin, Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, died and was buriedconceived born crucified

The Creed is the gospel (or Good News) in a nutshell.  It identifies Jesus by declaring where He came from, and what He did.  It affirms His place in the Godhead, His miraculous birth, sorrowful death and glorious resurrection.  And most importantly, when we recite it, we affirm our belief and agreement that He is who He says He is, and we unite ourselves to Him and to each other in this affirmation.

descended to hell “By the expression “He descended into hell“, the Apostles Creed confesses that Jesus did really die and through his death for us conquered death and the devil “who has the power of death” (Heb 2:14).”  His human soul did so being “united to His divine person”.  Dying, he went down to “the realm of the dead” and opened heaven’s gates for the just who had gone before Him.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church 636, 637)

On the third day, he rose again from the dead. 

Jesus was really dead.  He wasn’t just sleeping.  He wasn’t just “reckoned for dead”, he was gone.  But he didn’t STAY dead.  He overcame death and the grave with His glorious resurrection.  This was a real event, with sworn testimony by people who SAW him, who touched him, who testified even to the point of death that this was truth.

I would not die for a lie, would you?

I think we get this part of the Apostles Creed from Paul’s words to the Corinthians;  “I gave to you the most important thing that I received…the confession that Christ died for our sins to fulfill Scripture, and that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day to fulfill Scripture, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve….” (1 Corinthians 15:3-9)

He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty

creed ascended

Mark 16:19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.

Acts 1:9 …he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

From there He will come to judge the living and the dead

Matthew 4:30 “…They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. ”

judge

Matthew 25:31-46  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another…And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life”

I believe in the Holy Spirit

“To believe in the Holy Spirit is to profess that the Holy Spirit is one of the persons of the Holy Trinity, consubstantial with the Father and the Son: “with the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.”6 For this reason, the divine mystery of the Holy Spirit was already treated in the context of Trinitarian “theology.” Here, however, we have to do with the Holy Spirit only in the divine “economy.” ”   (Catechism of the Catholic Church 685)

I believeThe Holy Catholic Church

“To believe that the Church is “holy” and “catholic,” and that she is “one” and “apostolic” (as the Nicene Creed adds), is inseparable from belief in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In the Apostles’ Creed we profess “one Holy Church” (Credo . . . Ecclesiam), and not to believe in the Church, so as not to confuse God with his works and to attribute clearly to God’s goodness all the gifts he has bestowed on his Church.” (CCC 750)

The communion of saints

One of my biggest hurdles to calling myself Catholic, and now one of my most treasured new things.  I wrote about it here, here, and here.  Bottom line, Jesus has one body, and we that love Him are part of that body.  When our earthly bodies die, we do not become disconnected from His body, we are still one with Him and with one another (as Jesus prayed for in John 17).  I love the image of my parents continuing in prayer for me like they did when they lived here, only with an eternal perspective and direct access to the throne.

The forgiveness of sins

It’s not an accident that this part is here.  We can have forgiveness of sins only because of who we profess that Jesus is.  If Jesus, the only Son of God had not died on that cross and taken the punishment for my sin upon HImself, then conquered death and the grave, there would be no forgiveness, because without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins.  I am so very thankful that Jesus gave me this priceless gift.

res body The resurrection of the body

1 Corinthians 15:12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”[f]; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.

And life everlasting, life ever

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.

I love the Apostles’ Creed.  It reminds me of a musical ensemble, this litany of profession.  With each affirmation the tempo builds and increases in strength, climbing, and ascending toward the crest, and closing in a final, dramatic crescendo of validation and resolution.  Amen!

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Make My Life a Prayer – Introspection

This post is my brainstorm for post content for my virtual retreat coming up in August.  If it looks disjointed and sporadic, or at times appears that I go from talking to my audience to talking to myself…well, welcome to my world.  Mostly, I just need a landing pad for my thoughts and inspirations to collect.  This is the best way I’ve found to do so.  I plan to use it as such, and will post it as sort of an epilogue after the retreat.  (it will not be edited and pretty…as I have other pressing things to do with my time and brain cells than worry about the aesthetics of this post)

I thought it best to focus on one subject, and mentally chose the very broad topic of “prayer”, with the thought of going through the Lord’s prayer as a guide.  You know, the one from Matthew 6 and Luke 11.  The “Our Father” for my Catholic friends.  I think this is better named “The Disciple’s Prayer” because it is at their request that Jesus teach them to pray…but I digress.

I started by looking up the passage in my favorite version (NRSVCE) and got sidetracked onto sort of a bunny trail.  As I was reading the instructions on prayer that Jesus gave to his disciples, I started to wonder about how Jesus prayed.  All that came to mind at first was when he prayed for us to be one as He and the Father are one, and His prayers on the cross “why have you forsaken me?” and “Father forgive them” and, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”, so I went on a hunt for other prayers he prayed.

Um. Wow.  Just…wow.

Luke 5:16 reads, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  Now, I am, by nature, a social being.  I like to be around people, I don’t usually like my own company…or haven’t learned to fully appreciate it yet…I like talking, and laughing, and interacting.  While I agree, that it’s biblical and wise to pull away sometimes from the noise of the crowd to hear what the Lord wants to say to us,  it does not come naturally for me, and I struggle to make it habit in my own personal life.  Over the past three years, I have found myself in lonely circumstances that the Lord has graciously used to speak rich truths to my heart that I would not otherwise have heard.  I wonder if that would have been completely necessary if I had developed the habit of withdrawing myself away first?  Hmmmm.

In Matthew 19, children were brought to Jesus so He could lay His hands on and pray for them.  Though we are told that he prayed, we aren’t told exactly what he prayed.  What we are told is that he rebuked the disciples who wanted to keep them away, saying “don’t forbid them to come…the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them”

In Luke 3, Jesus was praying after being baptized and received an audible answer from His Father.  “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”  Oh, how I’d love to hear the Lord speak those words out loud to me!  Lyn, you are my beloved daughter, I’m so pleased with you!  I often wonder if I am pleasing God…how can we know?

In Luke 9, when He fed the 5,000, he prayed to heaven, blessed the fish and loaves, and a miracle occurred.  In the same chapter, we see the account of the Transfiguration.  His appearance and countenance were changed here, and as He prayed, he had company…communion with the saints, if you will…Moses and Elijah joined him and talked of the coming mission He was to accomplish at Jerusalem.

An entire chapter of the Bible is devoted to The Lord’s Prayer…that is Jesus’ prayer for His disciples.  John 17 is packed with Jesus’ thoughts and aspirations for His followers.  I love the thought of Him praying for me, and have started contemplating using it alongside “the disciples’ prayer” as a guide in my own prayer time.  I don’t know about you, but I get pretty wrapped up in praying for myself and my own needs.  There is nothing wrong with that in itself, He tells us to cast our cares on Him because He cares for us, but Jesus set a wonderful example of being the opposite of self-centered in prayer.

In John 11,  before He raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus prayed for those who were witnessing this miracle to believe that it was God who sent Him….He prayed similarly in John 17  “that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

In Matthew 26, He prays in Gethsemane  “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” and “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done.”  Luke’s account of this in chapter 22, says that an angel appeared there and strengthened him, and He prayed more earnestly, so that his sweat became as drops of blood.  Both accounts mention that the disciples had fallen asleep while he labored in prayer. John’s account tells us that he prayed that His Father would be glorified…again, echoing the prayer of Jesus in John 17…that He would glorify the Father.  I wonder how many times He wants me to pray with Him and I fall asleep like the first followers did…this thought makes me embarrassed with the realization of my own weakness in prayer.

For this “Make My Life a Prayer” retreat, I’ll focus on The disciples’ prayer, and Jesus’ prayer for them.  I’m learning as I go, hope you enjoy and are blessed as well.

EGADS!  I have FOR SURE bitten off way more than I can chew.  Please know, that my thoughts on John 17 are in no way to be taken as a complete, exhaustive discourse on the chapter…it would take much more than a month (and much more than my feeble brain) to do that…I will do my best to record my own thoughts and impressions, and what I hear the Lord whispering to share from John 17…I’ll do what I can do, and try not to bog down in the process.  Thinking of making John 17 an all day Saturday post…broken up into three or four parts…that may make it a little easier for me in the writing process…I’ll follow up on Sunday with The Disciples’ Prayer…otherwise known as The Lord’s Prayer, or the “Our Father”…originally, I had thought of addressing them in the opposite  order, but after reading through John 17, I think that starting with His example of prayer and following up with His instructions made more sense in the way my brain is processing the information…

Sanctified in truth needs a blog post all its own.

Max Lucado on Daily Bread

John 17:  Jesus refers to himself in the third person for the first few verses here.  I’m having a hard time getting past that…is it the Holy Spirit praying through Him to the Father?

I seriously think I’m going to do a full-blown study on the attributes of God.  In fact, if I thought I had time to do it right, I’d include it in this series.  One website I found had a huge list of the names of God…way too many to include on the one little page I had devoted to it.  For now, I just picked the ones that related to me in the place I find myself mid-journey.

Today I’m about two weeks away from my deadline to have this series finished.  I have two posts that MUST BE included, and I have a terrible case of writer’s block.  I’m stuck, I can’t find words, and until today, I couldn’t even find thoughts that would guide me into a direction for these posts.  Now I’ve got some stray words and phrases that are rattling around, but I can’t seem to put legs on them and make them do anything for me.  I just continue to pray that whatever the Lord wants to say, He will give me His words, and help me present them clearly.  Until He does so, I’m meditating on the Disciples’ prayer as I continue putting together my prayer book, and collecting music and video to compliment this series.

A spark has ignited, and I’m not sure if I will have room to contain it in my study on the Lord’s prayer, but just in case, I need to get it down…either for now or a post later.  I was meditating on the part of the Lord’s prayer, “on earth as it is in heaven”…and the “thy kingdom come, thy will be done”, and reflecting over the prayer of Jesus for His disciples in John 17.  I wonder if this train of thought has happened elsewhere or not, it will be an interesting line of thinking to follow and study out.  I see a picture of unity in the body of Christ… Jesus prayed that we would be one, as He is one with the Father…that the world would see…that His church would experience “oneness” or unity.  That is His will, that is what His kingdom looks like…and we pray “on earth as it is in heaven”.   If our brothers and sisters who have died in Christ, are still alive in their spirit, they are experiencing this oneness with the Father and the Son in heaven.  If we are called to unity in the body of Christ, then we are still one with them…part of the same body of Christ, if you will, and therefore have what the Catholic Church teaches as “communion of the saints”, in her creed.  I can’t get this out of my mind!  I keep thinking of my dear Mom and Dad who loved the Lord Jesus and did their best to understand and follow Him on this earth.  They are now perfectly one with Him and the Father, and are glorifying Him in eternity.  My Momma was a prayer warrior here on earth, and I believe with all my heart that she still is, that hers are part of the prayers of the saints talked about in Revelation.  Such a beautiful picture of unity in the Spirit.

With less than two weeks to go, I’m working on getting this series organized.  I had done the Lord’s prayer and the Disciples’ prayer separately, and started working on the journal presentation, when I began to see a cool transition from talking about one, into talking about the other, so instead of focusing on one, then the next, I’ve decided to integrate all three and split them all up between the three days.  This will be better in the long run, but in the “meantime”, it’s a mess, and I’m a mess, and I feel inadequate to be able to complete this project that I so eagerly started.  My words are not coming as easily, and just today, after adding a little paragraph about M&Ms to remind us that sanctification is a moment by moment process, my whole day was derailed by a bitter family member whose attitude put mine to the test.  I struggled and my thought processes were brought to a complete halt for the sake of taking time to lick my wounds and again give this ugly heart to God for repair.  I think my next endeavor might be a blog or two about forgiveness.  Sigh.  Lord, help me.

I ended up not being able to focus on this series for a couple days, and in that time, God spoke to my heart, and showed me His love, and impressed on me the thought of Him agonizing in the garden over the cup he had to drink, while I slept.  Even when I didn’t want to persevere in prayer for this retreat, for my bitterness, for Him, He was persevering in prayer for me that I would experience unity with His body and Spirit, that I would have His joy fulfilled in me, that I would bring glory to Him.  I am both humbled and grateful for His love for me…were these two accounts of Jesus praying one and the same session?  The circumstances surrounding both prayer times are the same in the other gospel accounts…while the disciples were sleeping, and Jesus was praying for them, was He also asking for a way out of the cup he had to drink?  Makes me wonder.

Finally done to a point that I can begin scheduling these posts.  Sometimes I worry I don’t have enough content for the weekend, and other times I’ve worried it’s too much and maybe I should stretch it out.  I’m working on my last post (I really mean it this time, part three), and I feel like the whole thing has come together in a way that I never really expected.  I really wish I had more time to do a series on Spiritual warfare…maybe another retreat down the road?  We’ll see.

There is a lot of worship music I want to incorporate into this, but I’m not sure I want that many posts clogging up the newsfeed…I’ve thought about putting a bunch into one post, and decided against that.  I’ve added some appropriate songs to some of the posts, but decided not to include all the songs I had listed…it just seems like too much.  I may change my mind about that, but for now I have peace leaving it as it is.

Well, it’s done, for better or worse.

Make My Lifesong a Persevering Prayer

We are instructed to pray constantly (Ephesians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:17), or as another version words it, without ceasing.

Not only are we instructed to do so, we are shown in two different passages of Scripture what that looks like:  The first is the passage that immediately follows the Lord’s instruction at the request of His disciples to be taught how to pray (Luke 11:5-13 ), and  the other is the parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8).

It should have come as no surprise to me (especially after this month) that this (Ephesians 6) is the passage that speaks of arming ourselves for war.  This passage shows an active fight…one of defending ourselves with the whole armor of God, and using the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God in our offensive attack against evil.  I love that this passage outlines what that armor is, and how it’s used, and am reminded in reading through that there is nothing to protect my backside, which means that there is no retreat in this battle, without risk of injury.

Truly, this is another passage that needs a whole weekend of its own, I urge you to study this out yourself.  It’s rich, and full, and so essential in understanding our need for perseverance in prayer, and in God’s divine provision for everything we need to accomplish it.

For the sake of this post, I will focus on this verse:

Ephesians 6:18 Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

What an incredible epiphany to find in this passage that we are instructed as the body of Christ to persevere in prayer for all the saints.  That’s us…the body of Christ, continuing in prayer for one another…for all the other parts of the body.  This thought dovetails in my mind so beautifully with my post on the communion of the saints, which, incidentally included another verse that talks about persevering…check it out!

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

This passage paints a picture of a race…his followers running with perseverance (or endurance), without excess heavy baggage that bogs us down, and/or sin that easily attaches itself to our flesh.  This verse dovetails with a thought in another of my previous posts about being Son Followers.  Look where our focus is…we are looking to Jesus and following His example of enduring His cross, for what?  For JOY!

Sounds an awful lot like this verse, doesn’t it?

James 1:Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Steadfastness in this verse is translated “perseverance” in other translations.

As I am putting this retreat together, I have my Pandora “Full and Overflowing” station on.  (This station has been renamed “Make My Life a Prayer“, for the sake of this retreat…another Ebenezer of sorts).   It has some incredible worship tunes, and I find myself getting lost in some of the lyrics.  Right now, Lifesong by Casting Crowns is on, and I find it an appropriate prayer to wrap things up.  It states very well my heart’s desire to serve and please the Lord.  “I want to sign Your name to the end of this day, knowing that my heart was true!”  Let my lifesong sing to you.

Prayer Journal – Kingdom, Power, and Glory

kingdom_power_gloryEven though this phrase isn’t found in early manuscripts of the New Testament, there is evidence that it was used in the Mass as early as the time of the apostles.  But, what do we mean when say these words?  “Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory, forever and ever, amen.

I think it means what it simply says.  The Kingdom of God, belongs to God.  As children of His inheritance, He shares it with us, and we get to participate in it as a member of the body of Christ.  (For a fun study on your own, go to Bible Gateway and do a word search on “Kingdom of heaven” and “Kingdom of God”…just read through the Scriptures that match the search.  I’m getting so many cool ideas for future blog posts and/or Bible studies. )

The power also belongs to Him.  What power?

All of it.

This is one of the attributes of God, He is “all powerful”, not limited like we are, but able to do above and beyond what we could ever ask or even imagine.  He showed his power from the creation of the world, to the divine protection and deliverance of His people in Egypt, He brings down strongholds, stops the sun, and opens barren wombs.  He shows that power in the lives of His followers, and He demonstrated power over death and sin itself in the resurrection.  You get the picture.  All the power belongs to Him to do with as He pleases.

And the Glory belongs to Him.

Remember all the glorifying that was going on in John 17?  The Bible says that we bring glory to God, He glorifies His Son, and even the heavens declare His glory.  He is the Lord of hosts, the King of glory!  Isaiah says that He doesn’t share His glory with another.  It belongs to Him.  We are told to ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name.  Our lives can bring glory to Him by the way we live them.  If we are walking in obedience to His precepts, and seeking His will in our life, we bring Him glory.  We proclaim that glory when the world sees our love for one another.  When we resist the devil and His ways, and embrace life in the Spirit, we can join with all nature in proclaiming His glory.

Scott Hahn sums it up well, when he says “The Kingdom comes where the King is present. Where the Eucharist is, there is the King. The “kingdom, the power, and the glory” are already here on earth, because the Church, the Eucharistic Kingdom, is already in heaven.

Forever and ever. Amen!”

You can find the rest of the Lord’s prayer at the following links:

Our Father

Let Thy Kingdom Come

Petitions

Kingdom, Power, and Glory

His Prayer for us: Persevering

I’m currently in the middle of a life application of the Bible’s teaching on persevering in prayer.

I tell you this, because I want you to know I’m learning as I go…I have NOT arrived, by any means, I am simply processing here what the Lord is laying on my heart as I read His word.  For sure, my attempt to walk out the instructions He’s given looks more like a crippled limp at best, and a slow crawl at worst.

You should know, I fall often in this area of watching and praying.

I give up easily.

I forget.

I even purposely ignore it sometimes.

As embarrassing as that is to admit, I feel you should be aware, for the sake of your own conscience.  The warning here is, don’t do as I do.  And if you have mastered this, I’m open to learning from you, how do you do it?  How do you “watch and pray” without falling asleep, or finding your mind has wandered off mid session?  How do you stay focused and intent in your conversations with the Father?  And, if you are like me, what do you do when war breaks out between your spirit and your flesh?  Or when the enemy comes in like a flood, and overwhelms your inner sanctuary with cares of the day, news about a sick family member or death of a friend, financial stress, ugly family dynamics, or regret, condemnation and shame?  When you’ve done all you can to push through those distractions and assaults, there’s still no answer, and it feels like your prayers are hitting the ceiling, and the tire’s flat, or the internet goes out for no reason…how do you put all that aside and continue to persevere in prayer.

My study of John 17, took me back to chapters 13-16 to set the context of Jesus’ prayer for us, as well as to the other gospel accounts of Jesus praying.  In fact, both accounts are recorded just prior to Jesus’ betrayal and arrest.  Remember when He was at Gethsemane, and brought along His disciples?  He told them of his soul’s sorrow and asked them to watch and pray with him.  Three times he returned to find them sleeping, and three times He asked the Father to let this cup pass, ultimately putting God’s will above His own.  Matthew’s and Mark’s account of this prayer, falls between some of the same events that the book of John has surrounding the prayer of Jesus for His disciples.

Consider

Mark 14:41 And he came the third time, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come; the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

…and

Matthew 26:45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Compare these two passages with Jesus’ words in John 17, where He engages in a prayer meeting for His disciples:

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee,

Again, I’m no scholar, but I love to think that at the same point that Jesus was praying for Himself, and for God’s will, He was also praying for the disciples, who were sleeping through their watch.

I like to believe He still does.

For me.

Jesus perseveres in prayer, interceding for me to the Father, even when I am weak, or tired, or sleepy, or even apathetic…it doesn’t change His focus of prayer for me.  His prayer for me is the same as it was for His first followers, that I would bring glory to Him, that I would have His joy complete in me, that I would be one with His body, and that I would be protected from evil.

I’ve never considered this before today, but what if the sweating drops of blood at Gethsemane was not for the grief that He knew He was about to bear, but for the heaviness of His heart for His own followers.  What if the agony in the garden was not about His pain, but the weight of my sin on Him at the time.  What if He knew that “this cup” was necessary to bring answer to His prayer for my sanctification, my joy, and my own oneness with Him.  “This cup” was the way for me to remain in Him, and He in me, as He is one with the Father in heaven.

What if, in the garden, it really was all about me?

Prayer Journal – Petitions

The last part of the model prayer for the disciples consists of petition for three things.  Because I have a certain penchant for alliteration, I’ll call these petitions:

  • provision
  • pardon, and
  • protection

breadOne of the names of God that stood out to me was Jehovah Jireh, which means “The Lord shall provide”.  It was used in the OT when Abraham’s faith was put to the test and a ram in the thicket was provided, sparing Isaac’s life.  Through the Old Testament, there are pictures of this provision.  One of the most vivid examples is the provision of manna to the children of Israel as they wandered in the desert.

   Manna was gathered daily when God provided for His people wandering in the desert.  Since we are told that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God, (Matthew 4:4) it’s fairly clear that collecting His words and applying them to our lives on a daily basis is as nourishing and beneficial to our spiritual health as food is to our body.  Remember, manna didn’t keep to the next day…the children of Israel had to go out every day and collect it for use that day…same with God’s word.  What we ate last week just doesn’t taste the same after being reheated and served night after night.  In the same way, what we learned yesterday on our journey was used to nourish us and build us up, doesn’t taste as fresh the next day.  No wonder we find God’s word “stale” and “dry”.  If we haven’t gathered our bread for today, we are resorting to munching on stale dry leftover manna from yesterday’s feast.

Now, we know from Scripture that Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1) who came from heaven (John 17), and He boldly refers to Himself in John 6 as the “Living Bread that came down from heaven…that gives life to the world” (John 6:32, 51).  In doing so, Jesus is not merely comparing Himself to this manna, but actually earnestly laying claim to actually being that same manna that was provided for the wandering Israelites in the desert.  He goes on in this chapter to further baffle, confront, and completely gross out many of his followers.  These same people who had followed him, listened to Him teach, watched Him perform miraculous deeds, tasted of His provision, and hailed him as a prophet after seeing the miracle of the fish and loaves just yesterday, are now confused, irritated, and disgusted at the mental picture of His words today.

When His former fans turned to leave Him, Jesus did not recant His words.  He didn’t correct them for misunderstanding his intention, or  sugar-coat His message to make it palatable.  He could have kept His numbers up here; all He had to do was make His flesh and blood regular bread and grape juice…or a symbol of a deeper spiritual truth.  But He didn’t.  In fact, each time He reiterated his clarification, His terminology got more specific and graphic.  He went from talking about being bread sent from heaven, to the importance of eating, consuming, or devouring His body as a meal (Strong’s 5315), and finally to gnawing, crunching or chewing his flesh (Strong’s 5176).  So greatly repulsed were they, that the Bible says that many of them turned back and no longer followed Him.

Jesus is still the answer to our petition for provision, and continues to offer Himself as our daily bread.   Today, His followers are posed the same question Jesus asked His disciples then.  “Will you leave also?”  Those disciples who continued to follow did so for the sake of eternal life.  And they did so with the understanding that partaking of His body was essential to eternal life.  So it is with His followers today.  Where else would we go?  He alone has the words of eternal life.

trespasses

Jehovah Jireh showed Himself as “Provider” again  years later on Mount Calvary, when He provided the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.

Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”  It’s true, when we sin, we fall short of God’s glory, we offend His nature, and hurt His heart.  We are in need of His mercy and pardon for our sin, and it comes natural for us to ask, knowing that He is all-forgiving, and all-loving, and desires our fellowship.

When we sin, that sin doesn’t only offend the heart and the nature of God, and affect our relationship/fellowship with Him, but we also hurt the community of fellowship that He has established, in His body, the Church.  In other words, when we make a mess of things, often it gets on others as well as ourselves and God.  If, as John 17 states, the world sees Jesus and knows that He has been sent by God by the way His followers function and relate to others, then sin against the body of Christ also affects my witness to the world that Jesus is Lord.  My mess affects my message.

I have such a hard time with this part of the Lord’s prayer.  My nature wants to hold onto hurt, rehearse it, coddle it…pick at the scab, and blame someone else for the wound in me that will not heal.  But according to this verse, I have to extend to others who have offended and wounded me, that same mercy and pardon that I ask from the Lord for myself.  And just in case I thought I could weasel out of it, He gets super specific and doesn’t pull any punches when He spells it our clearly for us.  It’s almost like He knew we would need further clarification, so he draws us an “if/then” picture: 

I illustrated this in my prayer journal by turning all the T’s into crosses.  It helps me to remember the price of my own forgiveness was the laying down of His life when Jesus died on the cross.  In the same way, I am called to take up my cross and follow Him.  And that cross is heavy to carry, but it’s even heavier when I realize the destination of that cross…death.

For me, this is another bag of M&Ms.  I find myself hurt all over again by a past offense against me, and I have to hoist up that cross again, and carry it to Calvary,  I truly believe actively pursuing this thought is a key to our process of sanctification, becoming holy, here in this sin-stained world.  Only when I die to myself, can I extend forgiveness to others and receive pardon for myself.

deliver

“I am the good Shepherd…”

Because this final petition for protection brings to my mind a picture of our Good Shepherd, I chose to illustrate this page with a staff.  A staff is a multi-purpose walking stick that provides balance for the shepherd and protection for the sheep, as it can be used along the hike to check for dangerous undergrowth, prod a wandering sheep back into the fold, or rescue a wayward or fallen one.

One of my favorite Mother’s day celebrations was the year my children and my husband all pitched in together to surprise me with a picture of a shepherd climbing down the backside of a cliff that overlooks a deep canyon, reaching down to a lamb that had gone astray and found herself in a predicament.  There is a bird of prey hovering above, just waiting for the sheep’s demise.  Thankfully, the shepherd noticed one was missing.  In his love and mercy, He left the other 99 safe in the fold to seek out the one that would otherwise perish.
How often I have identified with that sheep.  I am easily distracted, and find myself in a predicament before I even realize I have separated myself from the Shepherd and the rest of the flock.  I feel isolated and alone, and sometimes I fall, and I need to be rescued.  Jesus lovingly uses the crook of his staff to pull me back to a place of comfort and guidance…then, he continues to lead me.
I love that He leads us.  I really, really love the doctrine of free will.  As a new creation, I am no longer a slave to sin, and I have the freedom to obey.  He continues to lovingly teach me that the benefits of saying yes to God far outweigh the consequences of wandering off on my own, yet He still gives me the choice to love and follow and hears my prayers to be protected from temptation, and delivered from evil.

His prayer for us – part 3

Of all the flowers that God created, the Sunflower is probably the most fascinating.  Did you know that when they are growing and developing, they literally follow the sun?  Even after it has set, for all 360 degrees of the sun’s path around the earth, a sunflower stays oriented to the sun.  The video above illustrates this phenomena.  Can you imagine the unity of a whole field of sunflowers, all oriented to the sun? As believers, we can show this same kind of unity by our orientation to “the Son”.

The third chunk of Jesus’ prayer for His disciples, is specifically first for His Church, as he states in v 20 ““I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word…”  and also for the world.

He asks that:

  • His disciples be one (unity), as He is one with the Father
  • the world (seeing the unity of the church) may believe that the Father has sent the Son
  • His disciples would be with Him where He is
  • His disciples would see His glory
  • the world would know Him and experience His love

I don’t know about you, but this part of Jesus’ prayer is humbling and encouraging, and overwhelming all rolled up into one emotion.  If my connection with fellow believers testifies to the unbelieving world that God sent Jesus, I feel a certain amount of self-expectation and pressure to be faithful.  I want to imitate and please the Lord, but there is a conflict in my spirit at times, because I don’t always feel “one” with my brothers and sisters; not only do we fail to be on the same page, but often it feels like we aren’t even in the same library…and to be honest, some days I don’t even want to.  There are some in my spiritual family that challenge me greatly in this area (sometimes, they even share my living space with me).  It is especially convicting to be reminded that how I react to them is a witness to an unbelieving world of my oneness with Christ, and His oneness with the Father.

We have the opportunity…and the responsibility to participate in the answer to this part of Jesus’ prayer.  Jesus said that the world would know we are followers of Him by the love that we have for one another, and here He says that by seeing our oneness, the world can experience God’s love.  Does the world see our love for one another?  Does the world see a difference in the way we treat others?  Do our lives as believers orient to the Son:

  • In purpose?
  • In fellowship?
  • In bearing one another’s burdens?
  • In love?

What about in areas of disagreements, personality conflicts, or doctrinal differences?  How does the world see us when things are not easy?  If my unbelieving neighbor or unsaved friend doesn’t see love in my life, or if they see me in habitual conflict with those around me, I have failed in my personal responsibility as a disciple of Christ to seize the opportunity to introduce and orient them to God, and fulfill the Great Commission of His Son.

Like that field of sunflowers, we experience unity only if we are all focused on the same external point of reference.   We can accomplish this by joining in prayer with Jesus prayer for us, as we pray for one another in agreement with His will for His body on earth.

Being a “Son follower” not only will be a testimony of God’s love to a world looking for authenticity and truth, but also allows us to catch a glimpse of His glory, as Jesus prayed we would.

Prayer Journal – Let Thy Kingdom Come

kingdom comeWhen Mary and Joseph “lost” Jesus, and “found” him in the synagogue teaching the teachers, they asked why he would behave this way and cause them anxiety.  If we want to follow and imitate Him,  His answer should give us a clue to our mission.  He answered;  “didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2)

As His followers, we need to be about our Father’s business.  When we pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, we are recognizing that His will in heaven is our business here on earth, and when we pray for His Kingdom to come, we are lining ourselves up with and agreeing with His will for His Kingdom.  If we are boldly praying for His Kingdom to come, it would behoove us to know what His kingdom looks like.  I think we get a great insight into this by the example Jesus set for us in His prayer  in John 17.

According to this passage, His will is:

  • …that He be glorified in me so that He can bring glory to the Father.
  • …that I know Him.  And as a result of knowing Him, I have eternal life in Him.
  • …that we (His followers) be one, as He and the Father are one…His will is unity in the Spirit.
  • …to have His joy made complete in me.
  • …that I would be sanctified in His word, that is truth.
  • …that the world will know God loves them and will believe Jesus was sent from God by looking at me, and seeing my relationship in Christ.
  • …that God’s love will be in me, and that Jesus Himself will be in me.

thy will

Here I wrote out my favorite answer to the question “What does God want me to do?  What is His will for me?”  I actually learned to sing this Scripture when I was young, and it has never left me.

You can read more of my thoughts on this here.

earth_heaven

I was meditating on this part of the verse as John 17’s words about unity and oneness with the Father, Son, and one another reverberated through my mind, mingled with parts of the Apostle’s creed.  His will (according to John 17) is that we be one…and according to this model of prayer that He gave us, we are to pray that His will be done on earth, as in heaven.  He has one body, and we are all part of one another, here on earth as well as in heaven.

This is a vivid picture of the communion of the saints that is taught and professed in the apostles creed.  Though they have gone from this life on earth to REAL life, eternal life in heaven, a departed saint is still part of the “body of Christ”.  Dying has not disconnected them from Christ’s body of believers, otherwise, where would they go?  Christ only has one body, and it is comprised of those here on earth, as well as those in heaven.

I believe they are part of that cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12 that is watching and cheering us on in our journey (the race), and they can and do continue to pray to the Father for us.  They haven’t left or been removed from His body, they are still active participants in His will at the feet of “our Father in heaven”, just as we are present in His body, the church, here on earth.  We are still one body, and we are held together, connected in purpose and spirit, by the Son, in whom we find unity one with another, as He prayed we would.

Our Father

Petitions