I love this time of year. Next to Lent/Easter, Advent/Christmas is my favorite time of year!
I was introducing my granddaughters to the cast of the Christmas story, using my nativity scene. We don’t have baby Jesus out yet, but for now, I focused with them on the message that the angel brought to Mary, that she would have a baby, even though she didn’t have a husband, and that the Holy Spirit would put that baby, the Son of God, into Mary’s belly…and how Mary said yes, and obeyed God even when it challenged her reason.
We talked about the manger, and how it is a place where the animals come to be fed, and how when Jesus was born, Mary laid him in that manger. These girls are 3 and 4, so Jesus being the bread of Life is a little over their heads for now, but we will make that connection in time, I’m sure. Anyway…it was fun seeing how much I could communicate the Christmas story without the words right in front of me…if you want to know if you understand a certain topic, or narrative, try telling it to a 4yo in your own words.
Their attention span is not long (whew!) so, I didn’t get to the part (yet) where Jesus was born, and the angels sang, but I was thinking about it after they went to sleep. I made a new connection that I had never ever noticed before.
Where had I heard that…”in the highest…and on earth”, it was familiar, but it took me a minute to recollect: the Lord’s prayer, of course. Remember my retreat here last year? I talked about how the Lord’s prayer alluded to the communion of the saints, or at least, it put me in mind of it. He taught us to pray for His Father’s will to be done, on earth, as it is in heaven. Well…before Jesus prayed that prayer, the angels proclaimed it to be so!
Glory to God in the highest
(Hallowed be thy name)
Peace among men with whom He is pleased
(thy kingdom come, thy will be done),
in the highest and on earth
(on earth as it is in heaven).
Melanie, over at Joy Of Nine9 has blessed me yet again, this time with Litany of the Love of God. It is so beautiful! As I read, I found myself praying, in agreement with the words, and as I did, some of the words pierced through places in my spirit that I had been protecting from painful memories and past injuries.
It is challenging to say with complete honesty, that I allow my love to return to Him:
with all my heart (above the place that my husband, children, and grandchildren hold there);
with all my soul (that part of me that makes me who I am…including the masks I wear, the fortresses I’ve built around it for protection from pain, and the parts of it that have been robbed by fear, doubt, and unbelief);
with all my mind (above my own understanding and expectations of who God is, how He works, what He desires);
with all my strength (because I know the reserves I keep for the times when I don’t rely on His strength to do what He asks me to, or to do what I choose to do instead of what He’s asked me to do…I know well the areas of my being that are not surrendered to Him, and that I hold back).
Do I really mean it, when I tell Him, “Lord, I love you back, not for what you lavish me with, but just for who You are…”
above all possessions and honors,
above all pleasures and enjoyments
More than myself and all that belongs to me,
More than all my relatives and friends,
More than all men and angels,
Above all created things in heaven or on earth,
Oh! I want to…but I know I fall short! I am guilty of placing things above that love for Him. How easily they get in the way, because I do love my things…my family…my friends…even myself and my accomplishments. How sobering a reminder to keep all His riches that He shares with us in their proper perspective. Of course, it’s right and expected for me to be thankful for all these blessings that He gives, with the knowledge that they are from His hand, and they are to given to me for His glory, not my own.
In wealth and in poverty,
In prosperity and in adversity,
In health and sickness,
In life and death,
In time and eternity (in what I know of in my now, and forever after)
I used to think it was easier to trust God and to love Him in the good times than it was in the hard times. This notion has been tested and found to be untrue over the past ten years. We’ve gone from employment and home ownership, to unemployment and homelessness (and back again); from having supportive family around us, to suffering fractured, painful dynamics; we’ve lost aged parents and welcomed grandbabies; and I can honestly say, through all of it, my love for God was strengthened in the days that I cried out for and received His comfort and consolations. It was not easier to love God in the easy times, in fact, when times were easy, so was the ability to forget Him, and become complacent.
There is a hidden wisdom in the Lord’s prayer, when we ask for our daily bread. I realized a rich dimension of thankfulness and awe in watching and waiting for daily provision, that was not present in our years of plenty, when I was buying groceries to stock a pantry for the month. It’s not that I didn’t know where my help came from, but I was not reminded of it every day, and our blessing over the meal did not inspire awe then as it did when we did not know where our next meal would come from and were provided for on a daily basis.
I love the end of this litany…where I can unite the love I am returning to God with the love of all the saints and angels, even with the love of His own mother, and with His own infinite love. Just in case mine falls short (and it does), it still returns to Him complete, because of the unity of His body. What a beautiful picture of an answer to His prayer for us, that we be one, as He and the Father are one.
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,2 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 1:2 Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 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.
When 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.
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.
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.
After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. 6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.
20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Luke Chapter 11:1-9
He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
Perseverance in Prayer
5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
9 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
And he told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; 3 and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Vindicate me against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor regard man, 5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Matthew chapter 6:5-15
5 “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.[b]
7 “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread.[c] 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us to the time of trial,[d] but rescue us from the evil one.[e]
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Hello! Welcome to “Make My Life a Prayer”, my first ever virtual retreat here at New Things. Pour yourself a tall glass of your favorite beverage and relax with me for a minute…we’ve got a full weekend ahead.
This brainchild of hosting a virtual retreat came out of my own need and desire to unplug, pull away to a quiet place and meet with God. Since I had a good block of time on my hands with my youngest away for the month, I thought it would be neat to put together a mini-series of articles, links, music, and prayers for ladies to get lost in for a day or two…or three. I had no idea where the Lord would lead, or the amazing things He was eager to show me while working on the study portions.
I’ll post what I have learned from my personal study of what Ray Stedman calls “the longest prayer”, our Lord’s prayer for us in John chapter 17, as well as the prayer that is called “The Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father”. I will refer to this prayer as “the Disciples’ Prayer” since it is an account of our Lord teaching His disciples to pray, and has become a model prayer for us, His disciples now. There is a separate blog post with both texts for your convenience.
I even have a craft project in the works that you can join me in completing, if you like. I’m compiling a prayer book, composed of some of the “God whispers” I heard while studying through the selected texts. You can make one too so you’ll have a place to record prayers to memorize, or verses that are special that you wish to memorize or remember, and a list of requests that you may have purposed to pray for.
I picked up two three packs of mini composition notebooks at Walmart for $0.88 so I could share with my nephew and nieces. These are a good size to pop in a purse or even a pocket to access when I have extra time on my hands or find myself waiting for the next thing. Other crafty supplies that I am using for my book are scissors, glue stick, sharpie markers and colored pencils. You can get as fancy as you want to, your own creative mind is the limit.
Keith Green’s “Make My Life a Prayer” has become my heart cry as I study…and I can hear his lyrics echo when I read through the texts I’ve chosen for this series. It is my own prayer springing from a desire to bring glory to God as Jesus did, and that He would glorify Himself through me while I strive to walk in faith and obey what He asks me to do.
Will you join me in prayer for the Lord to use this weekend to touch lives and draw people to Himself. Also, read through the links I’ve provided below to stimulate your mind and heart to better understand prayer. If you find one that is part of a series, don’t stop with the one I’ve linked to, click around and read them all…there is some really good stuff that will (hopefully) get you thinking about what prayer is, what it’s for, who it benefits (and how), and ways that we can spur one another on to becoming effective pray-ers. Finally, please, if you are following along, introduce yourself in the comments and share your insights on prayer and what God has shown you or is saying to you on your own journey. If you have access to articles and resources on prayer that you’d like to share, by all means, please do. We are here for one another, and we all have something to contribute. I would love to see this weekend be one of sweet Christian fellowship that benefits all of us.
Praying for our husbands — Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ very well done litany of Scriptures to pray God’s will over our husbands. Really, this guide is so good, you could use it to pray for anyone, but it is specifically applicable to husbands.
Praying for our children — This list compiled by Bob Hostetler is a similar format to Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ list above. There is a month of Scriptures provided for us to pray God’s Word over our kids.