Pray with Purpose

purpose of prayer

I’ve become a student of prayer lately, seeking to understand and expand its place in my walk with God.

For your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Matthew 6:8

If it’s true that God knows what we need before we ask then the obvious question becomes:

Why Pray?

God uses prayer to change our hearts and our hearts’ desires. 

In Exodus 32 Moses prayed to stay God’s vengeance on the Israelites, who had forsaken God and his law by worshipping a golden calf even as Moses was on the mountain receiving that law on their behalf.

The conversation went something like this (Exodus 32:9-14, The Message):

God said to Moses, “I look at this people—oh! what a stubborn, hard-headed people! Let me alone now, give my anger free reign to burst into flames and incinerate them. But I’ll make a great nation out of you.”

Moses tried to calm his God down. He said, “Why, God, would you lose your temper with your people? Why, you brought them out of Egypt in a tremendous demonstration of power and strength. Why let the Egyptians say, ‘He had it in for them—he brought them out so he could kill them in the mountains, wipe them right off the face of the Earth.’ Stop your anger. Think twice about bringing evil against your people! Think of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants to whom you gave your word, telling them ‘I will give you many children, as many as the stars in the sky, and I’ll give this land to your children as their land forever.’”

And God did think twice. He decided not to do the evil he had threatened against his people.

At first blush it appears that God is having a temper tantrum and Moses’ prayer helps calm him down. But that’s not consistent with God’s character. Viewed through the lens of who God is, this exchange becomes not about our unchanging God, but his desire to change Moses.

As Moses not only interceded for, but learned to love the stiff-necked, hard-hearted people he had been called to lead, God refined him as a leader, making him stronger, bolder and even more humble, thus equipping him for the challenges ahead.

What to Pray?

God is quick to answer prayers that glorify him in the world.

I will do whatever you ask in My name, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

John 14: 13-14 MEV

Recently I’ve been praying for reconciliation of a broken relationship. Moments later I sat down to my Bible study and the first thing I read was a direct response to my prayer. The next morning at church the sermon was about how we, as followers of Jesus, are called to take the first step to pursue reconciliation when someone has harmed us…because that is how we rescue and restore that other person to a right relationship with God, and it is what it looks like to love others as we love ourselves.

Similarly, a friend of mine has been struggling in her marriage, feeling anger and frustration over her husband’s shortcomings. Persistent prayer led her to shift her focus: She began praying for God to search her heart, to show her where she was contributing to the strife. And lovingly, he was faithful to do so, convicting her of her own negativity, and guiding her with specific steps she could take to improve her outlook and well being before seeking to remove the splinter from her husband’s eye, so to speak.

One of the most profound experiences of God’s presence in my life came at one of the lowest moments of my life. It was a time when I deeply needed to feel his comfort, in the same way that an embrace from a loved one brings consolation in grief. I poured out my heart need as I fell into a restless sleep, and when I awoke at daybreak, the first thing my eyes saw was a cross glowing outside the window on the house across the way. Later, in the full light of day, I tried to discern what had created the optical illusion, the moonlight glowing off the brick perhaps; it didn’t matter. I had received exactly the assurance I needed when I needed it.

These encounters with God through prayer are so faith-affirming and joy-filled, how can we experience them more often? There are a couple of things that I’m finding to be helpful:

  1. Practice. The more I pray the more attuned I become to experiencing God’s response.
  2. Others focus. The more I pray intentionally for others the more God creates in me a heart for the unloved and even the unlovable, and helps me to see each person as he does, an infinitely precious child of the King.
  3. A goal of relationship. When the goal of my prayer is a closer walk with the Lord or a closer relationship with others, especially for the sake of reaching them for him, those prayers seem to get answered in the most miraculous of ways.

Ask and You Shall Receive

Here’s the other thing: Just the act of asking God opens our hearts to receive his answer. 

Have you ever received unsolicited advice? Chances are you either resented it or didn’t even hear it. I think the same is true of prayer.

The reason God invites, implores and prompts us to pray is because by the very act of asking we adopt a receptivity to God’s presence, seeking his perfect wisdom and will for our lives.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.

Matthew 7:7

Want to read more on prayer? Check out Can You Hear Me Now?Our Daily Rhythm #1 or Peace is Data-Free.

We have an Enemy

I am preparing to publish my first book. It attacks an entrenched spiritual stronghold that is a stumbling block for many people in their relationship with God. During this process God has prepared me to anticipate (and experience) some seasons of intense spiritual warfare.

Talking about spiritual warfare is risky because many people don’t want to think about, let alone focus on, this uncomfortable reality. Yet Jesus warned us often about the nature of our enemy and of the struggle. He wouldn’t be called “Our Savior” if there was no life-threatening danger from which to save us.

Even if you’re feeling skeptical right now, come along with me for the next few minutes as we learn how to walk in victory through times of trial.

Know the Battle

Before victory is possible–spiritual or otherwise–we first must recognize that we’re in a battle. We may be bit players, but we are part of the eternal, epic struggle of which Paul ominously wrote:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12

Prepare for Attack

Military strategists seek to know their enemy so they can anticipate when and where he is most likely to strike. Without turning our eyes from Jesus it is good to understand the nature of our enemy.

When Jesus was baptized, launching His public ministry, He experienced an intense spiritual high as the voice of God proclaimed:

“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:17

The very next sentence reads:

Then Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil.

Matthew 4:1

God’s Spirit subjected Jesus to temptation? Why would He do this if He was pleased with Jesus? Isn’t temptation the business of sinners? While only God knows, scripture reveals that every day of Jesus’ ministry He faced temptations similar to those in His desert encounter. Perhaps God was equipping, refining and strengthening Him to endure and overcome such attacks.

Likewise we can expect that any steps we take toward God will be opposed. In our weak human nature we grow battle weary quickly, but we can endure if we remember that God does not ask us to fight, rather He asks us to trust in Him:

This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.’

2 Chronicles 20:15

How beautiful: All we are asked to do is be mindful of who God is, how strong, how powerful, how omnipotent. It changes our experience entirely when we view our trials as opportunities to live in minute-by-minute awareness of and dependence on our Sovereign God.

God’s nature is diametrically opposed to that of our enemy. Jesus is light (John 8:12), life and truth (John 14:6); He came that we may have abundant life (John 10:10). Our enemy is darkness, absent of truth and bent on robbing us of the life the Lord desires for us.

He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him

John 8:44

A War Story

I’d like to share an example of spiritual warfare from my personal experience so perhaps you’ll more readily spot it in your own life. As I began the process of writing my book in earnest God planted a seed in my heart to prepare me for opposition. Here is how I recognized it:

  1. First was timing — the opposition, intended to create anxiety and distraction, began as I moved from the research to writing phase for my book. Writing of course requires a clear, focused mind.
  2. Each of the trials was legal in nature, emanating from “rulers” and “authorities”–which was unique in my life as I am a very law-abiding person.
  3. Next was the persistent nature of the attacks. This was not a single incident, but four escalating situations.
  4. Finally, there was the victory in Christ. Each challenge evaporated as unexpectedly as it had appeared.

This situation was notable both for its oddity and intensity. It happened while I was attending a writer’s conference in Concord, N.C.

I had had dinner with a friend and colleague the first night. In the course of our conversation she had helped identify a key message that would become an anchor to my book. I was ecstatic about the God-inspired revelation as I dropped her off at her hotel and headed less than a mile down the road toward my own.

I noted a police car on my right and checked my speed instinctively. I was creeping along in heavy traffic so I had no cause for worry, yet something in my gut said otherwise. That’s when I noticed the lights flashing in my rearview mirror.

Someone had told me that it’s a good idea to pull off busy roads during traffic stops out of respect for the safety of the officer, so I eased into the lefthand turn lane, intending to pull onto the quiet side road. As I waited for the light to turn I saw the shadow of the towering police officer from the corner of my eye. I put my window down; he said I had no registration sticker and requested my license and registration.

In my nervousness I handed him an outdated registration card. As he walked back toward his vehicle I located the current one and held it out the window. He ignored my offer.

After he had confirmed that my registration was current he returned to my window, I thought to release me. Instead he started questioning me harshly about why I had pulled left rather than right in the first place. Aware only of my intention I was confused by his questions and was growing increasingly fearful of his aggressiveness.

As his line of questioning dead-ended he asked me if I had had anything to drink that evening. I answered honestly that I had had a glass of wine with dinner. He ordered me to step out and follow him to the rear of my vehicle, where–right there on that busy highway, with fellow conference attendees likely passing by–I was subjected to my first-ever roadside sobriety test.

By now I was downright terrified; it was becoming clear that this officer’s intent was to find some violation for which to arrest me. I began praying fervently for God to deliver me.

I passed the test. Undeterred he ordered me to take a breathalyzer–or be taken to jail. He said sarcastically, “If you’ve only had a glass of wine you have nothing to worry about.” After I blew into the straw he sent me back to my car to wait. After a few excruciating minutes he returned to my window a final time. Without a conciliatory word or apology he released me.

I was still shaking as I unlocked the door to my hotel room and collapsed on my knees in thanksgiving for God’s protection. As I showered the Spirit brought the earlier verse from Ephesians to mind, and in light of the trials that had preceded it, I recognized what was happening with new clarity.

While God allowed me to suffer such attacks for several months, He was faithful to His promise to provide a way out in every situation, sometimes quite miraculously. (Read With the God of 1 Percent the Odds are Ever in Your Favor.)

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Wage War

So how do we do stand against an enemy we can’t see in a battle we can’t fully comprehend? Paul follows his warning (above) with these specific instructions:

Therefore put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

  • Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,
  • with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
  • and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
  • In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
  • Take the helmet of salvation
  • and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
  • And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.

With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:13-18)

This is a rich, exhaustive directive that deserves more time than we have remaining today. In short, when I sense that the opposition I’m facing is spiritual in nature, I review this passage and focus on the areas the Lord emphasizes to me.

In this situation it was to stand firm with the belt of truth — as I knew I had done nothing wrong — and to pray in the Spirit with all kinds of prayers and requests. I can assure you I was praying all kinds of prayers during those long minutes!

Walk in Victory

When we accept the invitation to follow Jesus we are not promised freedom from pain, suffering or trial. We are promised that God will be with us through it all, and that we will be given His armor and the confidence of knowing the war already has been won for us by Christ Jesus.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5

 

Read more about how the enemy speaks death into the lives of believers in The Voice of ED — Revealed.

 

The Daily #2

Reprinted from Church on Morgan’s “The Daily,” Dec. 19, 2016

 

Hello Friends,

Three years ago, a close friend’s son went off to college. His father had died when he was 14, and now he was headed alone into the cold, cruel world. Even though he didn’t know me well I wanted to find a way to create a connection that would let him know our family loved and supported him and so did God.

As I considered what I could do, the Lord prompted this question in me: “How might this young man’s life be changed if you were faithful to send him a scripture verse each week for all four years of college?”

I created a weekly reminder in my iPhone and set about to find out.

A year later, my own son graduated and with him a group of boys who had become like sons to me. So, I added them to my weekly texts. I text them individually and sometimes add a personal note, but mostly I let God’s word stand alone.

At the end of last school year I texted, “Okay, last quote ‘til fall.”

My friend’s son responded: “If you don’t mind, I actually love getting them.”

Needless to say, I didn’t take the summer off from texting him.

What do I hope to accomplish through the sustained rhythm of this micro-ministry?

1) I didn’t learn the power of God’s living Word until mid-life but perhaps these boys will discover it sooner via 200-some texts.

2) Maybe they’ll encounter a dilemma or issue, and a verse will come to mind to guide them toward God’s will.

3) Or best of all, perhaps each of these men is sharpening his sword as Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:13-18

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your waist girded with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 having your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace, 16 and above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the fiery arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

How might you create a weekly rhythm around sharing God’s word?

Have a blessed week!
Nanette Kirsch

Each week’s email will be written by someone in our community and provide a few thoughts, insights, or experiences that have come from their own morning, meal time, and evening practices. If you would like to learn more about our “Shared Rhythm” you can read about it online or pick up a set of our “Daily Rhythm Cards” at Church on Morgan.

Our Daily Rhythm #1

Reprinted from Church on Morgan’s “The Daily,” Dec. 12, 2016

 

Hello Friends,

If your quiet time with the Lord often begins with prayer, but ends with your grocery list this letter is for you.

I recently adopted two new disciplines in my prayer life that are helping me remain mindful from my “Good morning, Lord” to my final “Amen,” and I would love to share them with you in hopes that you may be similarly blessed: I speak out loud to God on my daily walks, and I journal my prayers.

When my body is still my mind is not, yet when my body is moving my mind can become quite still. My awareness of God’s majesty is most keen out in the midst of His creation. The beauty of the Carolina blue sky, the clouds, the trees, proclaim God’s glory, and I can’t help but praise and thank Him. “I tell you if they keep quiet the very rocks will shout.” (Luke 19:40) I am learning that as I vocalize my prayers they feel more like a conversation, and I’m less likely to wander off topic. (And who really cares if the neighbors think I’m crazy?)

Even more powerful, however, is what I’ve discovered by writing my prayers. I begin by recording the date and then writing down my petitions. I pray them out loud as I read them back. As I have been faithful to do this several amazing things have happened:

1.My prayers are more specific and thus more powerful, I believe.

2.As I read back over them again and again I see how God is answering them. As I do, I mark down the date and how I have seen Him move.

3.This habit offers a great way to witness to those I am praying for. It is powerful to be able to say, “I wrote this prayer for you and look at how God was faithful to respond!”

I hope either or both of these disciplines offer a way to enhance your own walk with the Lord!
Nanette Kirsch

Each week’s email will be written by someone in our community and provide a few thoughts, insights, or experiences that have come from their own morning, meal time, and evening practices. If you would like to learn more about our “Shared Rhythm” you can read about it online or pick up a set of our “Daily Rhythm Cards” at Church on Morgan.

What Do You Want?

effective prayer

The next day John the Baptist was there [in Bethany] again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said:

“Look, the Lamb of God!” 

When the two disciples heard him say this they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked,

 

 “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi,” which means teacher, “Where are you staying?”

“Come,” He replied, “and you will see.” (John 1: 35-39 NIV)

If two people I didn’t know started following me, my response would probably be similar to Jesus’. But it is indeed Jesus talking, and John saw fit to record His response. This suggests there is more than meets the eye as we too seek to follow Him.

Be Specific

Last night, during my insomnia hours, I was listening to a podcast by Dr. Bruce Wilkinson in which he spoke of journaling his prayers and counting how many “Yeses” he received from God. The message was part of a larger story about understanding why God says “No.”

My first thought was that I needed to start journaling my own prayers; what an effective tool for seeing how God moves in your life over time. The next thing that occurred to me was how difficult it would be for me to count God’s “Yeses” because most of my prayers involve lifting up people who are in need of His salvation, comfort, encouragement or healing. My prayers commend people to God more often than they specifically request that He do something.

And that’s when it hit me:

God wants me to be specific in my prayer requests, to seek His “Yeses,” because that kind of prayer invites Him to do two things:

  1. Teach and refine me.
  2. Glorify Himself through answered prayer.

Lessons in Prayer

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Matthew 7: 7

Why else would Jesus instruct us to ask, seek and knock? Doesn’t God know the desires of our heart before we even ask? Then why nag the Almighty? Surely He has more important issues to attend to than those on my heart and mind.

Yet, when I ask God to intervene in a situation I acknowledge my need for Him and my submission to His will.

When I seek understanding, I invite Him to direct my inmost thoughts to reveal new truth in my life.

And that leads to knocking, when I act on the truth I’ve been given. This opens the door to deeper intimacy with Him and a deeper perspective of the spiritual story happening below the surface.

To His Glory

This was not the only time Jesus asked someone this blunt question; another is recorded in Mark 10, and it reads like this:

And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.

And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.

But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

And they called the blind man saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.”

And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.

And Jesus said to him,

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Mark 10:51

And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”

And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”

And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

It is clear that while Jesus healed many during His earthly ministry He didn’t heal every blind, lame, sick or leprous person who crossed His path. So why Bartimaeus?

Turns out that Bartimaeus’ request followed a day in which Jesus was repeatedly confronted by spiritual blindness:

  • First came the Pharisees who attempted to trap Jesus on the question of divorce, intentionally focusing on the letter of the law, rather than God’s heart behind it.
  • Then the apostles tried to stop parents from bringing their children to Jesus. Jesus reminded them that open hearts and minds like children’s are the key to the kingdom of heaven.
  • Then came the rich young ruler, whose spiritual blindness deceived him into clinging to his worldly wealth rather than the eternal treasure offered by Jesus.
  • Turning his attention to his closest 12, Jesus tried for a third time to prepare them for His impending death and resurrection, but still they could not see. (In fact, the story provides a side lesson in unanswered prayer, for when Jesus asks James and John,”What do you want,” they request seats of honor when Jesus comes into His glory. He roundly rejects them, saying they do not know what they are asking.)

Give this context, it is no wonder that Jesus embraced Bartimaeus’ faithful conviction: he asked to recover his sight, he sought Jesus and he knocked relentlessly, believing Jesus had the capacity to heal him.

Lessons Learned

Here are the lessons I take away from these fellow followers and their response to Jesus’ question.

  1. First, Jesus invites us to be more specific in discerning what we want from Him when we pray. We then should commit to ask, seek and knock.
  2. In both encounters Jesus was on the move, and Andrew and Bartimaeus followed him. Jesus does not give us spiritual truth for our own pleasure, rather He challenges us to follow Him by putting that truth to work to invite others to “Come and see.”
  3. Another benefit of journaling and reflecting on our prayers is the chance to examine how often they are misdirected by personal desire rather than His will, as happened even to James and John.

For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Matthew 7:8

 

 

Peace is Data-Free

I loaned my daughter my iPhone for her field trip today, reluctantly I’ll admit, but it turned out to be a great gift to myself. It is beautiful on this Friday with just the slightest hint of autumn in the air.

I didn’t realize until now how my iPhone creates busyness in my life. Whenever I’m stopped at a traffic light, for instance, I quickly check for text messages and email, or maybe steal a peek at Facebook, as if anything urgent is happening there. If I go out for a run or work around the house I listen to a podcast just to occupy my mind.

But today as I drive to and from school my mind is free to wander; I find my friends and their needs coming to mind, and I take a moment to lift them up in prayer.

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. Jeremiah 29:12

I am lingering with my thoughts and taking in the natural beauty of the North Carolina sky, not that I didn’t notice it before, but today I absorb it undistracted.

The earth is full of the loving kindness of the LORD. Psalm 33:5

And my house is so quiet. Removing my phone amplifies and sanctifies the silence. Gone is the subconscious anticipation of intrusion. Today I am sitting in and relishing my solitude.

It is a guilty pleasure, as I have conditioned myself to believe that purpose comes from doing. Today I practiced being, and I found peace.

Only One Thing is Necessary

Mary was a woman who was content to just be. From the time she was a little girl she would sit contentedly in the meadows near her home, feeling the sun’s warmth, breathing in the fragrance of the her favorite flowers, pretty Carmelites, and marveling at the high peaks of the Mount of Olives. She and her sister spent many days there. While Mary sat, her sister gathered flowers and wove wreaths with an urgency that suggested they might all disappear without warning.

Even as adults Mary dallied, while Martha bustled. Martha was always focused on anticipating, preparing and creating opportunities. Mary and her brother had grown up relying on those qualities in their older sister to provide for their needs.

Today her sister was up and out the door, determined that they would be the ones to host the celebrated, if controversial, young rabbi at their home for dinner. Mary trusted her stalwart sister would succeed in her mission. As she confidently awaited her return she looked around at their simple home. Thanks to Martha’s scrupulous eye and inexhaustible energy Mary’s favorite Carmelites peeked over the window, their blankets each featured intricate designs on fabric she had woven with needlework she had stitched. The table was already set, anticipating their dinner guest. And the aroma of lamb seasoned with cardamom wafted gently through the air. Everything was perfect.

The teacher arrived as Mary knew he would. His name was Jesus, and she was captivated from the moment she laid eyes on him. He invited her to remain with her brother, Lazarus, and the other men who had traveled with him. She took the lowest position in the room, at his feet, desperate to stay, yet not wanting to draw attention to her presence.

She could not break her gaze as she listened to him speak of Elohim as “Father.” He knew the scriptures better than any rabbi she had ever met, and yet his teachings were unlike anything she had heard before. He made it all seem so simple and clear, so connected and so essential.

He told them of a lawyer he had met just the other day who, like so many intellectuals, wanted to expose Jesus as a fraud. He asked him a loaded question: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

And Jesus then shared with the group the parable he had told the man of the Good Samaritan. Mary was rapt by the story of mercy and love transcending all earthly bounds of intellect and status, race and wealth. It was radical to her ears even as it rang true in her heart. As she pondered these ideas her sister’s voice, shrill and anxious, snapped her from her reverie:

“Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.”

Mary felt the heat rush to her face. How thoughtless she had been, and now she would be embarrassed in front of this teacher whom she already adored. She started to get up, but Jesus’ reply stopped her:

Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Luke 10:41

She eased back down at the rabbi’s feet and looked to her beloved sister for a response. She feared hurting her even more than she feared being shamed for not helping. The hostility was gone from Martha’s eyes; in its place was understanding, tinged with regret. Mary’s heart ached for her sister; she knew that were it not for Martha none of them would have a meal to look forward to this day.

But she also knew that even if all the preparations were complete Martha didn’t have it in her to sit idly and do nothing. Mary had seen how often Martha missed out on simple joys in each day because her attention was consumed by the tasks at-hand.

Some time later their brother, Lazarus, became ill. Mary and Martha were desperate to find Jesus; they knew if anyone could save him, he could. And they both were heartbroken when Jesus was delayed in coming, and Lazarus died. When he finally did arrive Mary left the group of mourners surrounding her and ran once again to the feet of her Lord.

…when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32)

And one final time, in Jesus’ time of need, Mary would be drawn again to her knees at his feet:

Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  John 12:3

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13

 

 

 

Face Time with God

One of my closest friends has a new man in her life: Jesus.

They’ve known each other a long time, but recently they’ve taken things to a new level. They’re chatting often, from the moment she wakes up to over her  coffee and on long walks. A few weeks ago she told Him she was ready to set aside “Dear Lord” in favor of a name that reflected their new status as friends.

What’s in a Name?

Moses had a similar experience in his own walk with God. In his case the Lord showed up unannounced and asked Moses to return to Egypt on an urgent assignment: “Tell Pharaoh to set the Israelites free.” (Exodus 9:1)

Well, imagine a friend you hadn’t seen in 40 years showed up one day and asked a huge favor of you. If you were even willing to consider it, it wouldn’t be for someone you referred to as “Sir” or “Mister.” It would be for someone very dear to you, someone whose name was as familiar as your own. I believe that was the heart behind Moses’ reply:

“Suppose I go to the People of Israel and I tell them, ‘The God of your fathers sent me to you’; and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What do I tell them?”

God said to Moses,

“I-AM-WHO-I-AM.

Tell the People of Israel,

‘I-AM sent me to you.’”

Exodus 3:14; MSG

YHVH or Hayah, the great I AM.

Exodus 3:14 is a life verse for me because, as a lover of words, I’ve always been captivated by how God used two of the most common-to-the-point-of-being-mundane words to capture — as fully as humanly possible — the earth-shaking truth that this God is the one true God, the only self-existent, living and active God.

When God visited Moses He called him by name; twice in fact: “Moses, Moses” (Exodus 3:4). I am touched by how God always calls us by name when He calls us into service; and sometimes twice when the ask is really big, as it was with Moses as well as Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Martha, Simon and Saul.

Certainly this is a God who understands deeply the need to be known by name.

“Father”

In addition to Hayah God has many names throughout the Old Testament, based on His many attributes; a few of these include:

  • Elohim (all powerful, plural noun for God, used uniquely in the Old Testament to reflect God’s triune nature )
  • El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty)
  • El Elyon (The Most High God)
  • Adonai (Lord, Master)
  • El Olam (The Everlasting God)
  • Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Will Provide)
  • Jehovah Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts)

But, a few hundred years later when Jesus shows up, things take a distinctly new turn.

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples. He said to them:

When you pray, say: ‘Father’

Luke 11: 1-2

In Jewish culture, even up to this day, God’s name is considered too powerful and revered to be written, and so it will appear as “G-d”; from that perspective then, the notion of calling God Father, one of the most personal and intimate terms of endearment, is bold to the point of being revolutionary.

Paul, who in his first encounter with God called out instinctively, ““Who are you, Lord?” reminds us often of Christ’s invitation into relationship:

Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Galatians 4:6

 

…The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

Romans 8:15

When we call God our Father we acknowledge that the omniscient, all-powerful creator of the universe is something even more wondrous: a deeply relational being, a protective, wise and perfect parent who loves us unconditionally, even when we rebel against His loving authority. (Romans 5:8)

Putting a Face with a Name

My friend has one other stumbling block in her new-found relationship:

“I can’t see His face.”

And this is coming from the ultimate people person. She draws energy from engaging with others. She was born in a big family; she has a big family; and in a subconscious manifestation of this trait, she has filled her home with faces; virtually every piece of artwork hanging on her walls, whether abstract, dimensional or wrought from metal, features a face.

So her need is real. Here again, she and Moses have a lot in common:

Then Moses said,

“Now show me your glory.”

Exodus 33: 19

Throughout the Old Testament people share in this desire to see their unseen God:

Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O LORD! Psalm 4:6

Make Your face to shine upon Your servant. Psalm 31:16

Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved. Psalm 80:19

Seek His face continually. Psalm 105:4

Make Your face shine upon Your servant Psalm 119:35

Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress Psalm 102:2

Like Father, Like Son

In the final days of his earthly ministry Jesus spoke to this need very directly:

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me you will know my Father as well.

From now on you do know him and have seen him.

John 14:6

I imagine Jesus pointing to his own face as he said these words, in the same way my second son, who is the spitting image of his father too, sometimes mugs when he wants to say, “You see this face? Then you’ve seen my Dad too.”

It was Phillip who mustered up the courage to speak the words on the minds of the rest of the group:

“Lord, show us the Father and that Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.will be enough for us.”

Jesus’ response pierces my heart, as it surely did Philip’s: 

Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. 

How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? (John 14:9)

Imago Dei

Since we are not contemporaries with Jesus in his earthly body, what does that mean for us? Growing up in Catholic school I acquired quite a collection of holy cards, and have always held onto an image of Jesus that resembles these:

But there is one final piece to this answer that cannot be overlooked:

And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them.

Genesis 1:27

The Hebrew word for “His image,” tselem, means an illusion or resemblance. God created us as reflection of Himself.

So as my friend, and each of us, seek a closer walk with the Lord, we will see Him ever more clearly as we see His love shine in the faces of one another.

Face of Jesus
Photo Credit: Pinterest Jesus Faces https://www.pinterest.com/sunfellow/jesus-faces/

Footnote:

A friend of mine who read this post recently reminded me of a story from her own life when she similarly prayed to see God’s face. Several years ago, while she and her family were vacationing in Costa Rica, she fell off a four-wheeler and landed on her back. Plagued with a history of back issues she was terrified. As her family scrambled to find help she began praying in earnest for calm and peace saying, “Show me your face, Jesus, just show me your face and I won’t be afraid.”

A little while later she found herself in the office of a Spanish-speaking physician, unsure of how they would communicate her injury or treatment. As she looked up at him she saw a picture on the wall behind his shoulder; it was of the face of Jesus. Her heart filled to overflowing as she pointed to it and asked emphatically, “Jesus? Is that Jesus?” He turned around and then turned back to her, smiling and quietly affirmed the answer reverberating in her heart by simply nodding, “Yes.”

What a powerful reminder that prayer is a simple and effective way to overcome stumbling blocks in our walk with the Lord. Don’t be afraid to ask God to reveal Himself to you in whatever way you need to experience Him. And then keep your eyes open, for He is faithful to hear the cries of those who call upon His name in faith.

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

Psalm 145:18