“A company of travelers fall into a pit: one of them gets a passenger to draw him out. Now he should not be angry with the rest for falling in; nor because they are not yet out, as he is. He did not pull himself out: instead, therefore, of reproaching them, he should show them pity. . . . A man, truly illuminated, will no more despise others, than Bartimaeus1, after his own eyes were opened, would take a stick, and beat every blind man he met.”
I am rediscovering a desire to pray for people, leading them in God’s strength not mine. I’ve hit the wall too many times trying to ’make things happen’ on my own. The quoted section below confronted me a few months back and before sharing I wanted to see if I was growing and changing. Well, a prayer life develops in the way Spring comes: slowly and suddenly.
“Prayer is essentially acknowledged helplessness. We ask God for his glory, for his help, for his will, and for his favor because we know we are powerless to “make things happen” ourselves. (Consequently, when we are not praying much, it is typically because we think, even in our difficulty, that we can handle it.) To “clothe yourselves in humility” (1 Pet. 5:5) is to put on the righteousness of Christ (Eph. 6:4), because he humbled himself from heaven to earth, gave up the exploitation of his deity, and prayed his guts out.
If the sinless God-man often withdrew to lonely places to pray, what is our excuse? Prayer is the ultimate humility, because it presents the empty cup to God for his fullness in Christ. “Your will, not mine,” prayer says. “Your glory, not mine,” prayer says. “Your power, not mine,” prayer says.
Certainly there is a way pastors 1 turn prayer into performance, but it’s difficult to do this when we are all alone, so that is where we should do most of our praying. Not all of it, but most of it.
You may think your prayers are nothing to write home about. That’s fine. You are not writing home, but heaven. God is merciful. He accepts your lame prayers. What he wants is nor your eloquence but your heart.
When we cease praying for ourselves, it is because we think we are the captain of our destinies. When we cease praying for our church, it is because we think we can manage it quite well. When we cease praying in our sermon preparation, it is because we think our words are the power of salvation to all who believe. Let it be far away from us that we would sin against the Lord by failing to pray for [His] people (1 Sam. 12:23). 2
And anyone else with a spiritual leadership role, whether in the home as father and mother, husband and wife, or a teacher of kids at church. Essentially, anyone who has others “watching” as they pray in public. ↩
“Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things.
We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts.
We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious.
We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.
How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?”
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together
What are the marks of a super-naturally changed heart?
This is one of the questions the apostle Paul address as he writes to the church in Corinth. He takes aim at the blessings of self-forgetfulness in 1st Corinthians 3:21-4:7. He’s after a deep-rooted, life-altering change on the inside, that brings about much greater joy than some superficial outward tinkering will (as our best self-help efforts can only hope for).
In an age were people-pleasing, puffing up your ego, and building your resume are seen as the methods to ‘make it,’ the apostle Paul calls us to find true rest in God, through blessed self-forgetfulness.
“The more we get to understand the Gospel, the more we want to change. Friends, wouldn’t you want to be a person who does not need honor — nor is afraid of it? Someone who does not lost for recognition — nor, on the other hand, is frightened to death of it? Don’t you want to be the kind of person who, when they see themselves in a mirror or reflected in a shop window, does not cringe either? Wouldn’t you like to be the type of person who, in their imaginary life, does not sit around fantasizing about hitting self-esteem home-runs, daydreaming about successes that gives them the edge over others? Or perhaps you tend to beat yourself up and to be tormented by regrets. Wouldn’t you like to be free from them? …
You will probably say that you do not know anybody like that. But that is the possibility for you and me if we keep on going where Paul is going [in 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7]. I can start to enjoy things that are not about me…
This is gospel-humility, blessed self-forgetfulness. Not thinking more of myself as in modern cultures, or less of myself as in traditional cultures. Simply thinking of myself less.”
—Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy, pp. 34-36.
Here’s to more authenticity in the new year; for being humble and honest online, as well as in person. We can only be as successful in life as we are honest. And our power comes in the form of a confident humility. We no longer have to try to be the Hero of our own stories. Put Someone Else at the center.
“Facebook is where you lie to your friends. Twitter is where you tell the truth to strangers.” —unknown