The shortest verse in the Bible is only two words, but it speaks volumes. The first word being the Sovereign Saving Grace of God Himself, followed by the second word – almost unfathomable:
That is it. But, think about the power and the truth contained in these two words. The God of the Universe – the Creator and Sustainer of life – wept. He cried. He opened His heart and allowed His emotions to overflow.
Now, the context of this moment happens at a funeral for one of Jesus’ best friends, Lazarus. Jesus heard he was sick, but waited before going to him, because Jesus knew what He was going to do. He planned to do a miracle. He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. This would be the last big miracle before Jesus would be arrested and ultimately crucified for our sins. He knew what He was about to do – and the message He would send would be very clear – so then why did He cry?
When Jesus arrived, He was greeted by Lazarus’ two sisters, Mary and Martha. He loved this family. I believe, when Jesus saw their hurt and pain, He was moved to tears. The emotion of the pain they felt welled up inside of Him. He did not weep for Lazarus or His own grief, but for those in mourning as He watched them go through this difficult time. Jesus loves completely. When He sees the hurt and pain caused by the brokenness of this world, He is moved to tears.
Throughout Scripture, great men of God have also wept:
- David wept over the sin and brokenness in his own heart and life.
- Jeremiah was known as the “weeping prophet.” Clearly, he cried a lot.
- Nehemiah wept when he heard the walls of his beloved Jerusalem were broken down, he poured out his heart to God.
- Paul wept on multiple occasions as he prayed for the churches that God had called him to plant. He loved them so much.
When you truly love, there will be times you are moved to tears. Sometimes, the tears come as you see people trying to satisfy their own lives without God. Sometimes, you cry because you know what God can do in the lives of those you love – if they will only let Him. Sometimes, you cry because you see people hurting in this fallen world. The truth is, if you truly love, then at some point you will cry.
In a society where “real men” and “big girls” don’t cry, the Bible paints a different picture. God created tears for a reason. Our spiritual heroes were ones who loved God and loved others so much that they were willing to allow their hearts to be moved. If you are a parent, you know this kind of love. Sometimes my eyes will well up as I watch one of my children sleep. I love them so deeply. May our hearts never grow so hard that we lose the love that moves us to tears. May we never grow so callous to our own need or to the hurt in this world that we fail to radically love like Jesus.
One of my favorite Jewish practices happens in times of mourning. In the passing of a loved one, friends of the family will show up and just sit. No one talks, they just cry together. This can go on for days or even weeks. Nobody has to worry about saying the wrong thing because they are called to just be there: “Weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15
This is the Power of Presence. Jesus was there. Jesus loved his friends so deeply that being with them in that moment moved him to tears. Jeremiah loved God’s people, the Israelites, so much that he wept. Nehemiah loved God’s city, Jerusalem. The apostle Paul loved God’s church. And, what about you and me? Who do we love, and how do we express it? Never lose the love and passion for the things of God.
When was the last time you cried? When was the last time you had your emotions moved in such a powerful way that the only thing you could do was to allow tears to flow? Let’s love God and others so deeply that we are impacted emotionally (just like Jesus). Do not let your heart grow hard. Practice the power of Presence with your spouse, your kids, your friends, people at church and even those you are praying for, even if you don’t know them. Don’t be so callous to God transforming lives that you don’t shed a tear at a baptism, wedding or funeral. These are holy moments – moments when the Divine is present in love – and this is worth our response.
Jesus wept. And, at times, so should we.
“Prayer is the vital breath of the Christian; not the thing that makes him alive, but the evidence that he is alive.” – Oswald Chambers
Prayer is an incredible gift of God. Just think about it – the God of the Universe, the One who holds the world in His hands, is inviting you into a relationship with Him! Prayer is our communication with the Sovereign God of All. Prayer is the vital breath of a believer. It is speaking, but it is also listening. It is two-way conversation. The way you grow in any relationship is to spend time with someone else. So, how are you growing in your prayer life?
As Jesus teaches His disciples to pray in Luke 11, Jesus reveals that prayer is rooted in the goodness and grace of a Sovereign God who invites us to call Him “Father.” For some people this is a struggle. Knowing God as “Father,” is difficult because they did not have a great earthly father growing up. Yet, God is the perfect “Father.” Think about everything a perfect dad should be, and apply that image (and so much more!) to God. When we begin to understand God in this light as Father, the realization of the relationship draws us to pray. We recognize our provision, our protection, our learning all come from God, our Father. And, as our Father, He loves us and wants the best for us. Prayer invites the God of the Universe into our mess and brokenness. He opens our eyes to His transformation, grace and love.
Prayer changes things, but even more prayer changes us. God’s Word teaches, “Nothing is impossible with God.” And, through prayer, we see miracles unfold. We see lives changed, healing happen, and prayers answered. But, in the process, prayer changes us. We move from trying to carry all our burdens (along with the strain and stress) to laying our fears and anxieties at His feet. Prayer is essential to our faith and spiritual growth as a disciple of Christ.
So, how do we grow in our prayer life? For so many, prayer is a struggle. If you are currently struggling in your prayer life (and we all do at different points in our spiritual journey), here are some helpful ways to help you grow:
- Find a “certain place.” In Luke 11:1, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, they observed Jesus praying in a “certain place.” For Jesus this may have been a rock or a tree overlooking the Sea of Galilee. But, what about you? Find a “certain place.” This could be kneeling by your bed, in your office or a place in nature. Find a place and make it the place you meet with God. After a while, even if you are traveling and you cannot be there physically, it will become a place where you can go in your mind. Find a place.
- Set a specific time. Figure out your optimal time to meet with God and schedule a daily appointment with Him. If you are not a morning person, then don’t beat yourself up because you are not good at praying in the morning. If you fall asleep when you pray, don’t make your prayer time at night. When are you most alert? Schedule a time to meet with God each day, and show up. When we schedule meetings, doctor’s appointments, dinner dates – we always show up. Therefore, schedule time to pray. It is of the utmost importance.
- Follow this pattern: A.C.T.S. ACTS is a simple acronym for: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. As you look at the pattern Jesus teaches in Luke 11, you can see this unfold. Spend the first few minutes in your prayer life simply adoring God. Think about how beautiful, amazing and wonderful He is – and shower Him with praise. Then confess any sin in your life. Is anything blocking your prayer life today? Next, be thankful. List off all the ways God has blessed you and the things He has lavished on you. Finally, supplication – ask. Ask for what you need. Your Father knows, and He longs to take care of you.
- Start a prayer journal. At different stages of my own personal walk, I have used a prayer journal. I have found this to be an incredible tool to keep me focused in my prayers. Whether in a notebook, an iPad, a phone, etc., writing your prayers to God creates focus and attention. In addition, it is an awesome resource to look back to see how God answers prayers. So often, we forget. We are already on to the next crisis, and we never stop to say “Thank You!” to the God who hears our cries and answers our requests.
- Consider Fasting. In Mark 9 a man brings his son, who has an evil spirit, to Jesus’ disciples but they cannot heal him. The man then takes the boy to Jesus who does heal him. When the disciples ask why they could not heal him, Jesus responds, “This kind can come out only by prayer (in most texts) and fasting.” (Mark 9:29). Sometimes there are strongholds in our lives that can only come down by concentrated prayer and fasting. Fasting is denying ourselves something, such as food or media, in order to pray and concentrate on God. It may be from sun-up until sun-down or 3, 7, or even 40-days. But, when the urge for food (or whatever you fast from) arises, we are moved to pray. If you have never fasted, try it. You will be blown away by the spiritual intimacy which comes from it.
These all will help you grow a stronger prayer life, but always remember the hope is to learn to pray all the time. “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). God’s will is for you to have a deep, growing, passionate relationship with Him. Prayer is your connection with the God who loves you. The goal of prayer is always God, Himself.
So, how’s your prayer life?
Yesterday we took our Rolling Hills staff team to see the movie “42.” The movie is about Jackie Robinson, the first African-American baseball player to play in the major leagues. Before this time there was the “Negro League” and there was the “Major League.” Although African-Americans fought side by side with white men in World War 2, they came home to racial tension and segregation. God used the Brooklyn Dodgers owner, Branch Rickey, and this 26 year-old African American to change baseball and our world.
There are so many powerful take-aways from the movie, but God really challenged me with three specific points:
1. The Power of Influence – Branch Rickey used his position to impact the world around him for the greater good of the Kingdom. Branch was a man of deep faith and commitment to Christ. He knew that bringing an African American to the world of Major League Baseball was something God was calling him to do. He also knew he would need that player to be a man of deep faith. The road would not be easy (but influencing and bringing change never is). Jackie Robinson was a Christ-follower as well. Branch tells him, “Like our Savior, there will be times when you will have to turn the other cheek.” Branch knew the abuse Jackie would receive; he was breaking the color barrier in baseball. We all use our position and power to influence others – either leading people to Christ or pushing them away. In one scene, a young white boy is at the ballpark with his dad. The young boy says, “Dad, I wonder how many hits Jackie will get today.” The white dad begins to curse Jackie using derogatory racial slurs. The young boy looks confused for a moment, but then yells out the same racial slurs as his dad. We all have the power of influence. It starts at home, carries over to work, but is lived out every day of our life. How are you using your power of influence?
2. Built to Last – As the resentment and pressure mount against Jackie, we wonder if he will crumble. Most men could not have taken the verbal, physical and deep emotional abuse this man endured. At one point, Jackie remarks, “God built me to last.” The fact is, God built all of us to last. We do not help anyone when we crumble. Therefore, we must put up boundaries in our lives so that we can give our best for the glory of our great God each and every day. We should guard what we put in our minds, our hearts and our lives. Also, we should surround ourselves with people who will encourage us. There are enough people who will try to tear us down. If we are to be built to last, we need to focus on God’s love for us, stay strong in His Word, and surround ourselves with people who will make us better. Are you built to last?
3. The Opportunity to Change the World – Branch Rickey could have ridden out his time as the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He did not have to rock the boat. He had plenty of money, status and success in this world. He could have rested on his past and retired comfortably. But, God had other plans. Because of his Faith, Branch knew he had the opportunity to change the world. Jackie knew this as well. Together, they made a difference. We all have the opportunity to change the world for Christ. Together, we can raise up a new generation that will put God first; we can take on a giant, such as Human Trafficking. Together, we can give precious orphan children “a hope and a future.” Don’t settle for living out your time comfortably. Let’s give our best for the glory of our great God. We all get one shot at life…one opportunity to make a difference. When God lays on our heart a calling to change the world, then let’s do it. What difference can you make for Christ that will long out-live you?
God always uses ordinary people to do an extraordinary work for His glory. Just like Branch and Jackie in their day, God wants to use you and me in our day and in our generation. Keep pursuing God, and watch Him do what only He can do in you and through you for His Kingdom!
Blessings on you as you endeavor to live out His call in your life.