As Jesus was making His way near Jericho, He came upon a blind man sitting near the road. When the man heard that it was Jesus approaching he started yelling, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” So Jesus stopped and very bluntly asked the blind man, “What do you want Me to do for you?” Now obviously, Jesus knew the man was blind, so why did He ask him a question like that? He was asking the man to verbalize his heart’s desire… and his fervent hopes. He was also asking him to be explicit not general. The Lord wants us to pray specific prayers…for He wants to hear our heart’s desires. I remember well when we were looking for a new home in Idaho…my prayers were very general, “Lord, help us find a new home.” But it was during one of my generalized prayers that the Holy Spirit stopped me and asked what I wanted in that home. I started listing my heart’s desires one by one…large kitchen, fireplace, walk-in closet, jetted tub, a large space for a garden, and East facing windows to watch the sunrise. And He gave them all to me in a perfect home!
I’m writing today’s Devotional for me and no one else, but you get to read it! The new year looms ahead with endless possibilities…all good things I could be doing. And as with most of you, I have more than enough opportunities to do good works for the Lord… to the point I’d spread myself so thin I would be ineffective in them all. The verses here in Philippians tell me that I need to let God know what it is I want. For me it’s clarification, direction, and purpose of all the things I could be doing…for I don’t want to be running down a road that’s not of God, simply for the sake of running. I Timothy 2:1-2 tells me the purpose for prayer is that I may lead a peaceful and quiet life…and for me, that comes from calmly resting in the very center of God’s Will.
Your prayer life…is it good, bad, or non-existent? What about the quality and quantity of your time spent in prayer? We all would admit that our prayer life could be better. For most of our prayers are quick apathetic words thrown at God, lacking energy and even the confidence that they’ll even be answered. So how can we change our weak and impotent prayers into the prayers spoken about in this verse? James tells us that as Believers our prayers are capable of producing great results, and through God, He is able to accomplish incredible feats because of our prayers. So think of it this way…our prayers start God (and all of creation He has at His disposal) moving. Our simple prayers trigger God’s all powerful and magnificent response… opening the way for Him to do miraculous things on our behalf. That puts a completely different spin on our prayers, right? For if we could only take hold of and comprehend just how powerful and effective our prayers were…we could change the world for Christ.
Jesus taught by example. And over the course of His ministry here on earth, He modeled for the disciples not only the power of prayer…but the necessity for constancy, and steadfastness in the process. Prayer wasn’t an after thought for Jesus…it was the main thought. Nor was it the last thing He did after everything else had failed, it was the very first thing. So after Jesus had ascended into heaven and the disciples were alone and scared, they relied on the discipline of prayer Jesus had shown them to face the uncertain world ahead. The early Church was devoted to prayer…the Church of today should be as devoted.
Sometimes our prayers sound more like a toddler in a toy store…”I want that, and that, and that, and Oh, that!” God willingly listens to all our wishes and desires, but only He knows what we really need. And sometimes what we want and what we need are very far apart. So just remember, God understands and loves you far more than you can ever imagine…that only He can see “around the corner” of the future…and that He has only your best interest at heart. God may not give you everything you want, but He will give you everything you need.
Are your prayers more of a formula of repetitious words from memory…often without paying attention to what you’re actually saying? Have they become just a fixed routine of the same prayers repeated over and over again? Congratulations, you have the gift of religious gab! But this isn’t how the Lord wants you to communicate with Him. It isn’t the quantity or intensity of your prayers that He desires. Rather, it’s the heart-felt, getting real before the Lord, quality He wants.
In this very well-known and often quoted Scripture, we like to gloss over the first part and instead focus on the end…the promised things God will do for us. But in doing so, we miss two small but very important words contained in this verse. The first, is how this Scripture starts, “If My people…” “If” puts the burden and responsibility squarely on our shoulders to follow through with the conditions God has placed here…namely, for us to have a radical change of heart, mind, and spirit. It is only at that time and after that is completed, (marked by the second important word, “then”) that God will forgive and heal the land. You could call these prerequisites…things God requires of us beforehand…not because He’s a mean tyrant, but because He’s a good and just God.