Confession: I used to avoid intercessory prayer. I thought it wasn’t my ‘spiritual gift’ and that it was therefore okay for me to leave it to those whom God had gifted in this way while I focused on other things.
It was somewhat of a wake-up call to realise that prayer was not a ‘gift’ some were blessed with, but the responsibility and privilege of every believer. An intimate space where God invites us to share and unburden our hearts but also to hear His; a place of communion with Him where lives are changed and situations transformed.
Perhaps this is why when Jesus taught the disciples to pray He started with the words, Our Father. A reminder that we do not pray to a distant, unknowable deity but a loving Father. Nor do we approach Him as strangers who have no right to ask Him for anything, but as children, His children – beloved members of His family who have access to the Father and all that He has.
After teaching His disciples what we now call ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, Jesus went on to tell them of a man who boldly went to a friend’s house in the middle of the night to ask for bread on behalf of another who had turned up unannounced on his doorstep and needed something to eat. His friend was annoyed to be woken, but got up and gave his friend what was needed because of his boldness to ask.
Jesus used this story to implore His disciples to ask so they might receive, reminding them that “If imperfect parents know how to lovingly take care of their children and give them what they need, how much more will the perfect heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit’s fullness when His children ask Him.” (Luke 11:13 TPT)
There is a world in need of bread – but not just any bread, the Bread of Life that is Jesus - and we are the ones who must ask for it. God is looking for sons and daughters who will boldly come to the Father on their behalf. Who will ask, confident in this goodness and generosity of His heart so that many more may receive His gift of life.
Who is the Father inviting you to ask for bread for?
Live today with purpose,
His little voice piped up from behind me as we drove to Church. “Why do we have cars?" he asked.
“So we don’t have to walk and we can go lots of places,” was my reply. Even as I said it, I wondered just how far I would be willing to travel without my car – I had a feeling that my world would become rather small.
In Mark’s gospel, we’re told that ‘Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard about all He was doing, many people came to Him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. Because of the crowd He told His disciples to have a small boat ready for Him, to keep the people from crowding Him. For He had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch Him (3:7-10)’.
Can you imagine this scene? Jesus had simply wanted some downtime, but instead, He’s met by crowds so desperate to touch Him He has to teach them from a boat.
This crowd were not only desperate to touch Him, they were also willing to travel a great distance to be with Him. For example, it was 70 miles from Judea to Galilee – approximately a 2-3 day journey on foot; from Jerusalem, it was 68 miles and from Idumea, approximately 120 miles. The shortest journey was from Tyre, and even that would have taken at least a day. Their journeys would have also taken them through difficult and mountainous terrain and they probably had to carry some of their sick.
As I read these verses, I had to ask myself: how far would I travel to encounter Jesus? And I realised just how often I trade encounter for comfort.
We may not have to walk on foot or carry the sick or press through the crowds, but every day we face obstacles and distractions that seek to deter us from meeting with Jesus. From hearing His words and encountering His life. But oh how He longs for us to press through and reach Him so He can fill us.
What does it look like for you to lay aside comfort and pursue Jesus this week?
He was sweaty and restless and struggling to get back to sleep - I was yet to fall asleep and was beginning to lose patience with him. My eyes were heavy and I desperately needed to get some rest. We had an important weekend ahead – why had he had to get a fever and an upset stomach tonight?
Big emotions were rising to the surface and I was struggling to stay in control. In a moment of sheer desperation, I opened my mouth and began to sing the words of an old hymn.
“All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
I surrender all,
I surrender all.
All to Thee, my blessed Saviour,
I surrender all.”
Line by line, peace permeated the room and my heart. My son snuggled a little closer and I kept singing; letting go a little more of all I had been holding on to with every refrain.
Uncovered by the relentless demands of a three-year-old, they began to dissipate in the loving presence of my Saviour.
In 1 Thessalonians 3:7, the Amplified describes faith as ‘the leaning of your whole personality on God in complete trust and confidence.’ I have always loved this rendering because it reminds me that God not only wants me to entrust my circumstances to Him but also myself--with all my distinctive traits and responses.
Whether it is the day-to-day demands or the curveballs that life throws us; our deepest disappointments or dearest dreams, Jesus invites us to lean in a little closer and rest the weight of what we carry on the truth of who He is. To ‘in His presence daily live.’
What is God inviting you to surrender and trust Him with?
One of my girls is a spender. The moment she has managed to accumulate even just a couple of dollars she's begging to go spend them. I find myself constantly reminding her if she spends now, then she is delaying being able to get what she really wants. She's learning she must determine what matters and plan accordingly, because money, like any other resource, is finite and requires stewarding and prioritising. It cannot be endlessly stretched, and neither can our time.
My preference has always been to say 'yes' when people ask something of me. However, experience has taught this recovering people-pleaser that I can’t say yes to all the requests and opportunities that come my way – no matter how good they are – because every yes spends my time.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that ‘no’ is a negative word – that it is shutting off opportunities, denying ourselves pleasure, closing doors and causing us to disappoint and offend people. But I have come to understand that every no is really a ‘yes’ to something else. A yes to what God is asking me to prioritise at that time.
In Luke 2:42-44, Jesus models this for us. He had been busy healing the sick and setting people free in the town of Capernaum. What He was doing was a good thing, a great thing actually, and understandably, the people wanted Him to say with them. But Jesus was mindful of what God had sent Him to do – which was to proclaim and demonstrate the good news in more than one place. So when they try to keep Him from leaving, He says, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
I have no doubt that His no disappointed the people of Capernaum. But if He had said yes to staying, He would have been saying no to the Father, which in turn would have caused fewer people to hear the good news of God's love. May we learn from Jesus' example and spend our time well, investing it in the people and priorities that God has for us in this season so that His Kingdom purposes can be realised in and through us.
Where is God inviting you to spend your time today?
Life isn’t like a book. Life isn’t logical or sensible or orderly. Life is a mess most of the time. And theology must be lived in the midst of that mess – Charles C. Colton
It is one of those days that will be forever etched into my memory. I had gone upstairs to discover that my then four-year-old had had a silent tantrum and in mere minutes, destroyed the room she shared with her sister.
The mess struck a chord with me. It felt like a metaphor for my life. Five months earlier, my life had been mostly neat and tidy and I had felt relatively in control. Circumstances had since ripped this façade away from me, exposing the shadowy mess that had been lurking in the depths of my heart.
As I spent the next hour sorting and returning everything to its rightful place, God reminded me that mess is not always bad. It can compel us to clean-up, to get rid of rubbish and re-arrange what we have decided to keep. And as we sort through the mess, we ultimately discover truth.
In John 8:32, Jesus said, “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” While the journey of unveiling truth is seldom neat, tidy or predictable, when we find it, it ultimately brings us freedom. I had been fighting against anything that exposed my weaknesses or left me vulnerable, and the result was a curated life on the outside that was not replicated on the inside. Inside I was stuck in a cage of perfectionist control and keeping up appearances.
But God is not afraid of mess and His heart is to move us from the outward appearance of goodness and wholeness to that being our actual internal reality. He wants to set us free.
I threw some pretty epic tantrums myself in that season, and as God helped me to clean up the aftermath, I realised my own need for a Saviour; for the One who is THE TRUTH, whose grace is enough, who is strong when I am weak and who loves me completely - even on the days when it is all a mess. And the truth of my need was the doorway to wholeness and freedom.
If you are in a messy season, can I encourage you today not to fear it. Instead, partner with God to clean it up. Let Him shine His light and love into the depths of your heart and set you free.