Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 18 Thirty Days of Prayer in the Home...

Our Father and Friend...

In John 14:9, Jesus told Philip, "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father." The first chapter of John also talks of this: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

One of the lovely qualities of God that Jesus manifests for us is His friendship. When we understand that God truly desires to have a relationship with us, it draws us closer to Him in prayer. When we meditate upon the fact that, in Jesus, God came to be with us and to save us through the cross, it brings us to our knees.

1) When the Pharisees hurled accusations against Jesus during his time on earth, one of the things they pointed to was the fact that Jesus was (is) a friend of sinners. (Luke 7:33-35) Of Himself, Jesus said that He had come to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19). Jesus taught us of the Father's great love for those who were lost in sin. (Luke 15).

It astonished the Pharisees that Jesus sought the company of people whom the religious community had written off as being hopeless causes. However, Jesus purpose was to save people, and, in light of that, He drew all manner of men and women to Himself. He knew that God could bring new life to those who were dead in sin. Where others saw hopeless failure, He saw potential. He reached out to those who were conscious of their need for salvation.

Jesus' merciful, saving friendship is offered to us today. To what lengths did He go to bring us into a relationship with Him? He died for us. This is a comfort to us when we are first rescued from our sins, and it is a comfort to us as we continue in our Christian walk.

I John 1:5-10 tells us, "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Hebrews tells us that Jesus is our High Priest who understands our temptations, because He was tempted, too -- though without sin.

We must not be presumptuous or casual about sin. We do desire holiness, and we also put into practice the great gift of repentance that God gives us through his grace. However, in dealing with our weakness and sin, we must firmly keep in mind God's mercy and his willingness to receive and help us and forgive us when we stumble. We need to remember that, in Jesus, God is the great Friend of sinful men and women.

Sometimes, when we blow it, our instinct is like that of Adam and Eve, who pulled away from God the moment they realized that they had sinned against Him. However, God graciously sought them out, despite their attempts to hide from Him. Rather than waiting for the Lord to seek us out, we can and should run to Him for help.

Even in human relationships, our hearts are warmed when we know someone loves us warts and all. We rest in the presence of someone who overflows with mercy and a desire to help us, whatever our plight might be. We count as our dearest friends those who do not desert us in our times of greatest failure, but who build us up, instead. Likewise, the more we understand God's perfect mercy, which far outweighs any human comfort, the more we will be drawn to spend time with Him in prayer. One way to understand God's mercy is to learn all we can about Jesus, through whom God displayed his awesome mercy and kindness to the utmost.

2) Jesus was a friend to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, among others. He enjoyed staying, eating, and, most of all, teaching in their home. He welcomed Mary as she sat at his feet to learn from Him. He genuinely mourned with Mary and Martha when Lazarus died, even though He knew He was going to bring Lazarus back to them. He gently corrected Martha when her priorities got off track. Jesus loved the three and enjoyed their company.

I can't help but think that this example of the Lord's friendship was recorded for our benefit. We, too, can have homes and hearts in which the Lord delights to dwell.

We often choose and enjoy friends because of they have qualities that charm us or engage us or benefit us or complete us in some way. We most easily love our peers. Yet, who of us is the Lord's peer? Not one of us even comes close! He is infinitely above all and over all. There is no one like Him. It is certainly not because of our holiness, our wisdom, our goodness, our worthiness, our loveliness, or because we are so fascinating that the Lord seeks and enjoys friendship with us!

Paul reminds us of this in Romans 11:33-35: "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?"

Yet, the wonderful thing is that the Lord does love us, weak and sinful though we might be. He does take an interest in our lives. He even counts the number of hairs on a Christian's head! He loves us not because we are inherently lovable, but because He is the source of love and friendship. He enjoys those who are truly his children, and He seeks those who are lost.
In human terms, we are eager to talk with someone who welcomes us with genuine interest and friendship. We value those whose companionship is steady, rather than ebbing and flowing with our moment-to-moment performance. We feel most deeply the love of those who possess the quality of being a good friend, rather than those who love us for what they can get out of the relationship. We are hurt by "fair-weather" friends, and draw close to friends who are true.

Likewise, when we understand that God really does want to hear from us, unworthy though we know ourselves to be, we will be eager to pray. When we understand that His friendship is constant because He is faithful, we will find rest and peace as we pray. When we understand that He is the Truest friend we will ever have, we will long to be close to Him. When we understand that He is the Friend who reconciled us to Himself in friendship through the death of His Beloved Son, we will overflow with thankfulness in prayer.

If we are to pray with faith, we must not think we are a nuisance to God or that He hears us with a reluctant ear. Instead, we should remember: "Whoever comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him." Hebrews 11:6 Part of diligently seeking Him is to open our hearts to Him in prayer.


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