Walking With Jesus in Faith & Prayer
Updated: Oct 12
"Waybread" is food designed to strengthen travelers on a long journey. This little weekly column is intended to offer reflections that will strengthen and encourage you in your own long journey in following Christ.
WALKING WITH JESUS IN FAITH & PRAYER
I want to take a slightly different tack for our reflections this week. Our usual approach is just to take something that's on my mind that would be of some help and encouragement to us all. But this week, what's kind of weighing on me is a thought from the past couple weeks' messages. (This reflection should stand alone, but if you want to refer back to those messages on our YouTube channel, go for it!)
Faith and prayer. What could be more fundamental to walking with Jesus? Odds are, you agree. But you know what? I'm pretty sure a survey would show that most Christ-followers struggle–and I mean really struggle–in not just one, but both of these areas.
My bet is that you're one of those strugglers. I know I am.
If you attended our services either of the last two Sundays, my prayer is that 1) You came away curious about what life might be like if you had the same approach to faith and prayer than Jesus does, and 2) Your desire to be a man or woman of faith and prayer was ratcheted up a notch or two. Curiosity and desire can both go a long way toward fueling our journey to Christlikeness.
Faith and prayer. What could be more fundamental to walking with Jesus?
Since you need faith to even pray in the first place, let's start there. God doesn't always give us definitions of what we want to dig into, but faith is an exception. The writer of Hebrews says, "Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see" (11:1). Notice that if this is true of your own faith, you're praying from a position of not having what you're hoping for or seeing what you want to see. There is something you want that you don't have (or else you wouldn't be hoping, would you–like Paul said, "Hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what one already sees?" [Rom. 8:24]). All the same, we are "sure" and "certain." The sure-ness and the certainty are the proof of faith, not the getting what we want. The proof of faith is being sure of what we don't (yet) have.
And the key to this whole idea is that it's not about what I want–it's about God's plan, God's will, God's purposes. Jesus assures us (go back to Mark 11) that when we're clear on God's plan, will, and purpose, no mountain, no oppressive government, no personal opponent can stand in our way.
How about taking a moment right now and asking God to lead you into a deeper understanding of His plan and purpose and set your heart on trusting that. Seriously, stop for a minute right now! I'll wait….
God loves to answer this kind of prayer! I remember once, years ago, working with someone at UPS. We car-pooled together and she didn't know Christ. For quite a while I had been frustrated with my awkwardness about sharing my faith, so I prayed one morning that He would just make it real simple and clear: "God, if somebody would just ask me what I believe and why I believe it, I'd be happy." A couple hours later, when my friend came to pick me up, while we were driving in she asked in these exact words: "So tell me, what do you believe and why do you believe it?" You could've knocked me over with a feather! So I told her (of course)! Just so you know, she didn't give her life to Jesus, but the opportunity was there, and I walked in it by faith, certain that God had led me–us–into His plan, whether she realized it or not, no matter how she responded.
Remember how I said earlier that faith and prayer are both foundational to a life with Jesus? Have you noticed how inseparable they are? We haven't even been able to talk about faith for more than five minutes before that conversation took us into prayer!
One reason I think we struggle with prayer is that we make it harder than it needs to be–that's the story of my life, anyway! So make it simple, just start wherever you are. As you did a couple minutes ago, just ask God to lead you deeper into the wilderness of prayer than you already are–don't beat yourself up for not being a prayer warrior, just … pray!
The absolute simplest way for me to do this is in the morning when I do my regular Bible reading (another area Christians fret about!). You can read the Bible like any book–pick it up, start where you left off, or go to an old familiar passage you read for comfort and inspiration. But the Bible isn't that kind of book. We don't–or shouldn't, anyway–read it like we do the latest John Grisham or Ann Patchett novel. We shouldn't even read it like Shakespeare. Every time I open my Bible to read in the morning, I pray: "Come, Holy Spirit. Open my eyes, Lord, that I may behold wonderful things from Thy law. Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. Oh, send forth Your light and Your truth–let them lead me." Pray all of this, or part of it, or pray altogether differently, but … pray that God will open His Word to you! If you open your Bible expecting God to reveal wonderful things to you, He will! Now, this doesn't mean that you'll have a life-changing experience every morning, but it does mean that your heart, will, soul, and mind will be attuned, waiting, looking, ready to hear from the Lord. And know this, too: This is how God speaks to us the vast majority of the time! He speaks through His Word–what else would you expect? What else could you want?
When we pray this way, the very reading of God's Word becomes prayer. God's Word teaches us to pray, not by giving us workbooks and lesson plans, but by modeling and inspiring–God's Word comes to live and breathe in us. We learn to pray by paying attention to how the people in the Bible do it–even (especially!) when they're frustrated, confused, and suffering, as well as when they're rejoicing, happy, and content.
So … are you curious? Pray! Recognize that deep desire growing in you? Pray!
Before you know it (really, truly!) you will come to say, with the characters in C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle, “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…." And you'll hear Aslan's (Jesus') reply, "Come higher up, come further in!”
Be encouraged, friend, for God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, who spoke all worlds into being, is both with you and for you.