Manage episode 374978000 series 3083900
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How We Pray
Bless me. Have you ever prayed this way? God, bless me. Do you ask God to bless you? Some of us may, some may not.
In fact, we may find these words difficult to say. Who am I to ask God to bless me ? It sounds selfish, demanding, and even arrogant. It is easier to ask God to bless others. Even though we know that God wants to bless us, we are usually reluctant when it comes to asking God.
Whenever I speak with our young people and older adults, I find that one of the biggest hang-ups that people have about prayer is they feel inadequate and unsure. I haven't prayed in a while, so I don't know if I should pray. I don't think I'm a good Christian so I shouldn't pray. Is it too selfish of me to ask God for such and such things? Will God answer my prayer?
How we pray is often dependent on how we feel about ourselves. How we perceive our own worth is at the root. If we are feeling good and confident, we can pray. If we are feeling bad and guilty, we find it difficult to pray. How we feel about ourselves directly shapes our assumptions about God. God's face seems to change according to our feelings.
The Canaanite Woman
Today's scripture shows us a radically different picture. It is the story of a Canaanite woman. She has a daughter suffering from a debilitating condition. She comes and asks Jesus for help. But she doesn't ask in a quiet and reserved way.
Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon. (Matthew 15:22)
The woman SHOUTED. Loudly enough for Jesus to hear. Loudly enough to make the disciples uneasy.
Jesus doesn't answer her at first. When she asks again for help, he says some harsh and difficult words.
It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs. (Matthew 15:26)
To us, this may seem very uncharacteristic of Jesus. How could he say that? Does he really see her that way? Matthew doesn't tell us.
But given the context, perhaps he was voicing what those around him were thinking at that moment. Particularly the disciples. The Canaanites were considered as outsiders. They weren't the Israelites God's chosen people. They were seen as unclean. But what is more interesting is how the woman responds to what Jesus says.
Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table. (Matthew 15:27)
The Canaanite woman could've been crushed by what Jesus said. She could've just turned around and walked away. Maybe I am not worth his time after all.
But she doesn't. She doesn't remain silent. She stands her ground. She isn't demeaning herself here. She is speaking with BOLDNESS and CONFIDENCE. I know how I am perceived. But I know who you are. That's all that matters. BLESS ME!
Asking God to bless you is not demanding God to give you what you want or what you are owed. Asking God to bless you is to say, God, be gracious to me apart from you, I have no good thing. It has both Have mercy on me and Help me . It is more than the specific things we ask God for. It is a prayer built on our understanding of who God is, rather than how we see or feel about ourselves.
That is where we find our confidence and boldness. That is how we overcome our feelings of guilt and shame that often prevent us from asking God for what we need. That is why we can pray so persistently, without giving up.
The Canaanite woman was not an Israelite. Yet she still recognized Jesus as Lord, the Son of David. She clearly knew whom she was asking. She saw what many could not see. She didn't give up easily.
It is not just the Canaanite woman, though. You see this kind of attitude in other places in the Gospels. Jesus talks about what it means to be persistent in our asking. For example, he tells this story of a friend
Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.' And he answers from within, Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything out of friendship, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. (Luke 11:5-8)
Later, Jesus also tells the parable of a widow who goes to the unjust judge to ask for justice. She comes to him day after day after day.
For a while he refused, but later he said to himself, Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.' (Luke 18:4, 5)
God hears and answers the cries of the humble. The humble aren't those who don't ask. Proud people don't ask for help. The humble are those who ask for help with confidence. The humble are those who are persistent. They see no other hope than the one they are asking. They recognize their need for God. How we pray reveals who we are and what we believe.
Bold, Tenacious, Persistent
In our prayer life, we don't have to be so timid. We don't have to let our insecurities dictate how we pray. God has already accepted us in Christ. God calls us his own, and we belong to God.
We can be BOLD. We can be TENACIOUS. We can be PERSISTENT. Not because of what we've done, but because of who God is.
Reflecting on today's passage, Jacob came to mind. Based on what he did in his life, he had no ground to stand on before God. But when his life was in danger, he fought and wrestled with God on the mountain all night.
Then he said, Let me go, for the day is breaking. But Jacob said, I will not let you go, unless you BLESS ME. (Genesis 32:26)
Jacob REFUSED to let God go. I love that image. He needed God's assurance and blessing. He wasn't going to have it any other way. In the end, God blessed him.
That is faith. The same faith that the Canaanite woman showed. No matter what the others thought or said, she trusted that Jesus would ultimately grant her what she asked. In doing so, she showed greater faith than any Israelite there. Jesus praised her for it.
Then Jesus answered her, Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish. (Matthew 15:28)
There is no problem too big or small for God. There is no prayer too trivial for God. A simple and sincere prayer powerfully moves God's heart. All we need to pray is, Bless me.
It might feel uncomfortable at first. Don't overthink it. Just pray it, regardless of how you feel. Repeat it every moment. When we wake up, during the day, and when we lie down. The more we pray, the simpler our prayer becomes. We ask because we know that God will hear us.
And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. (1 John 5:14, 15)
Prayer offered up in faith opens the floodgates of God's grace. God's blessing will pour into our lives. God's goodness will follow us everywhere we go. Bless me, Lord. Bless me.