Today is a daily devotional that helps God's people refresh, refocus and renew their faith through Bible reading, reflection, and prayer.
"Come, Lord Jesus!"
Prayer is so essential to the Christian life that the Bible closes with a short prayer: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
The words “Come, Lord” probably draw from an Aramaic expression used by early Christians: “Maranatha!” For example, the apostle Paul used this Aramaic phrase as he closed his first letter to the church in Corinth (see 1 Corinthians 16:22).
Why would Paul use an Aramaic phrase while writing to a Greek-speaking church? Well, Aramaic was the common, local language spoken in the region where Jesus and his disciples lived. Some have suggested that maran was a word the people used to voice their longing for the Messiah to come. And by adding atha, they say, Paul echoed a confession of the early Christians in his day. Pointing to Christ, those words mean, “Our Lord has come.”
In Paul’s day, Christians apparently also used maranatha as a mutual greeting, identifying themselves in a world that was hostile to them. They also used similar words as a short prayer repeated throughout the day, Maranatha, “Come, O Lord.”
Significantly, at the close of the Bible, this prayer for Jesus’ second coming is preceded by a promise from Jesus himself: “Yes, I am coming soon.” Can there be any greater assurance?
As we work and long for the coming of God’s kingdom, may our prayers often include these words from the closing lines of Scripture: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
Pray For Unity
Our Bible reading today is from a beautiful prayer that Jesus offered just before he was arrested and crucified. This is the longest prayer of Jesus that is recorded in the Bible. It also provides some of his most profound teaching about prayer.
Here we can focus on two important truths.
First, Jesus prays for his followers. He prays for their protection and their unity. He asks that his followers share the unity or oneness that Jesus shares with his Father—“that they may be one as we are one.” Through Jesus’ unity with the Father, we belong to Jesus and we belong to each other. Like Jesus, we should pray continually for unity with our sisters and brothers.
Second, our unity in Christ is not an end in itself. We are Christ’s body for sharing his love with each other and with the world. The Holy Spirit uses our unity to draw others to Jesus, and Jesus unites them with the Father as well. Our oneness in Christ is our most powerful witness.
Sadly, though, the unbelieving world too often sees us bitterly squabbling with each other. As Jesus prayed for our unity, let’s keep praying for the church’s unity so that Christ may be glorified in the world through us.
Pray for Your Enemies
In this passage Jesus flips a common saying from that day on its head.
People would commonly splice the Old Testament command to “love your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:18) with a vengeful phrase: “. . . and hate your enemy.” The people typically considered anyone from another nation as an enemy.
And they were probably stunned to hear Jesus say, “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
What’s radical about Jesus’ demand is that it’s not just aiming for “peaceful coexistence,” “live and let live,” or “let bygones be bygones.” He’s commanding proactive, practical love. We are commanded to love our enemies and to seek the best for them—not just so that they will leave us alone.
An important part of loving our enemies, Jesus says, includes praying for them. Frankly, it’s impossible to keep hating someone if we’re praying for their good. Praying for our enemies helps us to see them as God sees them. It helps us to begin to care about their needs and treat them like a neighbor.
Unfortunately, we all have antagonists of one sort or another. Jesus himself calls us to love those people and to pray for them and for their well-being. After all, that’s what he did for us. “While we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10).
The widow in this parable has been called many things: troublesome, annoying, irritating, irksome, pesky. Yet Jesus applauds her for being persistent. Her relentless pursuit of justice eventually convinces the judge to help her, even though he doesn’t really care about her.
Of course, Jesus isn’t suggesting that God is like the judge in this story, or that we will have to be irritating to get God’s attention. In fact, as Jesus points out, God is the opposite of the uncaring, unfair judge.
Persistence in prayer, though, raises an important question about prayer itself. God reigns over the cosmos and pays attention to every detail, including even the hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30). So why would we need to pray at all? God knows all our needs, and his purposes and plans are set. Can we really, then, change God’s mind for a different outcome?
There is no easy answer to this question, but we can affirm several things the Bible teaches. Yes, God reigns, and we can take great comfort in that. What’s more, God can use our prayers as a means to his ends. As James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Our prayers bring us into fellowship with God and align us with his will, and they play a role in bringing God’s righteous and just kingdom on earth. So let’s be persistent in prayer, trusting and believing that God hears and answers.
Maybe you have heard stories about genies. Genies are imaginary beings that can live in a lamp or a bottle, and when the bottle is rubbed, the genie comes out to grant wishes.
At first, Jesus’ words “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” may sound like the words of a genie.
But Jesus isn’t talking about granting any wish we might have. As the apostle John explains in our Bible reading for today, what we pray for should be in line with God’s will.
And how do we know what God’s will is? We learn about God’s will through reading and studying his Word. Prayer, in fact, goes hand in hand with knowing God’s Word and will. As God reveals himself to us in his Word, we naturally grow in love for God and in our desire to serve him and others.
For example, we know that God calls us to love our neighbors, to care about their well-being, and to live peaceably with justice for all people. So we must pray (and work) for just and fair policies so that people everywhere may have good food and housing and safety, that they may learn and grow and flourish as God intends.
There’s nothing magical about prayer. Prayers based on the foundation of God’s Word put us in the position of wanting what God wants and seeking his kingdom. And we can be assured that God answers these prayers as we ask them in Jesus’ name.
Pray with Thanksgiving
When I visited for meals at my grandmother’s house as a boy, she always let me do the dishes. Her kitchen-sink window had a shelf with beautiful purple, white, and pink African violets. She also kept notecards on her windowsill with handwritten Bible verses. One card, I remember, highlighted Paul’s sound advice for praying “in every situation.”
Though he was probably a prisoner at the time, Paul writes a cheerful, optimistic letter to the church in Philippi, brimming with joy. He includes sound pastoral advice for daily Christian living, including suggestions for prayer. As in other letters, Paul urges his friends to pray in all situations. And “do not be anxious about anything,” he says, but bring everything before God.
Paul also mentions a vitally important ingredient: praying with a thankful heart. Indeed, “thanksgiving” is one of the basic characteristics of the Christian life. With a thankful heart we can acknowledge that we are utterly dependent on our loving and faithful heavenly Father.
Paul assures us that when we bring everything to God in prayer with thanksgiving, we will experience the peace of God that beats all conventional wisdom and keeps us secure in Jesus’ love. My grandmother knew this and loved to be reminded of it.
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