Jesus walked on planet earth for 33 years and engaged in full-time ministry for only the last three years of His life. That’s a very short amount of time to teach and influence the people who would spread His message around the entire world. In addition to all the things He said and taught, He modeled a life of prayer and spent many of His precious hours in communion with God. It has always surprised me when I think that Jesus, who was God, needed that sustenance, that connection with God the Father. How much more do we (not God!) need time in His presence, strength from His hand?
One of the steps I recommend in overcoming bitterness is to pray earnestly. Pray for yourself, that you would be freed from the bondage of anger and unforgiveness and ask others to pray for you. Ask God to change your heart, your desires, your motives. And keep on praying. James 5:16 says that the prayer of a righteous man (or woman) is powerful and effective. Pray for the person you’re struggling to love and forgive, pray that you would increase in love, pray that your heart would be softened and that the Kingdom of God would go forth in this situation. Go to your elders or spiritual leaders. Pray for what will bring God glory. And keep at it.
Jesus said many things about prayer, but here are two that really jump out at me:
- He taught us to pray with faith. In Matthew 17, the disciples had failed to cast out a particularly difficult demon from a young boy. When they asked why, Jesus told them it was because of their lack of faith. They saw the demonstration of the demon’s power within the boy and got scared. They forgot about all the other times they had successfully come against the enemy, they forgot about the power and authority Jesus had given them, they forgot who they were! Then Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20) Another time he was approached by blind men asking for healing (Matthew 9:28-30.) “The blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”“Yes, Lord,” they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; and their sight was restored.” In Matthew 13:58, it tells of Jesus visiting his hometown and being rejected by the people there. It says “And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” Jesus wants us to have faith, to come to Him in faith, to ask Him to build His kingdom through us and in us. We are to pray for freedom from bondage, victory over sin, for our love to increase, so that we can even pray for our enemies! According to our faith it will be done to us.
- He taught us to ask and keep on asking. Luke 11:9-10 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” And so we ask, in faith, for God to work. But then sometimes we don’t see the answers we expect and become disappointed. Dr. Rob Reimer says,
“Too often we don’t see answers come because we quit. We become discouraged. We run out of faith, and we quit praying. Sadly, we often chalk it up to the sovereignty of God when really it is just a lack of persistent faith on our part.”
Earlier in Luke 11 (verses 5-8) Jesus tells the story of a man who goes knocking on his neighbor’s door at night asking for bread. He says that even if the neighbor can’t be bothered to get up because of their friendship, he will eventually get up and give the bread because of his “shameless persistence.” Then after He encourages us to seek, ask and knock, He tells us that our Father is a good Father who desires to give His children good gifts (verse 13). Perseverance is a godly character that is rewarded by God. In Hebrews 10:36 we’re told that “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Several times in the book of James it says that perseverance brings blessing (James 1:3-4, 1:12, 5:11) and in 2 Peter 1:5-8 perseverance is listed as one of the qualities that will prevent us from being ineffective and unproductive. So when we persist in prayer we will be effective and productive! That’s what I want, how about you?
Dear Lord, would you help me to pray boldly, in faith and to keep at it – help me not to become discouraged or give up. For Your glory!