Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. ESV
Sometimes the impact of a few words in the Word can become a lightbulb moment. That happened with those few highlighted words from Romans 8:26. The Lord has been using the Word and my own words each time I write a blog post to refine me during this time while the entirety of my life has been re-defined. I am no longer part of a couple, I am a widow. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness” has become my new awareness that in the faith the Lord has given me there is a powerful relationship between weakness and prayer.
My concept of praying as a strength has been revealed for the flawed idea it is. “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought.” I know my prayers have changed because what my heart needs to pray in this time has coincided with the awareness of my own weakness. For the first time I emotionally understand Paul’s comment about his weakness being his strength. I’ve experienced “groanings too deep for words.” My own words of prayer have mostly seemed weak to my ears. But somehow the “mind of the Spirit” heard those words that were spilled out in tear-filled broken phrases and translated that weakness “according to the will of God” into a different reality for me.
I’ve become aware that the power of prayer doesn’t depend on the strength of my words to provide the answers I need to endure anything more than confessing my own weakness. Just a couple nights ago I found myself needing to confess I had once again flunked trusting the faith I write and speak of. That’s when I realized weakness and prayer ARE the “odd couple” the Spirit of God uses to remind me the reality of Jesus’s strength IS my faith. What I am able to ask of Him in weakness, the Spirit of God can use to reveal deep truth to me: a broken and fearful heart still has life. Life is good because Jesus said so. His promises still hold true as long as His life is in my body. “He who searches hearts knows” my weakness and my fumbling prayers are the gift of my heart and He responds “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in [your] weakness.a“ That’s a passing grade I can live with.
a 2 Corinthians 12:9
TLB 3:1 Finally, dear brothers, as I come to the end of this letter, I ask you to pray for us. Pray first that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and triumph wherever it goes, winning converts everywhere as it did when it came to you. 2 Pray, too, that we will be saved out of the clutches of evil men, for not everyone loves the Lord. 3 But the Lord is faithful; he will make you strong and guard you from satanic attacks of every kind. 4 And we trust the Lord that you are putting into practice the things we taught you, and that you always will. 5 May the Lord bring you into an ever deeper understanding of the love of God and of the patience that comes from Christ.
Believers are the focus group of Pauls appeal for prayer. “Pray for us. Pray first that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and triumph wherever it goes, winning converts everywhere as it did when it came to you. Pray, too, that we will be saved out of the clutches of evil men, for not everyone loves the Lord.”
We have become a society of people who have made productivity a “little g” god. A good portion of what follows Paul’s appeal for those prayers is his admonition to people of faith not to live in laziness, loafing, refusing to work and wasting time. That seems like an odd combination for us to find an application for life today.
What if our laziness, loafing, refusing to work and wasting time is really all about our choice to overlook prayer in favor of productivity? Prayer is the quiet part of faith, often without recordable results. It’s also meant to be protection that keeps “us out of the clutches of evil men.” We can clock our time in devotional study…√. We can clock our time of service in the Lord’s name…√. We can clock our time of church participation…√. Only the Lord can honestly clock the time we spend in prayer, “but the Lord is faithful.”
Maybe that is why Paul has chosen to remind me “not to live in laziness, loafing, refusing to work and wasting time” and make sure prayer IS consciously a bigger and better part of my productivity. Mea Culpa!
11 And so we keep on praying for you, that our God will make you the kind of children he wants to have—will make you as good as you wish you could be!—rewarding your faith with his power.
11 …we pray for you all the time—pray that our God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be, pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something.
11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.
God + Prayer = You
– as good as you wish you could be
– fit for what he’s called you to be
– made worthy of his calling
– with faith rewarded with his power
– with good ideas and acts of faith filled with his own energy
– with every desire for goodness and deeds prompted by faith brought to fruition
Mark 9 The Red Thread
16 “What are you arguing with them about?
19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”…“You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
29… This kind can come out only by prayer.”
Here are the characters of the story:
• Religious leaders hassling the disciples for being ineffective
• The frustrated disciples because they’re ineffective
• A devoted father unable to get help for his son
• A frustrated Jesus
It seems studying a red letter version of Mark requires going through the book more slowly to experience how the little parts tucked in along with the big deal parts are tied together with that same red thread of Jesus’s words.
Chapter 9 seems to be about recognizing the challenge that faith is greater than what you currently comprehend. That certainly happened to Peter, James and John on the mountain with Jesus. That challenge continues with the words of the devoted father, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” and even the disciples own frustrated words “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
Faith wasn’t the issue. It was an issue of maintenance that frustrated Jesus enough to confront them with this truth. It’s prayer that maintains the connection of faith to the power of God…”only by prayer.”
2 Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—
9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.
17 These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them.
19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”
Once again our nation has been rocked by the violence that happened in Charlottesville, VA. Last Sunday our pastor gave us this heartbreaking reminder; “hate is LOUD and love, by it’s very nature is soft. We’ve come to be a society that responds more to rebellion and violence than we do to the Good News of the Gospel.” His words were not a condemnation for others but a challenge to us that we need to love loudly.
That made it hard to read this chapter about the destruction of those who’s doctrine is hate and deception and discover my hope was for the judgment God has reserved for them. Hate IS loud. But…I swear by God’s name, rather than enjoy Peter’s words that God will wipe them off the face of the earth, I will not let the circumstances of broken people in a broken world make my faith unproductive and ineffective!
I am going to follow Jesus’ teaching from Luke 11. “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.”
“Shameless udacity” in prayer is the only way I can LOVE LOUDLY.
JESUS, DEAR FRIEND, GIVE THESE HATEFUL, DECEPTIVE PEOPLE BREAD THAT CAN CHANGE THEIR HEARTS AND MINDS SO THEY CAN BE SAVED AND BE BLESSED…too! Can you hear me Lord?
ג17 Be good to your servant while I live,
that I may obey your word.
18 Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law.
19 I am a stranger on earth;
do not hide your commands from me.
20 My soul is consumed with longing
for your laws at all times.
21 You rebuke the arrogant, who are accursed,
those who stray from your commands.
22 Remove from me their scorn and contempt,
for I keep your statutes.
23 Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.
24 Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.
Gimel says the specific purpose of these verses is their relationship to the soul: “the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part.”
I’m learning from the psalmist. Our physical part is pleading with God to open a connection to our soul and be at work there; “be good to your servant, open my eyes, I am a stranger, do not hide your commands from me.” The soul is distinctly God’s domain – connection established!
Our first inclination is to assure God that our spiritual part “is consumed with longing” to know his laws at all times. Then we admit it comforts us to know God will rebuke the souls of those who stray, and protect us from their “scorn and contempt”…but no matter what, we’ll stay strong. Sounds humanly familiar doesn’t it?
The last verse of this section is the only possible way the spiritual and physical can unite to become a righteous soul that really does long for God’s law at all times. “Your servant will meditate on your decrees. Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.”