A Prayer for More Faith Prompted by the Centurion in Matthew 8:5-10

When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 

Heavenly Father,

I often pray “in Jesus’ name,” but I am not sure I recognize his authority or my own unworthiness to ever have you answer my prayers.  Neither is my heart sufficiently moved by the needs of others.  Give me the faith of this centurion.

Let it start by being willing to ask.  So often I simply fail to pray when I know full well that I am in need of answers from you.

Further, I sometimes retain a hint of my own self-righteousness.  I expect you to do things for me because of who I am or what I have done, or the justness of my cause.  In reality I deserve nothing.  All that I have or ever will have from you is purely of grace.  I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.

I also see that this centurion was praying for his servant.  He was clearly not an arrogant man in his dealings with others.  Considering his rank and position I wonder if it might have been completely acceptable for him to to care very little about this servant’s well-being.  His concern was personal as he transformed his servant’s need into his own. Move me to that kind of intercession.

Finally, there is the matter of Christ’s authority.  I am not certain that I see him as Lord of the universe and Lord of my life as I pray in his name.  Maybe I know these things as facts, but there are too many times when I treat Christ as more of my servant than my Master.  Help me to make this a thing of the past and never treat Christ as anything but the King of kings that he is.

Again, give me the faith of this centurion as I lift up my requests to you.

In Christ my Lord,

Amen.

Goldilocks zeal – Matthew 8:18-22

Like the famous porridge in the story of Goldilocks, a person’s response to Jesus can be “too hot” or “too cold.”  Let’s take  a look at a couple of examples before we determine what a “just right” response would be. 

18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 

This scribe seems to have not thought his commitment through.  His response is too hot, or overzealous, given his level of understanding.  Jesus may made his home in Capernaum, possibly with Simon Peter and family, but the reality of his ministry meant that he didn’t often get back there at night.  At a deeper level, we have to think through where our true home is.  Paul reminds believers that our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).  If we do not consider this reality, then we may find our commitment to Christ is superficial.  It may not stand the test of time or the rigor of unforeseen trials.

21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Without going into detail, we can see that he is asking for a delay.  Maybe it would be weeks or months, maybe a year or more.  Here are some thoughts from Billy Graham.  The man grasps  that following Christ involves sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice that he is unwilling to make.  Unlike the overzealous scribe, this man is underzealous or too cold.  

A Goldilocks response to Jesus needs to be carefully thought through rather than hasty.  But it also needs to be willing to give whatever is necessary for the cause of Christ.  This world is not our home anyway, so with that in mind, why wait?  A true and thorough cost-counting will reveal that Jesus is worth more than anything or anyone that we might decide to place before him.

 

A Confident Prayer Prompted by Matthew 7:7-11

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Heavenly Father,

Teach me to ask for whatever I need from you.  Sometimes I forget; sometimes I just do not bother.  Sometimes I am negligent in prayer.  Make the kind of person who asks, seeks and knocks.  Teach me to be confident as I pray.

I know that you are good, so infinitely, incomparably good compared to me.  Sometimes even I do good things for my children or for others.  Why should I not be confident as I approach you with my needs?

Teach me to pray bold, confident prayers.  In the very word confident I see a root implying “faith” or “trust.”  Help me to have complete confidence in you.

You are good and you give good things.  Make me the kind of person who prays for good things that you would be more than happy to give,

In Christ,

Amen.

 

The easy way out? – Matthew 7:13-14

Toward the end of his Sermon on the Mount Jesus said,

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Wouldn’t it be great if following Jesus was the easiest thing we could do?  Popularity, public approval, material well-being, and an absence of trials and temptations.  Isn’t that the life most of us would like to have?  It turns out a life like that is more likely to lead to destruction.

We can learn a few things from Christ’s first followers.  Neither the Gospels nor the book of Acts, nor the rest of the New Testament gives any evidence that those early believers were getting voted “Most Likely to Succeed” or winning popularity contests of any sort.  They didn’t take the easy way out.  Why should we expect anything different?  

We need to be careful here.  Lack of popularity is no guarantee we are faithfully following Jesus either.  It might just mean we are doing a lot wrong.  

Still, when we try our best to serve God in accordance with his revealed will, we can expect it to bring some difficulty.  We can also expect that quite a few others will decide to go another way — through a wide gate and down an easy path.  Many will take the easy way out.  Look around.  Which gate are you heading going through and which path are you following?  How does it compare with the way of the cross?

A Prayer about Prayer Itself Prompted by Matthew 6:5-8

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I come to you in prayer to talk about my personal prayer life. 

Jesus here reminds me that I may be tempted to pray in public, perhaps because I feel pressure to pray, but ignore you in my private times when perhaps I need prayer most.  Let me not be a hypocrite by praying only to be seen and heard by those who would think of me as spiritual.  Let my private prayer times outdo my public prayers.  Let my public prayers be a natural outflow of my personal times with you.

Help my prayers not to be full of empty words, but rather full of sincere and meaningful content, offered up freely to you.  Let my requests be related to actual needs that you would pleased to meet.  Let my praises be true expressions of humble adoration. Help me to be open, honest and plain-spoken.  You aren’t listening for artful compositions, but rather looking for the right attitude of heart.  Let my heart be right before you.

Father, I know full well that my life depends on you.  My standing before you depends on the work of your Son Jesus.  You know my needs perfectly.  May the Spirit lead me as I pray so that I might pray according to your will.  May my prayers not be purely selfish even when I ask things for myself.  May they be full of truth at every level.  May I always pray with your glory and honor in mind.

And may I be among those who move mountains with my little faith and little prayers.

In Christ,

Amen.