Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. – Philippians 4:6 (NLT)
But Sandra, prayer only works if we can be confident that we have been growing, achieving, developing and changing, right?
Prayer actually works as we become acquainted with how incapable we are, causing us to throw ourselves on the grace of God time and again.
Prayer works best when we believe, but not when we are believing in our own works, but rather in Jesus’ finished work.
It’s a continual discovery of, I’m not capable, but God is; my spouse is not capable, but Christ in him/her is; my kids aren’t capable, but Christ working in and through them is absolutely capable.
So you can see how this can actually relieve you by helping you lay down your own self-effort and instead, simply hang out with Jesus, the capable One – The Vine (see John 15:5-6)
Even when we do grow, if we think about it, isn’t it just us having discovered more than ever before that we can’t and He can? Isn’t it simply that we have stopped trusting in ourselves for the answer to a specific struggle and started seeing Jesus as The Answer?
Here is an example that may help. I struggled for years with a pretty bad temper. I tried and tried to stop having a bad temper, but I never could get free. I tried to grow in this area but I could never achieve freedom. I would improve for a while, but then I would fall on my face again. This is what happens when we are trying to get free under the law.
Laws or rules try to control us from the outside, but they only produce behavior modification, not heart transformation, so the result is only temporary. The law always keeps our eyes on us and our own ability as you could see from all the I’s that I italicized in the last paragraph.
It was when I discovered how incapable I was at improving myself and how capable Christ was in and through me that I started living under God’s grace in this area and continue to do so to this day. How? By simply deferring to Jesus and trusting in the power of The Holy Spirit in me to produce the fruit of self-control over anger. My temper basically went by the wayside. And when I do have issues now, it is because I have stopped deferring to Jesus and have decided to get on board my self-effort bandwagon again.
Let me continue on with an additional example that will help you understand even further. One of my daughters has a Choleric personality and she sometimes wants to control things and people (like me).
The other day she wanted something and I said no and started to explain why. She wouldn’t let me talk because she kept saying, “but what if such and such, but what about this, but why?” That didn’t and doesn’t set well with me because I was trying to explain but she wouldn’t give me the chance to.
I talked to my husband Steve later and asked Him to help me find a way out of those types of situations because I don’t want to let them bother me. We both agreed that next time she starts trying to control me by trying to convince me to change my mind and/or talks back in a disrespectful manor, I will just get up and leave the room. We talked to her as well, so she would know what was going on if I left the room.
We explained to her about her personality and our personalities too. We helped her understand that every personality has strengths and weaknesses. Then we encouraged her by telling her we bet she is going to be a great leader someday and that is why God gave her the strong personality that He did. She is a good girl and is beginning to allow the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit in her more than ever since God is helping me understand this now and I have been able to teach it to my girls.
Back to my part in the story. When I said earlier I can live under grace by deferring to Jesus, I want to make it clear that I do have to make the choice to defer to Jesus or choose grace, whichever way you want to say it, because Jesus is grace.
Next time this happens I will either choose to stand there and argue with my daughter so I can say I won (self-effort), or I will choose to leave the room, pray about the situation (which is deferring to Jesus), receive His grace and hear from The Holy Spirit on how to handle the situation with my daughter.
You may say, “Sandra, that is going to take me too much time. It sounds complicated.” But let me assure you that this becomes a very natural and quick process as we come to the end of ourselves in these areas.
Once we have made the overall decision to trust Jesus and His way rather than our own, these individual choices become easier and easier. Something like this may take me 30 seconds to one minute to get to where I have heard from the Spirit and know how to proceed once I make the choice to leave the room.
But, again, if I choose to stay and argue or get upset, I won’t hear anything. (see John 14:27)
Jesus Christ in us is the perfect everything we need to be. He is the perfect spouse, He is the perfect parent, He walks in perfect peace and you know I could go on and on. So results are inevitable as we grow in allowing Jesus to live His life through us. We do this through prayer and trust and deferring to Him over and over again by His grace!
I have a little homework assignment for you. Look up the verb form of the word defer in the dictionary. You may just get a revelation. I did!
Jesus cares about everything that concerns us and wants to be involved in all of it. (see Luke 10:38-42) He loves to give to us, just like Mary sitting at His feet receiving from Him. Jesus told Martha in no uncertain terms that Mary had chosen well.
Martha was probably focusing on all the things she thought she needed to do to impress Jesus or make Jesus happy with her, but if she had chosen to sit as His feet instead, she would have found out that He already loved her totally and completely apart from her ability to serve Him.
Nobody’s perfect. She just made the wrong choice like we all do sometimes. The Bible doesn’t go any further with her story but I bet there is a good chance she learned the lesson that day that if she had ditched her work and sat at the feet of Jesus, receiving His unconditional love, she would have had a better day, filled with rest instead of stress, and at the same time she would have been empowered by His grace for the task ahead! Now that’s results!
So…we can pray without ceasing once we know that there is never a time that we do not need Jesus. Even if we are not praying out loud because we can’t at the moment, what we can be doing is constantly leaning, leaning and leaning more on His grace and trusting The Holy Spirit to work in and through us from the inside out.
This goes for people who feel insecure and guilty a lot and have a hard time receiving God’s grace and for those who are overly confident in their ability and do not even consider that they also need God’s grace. We probably all fall under both of these categories with various situations in life depending on what our natural strengths and weaknesses are, but the bottom line is, when we are having a bad day, we need Jesus and when we are having a good day, we need Jesus.
Then, once we get it, that we always need Jesus and His grace, we will start seeing results. It’s inevitable!
When we do we should thank Him, like Pastor Brian Houston did yesterday morning when I watched the very end of The Hillsong Conference live in Sydney Australia. He prayed for everyone and said to God, Thank you for what You have accomplished here. That caught my ear because he did not say thank You for what we have accomplished here. Of course they probably had thousands of volunteers to cover that large of a conference and the volunteers worked very hard and I know Pastor Brian was very appreciative of them, but Hillsong church is closely acquainted with the Grace of God which causes them to direct all the glory for the ability given to them toward Jesus! I have heard proof of this in things that have been said from Hillsong Church on more than one occasion.
When we are closely acquainted with the grace of God we spend all of our time praying for it, receiving it and then thanking God for what results from us being able to live in it! It becomes all about Him when we come to this stage of the game. Our Christian walk no longer centers around our growth, our achievement, our development or our change. It centers around Jesus and His growth in us, His achievement in us and His ability alone to make us what we ought to be. It’s so relaxing and so wonderful!
1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 says,
17 Never stop praying. 18 In everything give thanks. This is what God wants you to do because of Christ Jesus. (NLV)
Prayer was never meant to be a works trip at all and neither was living out our Christian life. Instead, prayer is something that you and I can naturally flow in the more we learn that we do not have the ability to pull this off, but Christ who lives in us does have that ability!
It is such a privilege to be able to pray about everything instead of being left to figure out life on our own. What an awesome gift has been provided for us through the finished work of the cross. The gift of access to God in Jesus’ name!
If you have not yet made Jesus your Savior and received the wonderful joy that His finished work on the cross has provided for you to live in, please visit my page here titled Jesus In The Driver’s Seat. On this page I explain the good news of the gospel and you will have the opportunity to pray a prayer of salvation, making Jesus your Savior! Jesus loves you and His arms are wide open!