Part 3 of a Series
In parts 1 and 2 of this series, I talked about how I use the model that the Lord gave us, often called "The Lord's Prayer," to pray for my family (not in a rote way, but with real meaning).
But there's so much more on my heart to pray about, so many more aspects of The Kingdom that the Lord taught us to prioritize! So starting just recently, my prayers for my family have also take their cues from the Beatitudes, (The "Blessed are..." statements from Christ's "Sermon on the Mount"). It's very fitting to frame our prayers around this sermon of our Lord, and here's a sample of how that can look. (Since I don't pray by rote, this is just a representative sample.)
- "Lord, please help each family member (I think of each as I pray this) to be poor in spirit- not spiritually conceited, but truly humble in our walk with God; relying on His righteousness, abiding in the Vine, drawing our life, strength, and direction from Him. For then we will possess the kingdom of Heaven, a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17)."
- "Lord, please help each one of us to mourn over our sin, and then to humbly rejoice in Your forgiveness. Help us to humbly receive whatever hardships You call us to, choosing the healthy pain of mourning rather than the pain of sinful anger or whining self-pity, and so may our hearts be prepared our hearts to receive Your comfort in those circumstances, and to extend Your comfort to others (2 Co. 1:4)."
Just today one of my children was extremely disrespectful and defiant during family devotions, and I wanted to respond out of anger (as usual). One might rationalize that, under such circumstances, my anger would have been righteous, but I know from experience that anger is only righteous if its attitudes, goals, and methods are righteous. Mine would have been anything but righteous in that moment...no, not even my goals, because at that moment I felt much more of a desire to make my son suffer for what he had done, instead of wanting to help him find a place of repentance and restoration.
So, during a cooling off period, when we grounded him from what he desperately wanted to do, and gave him time to (hopefully) think about his sin and repent, I had to spend time praying that I would mourn, rather than rage, over my son's sin. I prayed that he, too, would mourn over his sin, and that together we would be able to pray for his repentance, healing, and restoration. This mourning, Jesus promised, would lead to being comforted.
Did I see the hoped-for change in my attitude, and did I receive comfort? Yes, thanks to the Lord. Did I see the hoped-for repentance in my son right away? No. Not in this case. But earlier today, a different son came up to me, totally unexpectedly, and confessed a sin to me with tears...something he didn't even know I already suspected (because in this instance the Spirit had held me back from confronting when I wasn't sure). It was obvious that the Spirit of God was at work within him, and this mourning over sin was a precious gift from God. Far more precious than any forced "I'm sorry" spat out in order to get out of consequences. And it enabled me to take that precious boy in my arms and pray aloud over him, thanking the Lord for working in his heart, bringing him to repentance, and for forgiving him and restoring him. It was a beautiful thing, and not something I ever could have forced. And it gives me confidence that the Lord can change my other son's heart, too, especially if I seek to walk in the Spirit and not mess things up!
Which brings me to the next beatitude...
- "Lord, help us to reject the quest for power, and to seek instead to inherit meekly. Help us not to be obsessively driven toward mastery of life in our own strength, and not envious of those who seem to have it, but eager to operate from a place of total inadequacy and dependence on the Lord. Thank You that Your power is perfected in weakness, and that when we are weak, then You are strong through us (2 Co. 12:9-10)."
This is a huge one for me, for a couple of reasons. First, because I tend to not want to take on projects unless I believe I can see the way clear to the very end and know exactly how I'll do it, what obstacles I might face, and how I'll overcome them. (As a result, I take on very few projects!) But since this approach to life is determined by personal power (either its presence or absence), it is the opposite of meekness. Meekness operates by God's power. So I pray for this kind of meekness for myself and for family members as I see us struggling with perfectionism and fear.
I also pray for meekness when my lack of it shows itself in arrogance and power struggles. Remember the discipline issues I mentioned above? Meekness allowed me to inherit a precious experience that no power on earth could have given me. I should know by now that my angry power-grabbing has NEVER brought about anything truly good, but since it's still my knee-jerk reaction, I still must pray for meekness. Not weakness, but power through God's strength.
Of course there are times when I will have to respond more strongly, but if I do so in the Lord's strength rather than in the strength of my anger, it will be beautiful in its own way (even if my son may not perceive it that way at the time), with beautiful motives and goals. And the fruit will come in God's time.
I won't take the time to elaborate on each beatitude. I do pray that I and each family member would:
- Hunger and thirst for righteousness, first within, and then in the world, with the promise that He will satisfy such hunger
- Be merciful and obtain mercy
- Be pure in heart and see God
- Be peacemakers and called the sons of God
- Rejoice to be persecuted for Christ's sake
That last one has often felt a bit far-removed from my life, but today I had to pray it for real. I had gotten all fearful and bitter over an article I read about the US Government persecuting a Christian business and threatening to fine it into bankruptcy if it would not fund abortifacients for its employees.
Not only is this a business that I love and frequent, but this governmental abuse is a fearsome glimpse of the fascism that is likely to descend on this once-free nation. And as I fretted, I recalled what I had been praying. "Help us to rejoice to be persecuted for Christ's sake."
I remembered that this prayer reflects and actual command of Christ's (see Matt 5:12), and that I needed His help to obey that command. And I remembered that it wasn't a cruel, heartless command from an unfeeling deity, but the loving command of a Savior who also knew persecution, and who "for the joy set before Him, endured the cross" (Heb 12:12). I knew that this same Lord promised that those who are persecuted would receive great rewards that would far exceed our sufferings, and this is why we could rejoice.
And so, just in praying the beatitudes, I find many helps for the difficult days that we live in. I hunger and thirst for the justice that is being denied to Christians in our country, and I am reminded that Christ, too, wants justice. But I am reminded to use not the world's weapons, but Christ's, not to seek to seize by fleshly power what can only be inherited by the meek, and not to lose my perspective.
And, more than just being reminded, I am also brought to a spiritual posture, one that aligns with God's commands and priorities and is promised His blessings. And most importantly, I enlist His divine intervention with confidence that I am asking for what He Himself desires.