Jesus prayed constantly. He went to the mountains to pray; he sought places of solitude for prayer. He prayed in the morning and in the evening. In fact, Jesus said he did nothing without hearing it first from his Father — in prayer.
John 17 is all about Jesus’ prayer for his disciples and his people — all who followed him and believed in him. Yet, Jesus prayed not only for his followers, but “for those who will believe in Me through their [the disciples’] word” (verse 20). What a powerful truth. The phrase “those who will believe in Me” includes you and me!
Beloved, Jesus was praying for us when he walked this earth in the flesh but this prayer did not vanish into thin air. It has been burning on God’s altar all this time and God has accepted his Son’s prayer for each of us. Centuries ago we were on his mind; he even recorded this prayer in his Word, knowing we would be reading it.
Right now Jesus is praying for transgressors who have not yet turned to him. Scripture says he can save to the uttermost — “to the end of time” — all who will ever come to him.
Throughout my years of ministry I have seen many addicts gloriously saved and each time, I think to myself, “This one had to have had a praying mother or an interceding grandmother, and God is answering the prayers of those holy warriors.” But now I understand something even better than that. Jesus was praying for them all along! “I pray … for those who will believe in Me through their word” (John 17:9, 20).
If you have been running from the Lord, you will never get away from his prayers. The Father answers his Son and all who resist him, continuing in their sinful ways, are hardening their hearts to the prayers of Christ — who prayed for them on earth, and is praying for them still.
Some of the most blessed people in God’s house are blind to their blessings. What a shame. They do not discern the great things the Father has given them — and so they do not enjoy them fully. Part of the reason may be the destructive habit of comparison.
You may look around in the Body of Christ and see other Christians who appear to be more talented and blessed. Some have memorized entire books of the Bible while others can preach or teach or sing. The devil wants you to compare yourself to others so you will say, “Poor me. I don’t have the brainpower to memorize God’s Word and I certainly can’t put together a sermon. I just don’t have any of the gifts my brothers and sisters have.”
Beloved, Jesus says, “You are blessed!” He did not say, “Blessed are the strong, the happy, the self-sufficient, the forceful, the greatly gifted.” But in that beautiful portion of Scripture commonly referred to as “The Beatitudes,” he mentions the poor in spirit; those who mourn; the meek; those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; the merciful; the pure in heart; the peacemakers; and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (see Matthew 5:3-10). He was saying, “You are blessed because my strength rests in your weakness. Because you trust in me, I can use you.”
God knows all about human nature. Let’s look at Abraham for a moment. God knew he would have great joy when he received the promise of his son. Abraham could say, “He did it! God promised me a son and he kept his word.” Yet God also knew that Abraham would not be totally fulfilled when the child came. He would still have a restless, inner hunger, an inexplicable need that no human could touch.
Isn’t this what happens to us when we finally get the thing we have wanted so badly? We are most blessed when we understand that only the Lord himself can fully satisfy our deepest needs.
In writing to the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul shares his perception that their fervor for God is waning. Some of their ambition is shifting, moving off-center, and their focus is not clear, so he sends them a letter of strong correction.
“Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! … We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children” (1 Corinthians 4:8, 10-14).
Scholars tell us that the Corinthian church was probably the wealthiest of all the New Testament churches. Their location afforded them many opportunities for great wealth from the shipping industry. Paul was pointing out to them that they seemed to be too much like the society around them; while they had all these great things going for them, something was missing. Even with all their outward success, inside something was wrong.
What was going on in this church? Paul was not admonishing them for being prosperous or implying that being impoverished was somehow superior. No! He was pointing out that their focus was all wrong. They were trying to fulfill their hearts’ desires with the things of this world rather than pursuing God first. In other words, they were looking for love in all the wrong places. And because of this, their lives lacked impact for his kingdom. Likewise, today, we must be careful not to become distracted by pursuits that take us away from a clear vision of Jesus!
Some people once brought a blind man to Jesus to be healed. Jesus took the man by the hand and led him to a secluded place outside the village where he spat in the man’s eyes. In any culture this would be considered an insult. But Jesus did it anyway.
Jesus then asked the man if he could see anything, and the man answered, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
I’m sure the man was thrilled to have even a hint of sight, but Jesus wanted him to see clearly, to know what he had been missing, to witness the full glory of his Father’s creation. So he put his hands over the man’s eyes again, and suddenly the man could see clearly. His sight was completely restored (Mark 8:22-25).
In so many ways I’ve seen God do the same thing in my life. When I first gave my heart to him, I was filled with a glorious feeling but my vision was blurry and confusing and new. Through the years he continued to disciple me, to shape my heart and spirit, until I could see more clearly. I began to see people plainly, as individuals before me, not as simple masses moving about. I began to see them the way he sees them — hurting and lost, like sheep without a shepherd.
That’s what Jesus’ touch on our lives will do for us, but only if we are willing to let him. So many followers of Christ never get to that stage. We allow God to touch us, to set us free from the blindness, the total darkness of sin, but we somehow remain content with an immature sight.
As we allow Jesus to touch us more deeply and bring our eyes and hearts into clear focus, he will take us further into the vision he has in mind for us. As a result, we will see people the way he sees them.
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.
Many Christians have the mistaken notion that God delights only in chastising and correcting us. No! The Bible tells us that he takes no pleasure in disciplining his children. On the contrary, Jesus says, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). He assures us, “I will give you everything you need because my heart is set on blessing!”
Nowhere in the Bible do we find Jesus cursing anyone. (The only thing he cursed was a fig tree.) No preacher, apostle, prophet or shepherd in history ever blessed people more than Jesus did.
Consider the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit … Blessed are those who mourn … Blessed are the meek … Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness … Blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted” (see Matthew 5:3-10). Everywhere Jesus turned he blessed.
He took children in his arms and blessed them (see Mark 10:14). He blessed those who held feasts for the poor and crippled. “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you” (Luke 14:13-14).
It touches my heart deeply that Jesus’ last words before he left his disciples were words of blessing. Luke says that Christ “opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (24:45). And then: “He lifted up His hands and blessed them” (Luke 24:50).
At this point you may be thinking, “I can understand how the Lord would bless children or new converts or even Christians in poor countries who need miracles just to have food. But I can’t understand those kinds of blessings for myself. I feel so unworthy.”
Beloved, you will never be worthy of God’s blessings! No one is — but he comes to us strictly in his mercy and grace to bless us with spiritual blessings beyond our comprehension.