I have read two of three books in a trilogy by Francine Rivers. She writes historically accurate Christian fiction. The main character in the first two books is Haddasah; a Jewess woman living in 70 A.D. who believed that Christ was the Messiah. Throughout the 2 books, Haddasah prays. She prays many, many times. After reading her prayers it HIT me. She is praying that she will respond to all her circumstances and situations in a way that pleases Jesus. She isn’t praying to escape difficulties, or that difficult people to love in her life get removed or experience suffering as revenge for their hateful or disrespectful behavior to her. She prays that she will respond according to the example of Jesus. She prays for strength, she prays for the ability to love, she prays for the ability to overcome her fear and in fact she prays to not be concerned about her own survival. Indeed, this woman is clearly more spiritually mature than me I thought. Perhaps one day, I too will grow into that “level” of Christlikeness.
Then, I began to consider her prayers more intently. If she felt it necessary to pray for what she prayed for, those responses did NOT come naturally to her; she needed the supernatural power of Christ to respond like Christ! It was what she prayed for that made the difference…not that she was mature or able to attain a holiness not yet available to me. Haddasah knew she couldn’t respond as Christ would like her to without His help. That sounds obvious but, when I consider so many of my prayers…I pray for outcomes. Outcomes that seem best to me and of course outcomes that are to my liking!
But, God gives us the circumstances to produce Christlikeness in us! So, really, it just seems like I should pray to respond to these circumstances in a way that pleases Him and leave the outcomes to Him. And of course as soon as I decided to make this paradigm shift in my prayers, He provided a circumstance for me to give this a try! If you’ve walked with God you know that He is funny this way- He gives opportunities! Well, I began to pray that I would respond right and I searched the Bible for what my response should be and prayed that way.
At first my prayer was a choice- a choice I made with my mind while my heart still wanted to pray for outcomes! But, as I continued to pray and use the scriptures, my heart began to experience the paradigm shift as well! And soon, a peace and calm came over me. I could leave the outcomes up to my sovereign Lord knowing He would give me the strength and grace to respond in a way that pleased Him. Soon, my prayer shifted from asking to thanking. From asking, “Lord, help me to trust you. Help me to not worry,” to “Lord, thank you for being so trustworthy and faithful. Thank you for helping me respond with love and confidence in You. You have never failed me and no matter how this turns out I will praise you and give you glory.” This new attitude in prayer and thinking and responding, this paradigm shift from seeking outcomes and results to instead seeking right responses and leaving the results and outcomes to Him Is so freeing! Free. Let me tell you, I’m hanging on to this paradigm shift.
Here are a couple of verses that are strengthening me as I train with the Holy Spirit to deeply ingrain this paradigm shift into my heart, my mind and my soul.
Psalm 112:7,8 NET
He does not fear bad news. He is confident. He trusts in the Lord. His resolve is firm; He will not succumb to fear before he looks in triumph over his enemies.
Psalm 26 1,3 NET
I trust in the Lord without wavering. For I am aware of His faithfulness and His loyalty continually motivates me. (I paraphrased slightly here.)
Psalm 91:14,15 NET
The Lord says, because he is devoted to me, I will deliver him. I will protect him because he is loyal to me. When he calls out to me, I will answer him, I will be with him when he is in trouble; I will rescue him and bring him honor.
When I look at the lives of God’s people in the Bible, they are far from smooth sailing with a straight upward trajectory. Their lives twist and turn and go this way and that. And, as God orchestrates their circumstances He reveals Himself to them in deeply personal and intimate ways and He brings them through and they know Him more, love Him more and understand His vast love and power more.
I am praying for right responses to every situation, circumstance and encounter so that I can experience the resurrection power of my Savior in each opportunity and so that day by day I can trust and love Him more and experience more of His loving peace that passes understanding.
I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But, take heart I have overcome the world!