3 things Jesus didn’t pray for

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus gives us instruction about how to live, serve God, and love others. And of course, he tells us to pray. We know prayer is important because the Bible says that Jesus prayed regularly and Paul tells us to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But when we study the New Testament, we ...

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Throughout the Gospels, Jesus gives us instruction about how to live, serve God, and love others. And of course, he tells us to pray. We know prayer is important because the Bible says that Jesus prayed regularly and Paul tells us to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But when we study the New Testament, we discover that, with the exception of a whole chapter in John (chapter 17), we aren’t privy to many of Jesus’ actual words spoken in prayer.

To put it simply, prayer is communication with God, and none of us is exempt. Even Jesus did not neglect his relationship with the Father, and communication is essential to build a strong relationship.

In Matthew 6:5, Jesus says “when you pray” (not if) and then shares an example of how to pray. On the other hand, since He tells us the Father knows what we need before we ask Him (Matthew 6:8), why pray at all? Because it is in these conversations that we build a relationship and come to understand the nature of God.

Jesus was known for turning things around, for giving surprising and unexpected answers that were contrary to expectations. Even if you’ve been praying for years, you may learn something new by looking not at what Jesus did pray but at what he did not pray for.

He didn’t pray for provision. 

If I told you Jesus prayed for a nicer home, a job promotion, or a luxurious car, you wouldn’t believe me. Neither did He ask God to stretch what money He and his disciples had. Yet how often do our prayers center on material things? Is it wrong to ask God to help you pay your bills? No, but don’t be surprised if God instead tries to teach you about living within your means and being content with what you have. When Jesus taught His followers the Lord’s Prayer, he told them to ask for their daily bread—basic essentials, what they needed at that moment to survive—but nothing beyond that.

Jesus said, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25, NIV)

Instead, Jesus trusted that God (and His people) would provide everything He and the disciples needed. He understood that by following his instructions about sharing our possessions, feeding the hungry, and clothing the poor, we will have enough. Instead of asking for more, Jesus gave thanks for what He already had. He blessed the food in front of Him, and He thanked God for hearing Him and giving wisdom to those who believed in Him.

He didn’t pray for the sick. 

When someone came to Jesus for healing, He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t pray, but He simply put His hands on them and healed them. He surprised people by starting with what was on the inside—the state of their hearts—and then He moved from the spiritual to the physical. After forgiving them of their sins or declaring that their faith made them whole, Jesus healed their bodies.

We can learn an important lesson from this—prayer must not replace action. Just as Jesus often withdrew by Himself to pray, so should we. He teaches us that it’s ideal to pray in private and not for show. But after Jesus prayed, when He encountered someone in need, He acted. He didn’t use prayer as reason or excuse to delay. (How often have we said, “Let me pray about this and I’ll get back to you?”) Neither did He denounce the sick for a lack of faith. He recognized the faith it took to ask for help, and He responded with compassion. Immediately.

“But He was Jesus! Of course He could heal! How am I supposed to do this?” you may wonder. I’ll answer you in Jesus’ own words: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do.” (John 14:12, ESV). His instructions were specific: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!” (Matthew 10:8, NLT)

He didn’t pray about tomorrow.

I don’t know about you, but I find myself consistently asking for revelation, for God to show me His plan, to give me some kind of insight into where I am going so I know what to do to get there. But here’s the thing: God doesn’t have to tell us what He is doing, and sometimes we might be better off not knowing. If we can learn to listen for God’s voice—if we can develop a strong relationship with our Heavenly Father through prayer—then we will hear and respond when He nudges us in a certain direction.

Jesus already knew God’s plan for His life, but still He approached God and asked if there was any other way it could be played out. It’s alright to tell God what you think you want. But then, in humility and full obedience, even when facing crucifixion and suffering, Jesus ended His prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane by asking for God’s will to be done.

Instead of relying on our own knowledge or ideas, God wants us to depend on Him. God doesn’t necessarily want us to be enlightened about every step of His plan, but instead to lean on Him daily for help. To turn to Him with each step we take. To understand that He can be trusted with all of it because He knows what He is doing. And not to worry but to live in the present.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matthew 6:33-34, The Message).

Praying like Jesus

The things Jesus prayed—and the ones He didn’t pray for—provide guidance for our prayers. But just because Jesus didn’t pray for something doesn’t mean that we should not. Although Jesus was fully man, He was also fully God. He was privy to God’s plan in a way that we are not. He didn’t need faith because He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt who God is and what He could do. To pray like Jesus, we need to nurture those seeds of faith that God has given us—trusting and giving thanks for what has been provided, spending time in prayer so that we are ready to act when the time comes, and leaning on God to help us live in His will in each moment. Our days should begin and end with prayer—bookends to the miraculous answers and blessings we’ll see as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

This post was originally written for Crosswalk.

Jesus liked to pray upside down, too

I don’t know about you, but my favorite way to pray is upside down. I’m in good company. Jesus constantly surprised his followers—and critics—with His unexpected answers. Jesus always challenged the status quo. He looked beyond the surface and wasn’t afraid to flip things around. One Sunday morning when my son, Bobby, was six, he left ...

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I don’t know about you, but my favorite way to pray is upside down.

I’m in good company. Jesus constantly surprised his followers—and critics—with His unexpected answers. Jesus always challenged the status quo. He looked beyond the surface and wasn’t afraid to flip things around.

One Sunday morning when my son, Bobby, was six, he left our pew and walked straight to the front of the church, up the steps onto the platform, right in the middle of our worship. Pastor Nathan was sitting in a chair off to the side, putting the finishing touches on his sermon notes. Bobby circled around the worship leader, ignored the musicians, and climbed into the seat next to Nathan. With a sigh, he leaned back and then scooted to the edge of the chair. The big smile and hug Nathan gave him weren’t a surprise—Nathan had taught all the children that they were always welcome to come up front. That day, as I watched through tears, I finally understood the beauty of having direct access to God. Knowing that He welcomes me, and you, with joy. No matter who’s watching.

This must be what Jesus meant when He spoke to the adults who tried to shoo the children out of the way:

“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Luke 18:16-17

Jesus broke with convention and offered all that He had to those who had nothing. No qualifications required. No secret handshake. All we need to approach Him is the confidence that He will not stop us.

And His upside-down answers didn’t stop there.

“Whoever is least among you is the greatest.” Luke 9:48

In God’s world, the blessings come from serving rather than being served. From loving, rather than just being loved. From being welcomed by the Master, even if no one else thinks we belong.

In the Bible, the Pharisees didn’t hide their good deeds but took pride in their public displays. Jesus chastised them.

Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6:1

Jesus flip-flopped public faith for private, emphasizing that what’s in a person’s heart is more important than a person’s actions, and reminding us that God’s reward system isn’t the same as this world’s.

The best way to follow Jesus is by embracing the unexpected. By opening our minds to surprising new ways to see Him.

But it’s not always easy. God is the Master of Creativity, the original Artist, and He rarely responds in the ways we expect. He may ask you to forgive, even if you are the one who is wronged. He may ask you to become the wife your husband needs, rather than turning your husband into the man you always dreamed of. He may not save your job, but He might give you the time you’ve always needed to learn more about Him, or free your schedule to finish the renovations on your kitchen. He might not deliver you from poverty but instead teach you how to budget, balance, and take care of what He’s provided. Or He may show you that even if you have very little, when you can find ways to give what you do have, you will feel wealthy.

Praying upside down can be a literal flip-flop of your prayer (like when I prayed for the unknown woman who would eventually buy my house, rather than praying that I would sell the house) or any type of prayer that is unconventional, unexpected, or unusual. The power isn’t in the asking or dependent on your ability to find a creative way to ask—it’s in the creative and surprising ways in which God answers.

In Luke 22:42, Jesus prayed, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (KJV). Nevertheless is a powerful word you rarely hear these days. When included in prayer it means that even if nothing make sense to us yet, even if we don’t know what to expect, we want the best that God has. We’re acknowledging that, even 2,000 years later, Jesus continues to provide a fresh approach. When we pray upside down, we’re looking at our situations from a different point of view—His—and saying, “I may not always understand—nevertheless, I’m willing. Turn me upside down, if that’s what You want.”

Because if that’s His point of view—oh, what a view that must be.

Jesus is here

God is over all things, under all things, outside all, within, but not enclosed, without, but not excluded, above, but not raised up, below, but not depressed, wholly above, presiding, wholly without, embracing, wholly within, filling. —from Walking on Water by Madeleine ...

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[I shared this today at Internet Café Devotions. You may read it there or here.]

God is over all things,
under all things,
outside all,
within, but not enclosed,
without, but not excluded,
above, but not raised up,
below, but not depressed,
wholly above, presiding,
wholly without, embracing,
wholly within, filling.

—from Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle

This time of year, it seems there’s always some talk about the so-called war on Christmas, about people being upset if a store clerk doesn’t use the actual words, “Merry Christmas.” People read cards that arrive in the mail and roll their eyes if the sentiment inside ends with “Happy Holidays.” Many of these people react from a pure heart. They love God and want everyone to focus on the point of Christmas, to remember that it’s about Jesus coming to earth—about God drawing near. About His enormous love that prompted Him to come do for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves.

I understand where they’re coming from. I do. And in my heart, I want the same thing—an awareness of God, an understanding of the miracles we celebrate.

But I also know this: God cannot be limited. We cannot keep Him out of Christmas, no matter what we call the season. We cannot pretend He is not present, because He is in all things. Re-read the excerpt above. Over, under, outside, within, without, above, below, wholly above, wholly without, wholly within.

When we pretend God isn’t present in these holidays, we’re the ones who are deluded.

If we want to see more of Him, all we need to do is open our eyes. Open our arms, and our hearts, and our front doors. Open our pantries, our compassion, our communities. Lean on Him, call on Him, ask Him to reveal Himself. Ask Him to work through us, to shine light into the lives he’s given us, to let us be His hands extended.

And even if we don’t see Him, He is there. Because Christmas would not be miraculous if this is a temporary fix. It wouldn’t be a celebration if there were a time limit on His presence.

He is here. He was, and is, and is to come. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. The Lord God Almighty. The beginning and the end. The All in All.

No matter how other people celebrate, I know that this is reason enough for me to rejoice. To give thanks. To fall to my knees in wonder.

Because, Christmas or not, Jesus is here.

Amen.

Why summer makes me go UGH

If you don’t know me personally, here’s one thing you should know about me: I’m not one of those amazing, hands-on moms who fills her summer with trips to the pool or the zoo or neighborhood parties. In fact, I’m so NOT a Pinterest-worthy parent that I probably won’t even have time to LOOK at Pinterest all ...

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GRAPHIC time off

If you don’t know me personally, here’s one thing you should know about me: I’m not one of those amazing, hands-on moms who fills her summer with trips to the pool or the zoo or neighborhood parties. In fact, I’m so NOT a Pinterest-worthy parent that I probably won’t even have time to LOOK at Pinterest all summer. Today is the last day of school. I have approximately an hour and forty-five minutes left of my last solitary, quiet day. And I am not going to spend it making a list of all of our family goals for the summer.

I love my kids. A lot. But ever since I have been working from home (which, incidentally, is the complete lifetime of all three of my children), summers have stressed me out. Everyone who knows me is probably sick and tired of hearing me complain, but here’s the deal. I still have just as much work and just as many deadlines. But in the summer, I have to do those things with a house full of people and the clutter which they bring with them. Yes, I know I chose to bring those people into the world. But what I didn’t know then? That their summer schedules for sports and honors classes would include things like three-times-a-day practices and three-chapters-a-week reading and discussion questions and three classic books complete with papers that need to be written.

In. The. Summer.

I thought summers were supposed to be time off.

If you’re a teacher who assigns such a thing, please know I probably like you very much in person. I just don’t care for this particular approach to summer. At all.

On top of my resentment about other people imposing on my schedules, I find that warmer weather reveals some things that aren’t so pretty. And I’m not talking about jiggly, white thighs. (Although I have those, too.) I’m talking about jealousy.

I believe whole-heartedly and fervently in protecting your skin from the sun. The more tan you are, the more we probably disagree on that issue. And yet I envy all of the smooth, sun-bronzed legs I see. The beach photos. The skinny bodies in bathing suits (I drown out my jealousy by eating more junk food). I’m jealous of all the vacations people go on, because Tim never has much vacation time available, and we can never seem to find more than a couple days at a time to do things as a family. We may go one at a time, but rarely together, and I constantly struggle with resentment for people who have lots of time off.

Then again, wasn’t I just complaining about having to have so much togetherness during the summers?

I’m hopeless.

But really, I know that summer’s not the problem. I am.

Because I have everything I need. And so very much more. I guess my attitude all comes down to this mistaken belief I have that I should get everything I want. That I deserve time off. That I deserve alone time. That I deserve to indulge myself.

Funny, I don’t remember seeing verses about that in the Bible.

True, Jesus insisted on some alone time. But his goal wasn’t to run to Target, to veg out on the couch with a new book, to post perfectly-filtered pictures of his vacation destination on Instagram, or to spend some time at a friend’s pool. When he went to the pool, it was to heal the lame man.

When he went off by himself, it was to get ready to do the next thing God asked of him. If anyone deserved time off, it was Jesus. But it didn’t even come automatically to him. He had to actively, single-mindedly pursue it.

He caught a quick nap in the boat in the middle of a storm. At dinner, alongside the road, when he came down from the mountains, even when he stopped for a drink of water—always there were people with all kinds of needs. He withdrew by boat to a solitary place and the crowds followed him on foot. And he had to ask his disciples specifically to keep watch for him while he prayed in the Garden. He doesn’t get what he asks (or deserves): they fall asleep.

My soul longs for peace, for a sense of calm, for rest. No matter how much I want that, it may not be mine to have. At least not in the way I think it should work. I can absolutely have it—but it doesn’t come from a wide-open calendar or an afternoon off. It comes from him. The sweetest of gifts, offered without reservation:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-29

So the one thing I need to do to find rest has nothing to do with events on my schedule and everything to do with how I fill my time.

As I mentioned earlier, I won’t be making a list of summer adventures for my family to cheerfully pursue. But I will set some priorities, because I’m headed into a season which is always a challenge for me. Just skimming through the Gospels to make sure I have my references right in this post, I feel comforted. So I will find—no, make—time to read the Bible. To complete Seamless: Understanding the Bible as One Complete Story, a new Bible study by Angie Smith that I’ve started and already love. I’m on day three, and I’ve already uncovered a profound truth about myself by seeing an old Bible story in a new way. I will read Untangled: Let God Loosen the Knots of Insecurity in Your Life, a new book by Carey Scott, which in just the first two chapters has already begun to soothe my soul. And I will write, both here and in my journal. And I will pray, and I will reach out to friends and answer emails from strangers and let loose the love God has given me, spending it freely and widely whenever the opportunity arises.

And in those moments, I will find quiet. In those words, I will rest. In those stories, I will find focus and hope and everything I need to take my next steps, whatever they are. Even if they’re just steps to and from the car as I drive to sports practices and nag remind my son about his summer assignments.

And I will remember that Jesus took himself to the mountaintop to pray. Nobody did it for him, and no one forced him. He knew what he needed, and he put forth serious effort to make it happen. Because without that time in prayer, he wouldn’t be equipped for his work. Without a strong connection to the Almighty, he was nothing. Until his soul could rest, his body could not.

Oh, how I long for my soul to feel rest. I already feel a stirring of possibility. And instead of collapsing on the couch, suddenly I want to run—straight towards the hope I see on the horizon. I give thanks for what I know is waiting for me. And I’m going to do my darnedest to help myself find what I know I need.

And it’s not going to be in the pile of discarded folders and broken pencils dumped out on the floor next to my son’s backpack.

My gift to you

Jesus wasn’t born in December, but likely in March. (Or, as my daughter Katie keeps telling me, Jesus was an Aries.) The wise men weren’t at the manger, but arrived years later. The manger may have been a cave, not a quaint little straw sanctuary in a drafty barn. We Christians have turned what was ...

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Jesus wasn’t born in December, but likely in March. (Or, as my daughter Katie keeps telling me, Jesus was an Aries.) The wise men weren’t at the manger, but arrived years later. The manger may have been a cave, not a quaint little straw sanctuary in a drafty barn. We Christians have turned what was once a pagan holiday into a religious one. Christians try hard to keep the focus on God, yet we get caught up in gross commercialism and insane busyness. We still spend too much. We still forget to acknowledge Him.

Yeah, it’s all true. And yet? I don’t care.

Jesus is still Jesus. It’s still Christmas. And I will still celebrate because we need His light shining into the darkness. We need what His presence brings. We need all that He can reveal.

So I wish you a merry Christmas. I wish for you the chance to see and hear and feel God every day. I hope that you will celebrate Him with me—if you’re a believer—and if you’re not, I still wish for you all the light and love and hope that Jesus represents to me on this day. I rejoice because even though we could debate semantics, questioning each detail, agreeing or disbelieving how literally we interpret the Bible or whether God is real, in the end, that’s not what matters. What matters, at least to me, is that because of what I’ve seen and felt and heard, I believe. I want that for you, too, not because I’m determined to force my agenda on you but because it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever known, and, if I love you, how could I not wish for you to find something like that for yourself?

I’m the woman who can turn a shopping list into two pages or a brief email into 1200 words—yet I can’t find words to express how unbelievably fortunate I feel. How blessed I am. How grateful I am for the life I have. For the fact that, for whatever reasons, through whatever series of circumstances, I have my faith to cling to. And for the fact that, in spite of all my thousands of questions and what many would call doubts, I do believe. I believe in that baby who came to save us. I believe that God offered us something amazing that day, and He’s never taken it back. He’s still there. Still waiting. Still offering. Still hoping.

So this Christmas, as I revel in the awesome knowledge that He is who He is, that He is all that He claimed to be and more, I truly don’t want anything else. Gifts are kindness and love in physical form, and I gratefully accept them. But I want to offer something to each and every one of you.

May I pray for you? For the one thing you truly want, the kind of thing that can’t be bought in a store, that doesn’t seem to really fit on a wish list? Can I take your name, your need, before the throne of the Holy One? Would you let me lift your deepest desire before the One who has the power to bring change, the One who cares, the One who loves you with a love so encompassing that we cannot begin to imagine it? Would you allow me to pray for marriages that are strained or broken, for the insidious tentacles of addiction that have grabbed hold of someone you love, for the medical conditions that threaten to change your lives forever? For children who have lost their way, for parents who feel helpless to help, for financial bondage and broken hearts and physical pain? For equality among people, for respect and empathy to reign and for divisions among people to be removed? For safety for all of God’s children. And yes, for world peace. For hope for our world, for leaders to rule wisely and for love and peace to prevail?

Send me your need, large or small, and I promise you that I will pray for you. I will not share your name or your need with anyone else. This is a safe place, and this is a gift to you, given without strings. You can send me details or just a vague request. I don’t want to intrude on anyone’s privacy. But I would be honored if you’d let me do this for you. If you’d let me come before the Almighty God and experience His love and compassion for you. You may comment here or email me (kellyostanley@me.com). Thank you, thank you.

I wish you a lovely, lovely Christmas filled with all things holy and right. And I pray for your days to be filled with God’s holy, revealing, renewing, restoring light.

Love,
Signature Kelly only

To You I Sing (A Christmas Prayer)

Silent night Lord, in these moments when the kids are asleep (and I should be), when I’ve put down my work and am lying here, finally still, help me to find You. Holy night Help me to remember why I’m doing all of these things. Why it matters. What it’s ...

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[also on Internet Café today]

Silent night
Lord, in these moments when the kids are asleep (and I should be), when I’ve put down my work and am lying here, finally still, help me to find You.

Holy night
Help me to remember why I’m doing all of these things. Why it matters. What it’s really about.

All is calm
Remind me that when my days are full of chaos and stress, of clutter and demands, that there’s no room left for You.

All is bright
You shine all around, but I forget to notice. I forget to be a conduit of your Holy, loving light.

Round yon virgin, mother and child
But the light shines wherever You are, drawing our attention towards You, the center of it all. We can’t help but gather round.

Holy infant so tender and mild
Oh, sweet, gentle One, You are holy and kind.

Sleep in heavenly peace
I’ll rest in the assurance that You are here. That You are real.

Sleep in heavenly peace
I’ll sleep, wrapped in your peaceful embrace. Amen.

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