Have you ever listened to how we pray, especially at church? Do you pay attention to the prayers offered during our church council (board or whatever term your Tribe uses for its church governance) meetings? OK, I will be more direct: How many times have you prayed or heard another pray, “Oh dear Lord, we ask that you bless this ministry/mission that we are doing.” I will admit it: I’ve prayed that prayer in meetings, gatherings and during worship services. I will also admit this: I think I’ve been wrong to pray such a prayer.
“What? Preacher Man don’t you want God to bless our efforts?” Well of course I do, BUT, do I need to ask God to do that? Some who are following or subscribing to this blog may just unfollow or unsubscribe to these musings. At the very least you wish there was an “Unlike” button. What has possibly happened to me that would cause me even to suggest that we stop asking God to bless our efforts? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s this verse from John 13:17 (N.L.T.)
Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.
Without sounding presumptuous or making assumptions, I have been struggling with asking God to bless something that we, something that I do or am about to do. Someone reading this just asked “Why?” Good question, I’m so glad you asked me that question. And I will try to answer it as best I can. This blog is about the Monday Spirit that will rob us of the joy and peace that comes from following Jesus and living as a citizen in the Kingdom of God. One of those “things”, in this case let’s call it an attitude, that crushes our heart is the thought that we must somehow convince God to accept what we want to do and in doing so make us happy. It is asking for God’s seal of approval to what we want to do.
The Greek word most commonly used for “bless” or “blessed” is makarios, not to be confused with the Macarena dance. (Some of you just tried to remember the words and gestures from that song, didn’t you.) It means literally “bless” or “happy”. It’s like saying, “God just accept what we want to do and be happy that we are doing this.” I want to propose something really radical, even for me.
I propose that if we are doing what HE wants by following the example of Jesus, then the blessing, the happiness comes along without us even asking for it. Look at the words of Jesus and then go back several verse and see what Jesus had just done. Jesus knew His Purpose was about to unfold–death on that Cross. What does He do? He takes off his outer garment, wraps a towel around His waist and begins washing the disciples feet; the act of a True Servant. When He finishes his task, he puts his outer garment back on and asks them this question: “Do you understand what I was doing?”
And just in case they didn’t, which they didn’t, He tells them what He was doing. He was setting the pattern for them and all future disciples, including us. The pattern is rather simple: Be a servant to anyone and everyone. It is all about the act of unselfish service to others simply because, period. It is the emptying of one’s self for the sake of the needs of others. Pure, unconditional love.
Now, read these words again: “Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.” Jesus didn’t say, “Now that you know what to do, ask God to bless you for doing them.” Nope, that’s not what He said. He said if we follow His example, the blessing, the true happiness happens. I think back and sometimes I have been asking God to bless something less than His standard, something I wanted to do, would RATHER do than wash dirty feet.
So I have stopped asking Him to bless my efforts. Instead I am looking for what He did and is doing today. And then my prayer isn’t “Bless my efforts” but “Help me do what You did that night before You hung on that Cross for me.” I know that if I am faithful to His designs that God will take great delight in me and I will then truly live as I am designed to live, and this makes me happy! Could it be our misery is the result of living life our way, rather than the way we are made to live?
Deep inside everyone is the desire to live out our true purpose. Jesus showed us how that night before He died because of our sins. Happiness comes from being true to our true self. Our misery comes when we try to live for some other purpose and so we try to eliminate that misery by asking God to make us happy because we are doing less than we are created to do. Follow Jesus and His example, and you will never, ever, ever have to ask Him to bless you again. The blessing just comes. Let’s pray:
Lord, show me how You lived when you walked this earth and help me do the same. And I know that I will be happy, so very happy! Amen and Amen!