Personal and Family Devotions
Wednesday, March 25th
Grace and Peace to you!
Throughout this crisis, I’ll be sending you devotions/studies with some readings and questions, along with some links for songs and hymns. I’ll try to include some great quotes too (Hey, I love quotes!) to help us discover wisdom from the past to live well right now. These are unprecedented days for us with the unexpected rushing at high velocity into our lives. These are not unprecedented experiences, however, in history, making this a season in which we can draw on the experiences of those who’ve gone before us, together with the hope of the Scriptures, to strengthen our souls against the threats of fear, anxiety, and despair. Let’s get to it!
Today’s Reading: John 17; Psalm 42; Hebrews 7:25
Back in our Texas days, Toni and a much younger Anna would make the 14-hour drive back to Kentucky to visit with family, leaving early in the morning. We’d pack up the truck the evening before departure and then I’d see them off with plenty of coffee and songs for the drive ahead. But before they pulled out of the driveway we always paused to pray for protection and help along the way and for God to keep our hearts close to each other across the miles and weeks they’d be gone. Prayer always came before the journey.
In John 17 we find Jesus at prayer just before his great journey to the cross. He has finished his Last Supper with his Disciples and will shortly head towards the pressure of Gethsemane, followed by the humiliating mockery of false accusation and the painful abuse of flogging and execution by crucifixion. Supremely, he is going not so much to the cross, but to his Father. He won’t make that journey without prayer for those he will not see for a while.
What does Jesus pray for as he prepares to go?
In addition to our protection from the soul-destroying work of the evil one (we looked at that in our last study), Jesus offers three further petitions for us personally and collectively. He has YOU in view as he prays, but he has you in view in the company of all who are his own.
First, he prays for our Unity and Connection: John 17:11, 20-21. We are united with the Apostles and with each other. In this season of enforced ‘social distancing’, we need to pray for the strengthening of our union with one another. I received a lovely card from friends at church yesterday and that little touch meant so very much. We should let this ‘little distance’ impress us with the bridge we have that spans the centuries. Our unity isn’t simply across town but across the ages. We are one with the Apostles in a mysterious bond of the Spirit that makes us part of the ‘One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church’. Jesus prays for the unity of his Apostles but also for that of all those who believe in him through their message will be united together.
Second, Jesus prays for our Joy: John 17:13-14. Jesus’ words are the source of our joy. So very much in which we find joys has been removed from us just now. We don’t see our friends or colleagues; we don’t eat at our favorite restaurants, or cheer for our favorite teams. Where is joy to be found? Ultimately, we find our joy in the Savior himself, communicated to us through his word. Jesus prays that you will hear his word and find that your soul delights in and finds that word to be the true satisfaction for which our souls crave.
Third, Jesus prays for our Holiness: John 17:17-18. Trials are the serrated edge of grace. We ‘count them joy’ (James 1) not because they are pleasant (by nature they are not) but because we know that in the end, they will work for our good and God’s glory. One aspect of ‘the good’ is that we become a more holy people. ‘Holiness’ and ‘Sanctification’ look different in English but have the same ancient language roots. In short, they mean ‘Other’ or ‘Distinct’. God’s people are ‘holy people’. What does this mean? Think of Israel and her Exodus. During the plagues that led up to the first Passover, God made a distinction between his people and Egypt: there was darkness over Egypt but light in the precincts of Goshen. Ultimately the Blood of the Lamb on the doorposts of Israel distinguished them from death and led to their liberty. But while they were our of Egypt in a day, it took forty years of trials to get Egypt out of them. Jesus prays that while we are in this world, our hearts won’t be magnetized to it, but drawn instead deeper and higher into the splendor of loves that are supreme, into the beauty of God himself.
Read Psalm 42. Consider the thirst and longing being expressed in this lyric. Where do we go for satisfaction when all our regular wells have run dry? Where is Joy to be found? How does the Psalmist express this? Make this Psalm your prayer for today and add this Collect:
as you know each star you have created,
so you know the secrets of every heart;
in your loving mercy bring to your table
all who are fearful and broken,
all who are wounded and needy,
that our hungers may be satisfied
in the city of your peace;
through Christ who is our peace.
Tonight, Read Hebrews 7:25 and thank God that Jesus is interceding for you and his Church and that his prayers for us shall surely be answered.
“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
God is a fire that warms and kindles the heart… if we feel our hearts cold – which comes from the devil because the devil is cold – let us call on the Lord. He will fire our hearts with perfect love… and the cold of him who hates good will flee before the heat of God’s fiery face.”
– St Seraphim of Sarov
Hymns and Songs
He Will Hold Me Fast
The Church’s One Foundation
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