AN ASPECT OF PRAYER TO CONSIDER

Through the years I’ve read a lot about prayer and have written several blogs about prayer the last few years. This past week I came across an aspect of prayer that was new to me and got my attention. I’m planning to include this aspect in my practice of prayer and I encourage you to give it some consideration yourself.

In his book The Art of Prayer author Timothy Jones entitles his next to last chapter (15) “Letting Go.” Jones uses the same designation others do calling this new aspect of prayer for me “The Prayer of Relinquishment.” Jones tells his readers he has found the prayer of relinquishment “to be an essential part of the spiritual life” (p. 184). I’m a rookie when it comes to this aspect of prayer, but after reading Jones’ chapter and what others have written about the practice I’m thinking Jones is probably right.

One of Jones’ most powerful observations is obvious to most Christians, but is something many of us may need to be reminded of. He explains, “Relinquishment begins with acknowledging that much in life lies beyond our control” (p. 185). Most of us know from our own experience that Jones is right.

As I looked at some search results of the prayer of relinquishment I came across a twofold observation with which I partially agreed and I partially disagreed: “When you relinquish everything, you stop commanding and demanding God to do things for you. God will be silent until you turn everything over to Him and allow Him to handle your situation His way.”

Jones gives us some important direction when he suggests, “Our prayers of relief and acceptance need not be elaborate. We need not worry much about the words. More than anything, a prayer of letting go means coming into God’s presence with our agendas quieted. It means reverently opening our lives and hearts to a God of infinite possibilities” (p. 191).

More than one writer I read on the subject suggested “The ‘prayer of relinquishment’ is the prayer of surrender.” My sense is that surrender does not mean we give up, but rather that we submit to God’s will and God’s way. The challenge of course is accepting God’s way and will because of our faith and trust in Him.

Clearly the Bible teaches we are to go to our Heavenly Father in prayer with our requests. However, not every request we make is granted. I like Jones’ report that a friend of his came to the realization that sometimes rather than telling God what she wanted, she needed to ask God what he wants (p. 187). That seems to me something you and I might consider as well.

One perceptive commentator pointed out “There is the example of the prayer [of relinquishment] Jesus prayed in the garden: “And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:41‑42).

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WHAT ARE YOU ASKING FOR?

As we come to Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter these next two weeks I have been reading Mark’s account of Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem. Even though I have read it many times before, as well as preached from it, I was struck by the account of Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52.

Verse 46 tells us as Jesus, His disciples, and a large crowd were leaving Jericho there was a blind man named Bartimaeus “sitting by the roadside begging.” Like today, it was not uncommon in Jesus’ day for people to be at high traffic areas begging. What was uncommon was what Bartimaeus shouted when he heard that Jesus was coming by: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The title he used for Jesus indicated his high regard for Him.

Verse 47 tells us many in the crowd scolded and quieted him, but that only caused him to shout even louder. Hearing the shouting, Jesus stopped and instructed those with him to “Call him.” Now those who were previously quieting him began telling him to cheer up and get on his feet because Jesus was calling him. And Bartimaeus did not need to be told twice as he threw his cloak aside, jumped up, and went to Jesus.

Jesus’ question in verse 51 is what struck me: “What do you want me to do for you?” In his initial calls to Jesus he asked for mercy, but in response to Jesus’ question he was specific: “Rabbi, I want to see.” Then Jesus granted his request telling him in verse 52, “Go, your faith has healed you.” The account concludes with “Immediately he received his sight and followed along the road.”

The fact that Bartimaeus is one of the very few named that Jesus helped suggests to me this is an important account. I note the boldness, persistence, responsiveness, openness, and faith of Bartimaeus. And once he received his sight, Bartimaeus followed Jesus.

Hopefully you and I know who Jesus was and is even more clearly than Bartimaeus did. We know Him as Jesus; we know what the title Son of David means; and we look to Him as our teacher (Rabbi). We also know Him as our Savior and Lord.

I’ve been looking to Bartimaeus as an example and encouragement for me in prayer. In addition to the elements of praise and thanksgiving, one of my general requests lately has been for mercy. The Bible is clear that God is a God of mercy and I know that I need His mercy even when I am not aware of my need.

I am most intrigued by Jesus’ question: “What do you want me to do for you?” In his book Jesus: A Pilgrimage James Martin makes three statements that challenge me to do some serious thinking. First he suggests “Jesus sees something liberating in identifying and naming our desires.” Two paragraphs later he says “Notice that Jesus does not say, ‘Bartimaeus, just accept the way things are’.” Then the takeaway for me, “when we stand before God in prayer we should feel comfortable expressing our longings.”

In addition to asking the Lord for mercy, I also have a few specifics; in your prayers today what are you asking for?

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