Here we are at another Advent season—when we commemorate the anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ. To set the scene biblically, it was a time of great darkness in the earth, and more specifically in the Jewish community. They had been waiting for the arrival of their Savior with the expectation that he would turn the tables of their misfortunes. Exile, captivity, oppression, the pervasive humiliation of second-class status—over time, these feelings compiled to birth… hope.
What do you cherish in your life? Is it your marriage? Is it your family? Perhaps your job, business, friendships, an item you received from someone? Who do you revere or respect? What is considered sacred to you? Can you say that you honor God? Does he hold a special and separate space in your time, heart, and life? Do you respect his input as the ultimate priority over all other feelings and pursuits?
As the residing realm for the Creator of all things, heaven is a place of primacy. This is not just the place where God resides, but also the place where he rules and reigns as Sovereign. Heaven is the place where God legislates, adjudicates, and appropriates resources—not unlike many of the government systems in our earth. So when Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, he intentionally ascribes Heaven as the address of all things God.
Why did Jesus use the specific word father? He could have used the general description of God. He could have also instructed them to use the formal address of King, or Sovereign, or even Lord. Any of these terms would have been right or acceptable, yet Jesus encourages them to address him as Father. Contrary to modern popular ideals on teaching, Jesus gets right to the point in disclosing what his secret ingredient was to effective prayer—intimacy.
It would seem that today, many people pray without understanding the proper posture, purpose, and potential power that can be released as a result of an effective prayer life. For many, prayer has become a routine and sometimes mindless exercise in which we engage God only when we need help or when we are asking for something. There is so much that is forsaken when we neglect to embrace prayer as the intimate exchange between a Sovereign Father and his beloved children.
In my last devotion, we looked at Peter’s question regarding how often we should forgive those who trespass against us. Like most of us, Peter was most likely attempting to protect himself from people who would take his forgiveness as a vulnerability. While his question was both understandable and valid, there remains a deeper question that we should resolve. Why should we forgive? What is the motivation behind our acts of forgiveness? The answer to this is love.
“How many times should we forgive?” Many of us can identify with the question Peter poses to Jesus. It’s humorous to think that Peter might have been trying to figure out the cap at which he maxes out of forgiveness to give each person. However, it would seem that behind his question, and ours, is a fear of people taking advantage of our forgiveness. I can almost hear and resonate with Peter’s heart in trying to assess when enough is enough.
Miraculous! That was the most fitting word that I could use to describe what had just happened to me. I had literally just finished my prayer time and had asked God for insight on what forgiveness was. Journeying back to my tent, I was approached by a stranger who gave me her brand-new Bible, and in its cover was a pamphlet on forgiveness. No one had been miraculously healed from a physical malady, but nonetheless, this felt like my “money out of the mouth of a fish” moment.
“Well how do I forgive anyway!?” I said aloud. I was off a lake in Zambia, talking to God during my devotion time. My tone was slightly annoyed, almost in contradiction to the serene environment of my morning meditation. My prayer time had been going smoothly, up until the point when the Lord began to uncover instances in my life that warranted forgiveness… “You’re going to have to show me what forgiveness is!” I demanded out of frustration.
This type of functioning depression is real and is often hard to detect because it is hidden beneath the myriad of works and services that these leaders provide to their community. Everyone around sees the public success, while the leaders struggle with feelings of private failure. So how can we combat depression and restore our hope in God as leaders? We must build strategies that break this code of silence.