Today is the National Day of Prayer! For those of you with infants: if you can just manage to eek out "Help!" in prayer today, then you have succeeded!
The past couple of years have been an intense schooling for me in prayer. And I'm hearing so many people lately have a deep stirring in their core about prayer - the desire for prayer, understanding prayer, touching the Father through prayer and being transformed through prayer.
I took a class this spring at church called Prayer Tools and was so privileged to sit under the teaching of Carin Prickett. Wow. This woman has insight and experience in prayer and the Word like no one I have ever known. After every class (for 12 straight weeks), Tim and I would look at each other and say, "I don't think I have ever actually prayed before..." And we eventually were so floored by the revelation we received, we decided "Maybe we just need to get saved!"
Here are some of the amazing things I took away from that class:
We are positioned IN CHRIST. Yeah, we've all heard that and we kind of grasp what it means, but the imagery of the Old Testament high priestly garments reveals such a deep, poetic truth about our position in Christ.
The high priest had specific clothing and adornments he had to wear according to God's command. (see Exodus 28) The priest wore onyx stones on his shoulders, representing the Israelites as a nation - six tribes represented on one shoulder and six on the other. This was "the government" resting on the priest's shoulders. (does that phrase ring any bells for you? Is. 9:6 ) Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament high priest - and He bears us on His shoulders before the Father.
The priest also wore a breastplate displaying twelve precious stones - one for each tribe of Israelites by name. Jesus not only represents us as a whole group (the Church) before God, but He represents us INDIVIDUALLY. Your name is written across His chest when He goes before the Father.
Now here's where it gets really good... in Old Testament times, when people would come to the Temple to seek counsel from God on a matter, they would bring a sacrifice. A dove was the lowliest sacrifice, but was common. Someone seeking an answer from God would present a dove to the priest; the priest would look it over, brush the dirt off of it, pluck out any imperfect feathers or blemishes and then perfume the dove with a sweet-smelling oil or fragrance. At that point, the priest would then hear the person's request. He would write it down (in the form of a 'yes' or 'no' question for God to answer) on a paper and tuck it behind the ephod of 12 stones up against his chest. Then the priest went into the Temple before God with the dove in his hands and the request pressed close to his heart. He offered the sacrifice to God and then waited for God's response to the question. Imagine...being in a holy place where only one man was ever allowed to go....appearing before the presence of Almighty God... The glory of God would light up the room and the stones in the ephod would reflect His light - then, either the Hebrew word for "yes" or for "no" would reflect from the ephod on to the wall and was considered God's response to the person's question of Him.
Do you see the imagery here?! This floored me. Jesus is the eternal High Priest for us. We don't have any other go-betweens since Jesus paid the price to reconcile us to God. And because He is the High Priest, He bears us on His heart before the Father as individuals. He knows that we need to hear from God. He hears the cries of our hearts. He hears our prayers. Jesus takes our prayer - like the dove sacrifice - brushes the dirt off of it, plucks out any impurities, makes it a fragrant, pleasing offering to God...and then presents it before the Father. The high priest made the ordinary dove pleasing to God, and Jesus makes us and our prayers pleasing to God. He TRANSFORMS our prayers into what they should be. He is our Advocate before God - He speaks on our behalf. He presents us pressed up close to His heart and probably says something like, "Father, here is Crista. I died for her and she is covered by my blood. I hold her here in my heart. She has a need from you and here it is." And as Jesus presents us before the Father, the light of God's glory shines on us and reflects from the stone with our name on it. We magnify His glory.
THEN....get this! Remember that verse that says "For all the promises of God in Him (Jesus) are 'Yes' and in Him 'Amen' to the glory of God through us"? (II Cor. 1:20) Apply it in this imagery! Our requests, pressed up close to Jesus' heart as He represents us before the Father...are met with a YES from God! And He says 'yes' to the purified prayer that Jesus presents with our name on it.
I think I might need to get saved. (that's only funny because I know I am...don't get me wrong!)
I love discovering these amazing things about Scripture - how God had an intricate plan from the beginning - and how Jesus is the fulfillment of every promise and intention of the Father laid out in the Old Testament. Man, I love Him!
The revelation that my prayers don't have to be perfect is so freeing! I just have to bring myself to God. I just have to come into His presence under the Blood. And sometimes, I don't even know what to say - but it's okay. The Holy Spirit prays in me and through me, even when I don't have words.
"Likewise, the Spirit also helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God." Romans 8:26-27
There's so much more...but I think that about wraps it up for today. Like one of my all-time favorite Christian singers/songwriters says it: "Like breathing out and breathing in...oh, let us pray!"