(originally published November 18, 2009)
We are all thankful; we have so many blessings in our lives. Even when times are hard, financially, relationally or personally, we all have things to be thankful for. We have gratitude in our heart to God. But sometimes expressing it can be difficult. Let's take a last look at Mary and see and hear her great gratitude and praise that she expressed to God for what she was experiencing and for His plan that was becoming evident in her life.
The following scripture from Luke 1 is a passage that is often overlooked or at least downplayed in many churches. When I was young and in Sunday School, I don't remember this ever really being discussed in our story of Christmas. Nor did I hear this from the pulpit.
Mary was only 13 or 14 years old. How on earth did she come up with this amazing outburst of joy and gratitude? Well, that's the key. Mary herself did not come up with this response. This was a spontaneous outpouring of joy and praise that was orchestrated by the Holy Spirit Himself. God just took little Mary and gave her words that she probably had never thought of before, let alone spoken. And when little Mary opened her mouth to praise God, to thank Him, and show her gratitude, what came out in all it's beauty was a wonderful expression... the "Magnificat", or Mary's Song.
46. And Mary said: "My soul exalts the Lord, 47. And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48. "For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49. "For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. 50. "And His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him. 51. "He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered [those who were] proud in the thoughts of their heart. 52. "He has brought down rulers from [their] thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. 53. "He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed. 54. "He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy, 55. As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his offspring forever."
I want to talk a little about prayer and praise...and "thanksgiving".
Ephesians 6:18 (New International Version)
18. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Romans 8:26 (New International Version)
26. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
1 Corinthians 14:15 (New International Version)
15. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.
Philippians 4:4-7 NAS
4. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5. Let your forbearing [spirit] be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus
Each of these scriptures indicates that there is the element of Holy Spirit inspired prayer.
Quite some time ago,when God was first calling me to a deeper more intimate spiritual walk, I was involved in a prayer ministry at our church. We had a prayer group that met on Wednesday evenings to pray for church matters and people in our congregation. I really enjoyed that time of seeking the Lord for a deeper prayer life. We had a volunteer prayer group for our church that had a goal of 24 hour prayer coverage. This was not just our small group, but church wide. My time schedule for prayer was at 10:00-11:00 on Wednesday evenings. We called it "the wall". (When you have time you might want to read the book of Nehemiah, especially chapter 1, where he prays for his people and then God leads him back to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall.)
I had a weekly update on things to pray for, but at that time my being able to stay focused in prayer for an hour was a real struggle. (still hard, who am I kidding?) I would find that I would cover all the list in the first 15 minutes, then be left feeling inadequate and spiritually immature. I had a knowledge that prayer was key in expanding my relationship with My Heavenly Father, I just couldn't get there by myself. I will never forget the night it all changed.
Here I was, once again, trying to do justice in prayer for all the people that were ill, church financial needs and requests, and even going the extra mile to pray for individual ministries at our church. That night I promised God that I would stay there until my time was up. That I would not be a slacker and that I would make every minute count. I glanced at my watch every few minutes,...by golly, I thought, I CAN do this! Whew, time was almost up. "I'll just finish up by reading a little scripture" I said to myself.
I opened my Bible to Ephesians and began to read.
Time's almost up, Yeah, I've made it. I've sat still and concentrated on God for a whole 55 minutes. OK only a minute or two to go... down to the finish line... Gee, I have a lot to do for tomorrow, clothes to iron, a kitchen to clean, cats to feed....lots to do God, but hey, I'm still here, see, I'll give you those few extra minutes!
Then, in the last minute...home stretch... I hit Ephesians 4, "Okey dokey, times up!!!"
But at that very moment I heard a voice in my spirit, just like I had a phone to my spiritual ear. Very clearly The Voice said, "If you will stay with Me one more hour, I will make it worth your while. I will give you your "call".
Well, I stayed for an extra two, and believe me, my life changed. Not only did He speak to me about what He wanted me to do in my life, but He put something in me that energized and made my prayer life new. He instilled His Holy Spirit into my prayer life, and it's never been the same. Now I depend on Him for direction in prayer. I invited the Holy Spirit to take over my prayer time, and with that came new focus, and new depth of understanding and purpose.
Mary became infilled with the Holy Spirit. He directed her prayer. She uttered words and thoughts that were not from her "conscious" mind, but from her spiritual mind. Her heart and mind submitted to God.
Prayer has many components. We'll talk about those at some later time, but just know if you feel unable to articulate your needs; if you are at a loss as how to communicate in prayer to God, just call upon the Holy Spirit to inspire your prayer time and life. He will gladly do that. He will enrich and renew your prayers with His own mind and heart...and you will connect with God in a whole new way. You will be like Mary, you will open your mouth (yes, praise and worship and give thanks verbally, out loud. God just loves that!) and you will sing...sing your own song of joy, worship, praise, and thanksgiving.
I've really needed to review these posts on Mary. They've given me some renewed hope and direction for this new year. I've said this many times, but I myself don't come up with these posts. I give God all the credit. He directs my thoughts and words. They have been like looking in the mirror. Reflection for me about myself. What I need to do to allow change to come, seeing my faults and shortcomings, and being inspired by a young woman who lived her life over 2000 years ago.
Have a wonderful week in this first full week of the new year.
Let God inspire and refresh you.
Love, In Jesus,