I recently finished a Bible study titled Praying with Paul by DA Carson and Brian J. Tabb. We studied several of the apostle Paul’s prayers in an effort to expand our understanding of what prayer can be.
One of the things that really stood out was how forward-focused Paul was and how that focus shaped his prayers. We see this in his prayers and encouragement for the Philippians in chapter 1 verses 9-11:
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ”
And again in 1st Corinthians 1:7-8
“Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
These are just two of the many examples that you will find in Paul’s writings. I think it’s fair to say Paul’s hope was firmly fixed on Christ’s return.
THE BIG PICTURE
What is my hope? Another day without a migraine? Peace for my kids?
What is your hope? Somebody is in a good mood when you get home? You don’t catch that stomach bug that’s going around?
What about the big picture? This would be a great white board exercise. What am I doing to realize my hopes?
New house: save down payment--pay off credit cards, work extra hours, stop eating out so much. . .
Hope is a powerful thing. It drives our actions. In a way it exposes the motives of our hearts.
CULTIVATING OUR HEARTS
What do our actions reveal about our hopes? Are we satisfied with that? Or do our hearts need attention from the Master Gardener? Does He need to kill the weeds of wrong motives and add the nourishment of truth, love and grace through His word?
I need to let Him cultivate the hope in my heart in order for the fruit of my life and actions to be a beautiful thing.
Why so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. – Psalm 42:5
Do you not know? Have you not heard? . . .those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. – Isaiah 40:28a, 31a
The pace and focus of our culture can be overwhelming and exhausting. We can get so distracted by it that we forget whose we are and lose sight of our hope.
Paul a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time. – Titus 1:1-2
Read that verse again and put your name in the place of Paul’s:
_________________ a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.
BIGGER AND BETTER
We have a hope that is bigger and better than anything we can even begin to imagine. Let’s make it our primary focus and let it inform our prayers for ourselves and others, and let it be revealed in the way we live.
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. – Romans 15:4
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. – Hebrews 6:19a
I encourage you to be focused in your prayers, and may the Master Gardener cultivate the hope in your heart.