Pray, Believe, Anticipate
Date: March 9, 2021
Reading the following passage today in Matthew reaffirmed to me how we should pray, based on how Jesus prayed, and what came next. As familiar as the story of the feeding of the four thousand is, I wonder how many of us ever caught one key principle!
Jesus left there and went along the sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountain side and sat down. Great crowds came to Him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others and laid them at His feet and He healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, “I have compassion for these people. They have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”
His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”
“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”
He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then He took the seven loaves and the fish, and when He had given thanks, He broke them and gave them to the disciples, and then in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven baskets of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those fed was 4000 men, besides women and children. After Jesus had sent the crowd away, He got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan.
Let’s look closer at verse 36, speaking of Jesus: “And when He had given thanks…” In the margins of my Bible, next to this verse I have written down these words as a good reminder to myself: “Jesus always gave thanks BEFORE the miracles happened! He didn’t wait to give thanks after the miracles!” I really love that! If you think about it, thanking God after we have received is really just gratitude, however thanking Him prior to the miracle is pure unhindered faith. There is such power in praise, especially when the moment is far from being praiseworthy. When we give thanks in advance, and fully believe and expect a miracle, coupled with God’s sovereignty, we too can have a great testimony to share with a world that so desperately needs hope!
I was able to visit a few of my children and grandchildren last week. I am so grateful for the time we get to spend with them. Living far away from each other is never how I had hoped things would one day be. However I am so appreciative of our amazing times together, and while I was there something in this passage really brought me back to a particular time and place. As I watched and cheered on my oldest grandson playing in his basketball game, I just couldn’t help but shoot up a prayer of gratitude, a “Thank you dear Lord!”
Almost ten years ago we were anxiously awaiting this first grandson. Waiting for a new baby is seriously one of life’s most exciting gifts. I made plans to be there just in time, and like any new mom my daughter had everything perfectly ready!
I recall walking into her bedroom, and we just stared at the beautiful bassinet next to the side of her bed, envisioning the soon-to-be love of her life peacefully sleeping there. Her little shelf was stacked with newborn diapers and everything else she needed for his arrival.
The day finally came and we were off to the hospital. I remember hearing his cry for the very first time. The joy was indescribable, as some of you know! However we were hit very quickly with an extremely hard and scary situation. Before we knew it my Lincoln was taken from his mama’s arms, and all the nurse said was, “We’re just doing some routine checkups.” After a few hours had passed and my grandson had not returned, my heart knew something was terribly wrong.
Before we even had time to process it, he was having his very first ultrasound. As we stood by watching on the other side of the glass, I watched my daughter go from joyful elation to a mama’s first broken heart in a matter of moments. I can still picture the tears streaming down her face as we watched the doctors carefully placing him on a cold table as they talked amongst each other, and we stood helplessly by.
What transpired in the next few days was close to the most frightening of my experiences as a parent. It’s one thing when you yourself are hurting, but frankly when it’s your child…Well let’s just say there is no measuring it. The pain is off the charts!
Before we knew it, we were in a very formal doctor’s office. My sweet daughter fearfully held this precious new life in her arms, with the hospital’s head of pediatrics sitting across from us at his desk. It was a very straight to the point conversation. His words still painfully ring in my ears. Although they had not narrowed down Lincoln’s “condition,” the doctor shared his opinion, which included some very rare and life-altering illnesses.
As he left the room to give us a moment to digest these hard words, all I could do was plead with God to give me strength to be strong for my girl, even though I had never felt weaker or more terrified.
The day came when my daughter was discharged from the hospital. The ride home was quiet and difficult. My daughter and her husband sat up in front, while I sat in the back with an empty car seat. Walking into their home was not much easier, with an empty bassinet, no visitors waiting to greet the new baby, and a heaviness that hung over all of our hearts.
I desperately needed some time alone with God, and I was able to slip away. As I was walking past a room, I saw a sign hanging above the door. It simply said “Believe.” As I stood in front of the bedroom window looking out to their back yard, I decided to do just that: BELIEVE! I prayed and thanked God in advance for the days that were to come when I would see my grandson playing and running in this very yard. I imagined him riding his bike, playing on a swing set and just being a boy. I thanked God in advance for the amazing miracle He would perform, and I desperately BELIEVED!
Lincoln came home ten days later, free and clear of any illness. A nurse in the NICU that day told me it was a miracle! From that moment on we have watched him grow into the most incredible young man. As a matter of fact, last year he decided on his very own to be baptized at church! He’s full of life and God’s love!
Do you need a miracle today? Can you picture what that miracle will look like? Think on what that would feel like. Bask in the mindset, a time free from what troubles you today. Pray in belief, not unbelief! Although the story of the feeding of the four thousand is so familiar, I hope this gives you a fresh new outlook on it. Lord help us to pray more like you did! Teach us to pray with a thankful heart, and to always wait with great expectation…a miracle can be just around the corner! Help us Lord to BELIEVE!
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of the Lord.
Anytime you ask for anything in prayer, believe that you have received it and you will receive it.
2 Chronicles 20:21
Then the king appointed musicians and singers in choir robes to march in front of the army and loudly praise and thank the Lord. This is what they sang: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.”
It’s been said that praise brings God onto the scene. It opens the gates of Heaven and the doors of blessings. Praise dissipates worry, and dilutes concern and fear. Praise tarnishes sadness and magnifies goodness. It reminds our soul of God’s faithfulness. It’s a way to fight the enemy and create an atmosphere for the Holy Spirit to work and move, and for God to answer prayers! But never forget the ultimate reason we stand on God’s promises and that we praise Him through the storms is because He is so worthy of it all!
I am closing with some lyrics to a song from Casting Crowns. The words have ministered to me during some very difficult seasons. They really sum it all up!
I’ll praise you in this storm and I will lift my hands
You are who you are, no matter where I stand
And every tear I’ve cried you hold in your hand
You never left my side and though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm.
Pray… believe… and anticipate with great joy!
Delighting in safe pasture,