Life as a River
Praying for the one God Loves
by Judah Smith
"In John 11, we find a moving story about three siblings: Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Most scholars believe Martha was the oldest sibling, Mary was the middle, and Lazarus was the little brother. Interestingly, Lazarus was never recorded as saying one word in Scripture. Apparently his big sisters said it all. Poor guy.
In this passage, Mary and Martha are in the heat of the moment. Their little brother’s life is on the line. The Bible puts it this way:
Now, a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. Therefore, the sisters sent to Him saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now, Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. — John 11:1-5
Besides His disciples, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were perhaps Jesus’s best friends. Jesus loved them deeply.
The fact that Jesus had friends at all might surprise a few people who think He floated around two feet off the ground and only had time for healing people and preaching. He was a normal-looking and normal-acting guy. Except He healed the sick, raised the dead, and never sinned. And He was God. Minor details.
In this story, Lazarus is hours from death. He is on the doorstep of death. And Mary and Martha, true to form, are speaking on Lazarus’s behalf. They need to get God’s attention. They have one shot at convincing Jesus to come. They need to come up with their best argument, their most airtight appeal. So they write Jesus a note. It has to be a good one — their brother’s life depends on it.
It’s the heat of the moment, and they aren’t thinking about being polite and courteous and wordy. What they really believe is about to be revealed. How are they going to appeal to Jesus? What will their plea be?
Now, if we were Lazarus’s siblings, a lot of us would have started out by listing all the good things Lazarus had done. We would have talked about how much he loved and admired Jesus and how he was a model citizen who didn’t deserve to die.
Not Mary and Martha. They knew what moved Jesus.
'Lord, the one that You love is sick.'
The message Mary and Martha sent was a plea, a prayer. And notice the basis of their prayer: “the one You love.”
You can find out a lot about what you really believe when you listen to yourself pray, when you listen to what you say in the heat of the moment. How many times have I prayed prayers like this:
Oh, God, I need help. I’m faithful. I help people. I’m generous. I’m holy. I read my Bible. And I’m praying really, really loudly, with big words and Bible verses and lots of praise. So come, Lord, and help me with my need.
In other words, “Lord, based on what I’ve done, now please do...” We think that moves God. No, what moves God is His Son.
What moves God is His love.
One of the most famous love poems of all time, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43, starts out: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
Don’t count the ways you love God; count the ways He loves you. Your love pales in comparison to His.
So when you pray, pray like Mary and Martha: “Jesus, the one You love needs You.”
I was tired the other afternoon, for instance. Maybe not a big deal, but I had some things I had to accomplish that evening, and I really needed strength. So, I got alone for a few minutes, and I said, “Lord, the one You love is tired. Give me energy.”
It was such a refreshing, healthy way to pray. It was incredible. I started thinking, Whoa. That was crazy. That felt good.
He’s moved by His love. Remind Him of His love for you"
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