This is where the life of a Christ-follower starts. The day you say to God, “I am not perfect. I mess up all the time. And I deserve to be punished for the ways I fail. Thank You for sending Jesus to take that punishment on himself when he died on the cross. I accept the gift of eternal life You are offering. I am Yours. Do with me as You will.”
It starts there – the day that you are born a second time, born into the family of God. It is a crossing of a line, a before-and-after mark in your personal history. And you are indeed born into the family of God that very moment. And just like you cannot be un-born to your biological mother, you cannot be un-born from the family of God. But the Bible is clear that this salvation, this surrender is both a one-shot deal and an ongoing one. You were saved from sin the moment you accepted the gift of salvation. But you are also in the process of being saved from it as well. Changing. Growing. Becoming more like Christ. And one day that process will be finished. One day you will stand before God, complete and completely saved. Because you will be done with this life once and for all and done with this body of sin and death. You have been saved. Are being saved. And will be saved. And it all starts with “I surrender.”
But then there are other life-changing, life-giving prayers along the way. Like this one:
“Make me hungry and thirsty for more of You.”
In this process of becoming, I find it easy to come to a plateau and stay there, quite content. But God is not content with that – and I should not be, either. I have been born into His family as a small infant. But just as it is a tragedy when an infant does not mature physically, so it is a tragedy when a Christ-follower remains a spiritual infant for the rest of his life on earth. Never growing. Never changing. Never self-feeding. And never self-replicating.
I first heard someone pray this prayer many years ago. I was on a trip to bless my friend Kim who was living and working in Germany, sharing the love of God with refugees from the first Desert Storm. We were praying together and she said to the Lord something like, “I don’t love you as I should. Please make me hungry and thirsty for You.” It was an eye-opening moment for me because it was one of the most honest prayers I had ever heard. And it was coming from a “professional” Christian, a missionary! But what amazed me the most was that it shifted the weight of the wanting from my shoulders to His. A desire to know God, to crave Him is not something I have to conjure up on my own. On my own, I do not long for the things of God as I should – but it had never occurred to me to ask Him to put that craving in me. That I can safely toss the whole thing onto Him. “God, I need You to both give me the desire to know You more AND fulfill the desire You place in me. I need You to make me hungry and then satisfy that hunger. I need You to cause my thirst and then slake it.”
As my hunger and thirst for Him grows, He satisfies them through His Word, through good teaching, through great music and awesome books. But mostly, He satisfies my soul by allowing me to know Him more, to grow in Him.
But then, as I grow, I recognize that there is a HUGE disconnect between His heart and mine. There is a HUGE difference in how He sees those around me and how I see them. He is passionate for His creation. I tolerate it – or them – at best. He truly loves the person while hating their sin. I have a hard time distinguishing between the two – and the emotions are difficult to wrangle through it all. But that just leads to another life-changing prayer:
“I don’t love ___. But You do. Show me them through your eyes.”
The beauty of this prayer is that it applies in every situation. On 301 when someone is forgetting everything they learned in Driver’s Ed and causing my blood pressure to skyrocket. “God, I do NOT love that other driver. But You do. Help me to see them through Your eyes and to love them with Your love – even though what I want to do is offer them some choice words and perhaps some sign language!”
In the line at the grocery store when “10 items or less” seems to be something that customer took to mean pounds of groceries rather than pieces. When someone gets hostile because I won’t – or can’t – give them the answer they want. When I have a personality conflict with another person. When someone I love doesn’t respond the way I want them to. When someone says something incredibly hurtful and seems oblivious to it – or worse, when it is fully apparent that they are not oblivious at all. And when I look in the mirror. This prayer works in ALL of these situations. It even works in politics. With bosses. Co-workers. Spouses. Children. And enemies.
This prayer does not usually change their behavior. But it certainly changes my heart. Because when I pray it, I remember that the person I am not loving is just that – a person. With an eternal destiny. Created in the image of God. Dearly loved by Him. No better or worse than me when compared to the holiness of God. A loved sinner. When I see them through His eyes, with His heart, my heart is changed. Blood pressure stabilizes. Reactions are kind, even when they need to be firm. Dignity is given. And Love wins the day.
But that isn’t easy. None of this life is easy. Because wars never are. We are engaged in a spiritual battle every day, a war between two Kingdoms. Every part of life, from the magnificent to the mundane is influenced by this battle. And I am just a speck of dust on the planet, a flower quickly fading, a clump of grass that is here today and gone tomorrow. And yet, God has entrusted this fading flower with a mission: “Go and make disciples. Share My love with the world. Tell them about Me – and that they do not have to be trapped by My enemy.”
Impossible mission. Overwhelming odds. And the reason why I start every day with this prayer:
“I can’t do this.”
Because I cannot. I do not have it in me to surrender. To hunger and thirst for righteousness. To love others. To share His love. To make godly choices. To seek first HIS Kingdom. To remember I am a soldier involved in a cosmic war. I do not have it in me. But “greater is He that is in me, than He who is the world”. And “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” because He has “given me all I need for life and godliness”. So I can “trust in the Lord with all my heart, leaning not on my own understanding, acknowledging Him in all my ways, knowing He will make my path straight.” And I can rest in the fact that “He who began a good work in me will continue it until the day Jesus returns” because the “same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in me.”
I can’t do this. But He can. Which leads to the final life-changing prayer for today:
“Be glorified at my expense.”
I was not created for my pleasure. For my glory. For me to feel or look good. I was created for HIS glory. To know Him and to make Him known. Whatever that looks like. For richer or for poorer. In sickness and in health. ‘Til death do us unite. I was created by Him and for Him. So my life is His to do with as He wants.
And that would be a terrifying proposition and an impossible prayer to pray except for this one thing: He is GOOD. He is a good, good Father who knows me and passionately loves me. He always has my best interest at heart, even when He brings or allows tough things to cross my path. And the best is yet to be. Right now, I am in the waiting room of eternity. My whole life is the title page of the book. I am the baby in the womb who cannot imagine what life looks like after birth. And because all of eternity stretches before me, I want to know Him. And I want to make Him known. No matter what that costs in this life. I want Him to be glorified at my expense. Because God the Father gave up His only Son so that I could know Him personally. Jesus was tortured and crucified in my place. And the Holy Spirit patiently waits for the day when the battle will be over, fighting in me, through me and beside me on the spiritual battle field. When I am loved like that, why wouldn’t I say, “Have your way”? How can I not say, “Your will be done”? How can I not say “Be glorified today at my expense”? Because the price tag is worth it. He is worth it.
Make me hungry and thirsty for You.
Give me Your love for every person I meet.
I can’t do any of this. But You can.
So be glorified today at my expense.