[After a couple of false starts (sorry, folks), I am finally beginning a series today. My book on prayer, BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?), covers about 14 “barriers” to effective prayer. In this series, I want to address the most basic aspect of prayer – praying to the right Person.]
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus – I Timothy 2:5
When we lived in Michigan, next door to us was a family that had children close to our children’s ages. Our kids played together, attended one another’s birthday parties, graduation open houses, and weddings. We could not have asked for better neighbors.
This family was devoted to another religion, faithfully following all the “pillars” of that religion. Among other things, my friend prayed five times a day to her god with a consistency that puts most Christians to shame.
Although our beliefs had major differences, I was frequently able to share with her over coffee what Jesus had done in my life, as well as learning a great deal about her religion. We exchanged books, and I was a bit surprised that one of hers said that people who believe God has a Son are headed for hell. One reason I was surprised was that this woman had told me about some major crises in her life when they occurred and had asked me to pray for her. I wondered, If she believes I’m going to hell, why would she want me to pray for her?
Possibly one reason was that she had heard about – she had seen – my prayers getting answered. Whatever the reason, from what I could see, in my opinion, she was praying to the wrong god.
“Whom do you pray to?” seems like a simple question, and one would think Christians would have one answer to that question. But more and more I am encountering people who claim the name of Jesus who occasionally consult with someone else. Today let’s look at one example:
MARY (the mother of Jesus)
From the beginning of her story, Mary described herself as “the handmaid [servant] of the Lord.” (Luke 1:39) And inasmuch as she obeyed her Master, she was “highly favored.” But then, we are all called to be the Lord’s servants, and through our obedience we can be highly favored, too.
“My spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.” (Luke 1:47 -49)
Here in Mary’s famous song, she again described herself as God’s servant, and she described Him as her Savior.
Still, many people mistakenly elevate Mary over other mortals. It happened in Jesus’ day. But Jesus corrected that faulty thinking.
As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” – Luke 11:27-28
Jesus wasn’t saying Mary wasn’t blessed – she was! He was saying she was blessed because she heard the word of God and obeyed it. And according to Jesus, we can hear, obey, and be blessed as well. No, we aren’t perfect, but neither was Mary.
On at least one occasion during Jesus’ ministry, Mary and Jesus’ brothers thought He had lost His mind. They came to take Him home, possibly to keep Him from embarrassing the family.
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” – Mark 3:21
Someone told [Jesus], “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” – Matthew 12:46-50)
Jesus made obeying God and doing His will priority over natural human relationships.
Mary was a godly woman who obeyed God’s word when she was called upon to bear the awesome responsibility and privilege of being the human mother of the Son of God. In this she is a great example to all of us. But Mary herself wouldn’t want us to give her a place in our hearts that rivals Jesus. She does not want our prayers; she cannot answer our prayers. (As she is in heaven with Jesus, her will and His are one and the same, anyway.) If Mary were to speak to us today, she would say, as she did at the wedding in Cana, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)
Are there others that we mistakenly pray to and unwittingly commit idolatry?
Prayer: Lord God, You are the only true and living God, and we are Yours alone. Root out of our hearts any misguided loyalties and the error of putting Your people on pedestals where they don’t belong. Set our minds and hearts fully on You. Jesus our Savior, make us Your servants and Yours alone, now and forever. Amen.