Romans 8:27 MSG
The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is praying on our behalf. The Message version puts it like this: ‘God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in us and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves…and keeps us present before God’ (vv.26-27 MSG). Sometimes we struggle to be ‘fully present’ in prayer. Sometimes when we pray, we’re not really focused. Maybe we’re just repeating words, or listing things off that we always pray about. Our hearts are not really in it. One of the main things that stops us from praying is distraction. Someone might interrupt us and need our attention. Our thoughts might wander off, and we find ourselves thinking about something completely different and forget we were praying in the first place. We might even get a notification on our phones and we become tempted to check that rather than carry on in prayer. We’re not alone when it comes to struggling with distraction in prayer. The disciples struggled with staying focused too. When Jesus went to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked the disciples to keep watch but they fell asleep. So Jesus said: ‘”Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”‘ (Matthew 26:40-41 NIV). But when He returned, they had fallen asleep again. When we’re praying, let’s try and put away all things that would distract us, and ask God to help us keep our minds firmly fixed on Him.
Exo 20:16; Deut 19:15-20; Rev 21:8
Mark 1:41 NCV
If we want to be people who help those who are hurting, we first need to open our eyes and hearts. How can we help others if we don’t notice them, or we’re not moved by their suffering? It can be easy to get caught up in our own issues. Our problems sometimes seem so huge that we struggle to see God, let alone the needs of other people around us. Likewise, when we’re in a fun and happy season, it can be easy to overlook the unhappiness and pain of those around us. The Bible uses the analogy of the human body to explain how we’re linked as followers of Jesus. Each part is important, and each part is connected to the body. In 1 Corinthians 12 it says, ‘If one part suffers, every part suffers with it’ (v.26 NIV). Because we’re all connected in God, someone else’s suffering should stir us to help. In Mark 1, we read about a man who had leprosy. At this time, society called people with this disease unclean and didn’t associate with them. When this man approached Jesus, we’re told that Jesus ‘felt sorry for the man, so he reached out his hand and touched him.’ Jesus was moved with compassion for this man. He could see the suffering, and wanted to do something about it. He touched the man, despite the fact that it wasn’t an accepted thing to do. His compassion for this man was strong enough to overcome the boundaries society had created. Sometimes helping those who are hurting means we have to look past other people’s opinions of the person, we might have to associate with people that others label as ‘unclean’, and we’ll probably have to ask God for the eyes to see beyond our own lives too.
Titus 1-3; Mark 6:1-13; Ps 150; Prov 11:16-18
Luke 22:27 NKJV
The world often celebrates wealth, power, talent, and fame. And sometimes it regards serving others as being beneath us. But Jesus asked His disciples, ‘Who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves?’ Then He answered the question by saying, ‘I am among you as the One who serves.’ Paul said that Jesus ‘made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant’ (Philippians 2:7 NIV). To be a servant we must first humble ourselves and get rid of self-centredness. We must want other people’s needs to be met above our own. We often look for a prominent place to sit, but instead we should be looking for places to serve. Jesus gave us a great example of this when He washed the disciples’ feet. He took a basin and washed their dirty, dusty feet. Imagine how they must have felt to have their teacher serving them in this way (you can read the full story in John 13:1-20). The world often places importance on the number of people serving us, but God’s much more interested in the number of people we’re serving. He honours those who serve selflessly without complaining or seeking recognition. The truth is, it takes more character to serve others than to sit around waiting to be served. So we need to ask ourselves this question: are we trying to find places to sit above finding places to serve? If so, it’s time for us to ask God for a selfless spirit and a servant’s heart, and start looking for opportunities to serve wherever He places us.
Num 14-15; Mark 3:1-6; Ps 37:1-7; Prov 11:1-2
Luke 22:27 NKJV
The world reveres wealth, power, talent, and fame. And sometimes it regards service as demeaning. But Jesus used a different yardstick when He asked His disciples, “Who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves?” Then He answered the question by saying, “I am among you as the One who serves.” Paul said that Jesus “emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7 GWT). To be a servant you must first be emptied of self-centeredness, and that calls for dying to self. As Christians we like to call ourselves servants, but how do you react when you’re treated like one? In the upper room the disciples all looked for a prominent place to sit, but Jesus looked for a place to serve! And as they waited to be served, He took a basin and washed their dirty, calloused feet. Can you imagine how they felt? The world bases importance on the number of people serving you, but God is much more interested in the number of people you are serving. He honors those who minister selflessly without complaining or seeking recognition. The truth is, it takes more character to serve others than to sit around waiting to be served. So here’s the question: Are you doing more “sitting” than “serving” these days? If so, it’s time to ask God for a selfless spirit and a servant’s heart, and start looking for opportunities to serve wherever He places you. Why? Because Jesus lived to serve and His Word to you is, “A servant is not greater than his master” (John 15:20 NKJV).
Soul food: Num 14-15; Mark 3:1-6; Ps 37:1-7; Prov 11:1-2
Lamentations 3:40 NIV
If we want to make sure we’re on the right path in life, we need to take time to regularly reflect and evaluate where we are at. Sometimes we can get so caught up in life that we don’t stop and think whether we’re still on the path God wants us to be on. In fact, sometimes we can even forget that we’re living for God at all. In Lamentations, the writer says: ‘Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD.’ This is like spending time in self-evaluation. We can examine where we’re going right, and where we’re going wrong. Sometimes we need to take a step back from our busy lives, sit in the silence, and honestly take a look at what’s going on in our hearts. Are we prioritising God? Are our hearts pure? Are we filling our minds with helpful and good things? How’s our relationship with God? Are we putting the effort in to know Him better? When we’re in our time of evaluation, we can also ask God to show us where things need to improve. David prayed: ‘God, examine me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts’ (Psalm 139:23 NCV). God knows us better than we know ourselves, so it’s a wise idea to ask Him for His help. The idea of self-examination is not just found in the Old Testament. When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth he told them to examine themselves. The Message version sums it up like this: ‘Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular check-ups’ (2 Corinthians 13:5). So, let’s take that advice and give ourselves regular faith check-ups.
Matt 27:62-66; Mark 1:9-13; Ps 6; Deut 21:22-23