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April Motl Christian Blog and Commentary

April Motl Contributor

We’ve kicked off the New Year and for some of us the newness is still clean and bright. For some of us, the New Year came with last year’s “laundry” or maybe you’ve been carrying around some things you wish would have gone out with the old year for the past decade or so. If that is the case for you this morning, hopefully this woman’s story from Scripture will be an encouragement to you:

And Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman came out from that region, and began to cry out, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed." But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came to Him and kept asking Him, saying, "Send her away, for she is shouting out after us." But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."  But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once.  Matthew 15:21-28 NASB

I wonder how many of us out there have prayed for something and felt as if God was silent. I wonder how many of us have prayed until we felt that surely our constant request had become an annoying clamoring in God’s ears... because certainly we were exhausted with hearing this same prayer from our own lips and it felt like everyone around us was tired of hearing the same prayer too. But yet, the need continued to compel us to cry out for our Lord’s help. This story is for those of us who have gone through seasons where we felt like God’s work went “quiet.”

Notice in verse 23 that Jesus “did not answer her a word.” And the disciples were even sick of hearing this woman crying out for help. It seemed like Jesus was ignoring her! Then when He finally did give her attention, He appeared to be less than immediately sympathetic. Have you ever been tempted to feel like God was ignoring you or tempted to think that His response toward you was less than compassionate? Sometimes all the external circumstances make it seem as though God isn’t paying attention to our plight; or that perhaps, He doesn’t really even care all that much. But that couldn’t be further from the truth!

Jesus wasn’t ignoring her or lacking compassion toward her need. He was “setting the stage.” This woman who was an “outsider” to the Jewish faith displayed more belief than the very people who were supposed to have been ready and waiting for Jesus’ coming. In addition, her story prepared the way for the Gospel being preached to those outside the Jewish faith. She was a symbol and foreshadowing of the work God was planning to accomplish among the gentiles. And she was a great example of faith!  Jesus’ response to her only allowed the rest of us to see her faith and humility clearly displayed. If He hadn’t responded to her the way He did, we wouldn’t be challenged and inspired by her heart for God.

Her story ought to bring us some encouragement for our prayer lives as well! Like the Canaanite woman we ought not give up, even when it feels like our prayers aren’t being heard! And in the midst of the seasons where we might be tempted to feel like God isn’t hearing or compassionate toward our need, we can to follow the kind of example of humility this woman displayed. She didn’t get angry at Jesus. She didn’t waiver in her faith. She cast herself completely at His feet and trusted Him.

By following her example, we can use her words for our own prayer pattern (the pattern we can use is in bold/underlined and the italicized phrases are her quotes from the passage):

    • Ask for mercy Have mercy on me
    • Worship the Lord for who He is O Lord, Son of David
    • Present your need my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed
    • Worship the Lord as you position your heart in humility But she came and began to bow down before Him saying, "Lord, help me!"
    • Be genuinely grateful for however He chooses to work, believing that even His crumbs are precious and sweet. "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." 

May 2015 be filled with break-through answers to prayer, but in the meantime, may the Lord strengthen your faith while you wait and make you a beautiful example of trusting Him.

Our little six month old is in the desperate and determined process of learning to crawl. He has been for some time now. About two months ago he would look at something he wanted and do this wild, frenetic Pilates type air swimming. Now that he’s done all that great core work, he’s stronger and can easily get up on all fours, do a full plank, crawl in circles and backwards, but he has yet to master the whole going forward thing. Which is incredibly frustrating to him. And I totally get it. 

As the New Year rolls around and the blogosphere is filled with posts about achieving your goals it’s easy to survey your life and feel like you are just crawling around in circles or ooching backwards further and further. 

I made my list of 2015 goals. Some of them were wise and reasonable... others, well, the verdict is still out. The year is young. As a new mom I’m still trying to get my groove down. (And as I write that, I internally brace for the mommy guilt comments of “why-aren’t-you-all-together-like-I-am” and then I slap myself around for letting those comments get to me and leak through into my writing... and if I keep letting you in on my internal dialogue it’s only going to get messier, so I better stop now!) And I feel like I’m crawling in circles and pushing backwards instead of forwards. But the Lord has pressed a new measuring stick into my hands for this season that, when I use it, frees me up from the rat-race of trying to achieve.

For this season, I feel like the Lord keeps reminding me that diligence is the goal, rather than check marks on a list. Proverbs 12:27 says, “But the precious possession of a man is diligence.” The precious possession of a mom is diligence. Not all her ducks in a row. But diligence is what is her precious possession. So I’m striving to be faithfully diligent. 

I’m a pastor’s wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend, women’s ministry director, writer, homemaker, and on occasions now less common I’m a photographer and musician. And each part of me has a list a mile long of improvements and tasks to be busy about. There’s no way I can be “successful” in all these arenas in a day, a week, or a month. So the best I can be is diligent. And diligent makes room for all the crawling in circles and ooching backwards it takes to finally move forward. 

May your 2015 be filled with much forward movement, but most of all with the freedom that comes from laying your head on the pillow each night and finding satisfaction that God graced you with the ability to be diligent yet another day.






Asking for Prayer

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." Matthew 26:36-38 
What an amazing example Jesus - God in flesh - gave us to be so transparent, honest and vulnerable in front of His followers. He asked them to pray for Him and shared how overwhelmed He felt - so overwhelmed He could have just keeled over and died! He didn’t say to His disciples, I got this crazy hard sacrifice thing in the bag! I soar above all the emotional realities of life. I don’t feel a thing. I laugh at hard. Nope. He felt it. He felt hard more than anyone I know. He sweat blood He felt the stress so deeply. I haven’t sweat blood yet. 
Being a victorious Christian doesn’t erase our humanity. We will still experience seasons of hardship, deserts, loneliness, sadness and even depression, stress and worry - but what makes us victorious is that we aren’t alone, and that our lives aren’t (or don’t have to be) defined by these things. Victorious doesn’t mean we don’t experience these things, just that they aren’t the sum total of our story!
As a servant-leader we need to know we CAN ask for prayer and that we SHOULD ask for prayer. 
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