One exhortation of Scripture I long to keep far better than I do is this wonderful charge: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12 :1–2).
As I fight my way through the battles of this world, my eyes aren’t normally fixed on Jesus; I do look his direction more than I used to, but far more often my eyes are fixed on the crisis before me. They have a way of arresting your attention.
A dear friend is currently in a heinous battle with cancer. Only God knows the number of prayers that have gone up for him; it feels like the number of stars in the heavens. This morning we received a turn of bad news and immediately went to prayer. But I did not feel confident and assured; I certainly did not feel triumphant. I felt discouraged and distressed—my gaze was fixed on his suffering, not upon the resources of the living God.
And oh, what a difference it makes.
There is a beautiful scene in the third of the Hobbit trilogy of films, The Battle of the Five Armies. The dwarves (and Bilbo) have in fact awakened the dragon Smaug from his slumbers. Lashing out with indiscriminate vengeance, Smaug swoops down upon the unsuspecting village of Laketown. One man dares to rise against him—the bow man Bard. While the hamlet rages and the rest of the townsfolk flee, Bard climbs to the top of the bell tower and begins to fire arrows as the murderous beast passes by. Bard’s son Bain knows this, and he knows where the last black arrow lies hidden. As Bard takes his final shot and the wooden arrow bounces off the dragon’s armor, Bain appears in the tower with what might be a miracle. Smaug turns his full attention on the two figures in the tower....“Is that your child?” “You cannot save him from the fire.. he will burn!” Bain turns to look at the advancing monster. Then, a calm and reassuring voice says “Bain! Look at me—you look at me.”
The boy turns his gaze from the nightmare to his father’s loving face, and my heart sees myself in him, sees the answer to all my fears. I’ve watched the scene several times now, and I think of Jesus—this was the secret to his prayers: Jesus is not looking up like a man trying to recall something he just forgot. He looks up to heaven to fix his attention on his father’s loving face. He is orienting himself to what is most true in the world—not the impossibly inadequate resources for the need of the five thousand, not the sister’s grief (they were his dear friends), not even the finality of death sealed with a stone rolled over the tomb. He turns his gaze from all that “evidence” and fixes it upon his Father God and the resources of his kingdom. We know that faith plays a critical role in effective praying—maybe the critical role—and so we feel that somehow we have to generate faith. That never works, nor does it help to try and generate feelings of faith. We must look from the debris to God. Peter looks at Christ, he can walk on the water; he looks at the waves, and he goes down.
[Editor’s Note: Excerpted from Moving Mountains: Praying with Passion, Confidence, and Authority by John Eldredge © 2016 by John Eldredge. Use by permission of Nelson Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson.]
John Eldredge is the author of Moving Mountains: Praying with Passion, Confidence, and Authority (Nelson Books, February 16, 2016). His books, including the men’s spirituality classic Wild at Heart, have sold more than 8 million copies. John has written and directed a documentary that will be released in May, 2016: “A Story Worth Living” follows Eldredge and companions, including his three sons, on an 8-day motorcycle trip. Riding BMW GS800s off road through the backcountry, their adventures and conversation get to the heart of what it means to live one’s story. John is the president of Ransomed Heart Ministries in Colorado Springs, CO, a ministry devoted to helping people discover the true heart of God. It has become a grassroots phenomenon with millions of followers. For more information, visit www.ransomedheart.com.
Publication date: February 16, 2016