Alignment is part of standard automobile maintenance. It brings a vehicle into proper positioning and configuration so that tires wear evenly, the vehicle travels straight and contact is even with the road surface. When out of alignment, a vehicle pulls to one side or the other and ultimately causes more serious problems if not corrected. Prayer is like alignment for your heart. It aligns you with God and puts you in the correct position.
Why is alignment with God important to the Christian life? Can’t you read the Bible, try to do what is says and avoid the bad stuff? No. Just like a vehicle is aligned according to specific measurements and angles set by the manufacturer, God has a specific plan for you. In Jeremiah 29:11 He says, “For I know the plans I have for you…” God says his plan for you is unique. It is revealed through prayer.
If you have ever driven or been in a vehicle that is out of alignment, you know how unpleasant it is to keep the vehicle in line with where it should be and not veer off in an unwanted direction. God uses your time in prayer with him to bring you into alignment with his purpose and will for you. Henry Blackaby said, “If we walk with him closely today, we will be in the center of his will tomorrow.” If you want to know if you are moving in the right direction, pray.
Proper alignment of your vehicle does not change road conditions. It prepares your vehicle to respond appropriately to road conditions. The authors of the book Experiencing God say it this way, “The purpose of prayer is not to convince God to change your circumstances, but to prepare you to be involved in God’s activity.” (Blackaby) Prayer is the most effective way to prepare for what lies ahead. In other words, prayer prepares you for life’s road conditions.
James 5:16 says, “… The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (NIV) Your prayers are not powerful because you pray them. They are powerful and effective because God works through them. When you are aligned with God through prayer, you are correctly positioned to learn his plan for you and become equipped for the journey.
Lots of people have a favorite verse or passage of Scripture that just speaks to them in a special way. Here’s mine:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
— Hebrews 4:14—16
Years before I accepted Jesus as my Savior at age 22, I believed in God. By that, I mean I believed that some all-powerful being did exist and create everything. I just didn’t buy the idea that such a being’s existence had much to do with me. Once I became terribly broken over my own sin and realized that I was powerless to make myself clean, I turned my life over to Christ and began my journey with him. But I brought into my Christian life a similar (slightly revised) concept of God. I felt that God existed, was all-powerful, and demonstrated his love for me by dying on the cross for me. But it kinda seemed to me that was where his love ended. The Father was real, Jesus was real, but they both lived far away in heaven. They didn’t really care about my current struggles. They didn’t really understand me.
Then I entered into a really dark time in my life. I had friends who loved me, prayed with me, and spent time with me, but I was lost in a deep pit. I barely had enough energy to make it through each day. The nights felt so long as I laid there for hours upon hours. It seemed there would be no end; it stretched up for miles on all sides of me. My body hurt, and I felt like I was moving through thick mud. Talking took enormous effort because my face felt frozen.
It was into that darkness that God spoke to me. Even today, years later, I can still hear the echo of his words: “I’m here.” For me, that was the turning point in the pit. God’s presence gave me the strength to begin climbing out. I emerged months later, with bloody fingernails and scraped knees, but alive and victorious.
Why would two short words, “I’m here,” make all the difference? Because in that moment, my image of God transformed from a distant, cold being to a Love so great that it would see me, truly see me. It would descend into the pit and keep me company there. I was transported from my lonely bedroom to the throne of grace, where I received mercy and help in my hour of greatest need.
Believer, I want to affirm for you today that no matter how deep or dark your pit, you have a great high priest, Jesus Christ, who knows you intimately and cares for you deeply. You can approach the throne of grace through prayer with confidence, knowing that he sympathizes with you in every weakness you know you have. Even more, he shows up in every weakness you don’t yet recognize. He gets it. He gets you! Being truly known and accepted is one of mankind’s deepest desires. You are truly known and truly accepted. Let this knowledge motivate you to approach the throne of grace boldly! Mercy and grace are yours because of the finished work of Jesus.
Sometimes prayer barely has words. We hardly know what to say, or we don’t know at all; maybe we can’t even speak. We are at the end of ourselves, and there is no good solution.
Our tears can be prayers, too. Jesus prayed a wordless prayer when, out of compassion for his friends Mary and Martha, whose brother Lazarus had died, Jesus wept (John 11:35). In the garden, as he was preparing to be hauled off, beaten nearly to death, and ultimately crucified, Jesus, his face caked with dirt and tears, prayed a simple, desperate prayer:
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
— Matthew 26:39
It’s okay if sometimes our prayer is simply to lay ourselves in the Father’s arms — or collapse there — and rest, trust. God is great, and he is good.
A quick read of the gospels, and you will notice that Jesus performs some pretty cool miracles: healing the blind, casting out demons, even raising the dead. Jesus does some amazing things, but did you know that his first recorded miracle was at a wedding, where the party planner didn’t order enough wine? Running out of wine at a wedding was a major faux pas in the first century, so Jesus’s mother asks him to remedy the situation. Just picture it: Jesus, healer of the blind, physician to the sick, is asked to turn water into wine by his mother.
Have you ever stopped to wonder why Jesus answered this odd request? I did. This evening, during my quiet time, I was reading this story of the wedding at Cana, and I came across this story of Jesus turning water into wine. Why does Jesus do it? I believe he did it because his mother asked.
Did his mom hesitate to ask? Did she ever think, “This is stupid. This is beneath Jesus?” I don’t know — the text doesn’t tell us her inner monologue — but what it does tell us is that she asked. She asked Jesus to turn water into wine, and he did it. Pretty simple. She asked, and Jesus answered.
Have you asked? Have you asked Jesus to step into your situation?
I know all the excuses why you haven’t asked Jesus to step in, but have you ever considered that maybe the reason God hasn’t answered your request is because you haven’t asked?
In John’s gospel, Jesus turns water into wine, all because his mother asked. Maybe, it’s time you and I started asking God to move!
Most of us don’t grow up thinking about yokes, or even knowing how they work. There are different definitions of the word, but we’re going to look at the way it’s used in the Bible. According to Dictionary.com, a yoke is “a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull.” So basically, it’s something that harnesses one animal to another for work. Where one goes, the other goes, even if it isn’t the right direction, or if one is holding another back.
I hope you can imagine the above situation. I hope you are able to picture the struggle that it must be sometimes when one ox isn’t pulling it’s own weight. With that in mind, please read this:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
— Galatians 5:1
I love this verse for so many reasons. When I first heard the gospel, that Jesus came and died for my sins, I thought this was something I needed to do for salvation, but I also thought it was a death sentence — a death sentence from a life of fun and exhilarating experiences. And sadly, I think a lot of Christians still live enslaved to things of this world and have yet to experience freedom.
In Galatians 5, Paul speaks to those who are enslaved to religious activity (the law), and those who are still enslaved to the flesh. The crazy thing is that you can be a follower of Jesus and still be submitting to either or even both of these. That is slavery. Christ died to set us free. Free from having to work for his approval, and free from having to give in to worldly things. Here’s what Jesus said in Matthew:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
— Matthew 11:28–30
Wow. Now that is a yoke I want. I want to stop letting fear win over my thought space. I want rest for my soul and to actually feel this life I am supposed to live that is easy and light. I have experienced that for most of my Christian life, but when I choose to submit to a yoke of slavery through my thoughts and actions, I am no longer taking on his yoke, but one that is not life-giving.
What about you? Are you choosing to submit to a yoke of slavery or to a yoke of freedom? The enemy wants us to believe that by choosing Jesus, the life will be sucked out of us. That just isn’t true. There is life, freedom and joy in Jesus.
If you have already received salvation and have crossed from death to life, yet you find yourself stuck in the patterns of this world, please remember the passage of scripture from last Sunday’s sermon:
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (emphasis added)
— Romans 6:6–14
Sin will have no dominion over you. Do not give sin power that it doesn’t really have. If you are in Christ, you are free. You will certainly still struggle until Jesus returns, but you do not have to — nor should you choose to — submit to a yoke of slavery. Choose freedom!