“ . . . Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
The familiar phrase “kid in a candy store” comes to mind. That’s me when I have a gift certificate to our church bookstore. Earlier this week I went down to the bookstore with a gift certificate that had ten dollars and change remaining on the balance. Ten dollars can almost cover the entire cost of a paperback book, so I went browsing the shelves like a lion stalking prey.
Maybe because we had just finished the family sermon series with a focus on the church, or perhaps because the larger Presbyterian family is being severely strained, this title by Robert Benson caught my eye: The Body Broken: Answering God’s Call to Love One Another. Well, there went my ten dollar gift certificate.
I’m only one chapter into the book. So far, so good. What has lingered with me to this point has been a very brief excerpt from the Book of Common Prayer placed as a prescript to the first chapter. The words are a prayer for the church, asking that all who profess themselves Christians would “hold the faith in unity of Spirit and in the bonds of peace.”
The prayer then ends with these words: “And this we beg for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.”
When it comes to the wholeness of God’s family, we’re not just asking, we’re begging. The same should be said of our own individual families. Asking isn’t urgent enough. The stakes are too high. When it comes to our families, we are beggars.
Luther biographer Heiko A. Oberman writes that the last recorded words of the great reformer just before his death on February 18, 1546 were “we are beggars . . . this is true.” The words capture our dependence on the grace of God. Apart from God we have nothing. Jesus said as much. Reminding us that we are branches that must remain connected to the true vine if we are to bear fruit, Jesus said “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
And so, when it comes to our children and the task of parenting, we are beggars. We plead for grace to parent well and with wisdom. We beg God’s blessings on behalf of our children.
When it comes to our marriages, we are beggars. We petition God with urgency for the grace we need to love well and to live with each other in such a way that God’s original two-made-one design is a reality.
When it comes to honoring parents and loving our siblings we are beggars. We know that left to ourselves we lack the patience and understanding we need to do this – and so we knock on heaven’s door every day and ask for more grace.
And all of this begging is for Jesus’ sake. We don’t make these desperate requests of God simply so that our home life can be pleasant and everyone can find happiness. The name and reputation and character of Jesus are at stake in our homes and in our churches. The well being of our families, or the lack of it, says something about God.
So keep praying for your family and for your church, seeking God’s grace with persistent intense prayers. The stakes are high and, after all, we are beggars . . . this is true.
Gracious God, today we come to you as beggars, pleading for our marriages, our children, our churches, our homes, our friendships, our brothers and sisters. We beg for grace that makes our families a reflection of who you are. We pray for the mercies of patience and love and compassion. We give you thanks for our families and seek your richest blessings with urgency and boldness, for we are indeed beggars who can do nothing apart from you. All of this we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.