9And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1: 9-11)
For what do you pray? For whom do you pray? Why do you pray? Do your prayers ever sound anything like the prayer that Paul writes in the epistle that we read for this week? After all, read it. This is not a prayer for comfort. This is not a prayer for healing. This isn’t a prayer for an easier life or more resources or a clear path to whatever it is for which we are searching. This isn’t even a prayer for peace. This is a prayer that the readers of this letter might grow, might move beyond themselves, might become better at being themselves than they are. This is a prayer for change. This is a prayer for us to get up and move from where we are. See, Paul’s image of praising God is people living changed lives and, in turn, changing lives around them.
Maybe this season of Advent is not, then, about just sitting and waiting for Jesus to show up. What if this was a season of prayer, a season of growth, a season of change? Those that came before us so long ago, those who longed for a Messiah, for someone to change the world (or perhaps just fix it once and for all), had a clear vision of how their prayers should be answered. And then the Messiah was born and was laid in a feed trough on a cold desert night because somehow the world just couldn’t seem to find the time or the space for anything else. And the Messiah grew up and asked the world to follow. And instead of following, we dug in our heels and refused to change and went on with our important projects and our carefully planned lives. And the world trembled a bit when the Christ child died but for the most part, it went on the way it was. But we changed. Faith is being open to change. So this time, THIS time, let us not wait for what we think we know. Let us not be comforted by a baby in a feed trough or scared away by a man on a cross. Let us follow and be changed.
And this is my prayer, that the image of God that is within you will burst forth and become who you are called to be, taking all that you are—your heart, your mind, your body, your soul—and follow the Messiah not to the place you know, but to the place that God leads. My prayer is that you will follow the Christ and see nothing less than the Vision of God and that the world will know that you have been changed and will want to follow you and be changed too. May your vision not stop with the baby in the manger but may it grow to be the Savior of the World.
Authentic prayer changes us, unmasks us, strips us, indicates where growth is needed. (St. Teresa de Avila)
Grace and Peace,