Jesus loves invitations! He's the Divine Host, constantly inviting us to come to Him. But Jesus also loves to be invited! He's the perfect, Divine Guest, always responding to our sincere invitations. Inviting the Lord, I believe, is at the heart of the mysterious spiritual exercise we call "prayer"...in particular, petition and supplication.
I'd like to share with you a situation that happened in my life that forever changed the way I look at prayer.
It was late summer 1997. I was preparing for a new school year with my new bunch of preschoolers at Xenia Christian. I also was going to meetings and doing home visits as a home school coordinator with the Dayton Christian Home School Program (my other part-time job). As any teacher knows, mid-August can get pretty hairy!
At the same time, my then 70+ year old mom was visiting from NJ. Before she was ready to return home, we received a call from my sister Nancy. She informed us that her husband Ed, who had been battling cancer, suddenly and surprisingly took a turn for the worse. He was now on life support, but there was little if any hope.
So Nancy and Ed's best friend had to make a terrible decision...if & when to terminate life support. They chose to stop support at the end of the week. So I knew that meant a trip to NJ for a funeral.
Now I was totally stressed! In the midst of everything else that was going on! Now a flight back east! I'm ashamed to admit this...but the thing that was stressing me the most by then was the thought of a plane flight!
I know, shame on me...my poor sister! And here I am freaking out about getting on a plane!
But you see, my previous experiences on planes weren't exactly pleasant...in fact, they were horrifying! Plus, as a mom, I had developed fears I never had as a single, young adult (can you moms relate?)
I begged and pleaded with my husband to drive me to NJ...but he insisted (and stood his ground), "There's no Time! You've got to fly!"
So on my way to a home school coordinators meeting that day, I agonized! But eventually I resigned myself to the fact that when I got home, I'd have to find an economical flight a few days hence (yeah, right)!
All of a sudden, in the midst of my churning thoughts, the still small Voice broke through: Jesus walks with us on the chaos of our lives!
I recognized this as a quote from Oswald Chambers devotional that I had been reading for years. Somehow I knew this was significant, a rhemafrom the Lord. So I decided to find that familiar story when I got home from the meeting. I knew that there would be a message from the Lord tucked away in that Scripture.
When I got home, I pulled out my Harmony of the Gospels.* And as usual, I was not disappointed! Something I read there absolutely shocked me! I had never noticed it before...as familiar as this story was and as much of a "Bible scholar" as I deemed myself to be! I began to read the familiar story of Jesus walking on the water toward His terrified, struggling disciples.
And when it was evening, the boat was in the midst of the sea, and He was alone on the land. And seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night, He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them.
Wait a minute! What does that mean...He intended to pass by them? I had never noticed that before...why would He do that? God doesn't play games! Why would He walk past? And would He REALLY...seeing His terrified , struggling disciples? Wasn't that why He was walking out to them in the first place? Or was it?
I decided to read on...the answer must be there somewhere:
But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were frightened. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid...”** They were willing therefore to receive him into the boat…
There it was...the Lord Jesus, always the Perfect Gentleman, was waiting to be invited. (Later I did a word study on this word willing. It means a "volitional choice"...not just "Well, whatever...")
So I imagined that His struggling disciples, recognizing WHO Jesus was and WHAT He could DO, were more than willing...even desperate...to invite Him into their boat!
And of course, I knew what happened next:
And He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were greatly astonished. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”**
...and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. [Composite Text: Mk 6: 47 - 51; John 6 : 21; Mt 14 : 32 - 33]
Jesus can do that kind of thing because certainly He is God's Son -- the Sovereign, Almighty God in the flesh!
So you may have guessed what happened. That's right, I began to invite Him into MY boat...every aspect of this situation -- into the purchase of the plane ticket, into the plane: cockpit, cabin, under the wings, in the engine (Hey! I was desperate!!!).
Then when we were "in flight," it's as if I could SEE the Lord walking up and down the aisle...ministering to the other passengers too! The Perfect Pilot as well as the Perfect Flight Attendant!
So I arrived at Newark airport without an ounce of anxiety, thanks to my Amazing Traveling Companion. When I shared the story and my experience with my sister, she invited the Lord into HER boat as a young widow with legal and financial needs. Immediately, the Lord sent her a lawyer friend to begin to answer some of those very concrete issues for her...gratis! We were in awe!
When I arrived home, I was "basking in the glow of it all!" I asked the Lord, "What just happened? What does it all mean?" Then the simple truth dawned upon me...
Jesus wants me to invite Him into “my boat” -- my specific life situation, whatever that may be.
Next time we'll look at two other Scripture passages that came to mind. But right now, I'd like to ask you, dear friend.
What is the boat you are in right now? Is it an unhealthy body, emotional upheaval, financial needs, unemployment, the dailiness of raising children, spiritual struggles, anxiety attacks, shame, wayward children, confusion, facing a scarey situation like a plane ride or speaking in public, _______________(you fill in the blank)?
Whatever it may be, invite the Lord into YOUR boat, and watch what HE can do....because He is certainly God's Son!
Thou art the Lord who slept upon the pillow, Thou art the Lord who soothed the furious sea, What matters beating wind and tossing billow If only we are in the boat with Thee?
Hold us quiet through the age-long minute While Thou art silent and the wind is shrill : Can the boat sink while Thou, dear Lord, are in it; Can the heart faint that waiteth on Thy will?" — Amy Carmichael
*The Harmony is a wonderful book where you can see at a glance all 4 gospels in chronological order. It's a great way to get all the details of a story, because each of the gospels is side-by-side with the others in columns.
**This is where Peter steps out of the boat. I left it out for the sake of clarity and brevity.
Read the rest of this PRAYER series