What Are the Benefits of Prayer?

Prayer. To some, it’s a way of life, but to others, it can be mysterious or complicated. Oftentimes, it’s referred to as a Christian discipline, which can make it sound difficult or oppressive.

However, prayer is a wonderful thing that provides many benefits. These benefits go beyond the individual praying.

In this article, we’ll define what prayer is and look at some of the benefits prayer provides.

What Is Prayer
People define prayer in various ways but the simplest way to describe it is communication with God.

There are different kinds of prayer and many ways to practice it. Benefit-producing prayer isn’t recited but is communication that comes from the heart.

Some Benefits of Prayer

  1. Prayer changes our focus. It’s easy to get caught up in the circumstances going on around us, good or bad. Praying directs our focus away from here on earth to God in heaven.

Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth (Colossians 3:2, NLT).

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith… (Hebrews 12:2).

  1. Prayer brings us closer to God. Because prayer is communicating with God, it helps us build our relationship with him. It’s one of the many ways we can get to know him better.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth (Psalm 145:18).

  1. Prayer ushers us into God’s presence. In the Old Testament, people needed the priests or prophets to talk to God for them. But when Jesus died, the veil in the temple was torn in two, opening the way for us to talk to God ourselves.

The curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51).

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

  1. Prayer is a way to help others. There are two ways this is true. One is praying with someone and the other is praying for someone. One is done in person (or over the phone), while the other is done in your private time.

Pray for one another, that you may be healed (James 5:16).

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:9-12, ESV).

  1. Prayer helps calm us. The world is full of things that bring anxiety into our lives and prayer can restore our peace.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you (1 Peter 5:7, NLT).

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

  1. Prayer brings about change. The familiar phrase prayer changes things is true. Sometimes the things that change are circumstances, while other times we are the thing that prayer changes.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops (James 4:16-18).

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).

And the List Goes On and On
The benefits of prayer can’t be exhausted. Prayer helps us find direction in life. It can prevent us from making wrong decisions and falling into sin. Through it, we can learn to submit to God’s will.

Prayer helps us receive forgiveness and love. It also helps us love our enemies as we understand how we were once God’s enemy but, through Jesus, we are friends and heirs.

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Does Prayer Ever Fail Us?

We all struggle with prayer. This is the case for the most seasoned of Christians and those newest in the faith. We wrestle with unanswered prayer; we struggle to find the appropriate language for our petitions; we may even occasionally feel a lack of spiritual vitality as we pray. For every Christian there are times where the act of praying seems harder than it should be.

Despite our struggles, God promises to hear our prayers. Not only does God promise to hear, but God promises to respond. Jesus affirms this. His parable of the persistent widow is told specifically to encourage the disciples to “pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). The availability of God’s presence, met in prayer, is foundational to our understanding of God.

And yet, we have all found ourselves in times of discouragement resulting from unanswered prayer. If I pray for a friend’s healing, and that healing does not occur, did my prayer fail? Did I not pray enough, or in the right way? Was there a phrase, a psalm, or a spiritual discipline I should have used which would have unlocked God’s righteous power upon my friend?

Prayers left unanswered seem to condemn us. During these times, we often harbor an unsettling question; “Does prayer really work?” Or, put another way, “Did prayer fail us, or did we fail prayer?” Neither option appears encouraging to our faith.

Is there a third option? Is there a way to faithfully believe that our prayers are powerful and effective, while at the same time giving voice to our frustrating prayer experiences? Can we believe that our prayers can cause miracles to occur, and still recognize that we may not see them take place? In short, if we want to believe that prayer never fails, what do we need to know about prayer to affirm this?

Prayer Is about God’s Will, Not Our Own
Prayer is not about you or me. Prayer is about the power and presence of God. This means that our experience of prayer might not be exactly what we wish it to be. Prayer is more about God’s will and plan than our own.

When the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, he instructs them to pray “Our Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us this day our daily bread” (Luke 11:2). This is the way Jesus himself prayed to the Father. Thus, it is a model upon which we build our own life of prayer. “The Lord’s Prayer” continues to govern the prayer-life of Christians to this day.

Because we are so familiar with these words, we often overlook the structure of the prayer itself. Jesus did not offer the disciples a simple poem to recite. Christ’s instruction highlights an important spiritual movement within prayer itself.

The first petition of the prayer is to pray that God establish God’s kingdom and will on earth, and in our lives. This sets the tone for everything else that follow. Essentially, we open ourselves to God’s will before we issue our petitions and requests. Prayer, at its heart is about aligning ourselves with God’s work in the world.

This is the prayer that Jesus himself modelled. When alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, just prior to his betrayal and crucifixion, Jesus prays that his upcoming death pass him by. Jesus offers a prayer about his own life, and his future experience of the cross.

Yet as he does so, Jesus grounds this prayer in the ultimate desire for God’s will to be fulfilled. “My Father,” he prays “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). For Jesus, prayer was never about getting what he wanted, it was about living out the will of the Father.

If we wish to pray like Jesus, we can never make prayer about establishing our own kingdom. James writes “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives that you may spend on what you get on your own pleasures” (James 4:2-3). It takes a certain amount of holy stubbornness to keep our vision on God’s will and kingdom.

Prayer Is about a Relationship, Not a Response
Our heartfelt desire for God to establish the kingdom frees us to pray for specific things in our lives. We long for the kingdom to be revealed in us, and through us. Such a longing not only informs what we pray for, it also gives us boldness in prayer. We can pray for healing.

We can pray for change of circumstances. We can pray for divine intervention. In doing so we are praying that God’s kingdom is revealed in these places. Such things are open and available to us precisely because God invites us to join in the work of the kingdom. This is part of the relational covenant we enjoy with God.

This relationship we have with the Lord, however, does not promise us that God will always respond in the way we would like. Occasionally, the will of God confronts us, and challenges us. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God’s ways are beyond our ways, God’s thoughts beyond our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8).

Like a parent who cannot say “Yes” to every whim or wish of their child, God often moves in ways unexpected. This means, even our most holy and righteous requests need to be presented in humility.

Like Job crying out God, sometimes the Lord does not always provide answers to our questions; like Jesus responding to the death of Lazarus, sometimes Christ’s response appears delayed. These are experiences we all walk through.

Yet none of these experiences mean that our prayers have failed. What these experiences point us to is that God is active beyond the limit of our finite understanding, perception, or desire.

The true grace in prayer is not that we always get what we want. The true grace, extended to us by our heavenly Father, is that there is nothing that cannot be voiced. There is no request, lament, petition, or prayer that God will not receive in love. Ultimately, prayer is never about the response we receive; it is always about the relationship we enjoy with our savior.

There Is No Secret
The fact of the matter is there are no secrets loop-holes for prayer. Yes, God dwells close in prayer; yes, we can hear God’s voice; yes, God answers prayer. These are promises rooted in scripture. While these are a reality for us, they do not dictate a prayer-experience of perpetual positivity.

Could it be that our struggles in prayer challenge us to move past a myopic, self-pleasing understanding of prayer? After all, a prayer-life that is safe and comfortable rarely transforms our lives.

Struggles with prayer encourage us to push past a desire to chase after easy answers and comfortable feelings. True prayer is not dependent on an emotional experience. Believing that praying rightly somehow equates to warm and fuzzy emotions, or a divine “yes” to every request, is misguided. This is to set our vision on ourselves, instead of the presence and will of God.

Prayer is a journey; it is not a skill we master. Prayer, for the follower of Jesus is a way of being, an internal movement of heart and spirit through which we respond to the Lord’s presence in us, and in the world.

We need to recapture the radical notion that struggles in prayer may, in fact, be an invitation to journey deeper into the kingdom. Prayer is not simply something that we add onto our lives, it is the very ground out of which our life grows. To be frustrated with prayer is to be formed by it.

Christian prayer involves wrestling. It involves lament. It involves argumentation. It involves persistence. We see this in the lives of the faithful men and women of scripture. We should not, therefore, be discouraged or disheartened when it occurs for us.

Prayer places us before the Lord, who, at times, confronts, and challenges us. Prayer never fails because prayer, at its foundation, is about reaching out to Jesus. And because Jesus never fails, so too can we be confident in our prayers.

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4 Prayers for Christians Struggling with Comparison

We can’t help it, even a Christian college aged women like myself, whenever we see someone on social media or in real life who seems to be steps ahead of us, we can’t help but compare our lives to theirs. Comparison today goes beyond the traditional definition of examining things to establish similarities and dissimilarities and tends to be more about defining our self-worth by comparing our successes or failures with someone else’s.

Sadly, the destructive nature of comparison leads many of us to sink into depressive thoughts, jealous behaviors, and even feelings of defeat. Most of all, it can rob us of living the abundant life Jesus spoke of in John 10:10.

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

If you’re struggling with comparison, here are four prayers to help you on your journey:

  1. “Lord, I Believe; Help My Unbelief.”
    One of the most authentic and powerful prayers in the Bible was stated by a father who was desperate for his son to be healed. As he spoke with Jesus, he admitted he believed the Lord could heal but followed it up with an honest admission that he struggled with unbelief. What a powerful example for us who are caught in the trap of comparison! We can take our honest feelings of unworthiness, jealousy, or defeat to Jesus and admit we struggle to believe. By doing this, we are surrendering all pretense and humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God. Not only can this lead to a breakthrough, but it can also steer us away from comparison into sweet fellowship with the Lord.

Let’s pray.

Holy God, we come to You today and declare, “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!” As we compare ourselves to others, it’s easy to forget that You have a plan and purpose for our lives. We can trust You with all our hearts, minds, and souls. There is no need for comparison when You are leading us in the way we should go. Our journey will not look the same as others, and that’s okay. We only want to do Your will for us – Your good, pleasing, and perfect will. Please heal us today from the stronghold of comparison and give us peace. Thank you, Father, in the name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.

  1. “Lord, Here I Am; Send Me!”
    The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, had a vision of God on His throne, high and lifted up. In awe of such a vision, Isaiah was immediately made aware of his sins and shortcomings when he described himself as “a man of unclean lips.” At once, he was assured his sins had been atoned for as a seraph touched his mouth with a burning coal from the altar of God. Then Isaiah heard the words of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Isaiah’s response was one of faithful obedience, saying, “Here am I. Send me!” This imagery is a beautiful depiction of a gracious God who atoned for our sins through His Son and calls each of us to a specific purpose. When we focus on God’s plan for our lives, we are much less concerned with what others are doing and how we compare. With one simple statement, “Lord, send me,” we redirect our thoughts to the path God has marked out for us, and it’s a direct path out of comparison.

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, forgive us for focusing on other people’s lives when You have a specific plan and purpose for us. Turn our thoughts away from what others are doing and turn them towards what You would like to do through us. Give us the motivation to say, “Here I am. Send me!” Just as the prophet Isaiah was able to move past his failures, so we would like to move past our failures and walk in Your ways. Thank You for leading us in the way we should go. We look to You for guidance and direction. In Jesus’ name, amen.

  1. “Lord, Turn My Mind Toward Excellent Things.”
    So often, when we compare ourselves to others, our minds are filled with thoughts that are contrary to God. Jealousy over the way people live, look, and act becomes like idols in our minds, consuming us with “what ifs” and if only’s.” In contrast, when our minds are full of the things mentioned in Philippians 4:8—things that are pure, noble, lovely, excellent, and praiseworthy—we don’t have time to compare our lives to others. Turning our minds towards excellent things enables us to rejoice in God for the blessings we’ve been given. The best part is, gratefulness and praise can replace comparison faster than anything.

Let’s pray.

Lord, we know that comparison usually starts with our mindset. A thought comes in, and we entertain it until it becomes jealousy over what other people have. Please forgive us for allowing those thoughts to marinate in our minds. Help us replace them immediately with the attributes mentioned in Philippians 4:8. Turn our comparative thoughts into praiseworthy things. Fill our hearts with thanksgiving so that we are humbly grateful for what we’ve been given. We pray these things in the precious name of Jesus, amen.

  1. “Lord, Remind Me of Your Blessings.”
    As the old chorus goes, “Count your blessings; count them one by one. Count your many blessings see what God has done.” This simple song is a wonderful reminder to count every blessing and recall God’s goodness. From childhood to the present day, how has God blessed you and come through for you? In remembering the mighty ways in which He’s worked through your life, you’ll be shining a bright light on His provision and turning out the light of comparison.

Let’s pray.

Gracious God, thank You for your many, many blessings over my life. Please forgive me for overlooking the ways You’ve come through for me. Instead of comparison, please help me remember Your favor and goodness to me. In turn, help me bless others with the overflow of blessings You’ve poured out over my life. I love You and praise You, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Original Article: https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/prayer/prayers-for-struggling-with-comparison.html)

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Amazing Roles that God Can Play in Your Life

Have you ever seen a movie where one actor plays multiple roles? Isn’t it fascinating that one person can portray so many people and appear to operate in each part seamlessly? The reality is that God is even better at playing numerous roles, and the critical element to consider is that He is not acting.

He already is in each position that we will explore, and He is able, willing, and ready to fill each of the roles if we simply allow Him to. This list scratches the surface but is a good starting point to be reminded of some of the remarkable roles God can play in your life.

  1. Savior
    First and foremost, God is our savior. Mom can’t save us, dad can’t save us, our friends cannot save us, and we can’t even save ourselves, but God can!

Isaiah 45:21-22 states, “Consult together, argue your case. Get together and decide what to say. Who made these things known so long ago? What idol ever told you they would happen? Was it not I, the Lord? For there is no other God but me, a righteous God and Savior. There is none but me. Let all the world look to me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other.”

When we allow God to play the role of savior in our lives, we are saved from our sins and blessed with the opportunity to spend eternity in Heaven with Him.

  1. Father
    Depending on the type of relationship you may have had with your earthly father, the role of God as Father can be easy to embrace, or it may be challenging. Nevertheless, one of the beautiful roles God wants to play in your life is Father.

Romans 8:15-17 states, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

When we recognize God as Father, we can take comfort in knowing that He wants a relationship with us, desires what is best for us, and He is ultimately working everything in our lives out for our good.

  1. Rock
    Feeling shaky or unsteady? Are you in search of a firm or solid foundation that doesn’t shift? God is the answer.

He is our rock. Psalm 18:2 states, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” When we allow God to fill the role of rock in our lives, we can find a sense of safety and security. People change, situations come and go, but God remains the same; therefore, we can be strengthened and hopeful in God our rock.

  1. Refuge
    Have you ever needed a safe place in which you could rest and find shelter? The role of refuge is God’s specialty. Psalm 62:7-8 states, “In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.”

Take comfort in knowing that we can find refuge in God in the presence of trouble or hardship. He is a reliable resource with whom you can share all of your concerns and any thoughts you have been holding within the depths of your heart.

  1. Helper
    Raise your hand if you are someone who tries to do everything on your own? Are you someone who struggles to ask for help or feels as if you are on your own when it comes to getting duties, assignments, and tasks completed? It does not have to be that way, beloved.

Psalm 46:1 states, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Also, Isaiah 41:13 states, “For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” Both scriptures are reminders that you can go to God for help. You may have to loosen your grip on that situation and allow God to fill the helper role. You do not have to go through life without His divine help.

When we let God be our helper, we often find a sense of relief and even ease in completing whatever we invite Him to be involved in.

  1. Guide
    Feeling lost? Need directions? God has that role covered. Psalm 48:14 states, “For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” Furthermore, Psalm 25:8-10 states, “The Lord is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray. He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way. The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.”
  1. Comforter
    In times of distress, grief, or sorrow, God is our comforter. 2 Corinthians 1:3 states, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort…”

Isn’t it good to know that we have access to the ultimate GPS? God lives within us to lead, guide, and direct our paths, but we must first surrender playing that role in our lives and allow Him to take the lead.

Also, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 states, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.”

Both passages show that when we allow God to fill in the role of comforter, we can gain strength and hope to make it through some of the most difficult times of our lives.

  1. Provider
    I have needs, you have needs, all of God’s children have needs, and guess what? One of God’s many roles is to meet our needs as a provider. Philippians 4:19 states, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

This passage points us to our source for resources. While we might not get everything that we want, God graciously provides exactly what we need. Don’t get me wrong, there are times where we may feel like our needs are not being met as quickly as we would like, or we might have our needs confused with our wants, but the truth is God always provides.

  1. Defender
    There will be times in life when we are wronged or deeply hurt. Our human nature is to retaliate or take matters into our own hands. The fact that God is our defender is a thought that we must rehearse in our minds. Romans 12:19 states, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.”

The latter portion of 2 Chronicles 20:15 also reminds us, “This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” Even when it may appear that our enemies are winning, the truth is that God is always fighting for us. Certainly, we may find difficulty with surrendering and allowing God to play the role of defender, but He has proven over and over that He stays faithful to His promises.

  1. Deliverer
    Oh, how we would love to go through life problem-free experiencing nothing but sunny days, cool breezes, rainbows, and butterflies with optimal health. Unfortunately, that is not the reality of this life.

Psalm 34:19 states, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” We are reminded that life is full of trouble, but the essential truth we must remember is that God is our deliverer. He was gracious enough to forewarn us that pain and suffering will come and loving enough to promise to deliver us.

So, amid many tests and trials, cling to the fact that God is your deliverer.

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As a Good Christian How Can I Effectively Wait on the Lord?

Have you ever noticed some of the things people do while they wait? For instance, when waiting on an elevator, we keep pressing the button. It doesn’t help. Or if we are stuck in a traffic jam, we honk the horn. It won’t help. When waiting on line, we try going from line to line. Stay put. And when we’re put on hold for a long period of time, we hang up and try again. Another bad move.

There are yet other more mindless things we do while we are waiting: we suck our teeth, we sigh, we tap our feet, we pace back and forth, and we even hum and whistle. All of these things are done in an effort to be patient. But what they truly reveal is just how inpatient we really are! Almost to a person, we want what we want when we want it; and that’s usually right now or yesterday.

Waiting happens to be an unavoidable part of life. It’s one of those things that we all have to do whether we want to or not. Some would go so far as to call it a necessary evil. Necessary? Actually, yes. Evil? No, even though it seems that way at times.

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How Can We Guard Against Our Own Spiritual Blindness

Jesus talks a lot about eyesight. He heals people born blind and critiques religious leaders for their lack of vision. In fact, in the Gospel of John, Jesus states that he had come into the world “so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind” (John 9:39). Throughout Jesus’ ministry, spiritual blindness is highlighted as a perpetual problem for the people around him.

We rarely talk about this today. We may even assume that it is not a problem for a society as advanced as ours. After all, in a pluralistic world, with a myriad of viewpoints and opinions, what right do we have to charge someone with spiritual blindness? This may sound reasonable, but Jesus was clear about the reality of this condition. What is more, the first-century world was as pluralistic as our own. Spiritual blindness isn’t about opinion, it is about being unable to recognize the power of God revealed in Jesus. Given this, how might we guard against our own blindness?

What Does “Spiritual Blindness” Mean?
Blindness is an inability to see; Spiritual blindness, therefore, is an inability to see the things of the Spirit. Jesus frequently heals the blind as a testimony to his messianic status, and his divinity. Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah 35 that “the eyes of the blind will be opened” (John 35:5). Such activity, however, is often met with disbelief, or even ridicule. As the blind are made to see, those who “see” refuse to accept Jesus’ words or actions. This is spiritual blindness. Whenever someone is unable to recognize the activity of God, through the work or words of Jesus, they are considered spiritually blind.

Importantly, spiritual blindness is a condition that afflicts the religious. Jesus’ harshest criticisms regarding it are reserved for the Pharisees and the Scribes, those who make up the religious elite of the day. Jesus never charges a Gentile person with spiritual blindness; the broken and hurting do not suffer from this condition. Instead, those who believe that they have mastered the ways of God often find themselves dumbfounded by Jesus’ ministry.

John’s account of the healing of the man born blind (John 9:1-41) is a wonderful depiction of spiritual blindness. After Jesus restores the man’s sight, the Pharisees are unwilling to accept this healing. Despite evidence, logic, and good theology, the Pharisees simply refuse to accept the truth standing before them. First, they point to the fact that healing on the Sabbath was against Jewish law. Then, they question the man’s parents to see if the man was truly born blind. The insinuation here is that this healing is but a trick from a charlatan prophet. Finally, the man himself is ridiculed and insulted. They label him a sinner undeserving of God’s love and healing.

This blindness of the Pharisees is contrasted beautifully with the vision of the blind man. Throughout the entire exchange, it is the blind man who speaks truthfully the things of God. He testifies to his experience of miraculous healing in the words “One thing I do know, I was blind, but now I see” (vs 25). He even schools the Pharisees on a point of theology! “We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person how does his will. Nobody has ever heard of the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (31-32). The man born blind sees Jesus, and the power of God, rightly. He has true sight, whereas the Pharisees are nothing more than blind guides.

How Do We Become Spiritually Blind?
If spiritual blindness is a condition that affects the religious, how do we, as Christians, ensure that we do not fall into this trap? How do we become spiritually blind? The gospels make clear that it is a misdirection of our vision. Jesus says “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of life. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness” (Matthew 6:22-23). Spiritual blindness is an internal condition. It occurs when we focus our attention upon our own pride, desire, or limited understanding.

This is exactly what the Pharisees exhibit. Their prideful assumption that they were “experts” in the things of God made them inhospitable to Jesus. Because Jesus often called people way from the blind execution of religious rules, the Pharisees could not accept the incarnation. God, they believed, only worked in the context of their limited understanding.

Because of this pride, Jesus calls them “blind guides” (Matthew 23:16). Their hearts were set more on following the rules of the Temple than on observing a heartfelt devotion to God. Jesus criticizes them for “giving a tenth of your spices – mint, dill, and cumin, but neglecting the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23). The Pharisees frequently had their eyes set upon the praises of others, rather than on truly walking the way of holiness and righteousness. Their life, and faith, served their own glorification.

Before we become overly critical of the Pharisees, we must recognize that this also happens with Peter and the other disciples. When Peter rebukes Jesus for speaking about his upcoming death, Jesus turns around and declares he did not have in mind the things of God” (Mark 8:33). In that moment, despite his desire to be faithful to his Lord, Peter’s vision was set upon his own understanding of God’s ways, rather than the humble acceptance of Jesus. Similarly, the disciples argue about who is the greatest, and who will sit on Jesus’ right and left hand in the kingdom. Each of these instances is an example of spiritual blindness because the disciples turn their spiritual vision to their own glorification and exaltation. While they claim to understand the nuances of Christ’s Lordship they fail to recognize the way of redemption and grace.

Whenever we believe that we have plumbed the depths of God, we act in spiritual blindness. Such an attitude does not embody the grace of Jesus. It does not take into consideration that Jesus may do something unexpected in our lives. God’s ways and thoughts are always beyond our own. We always have something to learn, and we can always use more healing in our life.

How Do We Break Free from Spiritual Blindness?
Given that spiritual blindness afflicts the faithful, from the Pharisees to the disciples, how might we ensure that we keep ourselves from this condition? How can we break free from spiritual blindness if it occurs in our lives? The answer is relatively simple: we look to Jesus. Looking to Jesus is the only antidote to spiritual blindness.

Prior to healing the man born blind, Jesus famously declares “I am the light of the world” (9:5). Jesus is the light that illuminates the fullness of God’s identity, love, power, and grace. Spiritual sightedness is not about the wealth of religious knowledge, scripture memorization, or an understanding of intricate liturgical rules. Having true, authentic, spiritual sight is about seeing, and receiving, Jesus. Anything within ourselves, or within our own religious or spiritual identity, that gets in the way of receiving Jesus eventually moves us to spiritual blindness.

We are called to be like Paul, who declared “I resolve to know nothing except Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Our vision is cast solely upon Jesus. The author of Hebrews reminds us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus is to be the one to whom all the faithful look upon in humble obedience.

This is easy to say, and easier to write, but harder to do. Too often, the root of spiritual blindness is pride. This pride keeps us from the necessary disciplines of humility and trust. Yet the call of faith is to believe in the guiding, healing, power of Jesus. We stubbornly look to him, even in those moments where we can’t understand what Jesus is doing, or where he is taking us. As we intentionally place Jesus at the center of our lives, the Spirit will lead us to deeper experiences of healing and grace.

The Necessity of Prayer
Ultimately, the only true way for us to ensure our spiritual sightedness is to continually pray for a clearer vision of Jesus Christ in our lives. We never arrive at a place where we progress beyond the danger of spiritual blindness. In fact, if we think that spiritual blindness is not a problem for us, that may be a good indication that it is closer than we think.

We are to cast our eyes upon the Lord, faithfully and diligently. In raw and unhindered honesty, we are to pray that his will be done in our lives, and not our own. We radically accept his vision of who we are, and who we are called to be. Undoubtedly, this is an act of faith and one that requires a constant lifting of ourselves before the Lord. Warding off spiritual blindness involves the willful laying down of our own pride.

What would it look like for you to pray for a deeper vision of Jesus in your life? Just as Moses asked to see a vision of God’s glory, and just as the Psalmist exclaims “Your face, Lord, I will seek” (Psalms 27:8), and just as Paul prays that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened (Ephesians 1;18), so too can we ask for a deeper vision of Christ’s presence. It is when we seek the face of Jesus that we can be assured of true spiritual sightedness. As we look to him, Jesus fills our vision and lightens our way.

I hope and pray that everyone reading this has an AMAZING weekend!

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