It’s Lent season. I never really practiced Lent growing up, but like the idea of giving something up for a period. I feel like I lack discipline at this stage of life where there aren’t any rules. The freedom was amazing at first, but now I feel like I have nothing to show for the past few years except completed television series and a small savings account. I like the idea of an opportunity for discipline to be encouraged and fashionable with accountability made available and temptation frowned upon.
The roommates and I all gave something up. We were out at a restaurant when we made the pact and each wrote what we would give up on the top of my take out box. The take out box is now pinned to the fridge to remind us. I gave up non-work websites at work. and 2-4 p.m. everyday has become longer than usual. Poor L gave up sweets and tries to reconcile her sweet tooth with peanut butter and fruit. D has turned to cider to fill the soda void. M was left hungry when her volleyball team went out to pizza where there were no gluten-free options. But, we’re all persevering!
Anyways, what I really wanted to write about is my Lenten group at work. This year, employees at Real Resources have the opportunity to join a group of co-workers to spend an hour a week reading the Bible together and praying for each other. This Lent season, instead of giving something up, our lent groups are studying spiritual disciplines that can be added to your life rather than taken away.
Last week, we studied prayer and a lady in my group introduced me to the book The Circle Maker. This synopsis is probably butchering the story, but the book shares the legend of Honi the Circle Maker, a guy talked about in the Jewish Talmud who was known for getting answers from his prayers to God. Honi was asked to come and pray for a land experiencing a serious drought.
The man came to the land and drew a circle in the dry sand and told God, “I am not leaving this spot until it rains.” After a little while, it started to sprinkle. Honi, however, was not happy. “That’s not what I meant, I want RAIN.” Soon it started to torrential downpour. I’m talking CRAZY storm. Yet again, the man was not satisfied. He prayed, “That is not what I asked for either.” Soon, the storm lit up, but a steady, enduring rain continued to fall quenching the thirsty land.
The book centers around this story and asks readers, how do you pray? Are you expecting great things from God? Are you faithful in your prayers, drawing circles around the requests you ask from him and refusing to let up until he responds displaying his power and glory?
This story really got me thinking. Is this the way to pray? It seems to align with what Jesus says about prayer (Luke 11:5-13) and how Abraham talked to God (Genesis 18:16-33). It really got me thinking about what prayers I should be drawing circles around.
Now, fast forward to Sunday evening. It’s baptism Sunday at Hope. I LOVE Baptism Sunday at Hope. I just love baptism and people showing that they love Jesus, I guess. It’s like a wedding- a joyous celebration of a beautiful forever relationship. It’s a beautiful moment where life falls away for a little while and I remember what’s it’s all about and who God really is.
As I was watching the individuals step into the baptistery, I suddenly thought about the people in my life who don’t know Jesus. The people I love very much and don’t have the best thing that’s ever happen to me. I pictured them walking one after the other and getting dunked and how happy I would be. How much I want that for them. Not a “saved” label or a “get out of hell free” card, but the life and connection that the ritual symbolizes, and that I have within me and couldn’t imagine my life without.
The thought made me joyful, but the reality that it wasn’t yet true broke my heart. In that moment, I realized what I wanted to draw my circles around. What people’s hearts I want to beg God to move in. What I will plead for faithfully so that when it happens, I know that God did it and he gets the glory. What people I will show my love for through my faithful and persistent petitions for them. I’m writing down their names and the prayers begin tonight.
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; those who seek find; and to those who knock the door will be opened.”
Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give you a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” -Luke 11:5-13