Every promise of God proves true; He protects everyone who runs to Him for help….And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Proverbs 30:5 MSG, Ephesians 6:18 NIV)
Dear Praying Friends,
In Bible times and now, God’s people sometimes feel hard-pressed on all sides, squeezed, crushed, puzzled, depressed, depleted, anxious, persecuted, abandoned, abused, struck down, and about to be destroyed. But Jesus promises that He gives us eternal life, and we shall never perish. No one will ever snatch us out of His or His Father’s strong hands.1 Christmas reminds me how the Lord cared for two older believers named Simeon and Anna. Their story is told in Luke 2:22-38.
Simeon, The Praiser of Christ
Simeon is more famous and perhaps he was a priest. He was trusting God to fulfill God’s promise of sending the Messiah to crush the devil and save us all from Satan’s power after we had gone astray.2 The Holy Spirit had promised Simeon that before he died he would see God’s Deliverer, the Christ. So when Simeon saw baby Jesus, he took the child in his arms and launched into a vigorous song of praise. Simeon rejoiced that God sent His Son with power to save us from guilt and darkness and the grave. Christ came to tie up the strong man (the devil) and plunder his house.3 Jesus rescues us from the dominion of darkness and brings us into His kingdom of light, life, and love.4 Christ came to save Jews and Gentiles from Hell, but Simeon also prophesied that Jesus would meet great opposition and be crucified in order to deliver us. Salvation is free to all who trust Christ, but it was costly to God. The Father did not spare His own Son from suffering, but lovingly gave Jesus up for us all as an atoning sacrifice.5
When the Dutch painter Rembrandt died at age 63, he left an unfinished painting in his studio. It shows Simeon’s joy in holding Jesus. Maybe Rembrandt knew that the end of his life was near and, like Simeon, he was ready to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.6 Are we ready to meet the Lord, beloved? Let’s ask God to make us ready.
His name shall be the Prince of Peace, Forevermore adored,
The Wonderful, the Counselor,
The great and mighty Lord. Wonders of grace to God belong;
Repeat His mercies in your song.
Anna, The Prayer Warrior
Anna is often overlooked because only three verses mention her. She was a prophetess who spoke God’s word and she was from the lost tribe of Asher. People from the Asher tribe were deported from Israel in 722 BC after being conquered by the Assyrians. But the Lord never lost or misplaced Anna; the very hairs of her head were all numbered by our faithful God.7 Luke records that Anna was either eighty-four years old or she had been a widow for eighty-four years which would make her over one hundred years old! The Lord loved Anna, but He didn’t bring her husband back to life and didn’t give her another husband. Yet God kept His promise to defend widows, watching over and sustaining Anna with His tender care.8
I love it that Anna didn’t sink into self-pity. By God’s grace, she didn’t focus inwardly on herself and her loneliness and all the troubles that she must have had. Anna practiced that believing fear of the Lord that leads to life and then she rested content, untouched by trouble.9 Anna focused upward on the Lord and the precious spiritual blessings that she possessed in Him. God gave her mercy and love in abundance, righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.10 Anna’s encouragement and comfort didn’t come from outward things. God planted serenity deep in her soul. She could sleep in peace in God’s arms, because she yielded herself to His providence. The Lord kept her safe.11
Peace with God didn’t make Anna careless or passive, it made her trust and obey the Lord she loved. She worshiped God with His people, fasted, prayed, and gave Him thanks whenever she could. Anna reminds us not to neglect meeting together, as many do, but to build up one another as we see the Day of Jesus’ return approaching.12 When Anna heard what Simeon said about Christ, matching up with God’s promises in the Old Testament, she spread the good news of Jesus’ arrival to all who were looking forward to the redemption of God’s people. The Lord promised that all nations on earth will be blessed through Jesus, Abraham’s descendant. Anna was eager to tell everyone that God was faithfully keeping His pledges. Do we do that? Do we revere Christ as Lord? Do we tell others the reason for our hope in Jesus?13
Through this vain world He guides our feet And leads us to His heav’nly seat; His mercies ever shall endure When our fallen world shall be no more.
I want to focus on just one part of Anna’s story. She reminds me of some godly prayer warrior widows that I’ve known and she shows me and all of us how to handle hard circumstances in the 21st century. Anna was not just praying for her own list of needs, real as they were. For years she was praying for Christ to come to rescue all His people. Anna was interceding, standing before God in the gap on behalf of others, begging for mercy.14 That’s what makes our prayer life come alive. We can be like the person in the middle in Jesus’ parable of the friend at night.15 We can be like the four men who carried their paralyzed friend to Christ.16 They had seen Jesus bring spiritual salvation and physical healing to many people before and they believed that He could do it again. So their faith led to action. They couldn’t get through the crowd, so they carried their friend up on the roof and lowered him down to Jesus. That’s persistence.
We can do the same as we pray for others. We bring needy people to our all-providing God. We can’t meet all the needs of broken-hearted people in spiritual, physical, and emotional agony, but we can come to the Lord on their behalf. We ask, seek, and knock so God’s door in heaven swings open to them.
Will you join me in making intercessory prayer a high priority in 2020? “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.” (Ephesians 6:19)
I’m asking the Lord to give you a very blessed and joyous Christmas and New Year!
Your very grateful brother in Christ, Bob
Notes (various translations): 1 John 10:28-29. 2 Gen 3:15. 3 Matt 12:29. 4 Col 1:13. 5 Rom 8:32. 6 Phil 1:23. 7 Luke 12:7. 8 Ps 68:5; 146:9. 9 Proverbs 19:23. 10 Jude 1:2; Rom 14:17. 11 Psalm 3:5: 4:8. 12 Hebrews 10:25. 13 1 Peter 3:15. 14 Ezek 22:30. 15 Luke 11:5-13. 16 Luke 11:5-13.
No blogs have been posted since our November 2019 update.