“So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” — Excerpt of verses 3-4 from John 11:1-44
Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead might be a lesson about Jesus' miracle-working power, however it has taught me a valuable lesson in prayer. Maybe you know the story…
The characters in the opening scene are Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. The two sisters and their brother are dear friends of Jesus. As it stands, Lazarus has fallen deathly ill. Knowing Jesus has the power to heal him, they send word a couple towns over to where He is teaching. Their message is short and sweet: “Lord, the one You love is sick.” No pleading his case, no reminding of what they’ve done for Him, no reasoning why their brother would be worth saving. Just a few simple words to convey the friend whom He loves is sick.
Here we learn that prayer is not a means of “earning” an answer with many words or reasons why one should be given. It is not a means of begging and pleading and justifying ourselves. It is a means of stating one’s case to the Lord.
“Lord, the one whom You love ____________________.”
More important than the petition made on Lazarus’ behalf, may be Jesus’ response in verse 4: “This sickness will not end in death [meaning eternal death for those who have placed their trust in Him]. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
Using Mary and Martha’s example in prayer above, we too can bring requests to God on behalf of other believers and ourselves, replacing the word “sick” with any other trial or tragedy and filling in the blank.
“Lord, the one whom You love
…has lost their way.
…is struggling financially.
…needs Your favor.
…needs to encounter Your truth.”
Because nothing comes into our lives that did not pass through the Father’s hands first, we can also know God’s heart or response to our request: “it is for God’s glory…”
Therefore, in light of His divine purpose…
— to receive glory in and through and from our trials —
…with the assurance that trials will not lead to eternal death for those who have placed their trust in Jesus, instead of pleading for deliverance, might we pray instead:
Lord, the one whom You love ____________________.
Thank You that this circumstance will not lead to [spiritual] death.
Bring glory to Yourself through this trial.
I can only imagine that consciously shifting the focus from our comfort to God’s purpose and intended outcome might somewhat shorten the length and intensity of our trials. If our eyes are fixed on ourselves, our discomfort, or our inconvenience, the longer and more trying the trial may be.
Reading on in verse 5, we see that Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus very much. However, His love for them did not exempt them from trials. It didn’t exempt them from pain. In fact, on the contrary in verse 6, having heard the news that one of His beloved was sick, Jesus waited two days to make way to His friends!
Remembering the text in verse 4, Jesus knew this trial would not end in Lazarus’ damnation, and took glory in delaying His answer.
God gets the glory in our waiting, too.
It is in the waiting that our focus and faith are tested, and therefore proven. And proven faith actually makes waiting a grace. God’s delays unveil our weaknesses, steady our trembling feet, right our wrong thinking, and deepen our dependence on Him. Instead of wishing away our every trial, tear and tragedy through prayer, might we learn to accept them as gifts from the Father’s hand?
Trials are cause for prayer, but instead of making our petitions about us, let us consider making our requests known to God, plain and simple: “Lord, the one whom You love ____________________.” Then, shift the focus from our discomfort to His purpose by vocalizing a heart of gratitude saying, "Thank You that this circumstance will not end in [spiritual] death," and “Bring glory to yourself through this trial.” When we can leave it at that, our hearts will truly exchange selfish gain for the Savior’s glory.
May we become true reflections of Him!