The Calming Power of Prayer

Today’s post is a tribute to all the veterans out there who fought for the freedom that I enjoy every day. I specifically want to thank those veterans who are near and dear to my heart. To my father Les Vander Lugt, my uncle Marv Kempema, my cousin Russ Vander Lugt, and my good friend Eric Silbaugh…THANK YOU!

“Out of the worst comes the best. Our most cherished values are forged in the fines of trouble times. Like the seriously ill man who comes to appreciate everyday things, the prisoner who comes to prize freedom, and the soldier under fire who comes to know the calming power of prayer, I was about to make a terrible experience worthwhile.”

—H.W. Weldon, Jr. in Coming Home

After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, He “was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). It’s interesting that in this situation, the Spirit of God is leading Jesus into the wilderness and is obviously allowing the devil to tempt Jesus. The Spirit isn’t tempting Jesus, but it should be noted that the Spirit is definitely leading Jesus into a situation where temptation and testing is going to occur.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to protect us from the evil one…to not lead us into situations where we’re tested and tempted. When we stand on the fringe of a wilderness experience…when we acknowledge that upon entering that wilderness, all that we are as men and women of God will be tested to the nth degree, it is only natural for us to ask God to lead us elsewhere. This petition in the Lord ’s Prayer, is asking God to protect us…to lead us anywhere else. Of course, we’re going to pray for God’s protection, however, sometimes God says “No” to this petition. In a somewhat paradoxical way, God’s “No” to this request—His leading us into situations where temptation occurs—is complimentary.

Before God tested Jesus and refined him with the fires of temptation, God pronounced his utmost approval with his only Son:

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

—Matthew 3:17

God loves us as His beloved children, and knows that occasional testing and refinement make us stronger and causes us to rely upon Him more fully. Jesus quoted passages from Deuteronomy three times to stave off the tempting advances from Satan while He sojourned through the wilderness. One of these passages in context is fascinating:

“Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.”

—Deuteronomy 8:2-5

Jesus obviously recognized the value in being tempted by the devil. Jesus knew that discipline, humility, and reliability on God are essential to Spiritual maturity. James writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

I’m not a veteran…and I can in NO WAY understand the trials, suffering, and fear these men and women experienced while they fought night and day for my freedom. I do know, however, that the trials they endure have the potential to send the strongest soldier to his or her knees. By asking God to not lead us into temptation, we are asking God to stand beside us and protect us through the trials we will inevitably face. If anything—through testing and temptation—we discover the calming power of prayer, a complete reliance on God as our Father, and His capacity to provide for our every need.  If God will not keep us from these temptations, at least He will empower us to endure them and will be on the other end of the desert to welcome us home as His mature, able, and beloved children.

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