Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gifts and Sacrifices in Prayer




Scripture

For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer.
(Hebrews 8:3 NASB)

 

Observation


The writer to the Hebrews is defining Jesus' role as High Priest. What he was unable to do on earth, he is now able to do in heaven. He has his own temple and has made gifts and sacrifices that none of us can even begin to imagine. Therefore he fills the role of the High Priest as no other priest before him, nor after him will ever be able to fulfill. The two items of significance, gifts and sacrifices must be noted. They represent two different ends of the spectrum. The first are known as Eucharistic gifts. They are the gifts of gratitude for the benevolence of a mighty God who has provided all of creation for the use of his children. The second are the sacrifices for the sins of humanity, the very need for forgiveness. This then can also become our pattern for prayer and fellowship with Christ, our High Priest, who then offers up our prayers as a sweet aroma to the Father in heaven.

 

Application


We find that Jesus is the pattern for our lives for he is the goal. The goal of the entire Christian life is to be transformed into the likeness of the image, who is Jesus Christ. He becomes the pattern for our lives and what better way to become like the pattern, than to imitate the pattern. Therefore Jesus provides for us an example of our own prayer lives. It is while he is in the Holy of Holies, that very inner chamber in the very presence of God that he lifts up the gifts and the sacrifices. We are invited to enter into sweet communion with Jesus Christ on a daily basis -- into that Holy of Holies on a very personal level. It is through prayer that we come to that place of communion with him. But now I ask whether we ever spend time bringing him our gifts of gratitude, or do we automatically shift into the list of confession and/or requests. If Jesus is offering gifts of gratitude to the Father on our behalf, how much more should we be engaged in giving gifts of thanksgiving.

As we go into prayer we must first take time to present our gifts, which are our prayers of gratitude. These gifts, in the past, were in gratitude for how God has provided for his people through his beautiful creation, the earth. Do we thank God for the things which we are able to possess and enjoy? Do we realize that they are all from him, or do we simply take it for granted, or somehow believe that we have what we do because of our own personal efforts? Something beautiful happens in our time of prayer when we begin by praising and thanking God for who he is and what he has done. The trajectory of our prayer lives begins to change in dramatic ways when God is given his true praise and honor. Then, somehow our list of requests gets removed to the end of the line and the focus becomes the very worship of God, and not us!

If we were to be honest we could all confess to becoming tired with the old prayer meetings because of the way they have digressed. No longer are they spirit-filled times of meeting in God's holy presence, but have become extended periods of time in which we discuss the physical ailments of numerous individuals. If there is time left there will be a short and perfunctory prayer for the organ recital which we have just received. There is no passionate prayer of thanksgiving to God. There is no pouring out of oneself in humility before our Creator. There is no time of simply worshiping the Creator of all things for who he is and what he has done. The entire "gifts" section of our prayer lives is often missing.

If Jesus is to be our pattern, then we must make a concerted effort to come before him with our prayers of thanksgiving. We must work to focus our attention on the good that God has already provided for us and simply to enjoy his holy presence, praising and worshiping him. From there we may go into the "sacrifice" of prayer, in which we intercede for those who need to know him, and finally intercede for the physical needs around us. Sadly, if we miss out on the "gifts" portion of prayer, we will more than likely also miss our on the sacrifice as well, for they go together. May we slow down and enjoy the sweet presence of Jesus in the Holy of Holies of our prayer lives and bring to him the sweet offering of our gifts of thanks, followed by our sacrifices.

 

Prayer


Lord, I praise you today for all that I can see and cannot see. Amen.

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