From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Twenty-Three, Day Two
One of the most tender images of Jesus is one he supplied when referring to himself as the Good Shepherd. This name reminds us both of our own vulnerability and Jesus' watchful, protecting care. It evokes a sense of belonging, intimacy, and trust, revealing the Good Shepherd as the One who lays down his life for his sheep. When you pray to the Good Shepherd, you are admitting your need for his care and your confidence in his ability to watch over and protect you.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11
Praying the Name
What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. Matthew 18:12-14
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. Luke 19:10
Praise God: For telling us stories that reveal his love.
Offer Thanks: For God's persistence.
Confess: Any despair you feel over a lost relationship.
Ask God: To draw the lost to himself.
Last year I read a novel about a fourteen-year-old girl who died suddenly in tragic circumstances. I wasn't prepared for the storm of grief that Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones unleashed in me. Odd as it sounds, the story is told from the murdered girl's vantage point in the afterlife.
In fact, the narrative is so compelling that it brought back memories of the sudden death of my sixteen-year-old sister in very different circumstances. I could feel the long-buried ache of missing her, as though she had been killed yesterday. I wondered how different life would have been had she lived. How many nieces and nephews would I have had? How many cousins would my children have had? How would our already close family have become even closer, our celebrations richer?
Most of us know what it is like to miss someone so much that it literally hurts to think about their absence. Jack Roeda comments on this sense of loss, but from a different vantage point:
In Genesis 3 we find that after Adam and Eve sinned against God, they hid from God. And we're told, "But the Lord God called . . . ‘Where are you?' " (3:9). Most of the time I've heard anger in that question. God is calling them on the carpet. But perhaps it expresses sadness as well: "Where are you? I miss you." The whole Bible — and Jesus' coming, in particular — is the story of God seeking us, making peace so that he'll not have to miss us again.
Several years ago a close friend was going through a rough time. I was fairly certain she was a closet alcoholic. Her constant need for alcohol had transformed her from a kind, gentle, caring person to a self-absorbed, emotionally unstable woman whose frequent outbursts alienated family and friends. As I prayed for her, I felt God easing my worry and directing my prayers toward the parable of the lost sheep.
I began to understand that I wasn't the only one who felt the ache of missing her. Eventually God brought her through her time of difficulty in a very gentle way. I remember feeling so much joy watching the transformation that came with a deeper understanding of God's love.
Perhaps you are missing someone right now — a son, a daughter, a parent, a friend, or a spouse. Maybe that person is still alive but living in a way that estranges them from others and from God. If that is so, you can use your own sense of loss to energize your prayers, confident that Someone else is also missing them — Someone who came into this world with only one thing in mind: to seek out and save what is lost.
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.