Selfless Sacrifice

“Hunger is the greatest teacher I have ever known,”1 wrote my friend, Jean-Paul Tiendrebeogo in his book My Faith or My Family. Born and raised in Burkina-Faso, one of the poorest countries on Earth, Jean-Paul has known real hunger, an ongoing “lifestyle” of being sick and dazed from the lack of daily intake. It meant days and nights of “grounding,” as he calls it, stomach ulcers he endured by physically positioning himself—twisting and bending in any way he could—to ease the pain. Curious, I asked him, “What did hunger teach you?”

“Hunger causes you to cling to God, to press toward Him in prayer,” Jean-Paul replied, “Being in need in general draws you to your knees for greater dependence on God.” He continued, “Hunger opened my eyes to have a heart of thankfulness and appreciation, and not to take what I have for granted. It taught me to relate to people who are in a state of hunger and to be compassionate, because I was there and I know what it is like.” Opening himself further, he added, “I learned as a young boy not to cry, because no one is going to listen to me. You get up and you walk; you work hard, you persevere.” My own words eluded me, for I, by contrast, have almost never missed a meal; in fact, I’ve “grazed” at will from pantry tablelands throughout my days.

How ironic, then, that of the two of us, Jean-Paul is the one who has willingly returned to hunger through the discipline of fasting. So, I asked my friend, “Why do you fast now?” He responded without hesitation, “The greater the need, the more deeply I will cling to God. I put out my heart to Him the best I know how … I deprive myself to seek the will of God.” And God has honored Jean-Paul’s searching heart. “I learned to be in the presence of God. Some of the greatest and deepest revelations I have had came through my fasting,” he said, “and I have come away no longer hungry in the same way, but filled up in a spiritual sense.”

Whether it was what Jean-Paul said or the passion in which he said it that inspired me more, I am not sure, but over coffee that morning, I was persuaded to fast as God leads me to. For though Jean-Paul could never pass along to me what hunger had taught him, he did teach me this—that fasting is a spiritual adventure that leads us closer into the presence of God, who never sends us away empty.

Father, you have made me, and you provide all I need. Draw me closer to you and show yourself to me, for you alone are my sustenance. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is strength.

Read the story of Queen Esther leading the call to fast in Esther 4:6-17.

1 Jean-Paul Tiendrebeogo, My Faith or My Family, (Terentum, Word Association Publishers, 2008), 52.


Selfless Prayer

Throughout the years, I’ve encountered two types of prayer support. I’ll bet you have, too. By far, the most frequent is in the form of a promise: “I’ll pray for you.” We hear it, we say it, and we appreciate it, for it gives us the hope of help. Even if my friend ultimately heaves my plea heavenward as if to jettison the weight of obligation, at least he stands with me, at least she adds her name to my petition, and I am grateful for the promise of prayer.

Yet have you ever experienced the richness of the friend who intercedes for you in real-time? “Let’s just pray about that right here,” she responds; “Let’s stop and pray together now,” he offers. Like the men who lowered the paralytic through the roof, these faithful friends interrupt their lives—if even for a moment—to carry you to Christ. Though the world bustles all around, you step away into an unseen crevice of hidden calm. Two now intercede as one, and both are blessed in His promised presence. And your wobbly legs of doubt and fear are strengthened again to faith and confidence.

Selfless prayer is a gift we pass around, giving it at times and receiving it at others. How can we make it all the more precious and all the more helpful? Pray in faith and do not doubt, for “anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”1 Trust the Holy Spirit, for when we do not know how to pray as we should, “the Spirit intercedes … according to the will of God.”2 And “pray with thanksgiving,”3 celebrating the reality that God is more compassionate than we are, that He is wiser than we are, and that He is more faithful than we are. God is more eager to bless us than we are to receive His blessings, and He is able to do anything. He is good.

Whether we depart our friends with a promise to pray, or we linger with them in the present to pray, God is glorified and we are blessed when we experience the gift of selfless prayer together.

Our Father, thank you for making us one in Christ and for the privilege of coming before you in His name. Grace us to pray selflessly and boundlessly. May our sacrifice of prayer be pleasing in your sight today. In Jesus’ name and by the power of your Spirit, we pray. Amen.

Christ in me is strength.

Read Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matthew 6:5-13.

1 Hebrews 11:5
2 Romans 8:26, 27
3 Philippians 4:6


No Time To Go Wobbly

She was aptly nicknamed, “the Iron Lady.” Known for her conviction, decisiveness and candor, former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was a staunch ally with the United States and a strong force for freedom in the world. It was only true to character then that, as President George H.W. Bush prepared to rescue the tiny nation of Kuwait from invading armies from the North, she had a piece of advice for him, delivered in her own inimitable way, “Remember, George, this is no time to go wobbly.” He didn’t, of course, and Kuwait was delivered.

Some of us are visionaries and strategists by nature, imagining the possible and mapping out the best way to achieve it. Others among us are doers: just give us a vision and a plan, and we’re off to make it happen. Regardless of our natural inclinations and talents, however, it is easy to become discouraged and doubtful along the way and, ultimately, derailed from our plan. So, how do we stay the course?

It is encouraging to know our God is a relational God; He has plans for us, both as a people and as individuals. His proactive love for us finds voice through Jeremiah, the prophet: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”1 It is God’s nature to engage us with the promise of purpose and plans that matter. What more could we ask? Why wouldn’t we seek them?

It is in this certainty, then, that we align ourselves with God’s will by following life-changing advice from the apostle Paul, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”2 And as we see His plans unfold before our opened eyes—whether in the few momentous occasions in life or myriad every-day encounters—we proceed confidently in the wisdom of Solomon, trusting in the Lord with all our heart3, committing our work to the Lord4, not deviating from our plan5, knowing it is the Lord who establishes our steps6. In the will of God and by His power, there is for us “no time to go wobbly.”

Father, thank you for having plans for me, for loving and valuing me that much. Inspire me to trade my agenda for yours. Grace me with the patience to wait for your wisdom and the courage to go forth obediently and in your strength. In the name of Jesus and the power of your Spirit I pray. Amen.

Christ in Me is strength.

1 Jeremiah 29:1
2 Romans 12:
3 Proverbs 3:5,
4 Proverbs 16:3
5 Proverbs 4:2
6 Proverbs 19:9