Praying Toward the Promise
In anticipation of our annual conference in October, we will be offering monthly articles that center on this year’s theme, The Promises of God. Now more than ever, when there seems to be no solid ground beneath our feet, we stand on the promises of God. In Christ we receive a new heart and a new spirit, becoming citizens of a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Join us at Rooted 2021 as we celebrate the One whose promises to us are trustworthy and true: For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV)
As a child, I could regularly be found tucked away in the far corner of my family’s dining room, staring up at the china cabinet where — resting on the top shelf — was my mother’s collection of souvenir travel glasses.
My mom loved to travel. And in every city, every country, she would capture the memory with the purchase a small, albeit cliche, drinking glass. And while far from glamorous pieces of art, I deeply admired those glasses. I loved to watch the sunlight dance through their colors, all while imagining myself traversing the soils of those seemingly exotic places.
Routinely I would ask my mom when it would be my turn to travel as she did. With a soft smile, she would simply say, “one day, baby, I promise.” That tiny corner of my childhood home was a sanctuary of hope for me. Those glasses were more than souvenirs, they were a promise. And by fixing my eyes on them, I found hope, even in the darkest of days. Why? Because promises hold power.
God Fulfills His Promises
Consider for a moment the story of Daniel. After a decree of death had been issued for all who would pray to any other than King Darius, in Daniel 6:10, we read: “when Daniel knew that the document was been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in the upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed…”
Did you catch that? It was after Daniel knew of the decree that he prayed. How did Daniel find the courage to defy under sure penalty of death? Well, notice for moment where Daniel went in His defiance — to fix his eyes toward Jerusalem, the city of God. Jerusalem was the place God had promised to deliver Daniel and his people back to from their exile. For Daniel, Jerusalem was more than a city, it was a promise.
Daniel went to that room in the upper chamber to pray for the same reason I would go to our dining room. Daniel sought to fix his eyes toward the promise. With his eyes fixed on that promise, Daniel’s prayer the day of the decree was not one of desolation, but affirmation because the passage says Daniel “gave thanks, as he had done previously.” It was Daniel’s certainty in the promise of God which led to his fidelity in persecution, because God’s promises hold power. Daniel knew God had promised to deliver him and his people; he trusted God would be faithful to that promise; and he faithfully lived toward that end.
What are the promises your students have their eyes fixed on? Are they promises of this world, or promises of their God? Where do they fix their eyes in trouble or sorrow? How do they find the strength to pray when their souls are weary?
God Works in the Ordinary
The truth is that our students’ faith will not be built in the Lion’s Den or Fiery Furnace – that’s where it will be tested. Instead, their faith will be built in the ordinary days, in the days when they come before the God, fix their eyes on His promises, and trust in his faithfulness alone. Knowing this, what if our focus was less on teaching our students to pray like Daniel in lions den and more on teaching them to pray like Daniel in upper chamber?
Our students need to be reminded that God has fulfilled, is fulfilling, and will fulfill his promises. He has promised deliverance, and he will hold true to that promise – just as he did with Daniel. Yet, it is not in Daniel’s story that we find hope, but Christ’s. Because it is in Christ that all the promises of God have already found their yes and amen in God (2 Corinthians 1:20).
God Gives Hope in Sorrow
In the same way a city — Jerusalem — represented Daniel’s promised deliverance, for those who are in Christ, a city — the New Jerusalem — represents our deliverance as well. Revelation 21-22 is the window our souls need. While it may be a hope deferred, it is a hope secure. As I have wept with my students through sorrow, I have been able to turn their eyes toward a place where their every tear will be wiped away. As I have mourned with students through loss brought by death, I have been able to pull the curtain back on a home where death will be no more.
As we shepherd and lead our students, may we too fix our eyes toward our promised land, the city of our God, and all the promises fulfilled within.