I imagine John the Baptist had curried quite a following by the time his disciples came to him with a report that a man named Jesus was recruiting his own significant following.
They were concerned that Jesus’ ministry would render John’s obsolete.
John’s response? “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)
Most every morning I pause and ask the Spirit to form a prayer in me that will serve as a focus throughout the day. I call it a “simple prayer.”
I’ve discovered that simple prayers are not always easy prayers.
Today’s prayer is no exception. It is an adaptation of John’s words above: “Lord Jesus, let there be less of me so others can know more of you.”
I’m writing now to confess something: I didn’t want that to be my prayer today. When it popped into my head, I resisted it.
I began to rationalize the prayer. The power of twisted logic is that it usually contains a grain of truth. So, here was my thought-process:
Premise 1: We meet Jesus today through seeing his presence and work in flesh-and-blood people.
Premise 2: Faith in Jesus helps one become more one’s true self, not less.
Conclusion 1: If others are to know more of Jesus, they will see more of me, not less.
Conclusion 2: I should not pray ‘let there be less of me.’
I suppose it shouldn’t shock me, but I must say: I am stunned how quickly I form arguments to justify such brazen self-centeredness.
Thankfully, almost as quickly as I had formed the argument, I became aware of the game I was playing. And I knew that God, in his gracious gentleness, would not browbeat me into relinquishing pride. God is love and love never demands love in return. That can only be given willingly.
So, God waited silently; he made no counter-argument. There was no reply—other than the winsome invitation of his simple presence.
It’s a prayer of faith, after all. Yes, God is good and he is not out to obliterate our dignity. If the prayer he forms in us seems to tend that direction, it is because of our misinterpretation, not his meaning.
It’s a prayer made in faith. If it seems counter to logic that is because faith is God’s logic, not ours. To God, it makes perfect sense. To us, it feels a bit crazy. But, if we sit with it long enough, we discover it is a good kind of crazy.
When God gives a prayer it comes from the right kind of crazy called love.
That’s why letting God’s prayer form in us takes faith; it feels risky.
You have to trust God won’t leave you stranded, beaten down and humiliated.
I’m glad Jesus taught in parables. He told several about seeds.
In front of my house is a tree. At one point, that tree was just a seed. It would not have become a tree had the seed remained.
When I tell Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed to children I point to the tree that grew from the seed and ask the children a silly question: “I wonder what happened to the seed after it grew into a tree? I wonder where it is?”
The children, no matter what age, look at me like: “Duh!”
So, we wonder some more: “I wonder if we could take this plant and put it all back into the seed again?”
They smile and laugh.
The seed does not feel threatened. It is happy to disappear. There will be more beauty that way.
“Lord Jesus, let there be less of me so others can know more of you.”