Prayers

Advent prayer guide: Living a life of influence

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The Advent season is a unique time to prepare your heart for the Savior’s coming and to reflect on your faith journey. Through this guide, learn from the faith of the women in the story of Jesus’ birth — and how they were called by God to live for Him, right where He’d placed them.

Week 1: A life of faith

READ: Luke 1:5-45, 57-65

REFLECT
Elizabeth was a “descendant of Aaron.” (Read about God’s consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests in Exodus 28 and 29.) That means she had the right genealogy to be the mother of the prophet who would introduce the Messiah. But in this passage we see that not only is her heritage right, her faith is right. She and her husband, Zechariah, are described in verse 6 as “righteous in the sight of God.”

In words that echo God’s promise of a son to Abraham (see Genesis 18:1-15), God tells Zechariah that he and his wife would have a child in their old age. But unlike Abraham, Zechariah allows doubts and fears to sidetrack his trust in God’s promises. So the angel places him on a hiatus from speaking for nine months. It became a time for refining his faith.

Elizabeth’s faith, on the other hand, is trusting and humble. No giants are slain. No seas are parted. Even though she hears the angel’s prophecy secondhand through her now-mute husband, she accepts that her elderly body can bear a child — and then ushers a miracle into the world.

Once their son is born, Elizabeth proclaims to a crowd of neighbors and relatives that his name is John, the name given to them by the angel. When Zechariah confirms the name in writing, his voice is restored, and he begins praising God along with Elizabeth.

In what area of your life might God be calling you to trust more deeply in His Word, like He did with Zechariah and Elizabeth?

PRAY

Almighty God, as Advent begins, give me Elizabeth’s faith and strong belief even when I’m faced with things that don’t make sense to me. Like her, help me cultivate a growing trust in You and the reliability of Your promises. Amen.

Week 2: A life of humility

READ: Luke 1:26-56

REFLECT
Mary, Elizabeth’s cousin in Nazareth, was similarly shocked by a revelation from the angel Gabriel — not because she was too old, but because she was unmarried. Her simple reply to Gabriel’s explanation about how her child will be conceived gives us a key to her faith: “I am the Lord’s servant.” Here’s a person who is willing to do as God asks, and, unlike Zechariah, her questions reveal amazement, not doubt.

We know that Mary had bright prospects in her marriage to Joseph, a descendant of David, Israel’s legendary poet-king. Yet she’s willing to become the mother of Jesus, despite the devastating implications of carrying a child before marriage. She surrenders her heart and her future to God, trusting His plan for her.

In the song, she sings when Elizabeth visits her, Mary identifies with the humble, those who are poor and hungry. She isn’t among her nation’s ruling class or someone the religious elite would consider qualified to bring the long-awaited Messiah into the world. By choosing Mary, God shows us how humility makes us prime candidates for His eternal work. (See Philippians 2:1-11 for Jesus’ example.)

Where might God be calling you to lay down your plans or ambitions to serve His kingdom?

PRAY

Lord Most High, like Mary, I want to be Your servant. Teach me how to better follow Your leading and do what You ask of me, letting humility guide my footsteps as I follow You. Amen.

Week 3: A life of mourning

READ: Matthew 2:13-18

REFLECT
“Rachel weeping for her children” isn’t a picture we like to think about at Christmas — or any other time. It’s too heartbreaking.

Herod plans to rid himself of a political threat by slaughtering the innocent children of Bethlehem. Since Rachel’s tomb is located there (see Genesis 35:16-20), Jeremiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in these mothers mourning the butchering of their babies by a malicious king.

Like the bereft mothers in Bethlehem, many in our own day mourn babes swallowed by greed and political gain, those lost to evils like war, hunger, preventable disease, and trafficking. But God can do powerful things with our individual and collective grief over these injustices — showing us ways to care for the hurting and support the marginalized.

When you’re confronted with large-scale injustice, what solution do you look to and why? How can you invite God into places of suffering, whether your own experiences or the injustices faced by the most vulnerable?

PRAY

God of Israel, I mourn with You over lost lives and wasted potential because of the evil in this world against our children. Help me answer Your call to do what I can, large or small, to alleviate their suffering and make Your love and care known to the most vulnerable. Amen.

Week 4: A life of devotion

READ: Luke 2:22-38

REFLECT
Anna was likely married around age 15, but her husband died just seven years later. Some scholars think she was over 100 when she greeted the Holy Family at the temple, where they had come to present Jesus to the Lord in keeping with Jewish law.

What did Anna do during those lengthy years of widowhood? Scripture says this prophet spent her life in Jerusalem to be near the temple, where she “worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” She chose to let her tragedy be shaped by God’s love as she sought to know Him more every day.

In this reading, Anna becomes an evangelist, giving thanks to God and proclaiming Jerusalem’s redemption through the Christ child. She had spent enough time with God to know His voice and recognize His face in the infant Jesus.

How can you give difficulties or disappointments to God and allow Him to shape you into someone who knows His voice?

PRAY

Lord, Thank You for the example of Anna and her decades of devotion to You. Help me to follow in her footsteps of faith, making prayer and worship ingrained in me so I can hear Your voice and tell others of Your gracious love and salvation. Amen.


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