I often pray while I ride my stationary bike. Since I am not athletic in any sense of the word, I need all the help I can get. After praying, “Lord, help me get through the next 70 minutes without dying,” I usually proceed (in between huffs and puffs) towards my more serious prayers.
Recently during such a time, God brought to mind an old worship song I hadn’t heard in years. Even as I hummed the tune, I could remember only a few words… “More, More About Jesus.” Somehow, as so often happens, the song began to create in me a prayer. I began to ask God to make me more like Jesus.
“Lord, help me to be more like Jesus. Help me to think like Jesus. Help me to act like Jesus.”
(Well, that’s a little generic. I should probably be more specific)
“Lord, help me to have more patience.”
(Hmm, I definitely need that. But I probably shouldn’t pray for patience. You know what they say, pray for patience, and God will give you things to test yours.)
“Well, Lord, help me to forgive more easily.”
(I don’t think I need to forgive anyone right now, but that’s always a good one, right?)
“Yes, Lord, help me to be more forgiving.”
(What about when someone cuts you off in traffic or snags your primo parking spot at the grocery store? What about when you feel as if your son is being mistreated or made fun of by another kid? Hmm, maybe I should move on. What other attributes did Jesus have that I need to develop?)
“Lord, help me to recognize sin.”
(Sin is easy to recognize—in others. What about my own? That’s kind of a dangerous thing to pray…)
“Lord, help me to be bold in my testimony and witness to others.”
(Yea, that’s a good one. I can pray that. I should speak up more. Moving on…)
“Lord, help me to love others more.”
(Love is always good. OK, but what about those people that I don’t know or really care about? What about the immigrants I see at Aldi? What about the homeless who are always asking for money on the side of the street? What about people who hurt me? What about those who are simply unlovable? Do I really want to love them more? Do I really need to love them at all? I know God wants me to love them, but…)
“Lord, help me to be more self-sacrificing.”
(WHAT? Wait a minute! Self-sacrificing? This is taking things a little too far. I don’t know about that one. Sorry, Lord. I take that one back. I didn’t really mean to say that. I don’t think I really want that, even if it is like Jesus.)
The more I prayed, the more objections I heard myself making. One prayer to the Lord, one statement to myself about the prayer. When I came to “self-sacrificing,” I almost choked on the words. I almost sent myself over the handlebars. I seriously almost retracted my statement.
My reaction gave me cause for thought.
It’s true. I do want more of Jesus in my life. I do want to become more like Him. But when I begin to really dissect what that means, I find that I am not quite as willing as I might think. I mean loving more, forgiving more, self-sacrificing more?
The Bible makes it clear.
John 15:13, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Philippians 2:4, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”
Romans 12:1, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable. this is truly the way to worship him.”
And John 13:35, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
When I am honest, I have to admit, I don’t want to sacrifice any more of myself than absolutely necessary. As a mother, I am a servant. There is no question about that. I serve my husband, my children, our pets, daily. The question isn’t whether or not I serve, it’s whether I serve joyfully. And hence the dilemma. When it boils right down to it, I am just as selfish as the next guy or gal. And giving up my own interests for the sake of others–especially others that I don’t readily know or love–doesn’t come easily.
But it’s what I am called to do, and it’s something that I must do if I want to be more like Jesus. Like Paul said in Romans 7:18, “ I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t.” I am a creature full of contradictions. I say I want to be like Jesus, but then I say I don’t want to do the very things He did. That’s why I need the Holy Spirit to help me in my weakness (Romans 8:26) and guide me into truth (John 16:13). I cannot do it on my own.
I need the Holy Spirit to give me love for others, a love that goes beyond the typical “feel good” emotions, a love that extends beyond my front doorstep, into my community and even beyond, a love that loves the unlovable. I need the Holy Spirit to help me forgive those who hurt me or my family, intentionally and unintentionally, and to go beyond a superficial forgiveness into a conscious choice to let grudges and grievances go. I need the Holy Spirit to help me not only serve but to serve with joy, to help me willingly give more of myself every day to my family, my friends, my church, and my community, even strangers.
Somehow this terrifies me. If I continue to give more of myself away, will I not at some point disappear altogether? Am I not losing myself in the process of self-sacrifice? Yes, yes in a very real way, I am. But that’s the mystery of God’s formula for life. As we empty ourselves before Christ, He fills us up with Himself. There’s only so much space inside of me, and Jesus is a gentleman. He won’t force Himself into my life. So, if I want more of Jesus, I have to make room. And as Jesus pours Himself into me, I can be assured that my life in Christ will be “abundant” (John 10:10) and full of joy (Psalm 16:11) and so full that it will be like a jar pressed down, shaken and running over with good things (Luke 6:38). It is a mathematical equation that doesn’t make sense to the world. But in giving up myself, I am not losing anything; I am gaining so much more.
“So, Lord, help me to be more like Jesus.
Help me to think like Jesus. Help me to act like Jesus.
Help me to have more patience, even when it’s hard.
Help me to forgive more easily, even when it hurts.
Help me to recognize sin, especially in myself.
Help me to be bold in my testimony and witness to others, even when it’s uncomfortable.
Help me to love others more, even when I don’t feel like it.
Lord, help to be more self-sacrificing, even when I am sad or angry or tired or scared, even when I balk at the very prospect.
Help me to understand the great gift of yourself that you are offering in return and gladly make the exchange.”
More, more about Jesus, (Less, less about me)
(Help me die to myself daily) so more of His saving fullness I’ll see,
More, more about Jesus. (Less, less about me)
(Give me a heart like His so I’ll know)
More of His love who died for me.