The Invitation Stands

John 15: 15–“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

The Lord has brought up the theme of friendship with Him at two turning points in my life. The first time was when my grandmother died in 1976. The second time was in Belgium last year. I was still reeling from the cancer diagnosis and from whirlwind surgery when the worship leaders at the Antwerp Vineyard decided to sing John Mark McMillan’s “Future/Past” every Sunday for a month.

Every Sunday for a month, which is to say, I couldn’t get away from it, even though I wanted to. I really couldn’t tell you why I wanted to get away from it, only that I felt so overwhelmed, like please don’t ask me to one more thing. Didn’t matter how I felt. They just kept on singing the song. The pre-chorus goes like this:
“All treasures of wisdom and things to be known
Are hidden inside Your hand
And in this fortunate turn of events
You ask me to be your friend
You ask me to be your friend.”

Jesus chased me for a month with this: “In the midst of everything that’s happening to you, be My friend.” I finally went so far as to at least start thinking about it. Ok. What would it mean to be His friend? I started thinking about how often Jesus encourages those listening to Him to talk to Him:
“Ask and it will be given to you…” (Matthew 7: 7).
“Pray in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven…’” (Matthew 6: 9).
“If you ask the Father for anything in My name He will give it to you…(John 16: 23).
And I thought about how Peter and Paul echo that:
“Casting all your cares on Him, for He cares for you…” (1 Peter 5:7).
“Be anxious for nothing, but…let your requests be made known…” (Philippians 4:6)

Clearly, talking to Him was one of the keys to being His friend. Pretty obvious. Friends are people we confide in. We don’t keep anything important from them because we trust them. We tell them everything. It struck me that during the last supper Jesus told the twelve that He had done that with them. He had told them everything. “All that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you,” He said. He had told them everything, like friends do.

That phrase started sticking in my mind: “Tell Him everything.” I went to my go-to guide to prayer, Richard J. Foster’s book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, and read the first chapter, called “Simple Prayer.” Here’s Foster’s definition of simple prayer:

In Simple Prayer we bring ourselves before God just as we are, warts and all. Like children before a loving father, we open our hearts and make our requests. We do not try to sort things out, the good from the bad. We simply and unpretentiously share our concerns and make our petitions. We tell God, for example, how frustrated we are with the co-worker at the office or the neighbor down the street. We ask for food, favorable weather, and good health. In a very real sense we are the focus of Simple Prayer. Our needs, our wants, our concerns dominate our prayer experience…. Simple Prayer involves ordinary people bringing ordinary concerns to a loving and compassionate Father. (Foster, Richard J., 2009-10-13. Prayer – 10th Anniversary Edition: Finding the Heart’s True Home, pp. 9-10. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.)

The Holy Spirit kept insisting, and somewhere in the middle of chemo, I finally broke down and put Foster’s advice into practice. I started sitting down, Kleenex and a notebook at hand, and started pouring my heart out to my Father. It didn’t matter if I was often barely coherent. (Incoherence is to no barrier to God’s understanding. There aren’t any barriers at all for Him, actually.) And the wonderful news is that it worked. Telling Him everything does result in friendship, because He responds. Because it leads to dialog. Dialog with God.

It’s still the hardest thing in the entire world for me to do on any given day, because it’s the key, and all kinds of enemies, including my own pride, don’t want me to turn that key. Nevertheless, I do. And on any given day, telling the Father everything is also the most wonderful, most blessed, most fruitful activity in the whole world. “Pour out your heart before Him,” David says (Psalm 62). It leads to friendship.

“All treasures of wisdom and things to be known
Are hidden inside Your hand
And in the fortunate turn of events
You ask me to be your friend
You ask me to be your friend”

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