Stories About Prayer - Anna Cruz
Hello everyone! My name is Anna and I’m a third grade teacher at Inter-American, a dual language school in CPS. A few months ago Vince and Kyle approached me and asked if I would be interested in taking on the role of Prayer Team Leader at BLV. This was not something on my radar at all. But I decided to pray about it and see if I felt that it was something God wanted me to do. As I prayed, I grew more and more excited and felt drawn to be more committed to prayer at BLV.
This morning I’m here to share some stories about prayer. I LOVE hearing stories, reading stories, and sharing stories, which works out well since it’s a pretty big part of my job description as a third grade teacher.
Before the school year ended, I asked my students if they thought it was important to tell stories. In unison, they all replied “YES!” I then asked why. One of my students was so passionate about stories that he got emotional as he shared why sharing stories is important.. This is a direct quote from him, “I think because when you tell stories to other people it shows them your likes, personality and most importantly it encourages other people to tell more stories about themselves so they share more things about themselves so then people know them better.” There’s something about the power of story that brings people together.
I’m really excited to be here sharing stories with you today. I firmly believe we all have important stories to share and that God can be glorified in our storytelling. I’m here today to share stories, stories from my life, the Bible, and from other folks here at BLV. Through these stories I am excited and encouraged about all that I see Jesus has done and wants to do in all our lives.
We are all at different places in our lives spiritually and in our relationships with Jesus. Some of you may not be sure of what you believe about Jesus or if you’ve experienced God in your lives. And that’s okay! I’m here with the desire to share some of my personal experiences with Jesus, to give space for others to share their experiences, and to give everyone space to reflect on their own lives.
Before I dive into the first story, I’d like to pause and pray. Feel free to pray with me in your heart, or use this time to find a moment of peace. God, thank you for the stories that will be shared today. Thank you for the richness in this room, for each person who is here today and the stories they bring. I ask that you would meet us in this time of sharing and listening to stories and in the time to reflect on our own lives. Open our hearts and minds to see you in each of these stories. In Jesus’ name, amen.
The first story for today comes from the Bible in Luke chapter 18, verses 35-43. Luke is one of the books in the Bible that tells the story of Jesus’ life, his teachings, and how he spent time with people. This particular story takes place as Jesus is traveling with his disciples, or closest friends, and teaching them about the Kingdom of God. Jesus, his disciples, and a large group are walking near the outskirts of the city of Jericho. It is very noisy and crowded as they pass through. This is a story about a blind beggar named Bartimaeus and his faith and boldness in approaching Jesus.
The story reads, “As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him.
When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.”
As things are translated from one language to another, some of the meaning can be lost in translation. In learning Spanish, I have come to know this as true time after time. Oh the mistakes I’ve made in trying to get my point across and also in trying to understand what people are saying. Two idiomatic phrases in Spanish that I needed people to explain to me are echale ganas and ponte las pilas. Echale ganas directly translates to insert desire. What it actually means is try your best. Ponte las pilas directly translates to put your batteries on. When it actually means work hard. Similarly in English there are so many idiomatic phrases and do not make sense directly translated such as “piece of cake”.
In addition to idiomatic phrases, there are also words that have multiple meanings so translating gets really complicated. Here are 5 translation fails where they did not choose the right word.
#1 Pantalones de Fuerte Azul (I think they were trying to say blue jeans, but they said strong blue. Jeans could be pantalones de mezclilla)
#2 Please of your rubber in the trash can can you (goma means rubber, eraser, or glue...but not gum. That’s chicle)
#3 Download hangers, meaning to say lower the curtains
#4 Exit in Spanish=Salida, Exito in Spanish=Success
#5 busca empleo=look for a job
So...translating can be difficult and when something is translated, even if done well, some meaning is lost. Let’s go back to the story of Bartimaeus and unpack some of the words to better understand the story. Remember in the story, Bartimaeus called out to Jesus and the crowd rebuked him and told him to be quiet.
The exact meaning of the word translated to “called out” in Greek means to use one’s voice at high volume. And the words translated to “shouted” and “rebuked” are in the imperfect tense which shows this was a continued action in the past, not just a one time thing.
Knowing this helps me visualize the crowded, noisy street with Bartimaeus shouting continuously and loudly to get Jesus’ attention. **He really wanted to get Jesus’ attention. And the crowd continuously told him to be quiet and not bother Jesus.
Now, when Jesus called for Bartimaeus to be brought to him, He already knew what Bartimaeus wanted. But rather than just heal him in the moment, Jesus ASKED, “What do you want me to do for you?”
As I read the story over and over, it strongly stood out to me that Jesus asked Bartimaeus what he wanted from Him. I wonder if it’s really important to Jesus that we come to Him with what we want. I wonder if that is the power in prayer. Jesus wants us to come to Him with faith in prayer. Why might that be the case with Jesus? I wonder what you think? I think that going to Jesus with what we want and need acknowledges two things. One that we have needs that we can’t give ourselves. And two, that Jesus does have what we need.
As I was praying and thinking of what story to share about prayer today, I planned to shy away from the stories of Jesus healing people. Not because I don’t believe in healing, but because it is such a big topic. Some of my friends have many experiences of praying for healing and seeing miraculous things happen. I have also prayed for healing for people and didn’t necessarily see anything happen.. So this made me a little nervous to share about healing.
However, this story kept jumping out at me and sticking with me as I read the many stories of Jesus praying for people in the Bible. This story is so compelling to me for three reasons. One reason is that Bartimaeus so boldly and with great faith, approached Jesus to heal him. He was an outcast in society and had so many people trying to quiet him. He didn’t let that stop him and he continued shouting for Jesus. He believed Jesus could do great things for Him.
The second reason is the powerful question that Jesus asked. Jesus said to Bartimaeus, “What do you want from me?” Just like He asked Bartimaeus, I believe that Jesus is asking us today, “What do you want from me?” That is so humbling and beautiful to me. The Son of God is asking us what we want from Him.
This question humbled me deeply in my first two years of teaching. As a graduate from Loyola, I felt so passionate about becoming a teacher that helped her students grow academically and a teacher that encouraged all students to see the huge value in their lives and to have big dreams. To me, teaching is my vocation. After all my studying and student teaching, II was SO excited to get a job at my dream school with my amazing third grade colleagues. I started my teaching career with my heart full of passion and excitement to soon be faced with two of the most challenging years of my life. In the first two years, I struggled deeply with juggling all the responsibilities as a teacher, learning to manage a class, working in a district that lacks funding for social and emotional support for students and at times special education, and with a personal identity crisis of struggling with not measuring up to the teacher I so desired to be. It was a dark dark time. But throughout those years, I felt Jesus asking me that question, “What do you want from me, Anna?” It was so humbling that Jesus continued to ask me that question, in the midst of a time where I was struggling so deeply, a time where I felt that I did not measure up, a time where I desired for change.
Over and over, I asked Jesus for patience, for strength, and for Jesus to help me grow to become the teacher He wanted me to be. I couldn’t always see it in the moment, but Jesus answered those prayers and continues to answer those prayers! Jesus surrounded me with family, friends, and coworkers who encouraged me, listened to me, and believed in me when I didn’t have the strength to believe in myself. This past June, I finished my fourth year of teaching and I can proudly say that Jesus has grown me and is continuing to grow me into the teacher he wants me to be. I could see in very tangible ways how many prayers were answered. My third and fourth years teaching went so well. My students and I created such a strong and caring community where we enjoyed learning and growing together so much throughout the year. I am even more passionate to help students see the immense value in themselves, help them grow, and encourage them to have big dreams for their lives. Jesus met my needs when I had no chance of meeting them by myself.
I encourage you to consider the question that I believe Jesus is asking us, “What do you want from me?” I have so many stories of answered prayers that give me faith that Jesus so lovingly wants to give us what we need.
The third reason that this story is compelling to me is the ending. It says, “When all the people saw it, they also praised God. These are the same people that were initially dismissing Bartimaeus and they are now praising God for what He did. This group of people could have chosen to let their hearts continue to be hardened towards Bartimaeus. But instead, they allowed God to soften their hearts and celebrate the amazing work Jesus did. This stirs me to want to share the stories of God at work in my life and to encourage other people to share theirs. Seeing God at work in others’ lives confronts my cynicism, increases my faith and gives me yet another reason to praise God for all the amazing things He has done and is doing in the world today.
I want to lead us in a time of Engaging with Jesus and letting Him ask each of us, “What do you want from me?”
While you begin to think about your answer to that question, I am going to invite up Allison, who is one of the people on our prayer team here, and also a CPS teacher, to share a personal story of Jesus meeting her. Let’s all give a round of applause for Allison.
I feel so encouraged by Allisons story and the way Jesus met her in her life.
As I am encouraging you all to consider telling Jesus what you want or need from Him, I want to acknowledge how hard this can be. In asking Jesus for what we want or need, we are taking a risk of being disappointed. We are risking our prayer not being answered. I personally have prayed many times and have felt that my prayers haven’t been answered. Perhaps they were answered but in a way I didn’t recognize. As I have prayed and haven’t felt answered I reread God’s promise that “He causes everything to work together for the good for those who love Him” (Romans 8:28). This encourages me to take the risk and ask Jesus for what I want.
Also, if you are here today and are not sure of what you believe about Jesus or where you are at in your relationship with Him, that is okay! Part of the beauty of the Brown line community is that we are all coming from different backgrounds and it is okay to be right where you are. If you’re not sure what you believe but are intrigued by what this story is revealing about Jesus, I encourage you to take a risk and try praying to Jesus. Try telling Him what you want or need. I personally believe that He is lovingly waiting for you to talk to Him and He has so much good for your life. If you’re here today and feel like it’s been a long time since you’ve talked to Jesus or shared what you want or need, I think today is a GREAT day to come back to Jesus. He loves you so perfectly and wants great things for you. And if you’re here today and are going through a really difficult time, where praying for what you really want or need sounds daunting, scary, or too vulnerable, I want to encourage you to pray anyways. I believe there is nothing too big, too dark, or even too small to bring to Jesus.
As we come to a close today, I have three practical suggestions that come directly from the story of Jesus healing Bartimaeus. 1) Boldly and with faith, approach Jesus. Or, if you are not feeling particularly full of faith, remember that we do not need a lot of faith. Just a mustard seeds amount of faith. Going to get prayer shows faith. I really encourage you, if you are feeling at all connected with Jesus today, or want to give it a try and see if Jesus has anything to offer you today, go get prayer from someone on our prayer team today (we’ll explain how you can do that in a minute). We would love to pray with you. Even just walking back there to get prayer shows faith, and I believe Jesus will honor your faith.
2) Engage with Jesus and let him ask you, “What do you want from me?” I believe that Jesus is waiting for us to talk to Him, to share our needs with Him. If Jesus can heal Bartimaeus’ blindness, Jesus can meet you in your anxiety. Jesus can meet you in your loneliness. Jesus can meet you in your addiction. Jesus can meet you in your pain. Jesus can meet you in your confusion. Now, even pondering this question is a vulnerable thing. It may be daunting or overwhelming. If that’s you, consider pondering that question in community. We have many opportunities to connect you with community at BLV. Join a prayer group! Or if you’re a woman, come to our IF Gathering the weekend of August 18. We will be gathering in community to connect with one another and ponder this question that Jesus asks, “What do you want from me?” We’ll be handing out invitations with more information at the end of service.
3) My third suggestion comes from the ending of Bartimaeus’ story. Praise God when you see Him at work in other people’s lives and on the flip side, share your stories of God at work in your life. At BLV, we want to share our stories of how God is working in our lives. God is doing so much and wants to do so much more than we could ever imagine. God has good plans for each of our lives and for the BLV community, like it says in Jeremiah 29:11, “Plans to prosper us and not to harm us. Plans to give us hope and a future.” If you have a story to share, write it on one of our connect cards later in the service, or email Vince or Kyle. We would love to have more people up here sharing stories of God at work in their lives.
NOTE: in terms of logistics, at this point, Kyle will come up and explain to everyone how prayer and worship will work, but you stay up there with him. He’ll ask you to pray for us then.