Can you imagine what it was like for Mary, an adolescent engaged to Joseph, to be greeted by the angel Gabriel? And then, to be told she would conceive a child who would be the Son of God?
She had to be stunned, in shock. I’m surprised she was even able to ask Gabriel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
Gabriel replied that this would be a miraculous conception. “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
My heart has cherished this verse, its hope-filled ballast anchoring my soul through more turbulent times than my memory allows. But what is even more wondrous to me is that God repeated this promise in the Bible eight times.*
As I’ve crafted each of these six blog posts on prayer I’ve looked back to Easter as our anchor point. The Resurrection is the event, the pivot point of all history. It is the moment that changed the trajectory of life forever. It is the ultimate proof that “Nothing is too hard for God” (Jeremiah 32:17). And because of Easter we can have hope in our lives and in our prayers.
This is the truth expressed in a prayer from a favorite book of mine: The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers:
O Great God,
Nothing exceeds Thy power,
Nothing is too great for Thee to do,
Nothing too Good for Thee to give,
Nothing is impossible with Thee,
Nothing spoken by Thee is untrue.
Thou changest not,
Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been Thou forever will be.
May my heart cling to all that is true of Thee.
Just as the disciples curled up in despair after the crucifixion and felt all hope was lost, so I have felt a similar despair when my marriage, my children or a circumstance has felt impossible —like a ship stalled eerily in the windless doldrums.
But like the tiny twinkle of a star breaking through the dense cloud bank, the truth of “Nothing is impossible with God” beckons me back to hope in my eternal Father. Buoyed by the strength of this promise, I have chosen over and over not to quit no matter how difficult, no matter how many mistakes I make (and there have been too many), no matter how hopeless my relationships feel.
This promise from Scripture also had a huge impact on my prayers.
If God can raise a dead man from the grave after three days with Jesus (and after four days with Lazarus) then truly nothing is impossible for God. The Resurrection proves this to us and God wants us to remember Easter and count on the power of God in our lives and circumstances.
In my prayers I’ve realized, as a result, that I should pray for God to accomplish the things that seem impossible. Rather than holding back on what seems too hard from my vantage point He invites me to boldly ask!
In a sermon one Sunday morning almost a decade ago, I heard this stanza from an old hymn by John Newton quoted by the pastor. You may recognize Newton as author of the famous hymn “Amazing Grace,” but these words come from another hymn of his titled, “Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare”:
Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring,
for His grace and power
are such none could ever ask too much.
These words also captured my attention … God was calling me to see Him in a fresh way. He was showing me I could bring large petitions to Him because He is King! I did not need to fear it was too much for Him. He delights to hear me ask by faith. Nor did I need to fear He wouldn’t answer. He hears and He does what is best for me. He is always working His will which is always good.
Remember God is our Father and just as our children asked for big things whether we could give them or not, so He wants a relationship with me where we talk together and I ask Him anything. Sometimes those requests are desires He’s put on my heart, so to ignore them out of some fear is not an expression of faith.
I realized that I had moved into safe mode in my prayers, asking God mostly for what wasn’t too difficult for Him to do. How crazy is that that I felt I needed to help God? My fear of failure was controlling my expectations of what God might not do if I asked.
Challenged in my heart by these words I began to ask God, “What large petitions would You want me to bring before Your throne?” I immediately thought of two requests.
One was that God would provide for my youngest daughter, who wanted to find a husband. I asked knowing His will for her could have been remaining single. That request was granted in 2016.
Another large petition continues to be an oft-repeated prayer for God’s favor in changing the way Christians worldwide celebrate Easter, which I think should be called Resurrection Sunday. I’m increasingly disappointed that western culture has influenced those of us who claim the name of Christ to make our Easter decorations about rabbits and chicks and candy instead of the cross and the Lamb of God. I’ve been asking God ever since for ideas and creativity, and for Him to move far beyond my efforts in raising awareness of this robbery of our greatest celebration by the culture around us.
My request hasn’t been answered in full as I’ve imagined it, but it is God’s to do as He pleases according to His will and purposes. I continue to come before the throne of the King of Kings, knowing He has bid me come, that He is at work answering these large petitions in ways I cannot see and in ways I can appreciate only in part with my limited sight.
Newton’s words, “For His grace and power are such, none can ever ask too much,” continue to remind me that God can do what seems impossible to me in my limited faith.
What large petitions would you bring before Him? Boldly ask Him, even if you have to wait. But boldly ask and then watch for Him; watch for evidence of Him working, even if it’s not dramatic and miraculous!
And let’s share with one another the wonders of God’s works. He has commanded us to proclaim them for the praise of His glory, not for our own. What someone else thinks is not our problem or concern. It is God we must please, not people.
I pray you will join me in bold prayers that we may all share in the joy of watching God at work! What a privilege!
May God grant us surpassing trust today that “Nothing is too difficult for Thee.”
*The eight repetitions of this truth are found in Genesis 18:14, Jeremiah 32:17, Jeremiah 32:27, Zachariah 8:16, Matthew 19:26, Mark 10:27, Luke 1:37, and Luke 18:27.
To help you talk to God, we encourage you to print the beautifully designed prayer in this blog post. Click here to download.
This is the fifth post in a six post series on prayer. I have loved reading old prayers since the days of my mothering when I discovered the prayers of saints like Susanna Wesley. Each blog post features an old prayer from someone now in the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1). We have much to learn from these saints of old; though some words are not in vogue today they help us see God in ways we don’t in our modern world. I hope you enjoy this series!
If you missed the other posts on prayer, here they are:
Prayer from above watermark image: Arthur Bennett, ed., The Valley of Vision (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975).