Now may the God of peace who by the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus, equip you with every good thing to do his will, working in us what is pleasing before him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever. Amen.– Hebrews 13:20-21
Have you ever had a chat with a Christian friend who is struggling? Or received a message asking for prayer? Sometimes it can be difficult to know what to pray, especially if you don’t know much detail. Or maybe you’ve been having a tough time and are struggling with prayer. At times like these I find prayers in the Bible, such as this one in Hebrews 13, really helpful. We can pray these same words, and use them to direct our prayers.
This prayer begins by describing God as the God of peace. This peace means so much more than a lack of conflict, there is a wholeness to God’s peace. This reminds us of Paul’s prayer in Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” When life is difficult it is good to remember God’s character – He is the God of peace, and Jesus is the promised Prince of Peace from Isaiah 9:6. This can make us think of other aspects of God’s character we can also be thankful for.
God has brought true peace to us from our ultimate problem of sin, which wars against whose image we are created in, through the substitution of our death with Christ’s. Under the old covenant various blemish-free animals were sacrificed. “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). But these many sacrifices were only a shadow of what was to come, they pointed forward to the sacrifice made for us all on the cross. The eternal covenant was paid for by God through Christ’s blood sacrificed for us. There’s a popular old hymn in Northern Ireland which asks in the chorus –
“Are you washed in the blood,
In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?
The writer of Hebrews also gives us this image of the Shephard taking the sheep’s place! Reminding us of Jesus’s words, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). We can therefore confess our sins to our compassionate God. We come confidently into His presence by the blood of Jesus, and pray with hearts bursting with thankfulness that “the blood of Jesus…cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
As we know well, God raised Jesus to life again. This demonstrates God’s power and defeat of the consequence of our sin – death. Jesus’s death and resurrection is central to our faith. Without Jesus’s resurrection our faith is futile, empty, and useless as we are still in our sins and we are to be pitied more than anyone – according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. For a seemingly easier life, we can be tempted to go along with the idea that there are many paths or roads to God. The book of Hebrews unapologetically states Jesus is the only way, for He is the only one who has painfully paid the debt we owe! In response we praise God that Jesus has fully paid our debt and our lives are transformed as we seek to bear fruit, making Him known to the world around us.
I love how this passage says we will be equipped for the role God has planned and created us for. What a great assurance. I know I’ve felt overwhelmed and unsure if I am able to do what God is calling me to, but then I remember His faithfulness! When we focus on God, remembering He knows all that we need and will supply it, we can confidently move forward in faith. We pray for an increased willingness to be used by God and for His plans and purposes to become ours.
These verses also talk of God working through us what is pleasing. The sacrifices in the Old Testament were described as having a pleasing aroma to the Lord (for example Numbers 15). Our lives are to be pleasing living sacrifices – “I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).
We can be confident God will equip us for the opportunities and experiences we face, to bring Him glory. Even through our hardships God’s plans are not thwarted – to Him be the glory forever.
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