The other day I was reminded of a sixteenth century prayer, attributed to Ignatius of Loyola, an ancient cleric of that time. Some of us may remember hearing it long ago, but it is still used today by many Christians.
‘Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will. Amen.’
As I thought reflected on these words, I was challenged about the significance of this prayer for those who want their Christian faith and witness to be relevant in this century. Although this prayer has an application for those seeking to further the work of the Kingdom of God in practical ways, I believe it also has spiritual implications for us all to consider.
The Old Testament says that those who desire to follow the one true God, and worship Him, are His servants. Jesus endorses this during his confrontation with Satan. ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him’ (Luke 4:8). When we come to Jesus and acknowledge Him as Lord of our life, we are submitting to His authority over our lives and becoming His servants. This implies a willingness and readiness to obey and do His will.
Central to our willingness to serve should be a desire to give. First and foremost, we are to sacrificially give our time and effort to the Lord in our service to Him, and then secondly to give to those around us, sharing with them something of the material blessing with which we have been blessed. Paul in his letter to the Corinthian Church says, ‘Remember this; whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
As citizens of God’s Kingdom, and servants of the King, we are engaged in His army. We do not have a choice over this, as the moment we step out of the kingdom of darkness, the realm of Satan, and into the kingdom of light, we are involved in a spiritual battle.
Our enemy Satan wants to defeat us and win us back and will try hard to do so. Therefore, we need to take notice of Peter’s words, ‘Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings’ (1 Peter 5:8-9).
Paul encourages us to ‘Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses’ (1 Timothy 6:12), and ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’ (Romans 12 :21). Working in and for God’s kingdom, as followers of Jesus Christ, is non-negotiable. We are all expected to play our part. And so we should, when we consider all the Lord has done for us, enabling us to be partakers of His grace and mercy.
Paul encourages his readers to work hard and enthusiastically, ‘So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.’ (1 Corinthians 15:58), and says, ‘Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress’ (1 Timothy 4:15). And also the Lord Jesus said, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields”’ (Matthew 9:37-38).
I believe it is so important these days that we, as God’s people, take up the challenge in the Prayer of St Ignatius. Let’s pray for renewed strength to serve, give, fight and work with all our heart for Him.
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