From Praying the Names of Jesus Week One, Day Two

The Name
The name "Immanuel" appears twice in the Hebrew Scriptures and once in the New Testament. One of the most comforting of all the names and titles of Jesus, it is literally translated "with us is God" or, as Matthew's Gospel puts it, "God with us." When our sins made it impossible for us to come to him, God took the outrageous step of coming to us, of making himself susceptible to sorrow, familiar with temptation, and vulnerable to sin's disruptive power, in order to cancel its claim. In Jesus we see how extreme God's love is. Remember this the next time you feel discouraged, abandoned, or too timid to undertake some new endeavor. For Jesus is still Immanuel — he is still "God with us."

Key Scripture
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" — which means, "God with us." Matthew 1:22 - 23


 Praying the Name

"Go away, Lord; I am a sinful man!" Luke 5:8

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139:7 - 10

Reflect On: Psalm 139:7 - 10.

Praise God: For his promise to be with you.

Offer Thanks: For God's persistence in pursuing you.

Confess: Any pattern of sin in your life.

Ask God: To increase your confidence in his desire to be with you.

One of the greatest of all the promises in the Bible is this: I am with you. Jesus said it to his disciples (and to us) at the end of Matthew's Gospel: "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." If the Lord is with us, what do we have to fear? What do we lack? How can we lose? The same Lord who walked on water, healed the sick, and rose from the dead is saving us, watching over us, guiding our steps. Knowing this, why don't we dance in the streets and throw more parties? Why do we sometimes act as though God is not only not with us but that he is nowhere in the vicinity?

There may be many reasons why we feel God's absence in our lives. One of these is surely that our "spiritual sensors" often don't work very well. We are like malfunctioning radar that can't spot a supersonic jet flying straight overhead. But another common reason is that we are the ones who go AWOL, not God.

Consider Peter. One day Jesus climbed into Peter's boat, telling him to row out into the lake and cast his nets out despite the fact that Peter had been up all night fishing with nothing to show for it. But this time when Peter threw out the nets, he caught so many fish that his boat began to sink. Instead of jumping with joy, Peter fell down and implored Jesus to leave him, saying, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"

There's something right about Peter's response. Jesus is holy and sin is his implacable enemy. Still the Lord didn't leave Peter. Instead he stayed and transformed his life. And that's what Jesus wants to do with our lives. We make a mistake when we let our sin drag us down and away from the One who has promised to be with us. Instead of running to him, we let a cloud settle over us. Finding it hard to pray, we move farther away. In a thousand different ways, we say, "Depart from me, O Lord!"

At times like this we need to recall the words of Psalm 139:11 - 12:

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

If you are troubled by some persistent failing, by some entrenched sin, don't run away from Jesus. Instead express your sorrow and ask for his forgiveness — and then receive it. After that try praying this famous fourth-century prayer known as St. Patrick's Breastplate:

Christ be beside me, Christ be before me,
Christ be behind me, King of my heart;
Christ be within me, Christ be below me,
Christ be above me, never to part.
Christ on my right hand, Christ on my left hand,
Christ all around me, shield in the strife;
Christ in my sleeping, Christ in my sitting,
Christ in my rising, light of my life.
Christ be beside me, Christ be before me,
Christ be behind me, King of my heart;
Christ be within me, Christ be below me,
Christ be above me, never to part.

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Meet your spiritual ancestors as they really were: Less Than Perfect: Broken Men and Women of the Bible and What We Can Learn from Them.