And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:30-31, 34-35, 37-38
Mary was just a young teenage girl when she received the news that she would become pregnant with “the Son of the most high God.” Surely Mary thought this was impossible! Though she was engaged to Joseph, she had kept herself pure in anticipation of their upcoming nuptials. And yet, somehow, the Holy Spirit was going to ignite her womb with the very life of God’s Son.
I can only imagine how frightening these words were for Mary to hear. What would people think? What would Joseph think? No one would believe that an angel from heaven had actually spoken to her. Everyone would think that Joseph was the father of her baby. Joseph would likely assume she had been unfaithful to him. She could be stoned if she was found to be impure before marriage. All her plans for her future were unraveling. How could this be God’s “favor” upon her life?
In the midst of this tumult, Mary still believed that she was precious to God. The angel had reminded her not to be afraid of this unsettling news, saying, “…you have found favor with God.” Mary had a relationship with God. She knew Him. She believed in the scriptures about the promised Messiah. Therefore, she responded to Him in a prayer of astounding faith: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
In these simple words, Mary confessed her utter dependency upon God. She expressed her trust in His greater plan for her life. She was going to be the mother of the Messiah. And though she could hardly grasp how that would come to be, she trusted God’s design for her life and proclaimed her trust in His word.
Mary is a model for us in how to engage with the Lord in prayer.
What is prayer?
Prayer engages all three persons of the Trinity. It is an opportunity to commune with God the Father, through the personal invitation of God the Son, by the power of God the Holy Spirit. It’s a real-time dialog with the Living God of the universe who has invited us to speak to Him as “Abba Father” and listen to Him through His Word and through His Spirit. Prayer is simply “family conversation.”
Notice how Mary is honest in her response to the angel’s proclamation. She engages in dialog with the bearer of God’s good news. This is prayer. Mary then responds to God’s revelation in a beautiful prayer of submission: “…let it be to me according to your word.”
Through prayer, Mary has aligned her heart with the heart of God. She has asked questions, expressed concerns, and then entrusted herself to her Father’s will. This sparks great joy in her heart that erupts into a song of prayer and praise:
“And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.’”
Songs of prayer and praise bring our hearts into communion with God’s heart. When we lift our eyes upward from our earthly cares, we see the glory and majesty of God. This makes our spirits rejoice in God our Savior!
Praying with others is a wonderful way to prepare our hearts for the Advent season. As you gather with others this week in your family, community group, study group, etc., try following this traditional pattern of prayer:
Prayers of Praise
- Look to the scriptures to identify characteristics of God and speak words of praise for who He is.
- To listen to a song about Mary’s praise to God visit riverwest.org/marys-song.
Prayers of Confession
- Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and silently identify areas of sin. Confess to God your shortcomings and receive His mercy of forgiveness and peace.
Prayers of Thanksgiving:
- Think about all the ways you have seen God at work in the past week, month or year. Recount his faithfulness and thank Him for His many blessings in your life.
Prayers of Intercession
- Ask God for His provision in your life. Be bold in your requests for yourself and for others. No prayer is too grand or too small. Pray with faith that He hears you and your prayers matter to Him.
May we all join with Mary this Christmas in prayer and worship for our magnificent savior!