Our Pastors Blog

Luke 1:39-56 NIV

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me---holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

Introduction. A few weeks ago we looked at the strong tradition at the time of Jesus to bless or praise God for everything. I did this as a kind of  introduction to our journey of looking at some of the prayers of the New Testament. The first few songs of praise/ prayers of the New Testament all contain this element of blessing /praise and we can easily notice this theme in Elizabeth’s and Mary’s words. 

In the context and culture of his time one of the remarkable things about Luke is the high regard he has for women. It is Luke who at the start of his gospel places two humble women with no economic or social standing centre stage in the birth of God’s Messiah. Elizabeth was the wife of an obscure priest. Both she and Zachariah were country people, who lived in an unnamed village in the hill country of Judah. They bore the added social stigma of having no children. Mary, too, was a humble peasant girl. She did not have any social standing due to her parentage or class, nor even the dignity of Elizabeth’s and Zachariah’s age. Yet they continue to offer us a pattern of prayer and discipleship that has stood the test of time.

Mary’s prayer is rooted in her love and knowledge of the scripture. As you listen to her song/prayer of praise you realise just how well she new the psalms. Despite her background she new and loved the scriptures, this directly fed into her prayer life and living. As we said a few weeks ago even in the hardest of times it is still worth cultivating an attitude of praise. I think it is just as well that Mary did not know all the events that would unfold, sometimes when after much prayer we still do not know God’s will in a particular matter the only thing to do is to rest in the knowledge that when we pray it is on the basis of Christ’s work on our behalf, God does have it covered. Then the best thing to do is to praise God for what you do have or for that which he has made clear.  As Charles Spurgeon said "Praise is the honey of life which a devout heart extracts from every bloom of providence and grace." 

She expresses humility and thankfulness in equal measure. “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me---holy is his name”. Thechurches view of Mary has been many and varied over the centuries, yet reading these words we are in no doubt that Mary did not think she had been chosen because she was better or holier than anyone else but rather that it is God’s sovereign choice and as a consequence she offers her praise and thanksgiving for have been chosen in this way. Equally our prayer lives must have something of this sense of humility about them balanced with thanksgiving and praise for all that God has done for us in Christ.

Notice her prayer contains a strong sense of justice.“His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty”.

Mary understood the great themes of the Old Testament, such as God’s mercy and compassion, God’s concern for the poor and the helpless. These were the themes of the Old Testament prophets. They were unlikely to be the themes of the scribes and Pharisees at the time of Jesus birth. Listening to Mary’s prayer it is clear it is rooted in her own experience and often that is all God asks of us, to pray as we are, however we feel, to bring the real things of our world before him. All to easily we can make prayer into something of the other, separate from our daily tasks, something which other people do. Mary’s prayer comes from who she is and how she feels.

Mary’s prayer sees the bigger picture.“He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

Mary clearly has a sense of the bigger picture, in doing so she sees the connection to Israel’s past and the fulfillment of God’s promises. Her prayer will literally becomes her action, she will have to hold on to the bigger picture when confronted with the events of Jesus birth, the blessing in the temple, the excitement then opposition to her son’s ministry, she would live it out whilst standing at the foot of the cross, and amidst the confusion and joy of the resurrection.

We too must hold on to the sense of the bigger picture in our own prayer lives. Praying not just for ourselves or our own church, but for our world, our nation, God’s Kingdom in action throughout this world. We too must keep praying whether it feels like we are standing at the foot of the cross or living in the joy of Christ’s resurrection or somewhere in between.

This week why not find time to read psalm 145, it begins;

I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. It ends with these words;

My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever. In between you will find many of the themes Mary expresses. Why not let this psalm lead your prayers this week.


First published on: 12th September 2020
Bookmark and Share