The moment Jesus announced the Beatitudes in “the Sermon on the Mount” and began to live by them in a public manner, he was launched on a course that would inevitably lead him to Good Friday.
The Beatitudes themselves are found at Calvary. All eight of them are on full display. Here’s a famous painting of the crucifixion that Andrea Mantegna painted in 1459. It hangs in the Louvre in Paris. Just look at it for a moment.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
In this scene, where do we find the poor in spirit receiving the kingdom of heaven? The thief on the cross – who at first joins in the taunts of those who are mocking Jesus, but later thinks better of it, repents, and scolds his compatriot who is being crucified with him and says, “We are receiving what we deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong.” And then he turns to Jesus and says, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Every so often when I am sitting in prayerful contemplation, an image captures my attention. Sometimes it is an actual object that I am physically looking at, like a cross on my desk or a bird in the sky or a tree branch blowing in the wind. Other times it is something I see in my mind’s eye.
And usually, as I reflect upon whatever it is, I can sense and receive what I understand to be thoughts, insights, and experiences from God himself.
Writing a book was never really a goal of mine. Vocationally, I have always self-identified as preacher first, content to read what other people have written.
But three years into pastoring my church in South Louisiana, I experienced a dynamic shift in my prayer life. I discovered an approach to prayer that was a bit foreign to me, but once I experienced it I couldn’t get enough. This shift in prayer set me on a course that began to slowly transform my marriage, my parenting, and my approach to life and ministry.
Not long after, I decided to begin teaching the people in my church what I was discovering about prayer. Every couple months or so, I began hosting “prayer workshops” in my living room. I would take 8-12 people at a time and teach about prayer for three hours on a Saturday morning.