I’m a pastor and a chaplain. For over four decades, I’ve been praying for people. I’ve prayed for people when they are distraught, angry, hurt, sick or struggling. I’ve prayed with people who are grateful, happy and rejoicing about their circumstances.
My most favorite prayer is this one.
24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” – Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV)
First the context. It is sometimes called the “priestly blessing” or the “Aaronic blessing.” God instructed Moses to tell his brother, Aaron and his sons who were priests, “This the way you shall bless the children of Israel.” To this very day, this prayer is still prayed in synagogues and churches around the globe. That’s the background of the prayer. Now, let’s take a closer look at the prayer.
“The Lord bless you.” God loves to bless people. He loves to have leaders who want their followers to be blessed. It’s a reminder that blessings come from God. And we remember that God’s blessing has always in mind our greatest and highest potential. We often expect blessing to mean a world of comfort and ease. But that isn’t always for our greatest and highest good. I love the fact that God knows how you and I need to be blessed, even if you or I do not. We often want to settle for happiness or comfort or wealth. True blessing from God is higher than happiness, or wealth or comfort.
“And Keep You,” the prayer goes on to say. Some are “kept” by their own choices that have become chains and prisons. Some are “kept” by their own bitterness, anger, or greed. But to be “kept” by the Lord, insures life, peace and ultimate success.
“The Lord make His face to shine upon you.” There is no greater joy that seeing the face of God smiling at you. Not always because of what you have done or who you are, but because He is who He is. It is tied to the next part of the line in this prayer, “And be gracious to you.” Grace is often defined as God’s undeserved favor. It’s hard to wrap our human minds around the thought that God shows mercy and care to us, even when we don’t deserve it. I long for every person in our world to see God’s smile and understand His grace. I pray that for you today and the next 364.
“The Lord turn His face toward you” begins the final line of the prayer. To know that God is paying attention to you, looking you in the eye, staring deep into your soul, is powerful. God isn’t just some distant deity that is keeping all the planets spinning is space. He knows you by name. He cares about you and what you are dreaming about, where you hurt, your pain, your sadness, your disappointments and your fears about the coming year.
“And give you peace,” the final part of the last line of the prayer. The Hebrew word is “shalom,” which is a whole lot more an end of hostility. It is much more than a cordial greeting to a stranger on the streets of Jerusalem. This is God’s word for wholeness and goodness and total satisfaction of life. This is the same thing as the “abundant life” that Jesus promised to His followers (John 10:10).
My heart for you this year is expressed in this prayer. That you will know that God wants to bless YOU, not just someone else whom you happen to think deserves it more. Six times in this prayer, the word “you” is mentioned. It’s not them, they, him, or her. It’s you. He wants to bless you. Will you open yourself up to Him and accept His blessing? His blessing will transform your life. Welcome it.
Have a Blessed New Year!