This post is excerpted from a longer post written by Jason Gaboury and originally appeared on the InterVarsity blog.
The Magnifcat, Mary’s song of praise, is also a prayer. This prayer is not simply a devotional experience, however. Praying the Magnificat ought to create new categories of understanding in our mind and heart. In prayer we receive an invitation to come and magnify the Lord with Mary, to enter her story, and through it to see into the heart of God.
The preamble to the story is an appreciation for the woman whose words we borrow. The mystery of Mary’s song will remain closed to us if our hearts remain dull to this remarkable, courageous, and faithful young woman. To put it another way, Mary is not an “everywoman” character in the New Testament. How is it that this simple girl from Nazareth was able to offer the unqualified yes to God’s invitation when prophets, priests, and kings did not? As we pray her prayer, we imitate her faithfulness, courage, and devotion.
At the center of this story is Israel’s God, the Mighty and Holy One, who abounds in love and mercy (Exodus 34). This God has done for his people what he promised. In Jesus, the Messiah, God’s great reversal has been accomplished. In Jesus, we see God’s immense love for the marginalized and his refusal to adopt the strategies of coercive power. In Jesus, we see God’s covenant fulfilled and his faithfulness extended to the nations. In Jesus, we commit to seeing his generosity and justice play out in our homes, communities, cultures, and nations.
We also, as we pray the Magnificat, consider our own social location and ask whether the shape of our lives, including our worship life, points toward Jesus in worship, witness, and wonder. We examine ourselves to discover and root out ways we have aligned ourselves with the forces of spiritual death and disintegration. And we offer ourselves—our souls and bodies, like Mary did—to God’s service, not as begrudging servants but as those who can join with her in joyful acclamation: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit exalts in God my Savior.”
What might happen in your life with God if you entered into Mary’s story by praying the Magnificat regularly? How might its vision of God reshape your perspective? What might happen in our communities if they were formed through regularly praying these words together? Perhaps our vision would be a little less polarized, our wonder reawakened, and our wills strengthened.
Jason Gaboury serves with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and authored Wait With Me: Meeting God in Loneliness (IVP, 2020).