29As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.??30Now Simon???s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.??31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.??33And the whole city was gathered around the door.??34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.??35In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.??36And Simon and his companions hunted for him.??37When they found him, they said to him, ???Everyone is searching for you.?????38He answered, ???Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.?????39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Last week we saw that Jesus had come in a very real and powerful way to heal, to cast out the oppression that comes from both the world and the forces of evil. ??He was confronted by demons and they were silenced. ??Jesus??? desire is that we would respond in love and not fear. ??
Today, we see that Jesus has been extremely busy???restoring Peter???s mother-in-law???s health and healing the sick and possessed. ??It says the whole city has surrounded the house, bearing witness to Jesus??? power and mercy. ??The next morning, though, Jesus is nowhere to be found. ??He???s gotten up and gone to a lonely place in the early, early morning and has chosen to spend time in prayer.
Now, I can???t tell you exactly what Jesus was praying about. ??But the testimony of the four gospels would say that Jesus??? idea of prayer isn???t much different than our own. ??He spent time with God, both talking to him and listening to him. ??He prayed to honor God, to thank God, to ask God, etc. ??For an example of Jesus actually praying look at John 17, as he prays for himself, for the disciples, and for the world. ??Look to Matthew 6.9 or Luke 11.2, the Lord???s prayer, for where our heart should be when we pray. ??The reasons for prayer are many but if anything we understand that prayer is our connection with God. ??It is the great maintaining???characteristic of a healthy relationship with God. ??And so, Jesus prays.
I want us to learn from the events that are surrounding Jesus??? life and ministry, so look at what happens here. ??Jesus has been hard at work, meeting the needs of others. ??He has to be tired because people have required much from him and he has been providing non-stop. ??So, after this busy time, he stops and he takes the time and creates the space to pray and be with God.
The time he takes to pray is important because Jesus will soon be going back out into the world in order to work again. ??So he recognizes the importance of maintaining his relationship with God. ??When we pray, what are the most common elements? ??Asking and receiving. ??Now, asking is simple, we???re all good at that. ??But what about receiving? ??How do we receive from God? ??Many think that prayer is like a Magic 8 Ball, that we ask God a question and when we flip him over, there will be an answer of some sort.
But the receiving we experience in prayer should be the kind that comes through the gift of the relationship we have with God. ??When we are with loved ones and cherished friends, it is the relationship that we enjoy that is the greatest gift. ??The time we spend with them strengthens both the connection we have and our spirit as we move on, leaving that person for a little while. ??Relationship is empowering and so should our experience of prayer with God. ??We must stop seeing God as a Cosmic Grandfather who is here to lavish upon us every little want we have. ??Instead, we need to realize that God wants a relationship with us that is maintained through prayer, a connection that that enables us to live a holy and transformed life that spills over into the world for its salvation.
Now, about space. ??Jesus goes away from the things that have required his attention. ??This gives his relationship with God the space it needs to draw him closer to God and empower him to do his work for God. ??There is rest and peace that comes from being in God???s presence, from spending time with him. ??Putting space between us and the things that distract us from God brings us into a place of clarity and understanding about our life and about where we stand with God. ??Focus is the key to living out our Christian lives successfully. ??I have a clergy friend who???s trying to improve her running time as she participates in different events. ??She knows that she???s never going to run better unless she runs. ??If she???s going to run, then she???s going to have to leave the other things in her life for a while and focus on her running. ??It???s hard to get away, but the getting away isn???t about leaving for a month to train, but rather taking every opportunity to run when you can.
It???s a lot like writing a paper and staring at the empty, blank paper or filling out an application and seeing the endless number of blocks and blanks. ??Many of us would agree that the hardest part is getting started. ??We put it off and put it off, dreading the fact that we are going to have to sit down and dedicate time and space the task. ??It???s intimidating, I know. ??But the key to accomplishing the task is taking the time and creating the space to overcome the obstacle.
Prayer???and discipleship, really???is the same way. ??What???s so difficult is leaving behind all the distractions that we bring to it. ??But that is half the process: creating the time and space to sort through our STUFF so that we can ACTUALLY focus on the task. ??The benefit of approaching prayer this way is knowing that God desires that we bring all the cares, concerns, worries, anxieties, frustrations, sorrows, wounds, and laying them down before him so that we can begin to deal with them and sort them out. ??Prayer has a lot to do with peace. ??Jesus knew this, because what was in front of him was a lot of turmoil and allowing God to maintain him was what prayer was all about.
Prayer is empowering, which is why it is so important. ??God desires to empower us for every good deed ahead of us, therefore we must let him do that by maintaining a life of prayer. ??Understand the cycle that Jesus is exemplifying here. ??He works and then he prays. ??He prays and then he works. ??His work is informing his time in prayer. ??It gives him the material that he needs to go to God in prayer. ??But then his time in prayer also allows him to be empowered by God to take on the events that are on the horizon of his day. ??His praying is now informing his work. ??The spirit and the peace that he takes from his praying will effect the way he does his work. ??Do you see it? ??He works, he prays, he works, he prays…
Be encouraged by the example of our Savior today. ??Know that you must maintain your relationship with God through prayer, as it builds you up and sends you out to be faithful workers in the fields of God???s grace. ??Let us pray…
Rev. Whit R. Martin??
Pastor,??New Liberty United Methodist Church
Sent from Whit&#