Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Pray? Who'da Thunk It?
I've been reading through the Gospels. About once per year, I like to go back and read through the first four Books of the New Testament. I always find something (actually, many things) that I never caught before. God's Word is fresh every time I read - or re-read it.
I was reading in Mark 9, where we find one of Jesus' most famous quotes. He is talking with a father whose son is possessed by an evil spirit. Apparently, the disciples have already attempted in vain to cast out the demon. So, the dad brings his boy to Jesus.
Jesus is rather flustered at this moment. His words ring with disappointment.
"O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me."
The father then explains how long his son has been possessed, and implores Jesus to do something about it: "But if you can do anything," says the father, "take pity on us and help us."
Jesus' often-quoted reply stings, but provides hope: "'If you can?'" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."
Now, this is almost always when preachers and writers end the story. Jesus' words pack a punch that can add the exclamation point to any sermon, or conclude the chapter to any book.
But, to the disciples - and to Jesus - there's more to this story. The disciples are perplexed. They have thrown out demons and performed miracles before, and they were stumped. They couldn't figure out why they were unable to do it this time. So, they ask Jesus why they couldn't drive it out.
He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer." (Mark 9:29)
You can see now why Jesus may have been exasperated with his followers. They knew who Jesus was, and they knew his power. They even understood that they, too, could do amazing things through the power given to them by God. But, what they failed to do was submit themselves to their Heavenly Father in prayer. To acknowledge that He alone was in control of everything, including casting out demons.
Apparently, they were not watching closely enough when Jesus prayed to his Father. When he gave thanks for the loaves and fish to feed the 5,000. When he looked up to heaven to perform previous miracles. When he got up early every morning to seek silence and solitude to pray.
Jesus, who was God in the flesh, submitted to his Father through prayer. The one who now goes to the Father on our behalf when we pray valued prayer - time spend with his Dad - more than anything else. That's something we cannot ignore. It's something we, as followers of Christ, must emulate.
There are so many things we are trying to do ourselves that we are just unable to get done. We say to ourselves, "Well, God is on my side. So, how come this isn't working out." And, Jesus is trying to tell us that "it can only be done through prayer." It's what he said 2,000 years ago, and what he continues to say today.
Don't allow prayer to become an after-thought, or a last-ditch effort. Put it at the top. Then, watch God go to work!