Weekly Bible Devotional
“You Were Made for a Miracle: Activate the Power of Prayer”
March 29, 2020
Scripture for Sunday: Mark 1:32-38
That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And 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. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He 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.”
Notes on the Text:
Jesus had a high demand on his schedule. People were wanting to hear him preach and to have him heal them. He could have been tempted to keep busy all the time and to reach as many people as possible. But Jesus lived grounded in his connection to God and took time to nurture that connection on a regular basis. The Gospel of Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels and so the events of the life and ministry of Jesus according to Mark are often told with such immediacy and brevity. Only the most important events of the story are told in this Gospel. It is remarkable to see that Jesus’ prayer life is one of those important pieces of the ministry that the writer believed was important enough to be part of the Gospel. Here are the passages where Mark specifically names the times Jesus went into prayer:
· Mark 1:9-13: Wilderness time of prayer and fasting after baptism
· Mark 1:35: time of early morning solitary prayer
· Mark 1:45: Jesus went out to a quiet place for prayer and people followed him
· Mark 3:13: Jesus went into the mountainside alone to pray before appointing the 12 disciples
· Mark 6:30-32: Jesus went out on a retreat with the disciples by boat
· Mark 6:45-46: Jesus went up on a mountainside to pray
· Mark 9:2-13: Jesus went up the mountain with some of the disciples for prayer
· Mark 14:12-31: Jesus and the disciples in the Upper Room praying and sharing a sacred meal
· Mark 14:32-42: Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane
From all these examples, we see how important it was for Mark to tell us that Jesus prayed, and that prayer was an essential part of his ministry and life.
Jesus modeled for the disciples and for us the importance of being intentional about taking time to pray. He knew that to live grounded in love was not going to happen by accident and if he only focused on action in ministry. Preaching, teaching, healing, and transforming the systems of the world needed to be grounded in his deep connection to God. Even though he had the Spirit of God in him in a special way, he did not take his prayer life for granted. Jesus knew the destructive power of our human egos and how it often hinders us from being free to know God’s love and to share it in the world. Jesus offered an alternative way of being in the world. The peace he offered was not like the peace the Roman government and the popular culture offered. That was why he knew that connecting to reality through the Spirit of God needed intentional times of prayer and meditation.
This moment of high anxiety in our history is requiring us to be more intentional about processing life through faith and prayer. This is not easy considering the level of tension and fear we are experiencing. I hope that you turn to the example of Jesus to see how he navigated the stresses and pain of his life. Quiet prayer and solitude kept Jesus grounded and focused on his purpose in life. He invited the disciples to do the same thing. We are called to do the same and the beautiful thing about prayer is that it has endless variety. We tend to limit prayer to saying words of praise or of petition (asking God for help). But the reality is that any given moment could become a moment of prayer.
In her book, A Praying Congregation, Jane Vennard writes, “I believe that anything we do that honors, strengthens, or deepens our relationship to God can become a form of prayer. Does this mean that anything we do can become a prayer? Yes, but everything is not automatically a prayer. To fashion our actions into
prayers, we need to examine our intention for the activity and God’s intention for us. I believe that God intends for us to live according to God’s desire that everyone participate in bringing about the reign of God – a world where justice and peace prevail. Therefore, a person swimming as part of her rehabilitation from surgery can turn that action into prayer when she honors God’s desire for her wholeness and healing and responds by offering the period of exercise to God.”
Prayer is about communion with God and that could happen anywhere and anytime! The fruit of prayer is deeper partnership with God’s purposes and vision for the world. Prayer is what reminds us of our original bond with God, with each other, and with the earth. We struggle with that awareness because the illusions of being separate are great. The coronavirus is a strong reminder of how connected we are and how much we depend on each other. It reminds of the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 when he uses the image of the body to talk about our unity: “25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
Prayer is a way of life and of operation in the world that is grounded in this original connection to all of life. It is about framing life in its sacredness and vulnerability. Prayer opens us to mystery and to the flow of God’s love in the world and that is how miracles happen! Open your heart daily to God and let the divine love flow through so that you may live as the miracle you are meant to be.
When My Waiting Needs a Shift in Focus by Arianne Lehn:
The waiting is getting long,
I can’t help but focus every day
on the thing for which I’m waiting,
or all the obstacles preventing
what I’m waiting for from happening,
or my own inability to make
what I’m waiting for happen,
or the fact it feels as if everyone
around me hasn’t had to wait, but I do.
You are right.
Focusing here only increases my
feelings of hopelessness
So, gracious God, patient God, trustworthy God,
please help me consider the facts,
but not make those my focus.
Keep my mind’s eye and
my heart’s trust on you,
the One Who has made promises
and keeps them.
make your presence tangibly felt
in the midst of silence and longing,
in early morning hope
and late evening tears.
Thank you, God, for fueling
my endurance today.
This too will become
an occasion for strength. Amen.