This week we begin a new six weeks series entitled “be with him.” This is the wish of Jesus for all of us and he specifically tells one of the men crucified alongside him that he will be with Jesus in paradise, that very day. We are going to look at the idea that we can be with Jesus before and after our own journey to paradise. We’ll use the weekly readings to pull out a theme that supports the overall idea that we can be with him.
It is the goal of Jesus disciples to be with Jesus. The apostles were with Jesus for three years and no doubt loved it all. Jesus is a very irresistible person, we read how crowds were always around him, following him wherever he was going. But even more than the irresistible factor Jesus is life giving. When Jesus asked the question do the disciples want to leave, “Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.’” (John 6:68-69) When there is a chance you can be with the Holy one of God, the one who has the words of eternal life, you should make every opportunity to be with Him. This series will look at ways to be with Jesus.When there is a chance you can be with the Holy one of God, the one who has the words of eternal life, you should make every opportunity to be with Him. Click To Tweet
This week the readings challenge us to pray always. We see in the three readings different aspects of prayer. Moses prays with his arms lifted and Israel defeats its enemy. Paul puts scripture at the heart of teaching, reprimanding, persuading, and it is at the heart of prayer. Jesus tells us to pray always and never grow weary. It is prayer that allows us to enter into presence with God, it is the first, very important step to be with him.
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time; Exodus 17:8-13; Psalms 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8. The readings guide us to focus on prayer that prayer is important, but most important is our relationship with God which requires presence.
In the first reading from Exodus we read about a war between the Amalekites and Israel. The Amalekites were an ancient people who were spread all over the north of the Sinai Peninsula, the Negeb and the south of Canaan; they controlled the caravan routes between Arabia and Egypt. From the stories in scripture it appears they are a perennial enemy of Israel for a time. In the battle Moses seem to be directing the Israelites from a distance with his arms raised. But in fact Moses is in prayer, seeking help from God, that will aid Joshua and his chosen troops to defeat the Amalekites. When Moses’ arms are raised Joshua is having it better in the battle. But when Moses lowers his arms for rest the Amalekites would move more powerfully against Joshua and the Israelites. So Aaron and Hur both take one of Moses’ arms and hold it up until Joshua defeats the Amalekites. This type of prayer is included in many formal services, where a presider will raise their arms and hold them almost as if they are imitating Christ on the cross. It is a position of supplication and pleading. It can be seen as a natural position one might take when begging or pleading for help, it is something we might see when one person is pleading with another. We read Moses has his hands open and raised and we assume he is praying for victory. Speaking to God and holding arms open when pleading seems a way of praying that has been with us and in many religions, even pagan religions, for years. Most of us see it more commonly at services on Sunday when the presider is praying over the people or leading a prayer to God.
In the second reading Paul is writing to his disciple Timothy and encouraging him to lead the community at Ephesus. In this section of the letter Paul is speaking to Timothy about scripture. How as a young Jewish boy he would have learned the scriptures from his parents and that those inspired words are still able to give him wisdom and faith. Paul wants Timothy to rely on scripture for teaching, correction, and training in righteousness, so those who know scripture will be equipped for every good work. Paul charges Timothy to proclaim the word, to be persistent in proclaiming; use proclamation of the word to convince, reprimand and encourage, keeping those who know the word aligned with scripture and as devoted followers of Jesus. We know scripture can be used for teaching, as an authority to dispel opponents, to bring conversion and for ongoing spiritual formation. Paul is speaking to Timothy about using scripture as a tool to help keep the new followers in Ephesus aligned with Christ and to convert others to the mission. All scripture is believed to be inspired by God, meaning breathed by God. As such the words are a powerful tools for learning about God as well as speaking to God. We couldn’t pray effectively if we didn’t know anything about God and God’s history with humanity. Today many use scripture as prayer, repeating certain words of scripture in a mantra, or imagining the scriptural scenes and then placing themselves into the scene. While Paul doesn’t mention praying with scripture in the text, it hardly seems possible that Paul or Timothy could pray without Scripture. It is another reason scripture is so important to them and us today. If prayer is communication with God, the best way to communicate with God is to know God’s word and use God’s word in speaking to God.If prayer is communication with God, the best way to communicate with God is to know God’s word and use God’s word in speaking to God. Click To Tweet
In the gospel Luke tells us that Jesus is sharing with his disciples a parable about praying always without becoming weary. Jesus parable is about a judge who has a widow come before him looking for a decision against her adversary. The judge is described as dishonest. He considers the women and decides to deliver her a just decision. In his thinking he realizes that this widow will do anything to get the just decision and she will not stop until that just decision is rendered. So the dishonest judge, who for a long time was unwilling, is selfishly saving himself any more trouble she would bring for him. Jesus goes on to say if the dishonest judge can do the right thing, how God will secure the rights of the chosen who call to him. A key to the message is that God will see to it that justice is done speedily, or without delay. But we know God may not give justice until the next life; so the timing is actually in God’s time. Jesus’ point is taking from the parable setup, we should pray always and never grow weary of asking. The widow never stopped coming to the judge, we don’t know how long she persisted but nothing deterred her or lessened her commitment. This is how Jesus wants us to approach prayer; be constant, never tire of praying to God, who will be sure to have justice done.Jesus’ point is taking from the parable setup, we should pray always and never grow weary of asking. Click To Tweet
We have used the three readings this week to look at prayer, Moses prayed for the defeat of the Amalekites, Paul points us to scripture as a means of prayer and Jesus tells us to never stop praying. We should find ways to pray in everything we do, and in all the things we do. There are teachers who say even our breath is a prayer, berthing-in the partial word “yah” is formed and breathing-out the partial word “weh” is formed, so every breath forms the word Yahweh, Yahweh, Yahweh, a simple but effective prayer.
What does pray do for us? Well in its essence prayer is setting us up to be with God. We speak to God and listen for God’s response. Prayer leads us to be with Jesus. If we don’t pray we are missing an opportunity to be with Jesus and growing on the only journey that matters in our life, the journey to the Kingdom of God.Prayer leads us to be with Jesus. If we don’t pray we are missing an opportunity to be with Jesus and growing on the only journey that matters in our life, the journey to the Kingdom of God. Click To Tweet
Be with me – pray always
Jesus has much to say about praying. Often we read he goes off to be by himself to pray. In fact in one of the most precious moments of his life Jesus goes off by himself in the Garden of Gethsemane and we get a glimpse into his prayer. We hear some of the words he uses and we have a view of the effects.Jesus has much to say about praying. Often we read he goes off to be by himself to pray. Click To Tweet
The passage opens saying went to the Mount of Olives as was his custom. So Jesus made prayer a regular thing, he has a regular schedule for when he prays. He has taken his disciples and he recommends to them to pray so they would not be put to the test. Jesus reminds others to pray. Jesus withdrew and kneeling prayed. Jesus has a pose for his prayers. He said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) Jesus speaks straight forwardly to God, but at the same time gives his whole will over to the Father. We don’t hear all Jesus speaks to his Father or even if her speaks anymore, but Jesus does seem to stay for a time alone in a prayerful presence. Luke tells us, “He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.“ (Luke 22:44) Jesus put his all into prayer, so much so that it physically affected him. We read that the angels came to give Jesus strength.Jesus put his all into prayer, so much so that it physically affected him. We read that the angels came to give Jesus strength. Click To Tweet
From this small passage we learn Jesus prays regularly, he reminds others to pray, he speaks directly in prayer, he offers himself in prayer, he prays alone, he uses a particular pose when praying, and he put so much of himself into the prayer that it affects him physically.
We also learn Jesus prays on special occasions. Luke sharing about Jesus baptism says, Jesus was baptized and was praying. In this case God speaks to Jesus, how we do not know, did God speak so only Jesus heard or could everyone hear? But what is important is God was answering Jesus prayer, and Jesus would have been encouraged. Luke tells us, “heaven was opened and the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (3:21-22)
There are many others significant events in Jesus life where he is sure to pray, these events include: here at his baptism; at the choice of the Twelve (Luke 6:12); before Peter’s confession (Luke 9:18-21); at the transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36); when he teaches his disciples to pray (Luke 11:1-4); at the Last Supper (Luke 22:14-20); and as we said above the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:41-46); on the cross (Luke 23:46).
After Jesus taught or healed there were always great crowds. Jesus through example shows us that there are times of public ministry and times when we need to be alone. We read in Luke 5:12-16 that Jesus cures a man full of leprosy and life became crowded for him. “The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.” (Luke 5:15-16) Jesus always was refreshed in prayer, it was a necessary activity to complete his ministry. Always being alone with God, being with him.
In other places we read that Jesus would spend the entire night in prayer. “In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12) It is not clear if Jesus planned entire nights of prayer or if his prayer was so fruitful that he let it run all night. But as we use sleep to refresh our bodies, Jesus used prayer to refresh himself, to be strengthened for all the demands that would be made on him to speak more, heal more, perform more.But as we use sleep to refresh our bodies, Jesus used prayer to refresh himself, to be strengthened for all the demands that would be made on him to speak more, heal more, perform more. Click To Tweet
When the disciples saw him praying they asked him to teach them how to pray and he taught them the Lord’s Prayer. A prayer directed at the Father, it does so much with so few words, in fact the prayer is so well know we don’t even have to say all the words for the Father to know what we are saying, we can simply say, “Our Father.” In this pray we see we have a deeper relationship with God, we know God. We know where God is, where to direct our prayer. We know God is set apart, holy, the target of our worship. We call to be in God’s Kingdom, we want to be surrounded by God, where God reigns, where God rules, where all obey God, where God’s will is done, where Jesus lives. We also discover God takes care of all our needs; physical, emotional, relational and spiritual, God gives to us. We learn to forgive, we are freed and released from our debts with God’s help and healing. Finally we seek God’s help to stay out of trouble. It is a rich prayer that covers our entire relationship with God while demonstrating it is not necessary to say many words, but to turn ourselves over to God, to be ever present.
We learn in prayer what we say is not important, being gratefully present is the important and good thing about prayer. God knows what we need before we ask. “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8) For God and Jesus the important thing is presence, undivided attention, Father and child, brother and brother, brother and sister, to be with him.For God and Jesus the important thing is presence, undivided attention, Father and child, brother and brother, brother and sister, to be with him. Click To Tweet
We read Jesus went often to be by himself to pray. But this is not true, Jesus went often to be with God to pray. This is what we must recognize. Jesus and the Father were together, sometimes important words were spoken, but most of the time it was presence, developing their relationship and being. Jesus shows us he could not have done all that he accomplished on his own, he needs the Father and the Father needs the son.
Be with him
What we say in prayer, how we pray, where we pray, how often we pray, these are all things we need to establish, to enter prayer, to have comfort, to feel safety and sacred and to create consistency. Jesus did all these things and we should too. But the most important aspect of prayer is to be with him. Jesus went off to be with his Father. He demonstrates again and again when he needs to be refreshed, to come back strong, Jesus needs to be with his Father without distraction. We start this series off in prayer, knowing that being with him is more important than anything we can say or do.