The Long and Short of It
Lord, I am grateful for this day with its potential and privileges. Grant me now Your direction and guidance.
Read Mark 1:29-39
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
When asked how he managed to build the world’s largest church (Yoido Full Gospel Church, Seoul Korea) Dr. David Yonggi Cho said, “It is very simple. I pray and I obey.”
We assume that Jesus was brought up to say the Shema (Deut. 6:4-9) and pray the Eighteen Benedictions twice a day like other faithful Israelites, and we know that he went regularly to the synagogue. (Luke 4:16). On the other hand, he does not seem to have prayed general prayers “for those in authority” or for “doctors and nurses,” and he is not recorded as having prayed with or for the sick. He simply healed them with a word. Of course it is not wrong to pray for a person who is ill, but the story of Peter’s mother-in-law suggests how this should be done. “They told Jesus about her” (30). It was enough. By contrast, Jesus had hard words for those who supposed that God would be impressed by long prayers (Matt. 6:7), and the prayer he taught his disciples is notable for its brevity.
On occasion, though, Jesus needed to pray at length, as he does here (35). Mark tells us of another occasion following the feeding of the five thousand. (Mark 6:46). Luke tells us that Jesus spent the night in prayer before choosing the Twelve (Luke 6:12), and his ministry is framed by his temptations in the desert and his agonized prayer in Gethsemane. All these occasions were times of decision or temptation. Today, we see Jesus facing the temptations that arise from his popularity. Not for the last time, Peter articulates the temptation to follow the path of quick success and easy rewards and protests at Jesus’ seemingly perverse blindness to the opportunities of the moment. But Jesus has spent time in prayer recovering a sense of God’s purpose for him, and he moves on. His task is to announce the kingdom of God as widely as possible, not set up the Capernaum House of Healing.
When you pray at length, are you trying to discern God’s will, or to persuade God to do what he otherwise might not?
Lord, often I feel like the disciples who said, “Lord, teach us to pray!” I ask for a new heart for prayer.
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