March 2013

What it means to pray with Jesus.

“Could you not watch with Me one hour?” Mark 14:38

This Holy Week we are once again invited to take the journey with Jesus to the Last Supper, into the Garden of Gethsemane and then to ascend the hill of Golgotha to the cross. In my last blog post I shared how when Jesus initially called His disciples, and us, His first and primary intention was, and always will remain, that we simply be with Him. And I made the point that being with Him is expressed most naturally through relating to Him in prayer, just as He related to the Father.

The very last time Jesus was with His disciples, pre-crucifixion, that night in the Garden of Gethsemane, He renewed that “be with” calling in a way that has been indelibly etched in the heart of every follower of Christ. Knowing He would no longer be with them in the natural, He was preparing them for a post resurrection relationship with Him in the Spirit. One of the last things He said to Peter, James and John in the Garden that night was “remain here and keep watch with Me.” (Matthew 26:38) He then moved further beyond them “about a stone’s throw away,” knelt falling with His face to the ground and began praying with such fervency that “His sweat became like drops of blood.”

When He arose from prayer He came back to the three and found them sleeping. It was then that He said these oft-quoted and hauntingly powerful words “Could you not watch with Me one hour?” (Matthew 26: 40)

The two words that I want to give special consideration to in this meditation are “with Me.” In the Gethsemane account in the book of Matthew we see in the space of three verses Jesus urging His disciples to watch and prayer using the “with Me” reference two successive times. (vs. 38 & 40)

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A Disciple’s First Calling

He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach. Mark 3:14

The order in which Mark, the author of this gospel, describes Jesus calling of His disciples is critically significant. Jesus’ intention was that first they were to “be with” Him, to spend time in His presence, hang out together with Him and get to know Him and His ways. Then and only then, when they had become immersed in His presence and shaped to faithfully represent His name and nature, would He sent them out to preach. Although the task of going forth as His ambassadors was His ultimate purpose Jesus first calling to His disciples was that they might simply be with Him.

It reflects the priority Jesus placed throughout His earthly ministry on being preceding doing and the necessity of doing then flowing out of being. The spiritual journey of every disciple who is seeking to follow Jesus must always follow this pattern.

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Make me, a house of prayer.

And Jesus began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of robbers.’” Mark 11:17

The context in which Jesus said this was during His historic cleansing of the temple in Jerusalem which took place the very week leading up to His eventual betrayal and crucifixion. He had just driven out all the merchants and money changers. The teeming crowds gathered there in preparation for Passover were doubtless standing in stunned silence, astonished at the demonstrative way in which the great, revered teacher had underscored His point. He made two extraordinary statements. First He declared that the Temple was His house, a claim which if made by any other person would be blasphemy. And second He insisted that His house’s salient, defining purpose was to be a house of prayer.

Several days later, that agonizing night in the Garden of Gethsemane, He issued a similar call to prayer to His own disciples. “Could you not watch with me one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38)

The problem of prayerlessness, both in corporate worship settings and in the private devotional lives of individuals is very much with us yet today.

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Finding the port in Opportunity

See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. (Revelation 3:8)

In God’s economy, closed doors are meant to direct us to open doors. Closed doors are blessings in disguise because they save us wasted time, energy and pain. Open doors on the other hand are opportunities for productivity, provision and fulfilling purpose in our lives. For that reason we need to learn to thank God for closed doors rather than grumbling and complaining about them and focus rather on looking for the open doors He provides.

The Bible tells us that what God “opens, no one cans close, and what He closes, no one can open.” (Revelation 3:7) That is reason enough not to belabor over a closed door. Paul the apostle and his team learned this when they sought to go into Asia, but the Holy Spirit closed that door to them. Obeying, they continued their journey westward and just days later God gave Paul a vision where he was beckoned to Greece. It was there he discovered through the miraculous literal opening of a prison door, the opportunity to plant the Philippian church. (Acts 16:6-34)

From Paul’s own personal experience there and elsewhere, he therefore urges us to “make the most of every opportunity.”(Ephesians 5:16) The very nature of opportunity is that it is a gift from God that presents us with an open door through which, if we perceive it and take courage, we can pass into a new place of God’s provision.

The Greek word forming the core of the word opportunity is “poros” meaning “an opening.” From it our English word “port” is derived. A port serves as the entryway into a seacoast city or place of commerce. In times past, before dredged harbors and sophisticated ships and navigational systems the timing for entry into ports was often limited by favorable tides and winds. Only under limited conditions or opportunities was it possible to enter into a port and do business. That of course also applied to enemies who sought to invade a city by sea. It was required of the seafarer that they recognize and understand the opPORTune time to enter the harbor and therewith claim their prize.

In my experience there are two major challenges of faith in “making the most of every opportunity,” both of which have already been alluded to above. First, it is easy to get so hung up on focusing with frustration or regret at closed doors, that we fail to move on looking for open ones. We can sink into self-pity and feeling sorry for ourselves while perhaps even blaming someone – ourselves, others or God. We become so fixated on having the doors of our choosing open our way that we lose sight of the fact that God knows better and just might have a better plan.

Secondly, having given up trying to batter a closed door down and decided to move on, we can become impatient in looking for an open door and waiting for God’s opportune time in opening it. We also can be thrown off by preconceived ideas and preferences which we carry as to the type of open door we are looking for and fail to recognize God’s door in the process.

Overcoming both of these debilitating tendencies, getting stuck at closed doors or failing to take advantage of open doors, takes faith.

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Poem for Parker Lee

Poem for Parker Lee

His name was whispered long before his birth
And those who heard it knew the measure of its worth.
A holy heritage this young prince would receive
A double anointing from on high to him would cleave.

Hanging upon the wall of his future room
Soon to be occupied with his sister whom
Was calling mommy’s tummy by his name
Were the words Parker Lee cradled in a frame.

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