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Oct 11 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 9, 2016 – Mark 3:13-15; 6:30-32

Prayerful Practice

And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons.

The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) Mark 3:13-15; 6:30-32

Intro: In our first reading, Jesus chose the twelve to be with him

Being with Jesus would qualify them for ministry (cf. Acts 4:13)
– he was going to send them out with his message and authority
• but first they had to experience being with him
• during that time the heard his teaching, witnessed the miracles and came to know Jesus
– the scene in our second reading occurred after their first solo flight
• again, he drew them back to himself, this time to be alone with him
• if they just had just stayed busy, they would have lost something
◦ they would have dried up and eventually burned out
◦ or worse, they would have begun to fake ministry, to perform mechanically

Being with Jesus is what defines an apostle
– I’m also throwing out the idea that being with Jesus is what defines prayer
• what I have in mind is that we spend a few weeks on a refresher course in prayer
– remember, there is a difference between prayers and prayer
prayers have many specific themes: confession, request, complaint, surrender, intercession, etc.
prayer is the one thing that is necessary (Lk. 10:42)

A list of spiritual disciplines appears at end of 1 Thessalonians

In this list, Paul included, pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:16-22)
– I don’t think he meant, be always saying prayers
• or as you go about your daily routine keep talking to God in the back of your mind
◦ rather, remain in a state of prayer, of ongoing communion with God
• keep the line open, never hang up
◦ don’t use the word Amen to signal your prayer has ended and now you are on to other things

Thomas Aquinas observed that what is required in prayer is “first of all, that he who prays come nigh to God; and this is signified by the name prayer, for prayer is ‘the uplifiting of the mind towards God.’”

– unceasing prayer is an ongoing awareness of God
• that he is near and there is always dynamic interaction
• Jesus wrestled over how he should pray in light of his pending death

Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, “Father, save Me from this hour?” But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name. (Jn. 12:27)

◦ then were told a voice came out of heaven: I have glorified it, and will glorify it again
◦ Jesus explained that the voice did not come for his sake, but for the bystanders
◦ he already knew he was in constant communion with the Father

In our practice of being mindful in prayer, we are waking ourselves up to God
– and living prayerfully takes practice!
• we are not only, like Aquinas, lifting the mind toward God
• but it is the whole self being presented to of God
◦ our receptivity to God includes the body, depths of emotion, rational mind, and spirit
– the time we spend in practice is not as important as its influence on our everyday lives
• we aim toward a life of awareness
◦ the practice is our daily alarm clock, waking us up to God
◦ we practice to discover God’s nearness and we practice moving into it
• eventually we hope to move ourselves there anytime, anywhere
◦ to live in awareness everywhere, all the time is to live prayerfully

Let’s go a little further into the practice

In Isaiah chapter 42, God gave Israel his diagnosis of their problem
– they were impaired by a spiritual blindness and deafness
(this is scattered throughout Isaiah–cf. 6:9; 29:18; 35:5; 42:16, 18; 43:8; 44:18)

You have seen many things, but you do not observe them;
Your ears are open, but none hears. (Is. 42:20)

• Jesus made a similar observation regarding his disciples (Mk. 8:17-18)
◦ so we are training ourselves to look and observe
◦ to listen and hear, to touch and feel
– we let ourselves be drawn to the wonder of this present moment
• we look for God’s touch on it and sense its sacredness
◦ we feel reverence rising from deep within us
• there’s a deeper, richer experience of life
◦ one that we miss rushing through the moments of our days

To open the whole self, means listening to the body
– withour external senses we listen to the world around us
• our nervous system limits information that reaches awareness
• but in prayerfulness we allow our environment to hit senses without the usual filters
◦ it’s like star gazing away from artificial light, smog and the dense low-level atmosphere
◦ we also clear away our normal anxious thoughts
– with our internal senses – we may ask, What am I feeling? Where in my body?
• we keep bringing ourselves back to the pure experience of the moment
• as we move, we explore the feelings of balance, motion, effort, etc.

There is one big obstacle to resolve

Of course, there are lots of little challenges to holding our busy selves in silence
– but an especially difficult challenge to over come is this
• most of us are afraid to sit alone in silence with God
◦ we’re afraid to stop the constant flow of words in our brains
◦ those ongoing observations, narrations, commentaries
• we’re afraid of the unknown and unpredictable
◦ afraid of the raw feelings of pure experience
– lots of Christians find it difficult to be alone with God
• to come to God for nothing other than God himself
◦ they would rather be saying or doing something
• but whenever a believer is really struck with God’s nearness
◦ they automatically stop what they were doing and become responsive

It is not that in prayerfulness we see God or hear a voice
– but that we see differently
• we begin looking through the eyes of Jesus
• and that changes everything
– and because God is everywhere
• we can enter prayerfulness anywhere
• and we can move into it from any direction
◦ going forward in focused meditation
◦ or falling backward into him not know what he desires

We can approach everything prayerfully
– when Jesus and his disciples reached that secluded place,
• the crowds were there waiting for him
◦ but he did not try to escape them, he welcomed them (Mk. 6:33-34)
• and after teaching, healing, feeding them and sending them home,
◦ he also sent the disciples on their way so he could be alone with God (Mk. 6:46)
– so we settle into prayerful silence with God and there’s a knock at the door
• or the phone rings
• we do not have to experience this as an interruption that breaks the flow
◦ it can be simply the next thing we approach prayerfully

Conc: The world where we meet God is this world

With all its natural wonders, mysteries and beauty
– as well as its violence, corruption and death
• we go with God through all of it in prayerful awareness
– we do not transcend or circumvent the world and move straight into spirit
• rather, we move through the world as it is, moving forward as we are
◦ settling into present moment, we accept reality
◦ this is not about pretending everything’s good, but overcoming illusions

Prayerfulness does it insist on spectacular or demand signs and wonders
– it finds God’s touch on the ordinary, the ignored, the forgotten and abandoned
• so if one day we sit in stillness and quiet ourselves in prayer
◦ but immediately feel bored, then that is where we begin
– we present our boredom to Jesus
• like child who brings us a broken toy and asks, “Can You fix this?”
• then, with our Lord, we bring curiosity to our boredom
◦ and perhaps our curiosity soon transforms into creativity
• and if not, it does not matter, because we are with Jesus

One Comment

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  1. Eliot / Oct 12 2016

    It’s a good thing Jesus wants to be WITH ME because my conditioned reflex to developing companionship with His people, is to run as fast and far as I can !! Sure that any little thing is a sign of being led into a trap that ends in loss, I lose the chance to find out !! However, the writing above about prayerful companionship helps me realize hope just keeps coming. My most recent trip away put me back in touch with people who made the way for another move !! ALWAYS THOUGH, it is WRITING that provides a foothold, and for interpersonal input from someone else who starts with the Bible and reaches out accordingly, Reflexion Connexion has most consistently availed the past year. Searching for a companion in words today I found JOHN A. BECK, GOD AS STORYTELLER, and drooled with pleasure at his wording of the SAME perceptions that have predominated any scripture discussion I have attempted in frustration to have with people about Bible Composition.
    I recall the use of the term “storytelling” in live meetings recently, and wonder if the subject of Mr. Beck’s book has been approached generally or just applied specifically. There is a relationship between that content and the preceding Reflexion Connexion Outline. AS WE CONTINUE TO EXPLORE THE VAST REALM OF CONCENTRIC CIRCLES IN GOD’S WRITING TO COMMUNICATE HIMSELF, WE ARE HELPING TO MAINTAIN THAT UNENDING PRAYERFUL ATTENTION. Surely, time “far from the madding crowd” can and should be sought, so maybe my forays aren’t so bad !

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