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Jul 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 10, 2022

Welcome and Prayer: Jim Calhoun

Heavenly Father
In this age and in this land
Where we have tried to bring your kingdom by power and force,
Where we have abandoned your path of loving others,
Where we exchange truth for lies,
Renew our experience of your good great love,
Compel us to love each person we encounter,
In our private lives and
In our public lives,
With the very love you pour into us.
Grant us a compassion that is robust,
Remembering those it would be easy for us to forget:
The dismissed, the outcast, the rejected, the troubled, the unlovely;
Those without homes,
The destitute,
Those born in other lands,
Those born in other neighborhoods,
The stranger,
The refugees whose homes are torn apart by war and violence,
Those held prisoners,
The old and the sick,
The orphaned and abandoned,
The misused and abused,
The fearful and angry,
The addicts,
The mentally ill,
And all who have none to care for them.

Help us to bring healing those who are broken in body or spirit,
Even the resistant, the belligerent, the arrogant, the ignorant,
And to turn their sorrow into joy.
Move the hearts of every man and woman,
Who claims your name,
So the barriers which divide us may crumble,
Suspicions disappear,
And hatreds cease;
That our divisions may be healed,
And we may live in justice and peace.
Grant all this, Father,
for the love of your Son,
who for our sake became poor,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

This Morning’s Talk: chuck smith, jr.

While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray Luke 5:12-16

Intro: A man, “full of leprosy” came to Jesus

This was a bold move – desperation can inspire great courage
– lepers were not allowed in cities or to approach others
• if he did, he was sure to hear the shouts of angry voices
• he was not only isolated from community – but rejected by it
◦ it was a sad, lonely life
◦ and he had done nothing to deserve it
– this man came looking for Jesus, and when he found him
he fell on his face
• not literally, but he dropped to his knees suddenly and quickly,
◦ begging Jesus, Lord, if you will, you can make me clean
◦ later, a father would bring his son to Jesus, and say,
If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us (Mk. 9:22)
• the Lord did not like that; he replied, “If you can?!”
◦ notice the difference between what the father said and what the leper said:
If you can do anything
If you will, you can . . .
◦ the leper placed himself in Jesus’ hands, to do what he willed or wished
– I imagine that Jesus was pleased with the leper,
• and with a gentle smile, Jesus did the forbidden; he
stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean”

Jesus wanted to keep this miracle on the down-low
– but an event like this cannot be kept quiet; news traveled fast
• then the crowds came; some limping on crutches,
◦ others guiding a blind friend, or carrying a sick child
• huge crowds arrived to hear Jesus and be healed by him
– do you know why so many people showed up?
• not only because they heard about the miracle, but because of Jesus’ “I will”
◦ they knew he was not only able to heal, but willing
◦ they heard that Jesus was merciful
• my grandchildren work me
◦ they ask, because they know eight out of ten times, “I will”
◦ Jesus can, and Jesus will, if we ask

How does Jesus manage this massive response?

Think of it! This is the first sign of a significant movement
– this is the time to announce his next public appearance,
• to collect donations, recruit volunteers, sell books,
rent the stadiums and theaters that the Romans built all over Israel
But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray
• and not this one time, but his response whenever crowds arrived
– the Greek word for desolate places is also translated desert and wilderness
• it refers to a secluded and uninhabited area
• he found a space where he could be alone, undisturbed
◦ Jesus left the crowds to be with God

Last week, we began this prayer journey with Jesus through Luke

To know Jesus requires a lifetime of ongoing prayer
– and it needs to be this kind of prayer
• an intentional move from everyday distractions to focused attention on God
◦ this was not “prayer on the go”
◦ this was making time and finding space to be with God
• Christian parents used to ask their kids, “Did you say your prayers?”
◦ but that is not what Jesus does here
◦ these prayers were not rote or repetitious
– I’ve always felt it’s unfortunate that the content of his prayers were not recorded
• but then, what would we do with them?
◦ would we ever pray with our own words, thoughts, and concerns?
• we do not know what Jesus prayed
◦ we do not even know why he prayed
◦ what it was he needed or, maybe what he wanted
Maybe he prayed from desire more than necessity

Observing Jesus, we learn the importance of a desolate place

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard people say,
“I feel closer to God in nature than in church”
– it’s true that God’s creation provides the best inspiration
• the fragrance and colors of a forest, or austerity of the desert,
or sounds and rhythms of ocean awaken something within us
• it’s a luxury to find a secluded, quiet meadow or shoreline
◦ some people design gardens for this purpose
◦ in serene spaces, meditation occurs without effort
– what if we’re stuck in the city?
• Jesus taught the disciples to pray in a private space
. . . when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Mt. 6:6)
• the “room” was a secret chamber (for storage or privacy)
◦ this type of prayer is a conversation between two parties only

The point is that we find space where we can focus our minds on God
– and if we can’t find it, we create it
• a painting or photograph, plants, candle, or incense may help
• but the value of a desolate place is that you’re grateful for the basics
◦ for shade, a cup of water, a slice of bread
– it is not easy for me to find that place
• where I can clear my mind of everything but Jesus
◦ to pray and not be distracted by the things I pray about
◦ to simply be with him
• we cannot say that there are no distractions in desolate places
◦ we carry our distractions with us
◦ our brains can create dozens of worries anywhere, or drag along our wishes, regrets, or fantasies
– but in desolate places there’s less we can do about those things
• diversions are not so close at hand
• going into a desolate place is a kind of fasting

What will we do in our desolate places?

Practice the art of prayer — pray with our hearts
(Remember, you are an artist)
– how will my soul express itself to God?
• in this time of my life? Given my current circumstances?
◦ and now that I’m in this deserted, quiet space?
• listen to David, the poet:
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; / my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water (Ps. 63:1)
◦ that is the prayer of a person who wants God for God

We will practice praying deep and real issues — pray with our minds
– not merely, “O God, get me through today” – But:
• “Lord, show me what keeps me from a complete trust in You”
• or “Take me deeper into Your will, O God”
– I’ve learned from Paul to pray my spiritual needs and longings
• he prayed for the Ephesians,
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know the hope to which he has called you . . . (Ep. 1:17-18)
• yeah, I pray that

We practice meaningful posture and gestures — pray with our bodies
– we know people who talk with their hands as much as their mouths
• we may pray with lifted hands, or open hands, or clenched fists (if our need is intense)
– prayers we see in scripture utilize varieties of body language

We will practice silence and listening in prayer — pray with our spirits
– prayer is not only learning to talk with God
• it is also developing sensitivity to the subtle movements of his Spirit

Prayer in a desolate place is often serene, intimate, and restorative

But sometimes it is the place where we face our demons
– after his baptism, Jesus
was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil (Lk. 4:1-2)
– life itself can bring us to desolate places and spiritual conflicts
• and when we meet with God, there are prayers that help us through those times too

Conclusion: Where the English Standard Version says Jesus “would withdraw to desolate places,”

The New American Standard Bible has “He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness”
Can you think of prayer this way?
that you slip away with Jesus
Many believers before us discovered a fulfilling intimacy with Jesus
they kept themselves close to him through prayer in desolate places
Spending time with Jesus is what changes lives
Our world needs believers who spend much time with Jesus,
and through intimacy with him, become like him
Our world needs that more than any other kind of Christian

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