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Jul 24 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 24, 2022

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to RefleXion.  Welcome back, Chuck.        May the Lord be with you!

Have you been seeing the fantastic images from the James Webb Telescope?  Aren’t they wonder-full?  The telescope itself is so amazing, all those mirrors, the guidance system.  And it got me wondering about how we communicate with the telescope and, well, how we communicate with anything in space, in the beyond, and how we communicate with God.

 I do not understand electromagnetic waves.  I researched it this week, because I am truly interested and wanted to be somewhat informed; but, radio waves, light waves, bandwidths, frequencies, etc. are not what I know much about.  But here’s what I get:  Communication relies on two things:  A transmitter and a receiver.  A message is sent on electromagnetic waves, say radio waves, and they are encoded.  The receiver collects and demodulates them so we can receive them, perhaps as audio waves, if we’re tuned in to the same frequency as they are broadcast.

What makes clear communication?  tuning in to the right frequency, the distance between the transmitter and receiver, speed, power, and lack of interference.

Where am I going with this?  If I want to tune in to God’s Voice (considering I am the receiver and He’s the transmitter), first of all, I must know that I am built to tune in by my spirit.  God’s Spirit and my spirit operate on the same frequency.  We are wired to hear.  Then I must stay close, rely on the power of the Spirit, and  avoid any interference (that would cause static in my ability to hear clearly).  Meditation practices are one way I can do this.

I’ve heard, and still hear, people say that they don’t want to meditate because it is opening ourselves up to anything.  I think a better way to speak about Christian meditation is that we are being receptive, not “open to anything”. We are tuning in, as we are made to do, to God’s frequency, letting go of any interfering noise, coming as close and being as quiet as we can, and waiting for the resonance.

How do you tune in?  How does God feel to you?    

I feel it as a kind of aliveness, an energy, something in me is in agreement with. 

Join me to pray, will you:

God, the heavens declare Your glory.  Day after day they continue to speak and make You known.  You don’t have to come so far to speak to us.  In You, we live and move and have our being. You do not rely on the mechanics of the material world.  Nor do we.  We pray that Your dear Voice would be sure and sweet to us, determined to get through to us.  May we also hold dear the ability to recognize Your Presence.  Your Spirit will bear witness with our spirit that we are children of God.  We praise You that You are showing us such glorious images of the universe.  We praise You that we are a part of Your glorious creation.  Hear us Lord, as we pray.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. Luke 6:1-16

Intro: We are following Jesus through Luke’s gospel,

Paying attention to the times he prayed or taught on prayer or encouraged people to pray
– if I ask, “What is most notable about this prayer?”
• isn’t it the statement, that all night he continued in prayer to God?
◦ that is bound to make an impression on us,
◦ especially those of us who use prayer to put ourselves to sleep at night
• Luke knew we would react to this aspect of Jesus’ prayer
– it may be that we will have nights when we cannot sleep
• we’ll be so upset or anxious, we keep going back to God
• Paul had many sleepless nights (2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27)
◦ but I don’t believe this is the same as Jesus’ all-night prayer

Just so we’re clear – God never asked for all-night prayers
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety (Ps. 4:8)
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep (Ps. 127:2)
– a few leaders in the early Church advocated getting up to pray at night
• some monasteries still practice midnight vigils,
◦ but that’s not the point of Jesus’ all-night prayer
• it’s typical of new Christians to apply every verse to themselves
◦ I try to explain gently, “It’s not always about you”
◦ it’s usually about the characters in the story
– praying through the night, or getting up to pray is a potential tool
• it is like fasting – it’s there when you need it
And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days (Lk. 5:33-35)
• we don’t make prayer more effective by adding minutes and hours or by self-deprivation
◦ there is a different message for us here

Luke is showing us something about Jesus

What do we learn from his all-night prayer?
– some teachers see an example of Jesus’ intimacy with the Father
• in John’s gospel, Jesus frequently stresses he did not act on his own–cf. Jn. 5:19-20
• so he approached God to maintain an open channel
– others see an example of Jesus being refreshed and re-energized
• that all-night prayer was the source of his power (see v. 19)
– these are lovely thoughts, and there may be some truth to them,
• but Luke does not point us in these directions
• typically these explanations urge us to do the same as Jesus; that is, spend a night in prayer
◦ but that’s not Luke’s point
◦ all-night prayers are not going to make us miracle-workers

What are You doing, Jesus of Nazareth?

When You hike up that mountain to pray?
– do You kneel on the ground?
• do You stand with hands lifted to the sky?
◦ are You doing all the talking, or do you listen as well?
• Does Your heart break as You pray?
◦ break for the crowds of poor people, hopeless and lost?
◦ break for the blind and deaf, the leper and the lonely?
– what are You doing up there, all night?

Sometime later, Jesus will tell his disciples,
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Lk. 10:2)
– maybe that was his prayer
• we may get a hint from his prayer in John 17:
I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me . . . . I am praying for them. . . . I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn. 17:9, 20-21)
– there is a reason why I believe Luke is implying something like this
• it has to do with what happens next
◦ Jesus called his disciples to himself – already there were many
◦ and from them, he chose twelve and named them apostles
• immediately after that, he was bombarded again by the crowds
◦ so to understand his all-night prayer, we can start here

Jesus went to God in preparation for what would come next

Jesus had arrived at the next stage of his ministry
– this all-night prayer, like his baptism, was a rite-of-passage
• the crowds were going to keep coming
◦ making it more difficult for him to get to all their villages
◦ and more difficult to provide a personal touch for each person
• Jesus needed helpers to share in the work
◦ but he had to be careful in his selection of these particular disciples
◦ so he consults his Father to confirm his choices
– what I’ll share now are my own thoughts and meditations

My first thought: I find comfort that Jesus went to God

He shows me the way – and the value of that spiritual connection
– his life was a partnership with the Father
• and our lives are a partnership with Jesus and the Father
◦ again, from his prayer in John 17:
you have given [your Son] authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (Jn. 17:2-3)
• I do not need to justify my total dependence on God
– that Jesus went to God before choosing the apostles,
• reveals the importance of not skipping that step
• we often feel rushed into decisions – to meet deadlines, and so on
◦ or we feel we have enough information to take action on our own
◦ there’s a story in Joshua in which he and the leaders of Israel were conned and the story serves as a warning
So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD (Jos. 9:14)

My second meditation: Jesus went to God on behalf of his followers

Did he spend an hour praying over each apostle? Twelve hours of nighttime prayer?
– I want to imagine his prayer over each apostle
“Thank You Father, for John. I want him to be with me always. His enthusiasm gets in his way a bit, but still, he listens, he pays close attention, he is the first to understand me, and his spirit is open.”
• and so on, from Peter and his brother Andrew, all way down to Judas Iscariot
• on their last night together, before his crucifixion, Jesus turned to Peter and said,
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers (Lk. 22:31-32)
– wouldn’t it be wonderful to know Jesus prays like this for you?
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Ro. 8:34)
. . . he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:25)

My third meditation: Jesus does more that pray for us

All night long he has this secret conversation with the Father
– now he invites us into the conversation
• my most intense prayers have been conversations with Jesus
◦ usually they are conversations that he started
• prayer is an open door – an open invitation
– Luke’s point with all his references to Jesus’ prayers and teaching
• is that we can pray too; we can join Jesus in prayer

Conclusion: In my last talk, Jesus slipped into wilderness to pray

Here he climbs a mountain – maybe the closest place that provided solitude
– in the symbolism of scripture, this could suggest two types of prayer
the wilderness: self-emptying prayer, where God is everything
the mountain: is often a place of revelation–looking and listening
◦ many believers travel through wilderness of prayer before reaching the mountain
◦ Moses was forty years in the wilderness before he arrived at Sinai
Elijah was forty days and forty nights in the desert before he came to Horeb
– for most of us, prayer involves more wilderness struggles than mountain-top visions

So it’s important to remember, God is present in both spaces — all times and places
Our prayer experience is specific to when and where he meets us
So it’s not whether we’ve ever prayed all night,
but whether our prayers are real – in spirit and in truth
whether we pray with awareness of God’s presence
Because if our hearts are elsewhere when we pray, we have wasted our time
Henri Nouwen, “Every human being is called by Jesus in a unique way. But we have to be looking for God, we have to be willing to spend time with him, and we must allow others to become part of our spiritual discoveries.”

2 Comments

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  1. Kate Garvey / Jul 31 2022

    Hi Pastor Chuck and community. I would like continued prayers for my healing. I am home from the hospital, my grafts are healing well but this is a long painful recovery. Extra prayer for left thumb and cording on left arm. Hopefully I will be back in mid-october. Recoverying at home in Wisconsin and join you on line. Grateful for technology and for how far I’ve come through this awful journey. Thanks very much

  2. Chuck Smith, Jr. / Jul 31 2022

    Yes, Kate, you have been in our prayers and will continue to be. Our hearts ache for the painfulness of your healing and we will ask God to give you relief. At the same time we are thankful that you are healing and that God is with you through this ordeal.
    chuck

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