Today's Lectionary Text
Matthew 14:22-23Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
Ever since I was very young, just able to think a bit abstractly, I have struggled with the concept of prayer. Once I was old enough to realize that prayer is more than reciting “Thank you for the world so sweet.” I have not been able to get the right answer to the fill-in-the-blank question, “The purpose of prayer is __.” It frustrates me!
In Matthew 14 Jesus tries twice to get away, by himself, in order to pray. Instead, interruptions happen. First, he attempts to get off by himself after he learns that his cousin and friend, John, has suffered a gruesome death. He is interrupted by a crowd of people and out of compassion and caring he attends to the needs of those persons. So much for prayer at that point.
After curing many in that crowd, he fed them all. Prayer did come in handy then. The supplies on hand, five loaves and two fish, ended up being enough to feed well over 5,000 people. After making that miracle happen, Jesus went off by himself to pray. Soon, he jumps right back in, walking on water and healing more folk. Not too much time for prayer. Those interruptions just kept coming.
From these random examples it seems that any definition of prayer needs to include that it can be a rote recitation of words of thanksgiving and of requesting. The definition might go on to include that it can be a pouring out of sorrow. There’s the magical element of making what would seem to be the impossible happen. And maybe it is talking to God, which should include some listening. Surely, this is only a partial listing.
As all of those elements get mixed and shaken together, we discover that prayer is that which prepared Jesus and readies us for the interruptions that make up everyday life. Right now, COVID-19 is one big interruption. When we offer prayer over that we recognize that a miracle surely would be nice. Pouring out our frustrations over jumbled schedules and disrupted plans at least eases the stress and tension we feel each day now. Having a vehicle to say “thank-you” for moments at a zoom family reunion or a Facetime chat with grandchildren really fulfills the purpose of prayer.
Most likely Jesus was using that alone prayer time for all of these functions. Probably, Jesus was praying in his heart throughout the curing of the sick in the crowd, the feeding of that same crowd, and in all the other actions he performed daily.
Jesus was in constant prayer. It kept him going. Sometimes he was able to seclude himself -- just he and God. Mostly, he had to pray as he continued with life, and pray -- giving thanks, bringing about miracles, talking to God, finding sustenance for his soul -- through each event of each day. Following his model, let us pray too, constantly, throughout all the events of our days.
-Pastor Bianca Elliott
Linwood UMC, Kansas
Prayer for Reflection
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers for:
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