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Matthew 14:13-23


Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves." But Jesus said, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." They said to him, "We have only five loaves here and two fish." And he said, "Bring them here to me." Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.


Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone. (ESV)


Too Much To Do

Wednesday of Lent 1

25 February 2015

Why pray? Because our loved ones suffer illness and disease. Yes, of course there are doctors, technicians, chemotherapy, and injections. But even if Christ uses them, it is still the healing that He brings. Jesus is moved by the need of those who suffer. He heals the mother-in-law of Peter without being asked. And no matter what you think of your mother-in-law, it is still a demonstration of His care for those who suffer. He heals those who crowd into the walled compound that surrounded Peter's house in Capernaum. Every request for healing is an urgent prayer. He hears and brings the blessing of crosses to us, as He sees fit. But He does not heal everyone! He slips away from Capernaum in the cold, grey hours before morning; leaving behind the eager crowd. There was something more important for Him to do at that moment. He needed to pray. Why pray? Because our loved ones are suffering.


Why pray? Because it's a good way to get away from people who are demanding your time. Want a fool proof way to get some time by yourself? When someone demands your time that you don't want to deal with, just tell them that you are praying right now and I guarantee they will leave you alone. (Seriously!) Mark tells us: "And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, 'Everyone is looking for you'" (Mk 1:35-37) He replied, "Well yes, and they are expecting from me all the wrong things. I am not a wonder working medicine man, I am God's Son. I must be about my mission to preach life to the world." And so Jesus used prayer as a way to get away from people making demands that had little to do with His mission from His Father. Why pray? To gain a time of peace to talk to your heavenly Father.


Jesus made ready to fulfill the mission God had for Him in His life by praying. "And Jesus said to them, 'Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.' And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons" (Mk 1:38-39). A dear pastor friend of mine recounted the quizzical members in his first parish asking him why he spent so much time shut up in his church office. When he told them he was spending his time praying for them, they looked at him with some greater puzzlement, and after a couple of moments, they asked, "Wouldn't you like us to install a TV in your office?" He realized that they thought watching TV was more important and more useful than praying. Martin Luther said that when he knew he had too much to do, he would pray longer before he began his labor. He said that when he prayed too long, he would inevitably accomplish far more than he would have otherwise. Why pray? You have too much to do, not to. 


You have a mission too. You are a parent, a teacher, a lawyer, a child, a friend, a wife. Your mission in life is tied to your God-given calling, your vocation. You will be more useful in your labor if you stop doing it to pray. Less work is more, when you labor with prayer. This is what organizational gurus call: "working smarter." Why pray? Because Christ has given you a mission.


Why pray? Jesus prays and there's an end to it.


Martin Luther


"Through prayer Christians obtain for themselves and for others all that they ask of God, even physical things. This is one of the greatest works they do to help and preserve the world, even if they did nothing else. Thus when a Christian subject prays, and the prince is victorious over his enemies, who, then, actually defeated the enemies and achieved the victory? No other than the Christian, even if no one gives him credit and he gains neither reputation nor honor because of it. God did not grant victory for the sake of the prince (especially if he was an unbeliever) but in answer to the prayer of this one Christian. So greatly can a whole country or kingdom be benefited by one pious man, for whose sake all are blessed. This we find illustrated in Gn 14:14 by the story of Abraham; also in the story of Lot, which is recorded in Gn 19:22, where we read that Sodom and Gomorrah were spared while Lot still lived there. And in 2K 5:1 we read that because of Naaman alone God bestowed good fortune and victory on the entire kingdom of Syria, which, after all, was idolatrous. According to Gn 41:46-57, all Egypt was helped because of Joseph. The kingdom of Persia fared similarly for the sake of Daniel. And the prophet Isaiah defeated the hosts of the Assyrian emperor singlehandedly through his prayer (Is 37). Thus in times gone by good fortune and victory in war were often granted to the Romans, the Persians, and others solely for the sake of the Christians."


Martin Luther, Sermons on John's Gospel, 14.12



Lord Jesus, we have too much to do. Lead us by Your Spirit to a quiet place to address our needs to You and then to accomplish far more than our best efforts could ever do. Amen.


For Brenda Blackwell, that the Lord Jesus would grant her strength and healing


For the members of Congress, that they might make equitable laws for the people and that the Lord God would uphold them in their labors


For those who are suffering inclement weather, that they might be kept from harm

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)

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