When you compare the gospels, you will notice Luke’s emphasis on Jesus’ prayer life more than the other gospel writers. For example, at the baptism of Jesus, only Luke (3:21) mentioned that Jesus was praying before heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove (cf Mt 3:13-17, Mk 1:9-11, Jn 1:29-34). Immediately after Peter’s confession who Jesus is and before his transfiguration, Luke (9:28) wrote, “About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray” (cf Mt 16:13-20, Mk 8:27-33). If you’re interested, you can look up other verses like Luke 5:16, 6:12, 9:28, 11:1, 22:41, 23:34 & 46 and then compare them to parallel events in the other gospels. And finally, Luke also includes more teaching on prayer than all the other gospels.
Keep this in mind as we commence the week of 24/7 prayer tomorrow. If Jesus needed to and prioritised pray, how much more his followers! One focus during this season of prayer is our relationship with God. Whether it needs to be revived, restored or reset, remember as we draw near to God and he will draw near to us.
One of the things we might be asking God for is his help with family, work, relationships, anxieties, things we’re struggling with etc. Maybe you’ve done this before and God’s help was not forthcoming. This has left you confused, discouraged and embittered even. You might be thinking and feeling, “What’s the point asking God for help?”.
I think Martha could identify with you. When Jesus paid them a visit, Martha got herself very busy with food prep and other preparations to welcome Jesus. Mary chose to welcome Jesus with her presence. Feeling overwhelmed with all that she had to do, Martha asked Jesus to help her by telling Mary to give her a hand. Jesus refused her request! (read Luke 10:38-42). This would not have been the first or the last time Jesus responded to Martha this way.
Why does God refuse our request for help?
I think Charles Ringma’s devotional book is helpful. “One of our persistent difficulties is that while we want help, we do not want to change. We are quite willing to go to God to ask for strength, but not so willing to ask for redirection. We are happy to be encouraged, but not to be converted. In doing this we are making the fatal assumption that we are okay in what we are doing and in our priorities; all we lack is adequate resources. And so we turn to God in prayer asking for more grace, more of His Spirit, and more of His power”.
He reminds us “…that the place of solitude is not the place where we recharge our spiritual batteries and then continue to live as we have lived before. It is not the place where we catch our breath in order to madly reenter the race…The place of solitude is where we are changed. It is the place where we abandon some of our agendas, where we acknowledge our compulsions, where we discover new directions, and where, more importantly, we find a new self”
Let’s boldly enter into God’s presence and expect to meet him and be ‘converted’ during this week of prayer.