Second Baptist Church
Week FOUR in the Way of the Alongside
June 24, 2018
Nothing Without Prayer
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
How is your prayer Life? How often do you pray? Why do you pray? Questions like these force us to examine our prayer life. If you are like most people you wish you could be better at communicating with God. Prayer is one of God’s greatest gifts to his people yet it is often reduced to blessings at meals and praying for our health and the health of our family and friends. Someone has said, “Many people pray as if God were a big aspirin pill; they come only when they hurt.” God wants our prayers to be so much more than prayer for our food and health. Prayer is more than mere communication. It is our spiritual connection to our creator and redeemer. Prayer has played a vital role in the lives of people. It carried Abraham Lincoln through the darkest period in American history. He said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go.” Martin Luther King Jr; “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” What are people praying for today? Many of us are praying for the situation down on the southern border and the children and adults it affects. Others of you are praying for weather, health, family problems, finances, jobs, and various other concerns that occupy our minds.
So how did Jesus pray? According to his prayer in John 17, he didn’t pray like we pray. He did not pray for anyone’s health. He did not pray for his disciple’s happiness. He did not pray for finances. He did not pray for success. Here is what he prayed for:
a. That I may glorify you
b. That others may know you.
c. Now glorify me
d. For the believers
e. The father and son are one
f. I’m coming to you
g. Protection from the evil ones
h. Truth of the word.
i. Those who will believe
j. That all will believe
His prayer was a lot different than mine. Mine is about helping me get through the week. Helping me with my soar muscles. Helping my family. No, I don’t pray like Jesus. But maybe that should change.
This morning’s message is the fourth in a series about becoming “An Alongsider.” It is the fourth in a 10-part series. I shared in the Midweek this week that the ministry of the Alongsider is derived from the Greek concept of paraclesis, meaning, "a calling to one's side, and active helper or counselor." The Holy Spirit (Paraclete) is the ultimate Alongsider, but so are we called to come alongside others to help them become a disciple of Jesus. It is the act of discipleship. So this series of messages is about making disciples.
The first sermon was about how Jesus called amateurs to serve him in making disciples. All of us here are qualified to come alongside someone else and help them grow in their faith. The second sermon was about keeping the first commandment and exercising real, genuine agape love as we lead others on a path of growth. The third, last week, was about the importance of being intentional in leading others on a path of growth. We don’t sit back and wait, but we identify and seek a relationship with another person and help them grow in their faith. Today’s lesson on becoming an alongsider reminds us of the very important role prayer has in making disciples.
If there was some order of importance, today’s theme should have been first, but I don’t think they were arranged in order of important and priority. So this morning, I want to talk about prayer and how it is important in this process of becoming an alongsider. It seems we have strayed when it comes to understanding the purpose, value and power of prayer. As the Hebrew writer said, Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, so that we will not grow weary and lose heart. I believe we grow weary when we do not pray as we should.
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus teaches us two important principles regarding prayer. In our passage this morning, we see that “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Jesus’ prayer life was intentional. Just like I said last week about becoming an alongsider and how we need to be intentional about. Jesus did not pray by accident, no Jesus prayed intentionally.
Mark goes into great detail to describe the intentional prayer life of Jesus. He set aside time to pray. I think Jesus awoke before daybreak because He wanted to avoid the distractions that would come from people, events and duties. Jesus understood the value of time therefore he arose early – making it a priority to spend time in prayer. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus is not setting forth a command to rise early in the morning to pray, however he is demonstrating a wise principle of being intentional with our prayer life.
Jesus set apart a place to pray. Not only did he wake up early for the purpose of prayer, Jesus made it a point to find a place to pray. Mark says he left the house and went off to a solitary place. The amplified Bible calls it a deserted place – the implication it was a place where Jesus could go to avoid the distractions of the stuff of life. Closing out the distractions is the key to communication with God. Unfortunately it is becoming more and more difficult to do this in our hi-tech culture. TV offers us 24 hour programming, the internet offers us constant information and our cell phones give us instant access to everyone who has a phone. While Jesus faced the demands of people in public, we face the demands of people with constant communication. With so much access it is no wonder we cannot hear from God today. To develop a prayer life like Jesus, we all need a solitary place where we can meet God. A private place gives us access to God and helps us to be accountable to our prayer time. When we go to that place we hold ourselves and others accountable to our prayer time.
The Early African converts to Christianity were serious about private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the thicket where he would pour out his heart to God. Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others in the village. They would kindly remind the negligent one, "Brother, the grass grows on your path." May we all have a place to go for prayer that is worn because we have been there often.
We also find that Jesus’ prayer life gave him clarity. Note in Mark 1:36-39 “Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!" Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else, to the nearby villages, so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. Jesus quickly tells them he has other plans - "Let us go somewhere else, to the nearby villages, so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." To the disciples it was about being with the people, but to Jesus it was about being with the father. The father set the mission, not the disciples. When you spend time with the father you will have clarity about what is important and what is urgent. Jesus knew the only way to find the source of direction, inspiration and courage to do what is essential is from close communion times with the Lord. This was his priority.
Are you seeing a pattern here? Last week I illustrated how Jesus was more of an alongsider than he was a preacher to groups. He walked alongside and ministered to Zacchaeus, Mary Magdalene, the Woman at the well, the disciples. But he also knew that he needed an alongsider. He turned to his heavenly father on a regular basis to receive love, support and power. He could then turn around and offer love, support and power to others. That is the gist of being an alongside. If prayer is not our first act toward becoming an alongsider, then we will be weak and ineffective. The disciples thought it was urgent to meet the needs of the people, but Jesus knew it was important to spend time with the father.
We can have clarity in knowing that we OUGHT to become an alongsider, however to discover how to do so, and who to walking alongside, it begins with prayer. The prayer life of Jesus was intentional. He awoke early in the morning, he left the house he went to a place – there he met God. When he met God his prayer life was marked with clarity. Jesus knew his mission, because he knew his Father.
How are we to develop a prayer life like Jesus? First, we commit to finding a place to be alone with God. Secondly, we make it a private place where we are not disturbed. I think it was my wife who told me about women from days gone by who had a house full of children. They would lift their apron over heir heads and spend time alone with God. Adapt. Thirdly, If you have family tell them this is your private place. If you choose not to pray in the early morning, let your family know when you go to your private place you are not to be disturbed.
Here’s another important element of prayer. Use Scripture as part of your prayer routine. I would recommend you read from the book of Psalm when you pray. The Psalms was and is the worship hymnal for God’s people. With 150 psalms to choose from, I am sure you will find words of comfort and words to assist you as you pray. You might want to consider the practice of using a journal. I’m bad at it so I don’t do it. But many people record their prayers. You can look back and see the progress. This is especially true if you are seeking to be an alongsider. You will be amazed at the progress from where you start and where you end up as you walk alongside another person.
The key thing to know is, that we can’t become an alongsider alone or by ourselves. We need God’s help, and we need his mercy and grace when we fail. We will always fail at being an alongsider because we are human. So when we don’t only pray for God’s help in being an alongsider, but we run to his loving arms when we fail. We are then able to find his grace so that we can pick up and start again. Amen.