I really didn’t expect what happened early one morning last week. I have been reading through the gospels consecutively for most of a year, seeking to grasp what Jesus’ closest disciples were seeing and hearing. Recently it has been Matthew.
As the Matthew account unfolds, we see the shape of Jesus’ itinerate ministry. Jesus travels from town to town, surrounded by masses of people drawn to the hope and healing he offers. In many instances his teaching and healing stretch through long days without a break.
Chapter fourteen captures “a day in the life” of Jesus & company. Here’s a recap:
Jesus receives the news his cousin, John the Baptist, has been beheaded.
Jesus seeks to slip away to a private place with his leadership team.
Word of their departure gets out, so they are inundated by crowds.
Jesus holds an all-day healing clinic.
Toward evening he hosts an impromptu meal for five thousand hungry people.
Remarkably, there were more left-overs than there were fixings.
Jesus sends his team across the lake, while he dismisses the crowd.
Then the account states, “He climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray.” (Mt 14.25, The Message
When I read that sentence, it was compellingly clear to me that Jesus’ example was something that God was giving me for immediate application. It fit, because my days have been full and this is a unique season of opportunity in the development of several leaders.
So rather than try to think or write my way forward, I simply started to pray. First a sentence about what was on my heart. Then a pause. Then another sentence. More pause… then a new insight and request.
At the time, the experience was different and wonderful. On reflection now, I can see that all too often I approach God the way a doctoral candidate might approach his advisor. “Here’s what I have worked out – will you approve it?”
Instead, this prayer time was more of a download from God’s heart to mine – a recognition of the significance of how these leaders develop; great possibilities and potentialities; new ideas. There were also moments of heavy burden and sorrow. God surprised me with tears and sobs for the situation of one leader. Woven through it all was a sense of gathering confidence and a boldness to ask big on behalf of these men.
The prayer ended with a sense that I had heard from God and been heard by him. As the week progressed, I noted a continued unfolding of clarity and assurance as I interacted with these guys.
A couple thoughts. This was way better
than simply planning. Also, following Jesus’ example of withdrawing to pray at significant junctures was much more appealing to me than dutifully working from a prayer list.
What have been your experiences in prayer? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.