A Holy Occupation. Part I.
“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.” That’s the verse that came to mind yesterday morning around 9:15 or so when I felt like things were starting to go south. It wasn’t that things were going bad but rather just a sense that the day was beginning to turn into more of a “Steve” day than a “God” day. I was already on my way to “accomplishing things” but sensed little power and direction from above. I had just turned out some sermon prep and was ready to tic a number of other things off the check list. In the eyes of man I was on target to having a very successful day of busyness. But maybe that’s where the problem was. It’s so easy to allow the rush of the land and agenda of our corporate lifestyle to crowd God out. The day actually started off on the wrong foot when I checked email on my phone not even five minutes after waking up and it wasn’t going much better by mid-morning. So there I was, wrestling with the example of Jesus in Mark 1:35 and feeling like I had just gone back to the school house of prayer. I was reminded once again that unless the first breaths of the day are guarded militantly the world will take the rest of the day away. You know the routine. I want to get with it, find out what’s going on, get things done and feel like I’ve “accomplished something” and then all of a sudden its 10:00 in the evening and God’s been left behind for another day. Yes, the schedules are intense, the world around us is stressed, and we want to do something about it. Believe me; it’s just as hard in full-time Christian ministry as in engineering, teaching, or any other God given career path. I get it. I’ve lived it. But yet what we discover in history is that those who were truly used by God were those who prioritized time with God. Their source of strength and direction came out of their intimate reliance and relationship with Jesus. It was over 100 years ago that the great Scottish Minister, Oswald Chambers, opened up his challenging work on prayer with these words.
“The job of every Christian is to pray. Plain and simple. Yet we want to do more than simply pray. We want to do something important for God; we want to be someone important to Him. We want to build; we want to mobilize; we want to show our strength and exert our influence. Prayer seems like such a small thing to do – next to nothing at all in fact.
But that’s not what Jesus said. To Him prayer is everything; it’s a duty as well as a privilege, a right as well as a responsibility.
We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but Jesus wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but Jesus wants us to pray before we do anything at all. Most of us would prefer, however, to spend our time doing something that will get immediate results. We don’t want to wait for God to resolve matters in His good time because His idea of “good time” is seldom in sync with ours.
And so we try to help God along. Many times we even try to answer our own prayers. We have the idea that more people will become Christians if we can make God look good to them. So we try to convince them of God’s generosity by proving that HE answers prayer. If we can just help God spruce up His image a little, we can get more people on His side. And that’s what He wants us to do, right?
Wrong. He wants us to pray. Always and about everything. During times of joy as well as sorrow. He wants us to talk to Him, not about Him. He even wants us to talk to Him about unbelievers before we talk to unbelievers about Him.
Prayer is not just an exercise routine God has us on; it’s our business, our only business. Prayer is our holy occupation. Plain and simple.”
Every time I go back to those words I’m reminded that the busyness of this realm is merely a shadow of the real show that’s going on beyond the veil of the physical. I need those words. For us to truly know Christ and share the love of Christ; we need those words. That’s where the life changing and earth shaking power resides. It was said by Martin Luther, who accomplished volumes in the Kingdom, that he spent his best three hours of the day in prayer.
So what about us? What about me? Can we get up a bit earlier and turn off the email and media longer until we’ve come into the presence of God? Maybe it’s something as simple as staying away from all other communication of the day before we commune with the Father first. Anyone else want in for the ride? Let’s go for it and see what HE does beyond our own strength.