Grief

Solitary prayer helps heal a grieving heart

Advertisements

Read: Matthew 14

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:13-14)

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone. (Matthew 14:23)

Reflect:

Jesus had just received word from John the Baptist’s disciples that their rabbi, Jesus’ relative, had died, having been murdered by Herod to please his dinner guests. Jesus’ heart must have ached as he mourned the first Christian martyr. Then with each sick person he healed, Jesus must have been confronted by the fact that he could not heal John B. – but also been sure of his heavenly Father’s plan for John B.’s ultimate redemption.

Jesus’ response to his grief was to withdraw on his own to pray. When his solitary time in prayer was interrupted, Jesus got back to it as soon as possible.

This has not always been my response to sadness. Sometimes my response has been quite the opposite – to assume my sad situation is evidence that God is mad at me and doesn’t want to hear from me.

But during the months when my 10-year-old niece was dying of a brain tumour, my solitary morning Bible & prayer walks sustained me by reminding me that God cared about my niece and he cared about me. I clung to God in that time and I will never forget how he responded so clearly in my daily Scripture readings to my tearful prayers.

crux:

Solitary prayer helps heal a grieving heart.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are indeed Almighty – the LORD both strong and mighty. You are able to do so much more than I could ask or imagine.

I know that some people believe that the existence of suffering in the world proves that you cannot be both loving and all-powerful. But I believe that the existence of suffering instead means that you have a plan for its use. I need to trust in your loving-kindness, in your strength and might, to solve my problems according to your plan.

May you be glorified in my suffering and in all of my life. Thank you for your precious encouragement to me as I cried out to you during the last months of Lisa’s earthly life.

Thank you for the bold example of John the Baptist, whose godly moral stance led to his martyrdom. Thank you for Jesus, who was also killed unjustly, he whose death achieved salvation and heavenly blessing for me and for all who believe in him.

Amen.

One

We are one in Christ so that others may be won by Christ

Read: John 17

“I will remain in the world no longer, but they [the disciples] are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11)

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

Reflect:

Jesus prayed for his disciples and he prayed for me. He prayed aloud, so his disciples could overhear and witness his prayer. Jesus prayed for me and for all the Christians through the ages to today. He prayed for all who believe that Jesus was sent by God the Father, for all who believe this because Jesus’ disciples were faithful in their witness to speak about Jesus and write about him so we might know these things to be true (John 20:31 and 21:24).

In his prayer to his Father, Jesus made the same request for his disciples as he made for later Christians, including me: Jesus asked that we may be one, in the same way the Father and the Son are one. Jesus asked that we be united together.

Then, our unity in the Church, in Christ, will be a witness to others that Jesus was indeed sent by God.

People will ask, “How can you possibly get along with him?” They will say, “How can you put up with her?” They will want to know, “Why do you spend time with them?”

The answer is: “Because Jesus has made us one.”

We are one body, the body of Christ. We are one family, the sons and daughters of God the Father, sisters and brothers of Jesus the Son. We are one in spirit, because we have the One Spirit in us.

Christians are one because we have been won by our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and so that others may be drawn to faith in Christ also.

Crux:

We are one in Christ so that others may be won by Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are the Holy Father, the Righteous Father, perfect and pure as you reign in heaven.

You are my Father, my Father in heaven, gloriously gracious as you sent your Son to earth.

Thank you for sending Jesus to redeem me from my past life of meaninglessness and wandering. Thank you for setting my feet upon the Rock.

Thank you for giving me a new family, my church family, that we might be one in love for you and for each other. Thank you for my dear friends in the church, friends that I would never have met if it had not been for your desire to win each of us for your kingdom. Thank you for our fellowship together, whereby we love each other, edify and encourage each other, offer mercy and grace to each other, and minister to each others’ needs.

May we be truly one, demonstrating your unity in the Trinity to the world through our love for one another. May others see our unity and be amazed and moved by your Spirit to seek out the source of this unity in Jesus, the one whom you sent.

May our church be especially and particularly united as they meet for their quarterly business meeting tonight. May our church members be loving to one another, putting each other’s needs before their own, considering each other more worthy than themselves. May we magnify your glory by our unity as the locally gathered church.

Amen.

Loved

God’s love for me grows in response to my growing love for Jesus

Read: John 16

“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:22)

“In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:26-27)

Reflect:

Jesus is talking here about the immediate future: what will happen after the Last Supper sermon is ended. “Now” is their time of grief because Jesus is about to die by crucifixion, an ugly painful death during which the disciples will be scattered and leave Jesus alone while he bears their sins in his body on the cross. But the disciples “will” rejoice and “will” ask “in that day”, once Jesus has been raised again to life. The disciples will rejoice because Jesus has won their forgiveness and granted them righteousness, admitting them to the family of God, indwelling them by God’s Spirit.

Then, Jesus Christ will no longer be a physically present intermediary who will relay their requests to the Father so that the Father may display his love for Jesus by answering Jesus’ prayers (as, for example, was necessary when healing a boy suffering convulsions, Mark 9:14-29). Instead, the Father will love Jesus’ disciples directly and in a different manner to his general love for “the world” (John 3:16). God’s love will now be amplified in response to the disciples’ love for Jesus and belief in him, and their prayers will be answered generously and completely.

This is complicated, but basically what it means is this:

God’s love for us, which began in eternity past when he chose us in Jesus before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), is now expanded in response to our love for Jesus, which his Spirit enables.

God loves us, so we love Jesus. And God loves us all the more, because we love Jesus. As Christians respond to the Spirit and love the Son, the Father witnesses our love and loves us more.

Crux:

God’s love for me grows in response to my growing love for Jesus.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are love: You are the origin and source of love. You instigate love, magnify love, exemplify love, amplify love. You enable and expand my love for Jesus. You also respond and reply to my love with your own love for me. You build my love for Christ and you bless my love with your own for me.

How glorious are your ways, O God,
your paths beyond searching out!

You have chosen to bless me with full and complete joy, unending and everlasting joy, found in seeing and knowing and loving and believing in Jesus, whom you sent as a gift of love to me.

O LORD, how wonderful is your will,
your gifts above all treasures.

Please continue to bless me by building my love for Jesus. Keep my eyes focussed on Jesus and not on myself, nor my family, nor my community, nor my country. May I see Jesus and not my situation, not my suffering, not my opinions, not my preferences. May I love Jesus all the more, and may your love for me abound in response.

Thank you for your loving kindness to me. May I find my delight in you, so you may delight in me.

Amen.