We are Christ-centered Friends who equip and encourage all people
to respond to God's love and transforming Spirit.
by Faith Marsalli, February 9, 2003
May we come to You, Living Christ with fresh eyes and hearts.
This week, I heard someone lament how life just seems like a series of problems. Do you ever feel this way? Perhaps this has been a particularly difficult week for you.
Certainly, as a country, it seems as if we just move from one crisis to another. As if things didn't seem bad enough with the threat of war and our state budget dilemma - then we hear the tragic news last weekend of lives that were lost on the space shuttle, Columbia, and we wonder what is going on here.
Where is God to be found in all of this? How can I make sense of the suffering I see around me? Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed. Sometimes I feel so weary just trying to make a difference in my small corner of the world.
Perhaps we can gain some insight from this gospel passage in Mark on how to deal with these feelings.
Mark 1:29-39: "Directly on leaving the meeting place, they came to Simon and Andrew's house,
accompanied by James and John. Simon's mother-in-law was sick in bed, burning up with fever.
They told Jesus. He went to her, took her hand and raised her up. No sooner had the fever left than
she was up fixing dinner for them.
That evening, after the sun was down, they brought sick and evil-afflicted people to him, the whole
city lined up at his door! He cured their sick bodies and tormented spirits. Because the demons knew
his true identity, he didn't let them say a word.
While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed.
Simon and those with him went looking for him. They found him and said, "everybody's looking for you."
Jesus said, "Let's go to the rest of the villages so I can preach there also. This is why I've come."
He went to their meeting places all through Galilee, preaching and throwing out the demons."
I wonder if Jesus ever got that weary feeling when he looked at all the problems? I wonder if he ever questioned whether anything he did would really make a difference? How did he handle the suffering he saw everyday? What helped him keep focused and grounded in the face of insurmountable difficulty?
There is a something very profound here in this story that points us to the source of his strength. "While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed."
Interesting With all the pressing needs and problems, Jesus didn't go out and do more---Jesus withdrew to spend time alone with God.
I would like to share with you from my own experience some lessons I am learning about prayer. I want you to know that I'm speaking from my ongoing discovery on the journey.
As we think about prayer I would like to reflect on three specific things this morning:
First, that prayer is my spiritual breath. We can't really live or be growing spiritually without it. Without prayer we will never become long distance runners on our journey of faith. I'm convinced that prayer is our spiritual cardio vascular training. It builds in us endurance for the long haul. With all that Jesus did for others he models for us the absolute necessity of spending time alone with God.
I'm fully aware that I cannot understand the things that I see happen in this imperfect world. I have so many questions. But I am seeing more and more how much I need to create quiet space daily with God to just talk things over.
Without prayer, we can't give to others for very long, whether it's our families, in our jobs, at school, or in trying to address injustice in the world. We set ourselves up for big time burn out if we don't become conscious that prayer is the strength of our lives. It is the cure for our weary souls. I know from my own experience that there is great peace and comfort in spending time alone with God.
Secondly, prayer purifies my heart. In Mark's gospel the original language that was used to describe a secluded spot are the same words that were used to describe the wilderness of temptation Jesus endured for forty days. Lest we think that prayer is always an oasis of peace and tranquility, it is also happens to be a place where the battle between good and evil is fought. It seems as if Jesus knew this quite well in his own experience. Prayer becomes a place where we struggle with our own demons. This is probably the greatest struggle of prayer-Facing who we really are.
In prayer we will not only discover the light that is within but also the darkness and the tremendous capacity each of us has for self-deception. I think we always find it easier to see in others the quest for power, success and private gain than to recognize these strivings in ourselves.
Henri Nouwen says, "In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding: no friends to talk with, no telephone calls
to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me-naked, vulnerable,
weak, sinful And as soon as I decide to stay in my solitude, confusing ideas, disturbing images, wild
fantasies and weird associations jump out of my mind like monkeys in a banana tree. Anger and greed
begin to show their ugly faces. I give long hostile speeches to my enemies, and I dream lustful dreams
in which I am wealthy, influential, and very attractive "
Nouwen describes what I have experienced on my journey. I must honestly face my own ego before I can move forward. I must humbly acknowledge to God the darkness I am capable of and my need to change. In this way, prayer becomes the furnace of transformation.
Thirdly, prayer leads me to right action. Those of you, who know me well, know that I get really passionate about stuff, like our Quaker peace testimony, for instance. It's easy for me to go off frantically doing before I've waited for guidance. When I pray I feel less anxious. I find myself holding my own plans lightly and trusting that the wisdom and clarity will come when I need it.
I find it interesting that in this story in Mark, while Jesus was off alone in prayer, his disciples were frantically searching for him. They had gotten caught up in the action and growing popularity of Jesus. There was stuff to do and people to see! But it was out of this quiet place that Jesus discovered a clear sense of his purpose. Out of that time alone in prayer he found the strength to be in a world with so many needs.
So I challenge each of us today to follow the example of Jesus and withdraw from the busyness of our lives to spend time alone with God. Even if you find only ten minutes out of the entire week. Start somewhere. Do what you can - not what you can't.
Maybe some of you have experienced tremendous blocks to prayer. You've wondered, "Is this just a waste of time? I have so much to do-I don't have time for this! Any time I have ever tried to spend time in prayer, I just feel so restless." Just know that this is a common struggle for anyone who is seeking to cultivate the discipline of prayer in his or her life.
In closing .
This is the one thing I absolutely know to be true. Prayer is my lifeline in a world full of problems. I'll leave you with the words of Isaiah,
"Those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles. They run
and don't get tired, they walk and don't lag behind."
Please email: Faith or Jan
Klamath Falls Friends Church (Quaker)
1918 Oregon Avenue
Klamath Falls, OR 97601