As we continue our study on the five different ways of expressing love for God, we move into an area where there is much confusion and misunderstanding: Prayer. There is a lot to say about prayer, but I want to start with a simple definition. At its essence, prayer is intentionally placing yourself in the presence of God. Prayer is more about what you are doing to listen to God rather than what you are saying to God. The presence of God is what guides us. When do you do to bring quiet to your life to rest in the presence of God each day. How might your day look different if you took time to place yourself in the presence of God throughout the day?
For our first section on prayer, I want to follow the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as it is presented in Luke’s Gospel. In chapter three, Jesus receives the Holy Spirit while praying after his baptism. Chapter four takes him into the wilderness for temptation. Following the wilderness and into chapter six, we see Jesus going off to lonely places to pray. Let’s let Jesus’ time in the wilderness set the stage for why we pray. You’re going to hear a lot of voices in life, how will you know which ones to listen to?
Jesus takes on the mission to liberate the world from the powers of darkness, not just Rome and other political powers. How will he defeat Satan himself and bring about redemption? The answer might seem odd, but he does so by defeating him at the most personal and intimate levels. You cannot sacrifice your personal integrity just because the ends of your actions are justifiable. The ends never justify the means. What Satan offers Jesus in the wilderness are easy means to the ends he desires, that Jesus would be glorified, and all creation would bow down to him. Taking the easy road to the right aims in public is the lie that Satan whispers into every person’s ear starting with the lies whispered in the Garden. These voices show up in different ways in your life. How do you listen closely to the voice of God?
The encounter with Satan in the wilderness is an attack on Jesus’ identity as Son of God and embodies the same struggles Israel faced in the wilderness when they too received their sonship from God. Israel struggled with desire for their basic needs, failing to trust in God’s provision, and flirted with idol worship along the way. They would rather have a god they can manipulate rather than the God who created everything. Jesus does not argue with Satan but simply quotes scripture to him. Arguing with temptation is often a way of play with the idea until it becomes too attractive to resist.
Jesus is to become the world’s true Lord, but this path must be accomplished through love and humble service, not the mode of devilish seeking of status and power. The power Jesus does have, he does not use for the display of his own glory but to restore others to life, strength, and back into the community. Jesus’ status as God’s son commits him to the strange path of humility, service, and finally death for all people. The temptations Jesus faced in the wilderness are the same that we face today. The question I want us to wrestle with is, what role does prayer play in Jesus’ life? What do we learn from Jesus about prayer?
In Luke’s Gospel, there is a pattern of prayer that we often miss that I want to work from over the next few weeks. Right now, I just want to point to some passages in Luke 3-6 and give you some things to reflect on as we prepare for Sunday. With the definition of praying being in the presence of God in a posture of listening, what do you hear in these passages?
Pattern of Prayer in Luke:
3:21-22– What happens while Jesus is praying? What does God communicate to him?
4:1-3– Luke is not as explicit as Matthew, but Jesus going without food for 40 days could imply he was fasting. Luke says Satan was tempting him throughout that time. How does prayer aid Jesus in the wilderness?
4:38-44 (42-44)– What does Jesus stop doing in order to go to a solitary place to pray? How does Jesus respond to their desire for him to stay and keep healing people? How does he come to that decision?
Luke 5:12-16 (15-16)– What does Jesus stop doing in order to pray? What do you think he is doing in prayer?
Luke 6:12-13– How does Jesus make the decision of who to choose to make up the chosen twelve? How long does he pray? When you have to make major decisions, what part does prayer play in your decision making? How does resting in God’s presence shape your understanding of prayer in decision making?