Summary: We are so busy. Are we too busy to pray? What do we pray for? Does AMEN mean we are disconnecting God and getting back to life -- or does it mean something else?
There are 5 Presbyterian congregations in Iraq, and lately, I have been writing and receiving email from some of their pastors and elders.
I told them about our 24 hour prayer vigil. They were very, very impressed.
Looking back, I realize, I might have given them the wrong impression. I’m going to have to email them later today and clarify that while we were praying for 24 hours here at Sunrise, none of us were here for the whole 24 hours – we were just taking turns for those 24 hours! They were absolutely amazed that the whole church came here and spent an entire 24 hours together.
Well, that would amaze me, too.
Most of us are simply too busy with “other things” to give that much time to prayer.
Most of us feel like we need to be active every minute of the day.
So it comes as a surprise to read our New Testament lesson and to find Jesus, not being so busy with life. In fact, in the midst of a very busy time in his life, he sneaks off to a solitary place and prays.
Quiet time – doing nothing but talking to God.
Most of us are too busy to do anything like that!
Most of us feel like we need to be busy doing something. And for some reason, prayer just doesn’t feel “busy” or “active” enough.
We are a people and a society in which being busy makes us feel like we are worthwhile.
If we are not doing something, there is something within us that makes us feel like we are lazy, or that we are wasting our time.
A generation or two ago, the life of the family was going to be revolutionized by the automatic washing machine. Up until then, washing the family’s laundry literally took an entire day. People referred to one day of their weekly routine as wash day.
Then technology came through with the washing machine, and you could throw the clothing into a machine, and then leave it and go do something else. What a time saver.
So what happened? Did we get more time to relax? No, we filled our time with other duties.
The computer was the same way. It enables us to do more our work in a lot less time. But do we get off work early? No. We simply do more work.
There is something within us that compels us to fill up every moment of our time.
Even if we are not talking about work, our families are stretched to the limit with activities as we go from ballet classes to soccer to outings at the beach to concerts to this and to that.
It is as if we are afraid of what might happen if we would just be still for a moment.
In our New Testament lesson, Jesus is very busy. In fact, Mark’s Gospel is the most 21st Century-compatible Gospel there is. Because Mark gives the impression that everyone is always in a hurry – always busy. The word “immediately” appears over 50 times in Mark’s Gospel.
Mark tells the story of Jesus being baptized and then he says, “And immediately the Holy Spirit sent him into the desert.”
Then Jesus encounters Simon and Andrew fishing and invites them to be disciples and Mark says, “Immediately they left their nets.”
Jesus heals people and casts out demons, and “immediately and quickly the news spread about Jesus.”
And finally, after a fast paced beginning, Mark says that “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.”
Even in the fast paced, and very successful and meaningful life of Jesus, there was the need to sometimes retreat to a quiet, lonely place for reflection, meditation, prayer and communion with God.
This is absolutely necessary in our busy lives. It makes our busy lives worthwhile and bearable. More than bearable – times of being in a solitary and quiet place with God enable us to do the work we are to do.
Jesus doesn’t just go to that quiet and solitary place and stays there. He goes there to recharge his spiritual batteries. Being there enables him to then get up and move onto find other places to preach his message.
Now if you think that living life in a fast paced, busy fashion is only a problem to the modern age, think again.
In the Gospel of Luke, there is a wonderful story of Jesus being hosted by sisters Martha and Mary. (Luke 10:38-42)
Jesus comes to their home. Mary is content to be still and silent, and to be with the Lord. Martha can’t do that. She has to be busy. She complains to Jesus that her sister isn’t helping her work. In the words of Luke’s Gospel, Martha becomes "distracted and upset at many things."