Summary: Prayer is simply the manifestation of a relationship with our Lord
Title: The Better Part of Prayer
Text: Luke 10:38-42 (Mary & Martha)
FCF: Christ is most interested in how we spend tine with him (i.e. prayer)
SO: Answer the question, “Is prayer (i.e. talking to Christ) a distraction from your life, or life a distraction from prayer?”
If I had to lay odds on the most common complaint of a Christian, it would be this. They say, “I’m not so good at prayer.”
Now, usually this is the response to the question, “Would you please lead us in prayer?” What they mean is, ‘I’m not so good at public speaking with everybody’s eyes closed and head bowed.’ But, that’s not really the issue. You see, I’ve led this congregation in enough public prayers to where I can do the speaking bit. The really hard part is actually making sure I pray. And that, my friends is the hard part of prayer. It’s not coming up with the words, it’s actually praying.
Between now and Thanksgiving, I want to spend time looking into the Word to see how we can “pray better.” But this morning, I want to focus on what truly is the better part of prayer. To do that, I want to take you to a portion of scripture you already know, but I want to show it to you in what is perhaps a different light than you’ve seen it before.
You know the story of Mary & Martha. Let me remind you of it:
" Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”" (Luke 10:38-42, NRSV)
The Position of the Story
I’m curious, does anybody know the context in which this story is set? If you can’t remember, don’t feel bad – before I started preparing this sermon, I couldn’t have told you. But, when I found out where it sits, I realized that this has a lot to do with prayer.
Let me tell you that this story is in Luke 10, and that means chronologically, it’s out of place. We know from John that Mary & Martha lived in Bethany – that means lived in the closest suburbs of Jerusalem. Luke, on the other hand, has positioned this story just as Jesus is heading out for Jerusalem, so we know he must have put it here for a reason.
Let me tell you what comes right before this story – the action picks up with Jesus answering a lawyer that the entire law was summed up in two phrases – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. So, the lawyer asks, “Who’s my neighbor?” And that’s how you get the Good Samaritan.
Being a pretty good preacher, however, Luke then puts in this story. You could call, it “Love the Lord your God.” Couldn’t you?
And you know what comes right after this? A disciple says, “Jesus, how do you pray?” Jesus answers with something we know as the Lord’s Prayer. So see the context here. Before you delve into the story, see what Luke & Jesus are saying? Love your Neighbor. Love God. And here’s how – Pray.
This story doesn’t use the word “pray,” but I’d suggest to you that the context has prayer written all over it. I think it holds an answer for us this morning to the problem I started with – I don’t how to pray. If that’s a complaint you can identify with, let me show you what Jesus is saying about prayer in this passage.
Focus & Distraction
So then, what is the fundamental point of this passage? If I had to choose one word, it would be this – focus.
Let’s look back for a second at the passage. Too often we have this caricature of Martha doing nothing but the dishes in the kitchen and Mary doing absolutely nothing. The truth is, I’m sure, that Martha had spent some time with Jesus, and Mary had spent some time in the kitchen. The problem was that with Martha, she was focused on the preparations, and Mary was focused on the person of Christ. That’s why Jesus was able to say that Mary has chosen the better part.