Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Facing down our lions


We're continuing to study Daniel this week, and the first thing I noticed in the passage yesterday was that prayer was a discipline with him. It was a routine.
Now, by that I DO NOT mean that it was hum-drum.
That he took it for granted.
Nope.
Did you see how many times each day he prayed?
I'll wait a moment for you to check back in Daniel, chapter 6.

Are you impressed? Three times daily.
You know, I'll just bet that this is why he had "an excellent spirit," and why "they could find nothing" with which to accuse him.
What do we do three times a day?

Other than eating, I mean. Shouldn't our spiritual food be just as important?
Ouch!
Do we have the self-discipline to get on our knees and spend time with God each and every day? I'm not asking if we can do it three times daily, although that would be awesome, to emulate Daniel.
I'm just asking about once daily!

Seriously. I don't know how people do it. Life, I mean. How do people survive, that don't have the Lord to be their Friend and their strength? How do they juggle the responsibilities? The crises? The demands from spouse, kids, and jobs?  How to keep all those balls in the air?
If I didn't have the Lord as my Rock, I'd be a puddle of goo from trying to live life in this world. The stress would simply squash me.
Look at the example that Jesus provided for us. He Who was God in the flesh. Let's look at some verses:
The next morning Jesus went out to a place where he could be alone, and crowds came looking for him.  (Luke 4:42a)
And again in Luke's gospel:
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles:  (Luke 6:12-13)
In college, we would study hard for an exam, and sometimes "pull an all-nighter." We'd stay awake (through many and various means) and cram as much of that textbook into our heads as we could.
Because it was important.
Jesus prayed all night before He chose His disciples.
Because it was important.
How many big decisions have we prayed over? How many times have we sought His guidance for an important decision?
Have we prayed all night? Or have we hurriedly laid it at His feet and moved on? Do we have the self-discipline to pray like we mean it? Like it's important?
I know, I know, my toes are hurting, too . . . .

Let's look at another passage:
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. (Matthew 26:36-44)

This was the night before Jesus died. He took three of His closest disciples into the Garden of Gethsemane, to pray with Him. What an honor. To come alongside of their Master and pray with Him.
He left them in one spot to pray, and then went further into the garden to pray alone. Before He left them, He told them that they needed to pray -- so that they would not fall into temptation.
But it was night time.
And they were tired.
And the grassy spot felt so soft.
And cozy.
And they nodded off.
And that is how He found them.
I don't know about you, but I think I would have been tempted to say that my eyes were closed because I was deep in prayer. Right? Hey, no way was I sleeping! Um, that would not work. We can't fool Him; He knows us.
He woke them and asked couldn't they pray with Him for an hour?
Later that evening, a frightened Peter would distance himself from his Lord. He would deny Him three times.
This study has made me wonder . . . what if Peter had stayed awake for that hour? Maybe he would not have crumbled and denied Jesus? Christ Jesus said, "...the flesh is weak." Absolutely! And that is why we need to discipline ourselves to our prayer life.

Prayer can be God's time to strengthen us, so that we can avoid temptation!
What would our days be like, if we immersed each day in prayer? What if we looked at our calendar, or our "to-do" list, or just listed the items aloud from memory? What if we prayed for each thing we are going to do?
And what would our days be like, if we set a time for our prayers? Sure, we can pray all throughout the day. At any moment, we can pause and seek His guidance and His help. But if we set a time, and we are disciplined, we will see the fruits of those prayers in significant ways!

This verse can speak to so many things in our lives. You can insert anything you wish for the word "house." Our jobs, our families, our relationships . . .
Unless the Lord builds the house,    the builders labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1a)
We truly must learn to have self-discipline. There is no magic number. Praying a certain number of times each day is not a magic charm or spell. But setting a time and sticking to it -- making it important enough to stick with it -- the results will astound us, as He honors our commitment and blesses us abundantly. We will see that we can face our lions . . .