First Things First

Sometimes insomnia takes over the wee hours. There’s usually a reason for it. I call this my “insomniacross”. It’s time to be receptive. Time to pick up the insomniacross and follow! Often, when that happens, although it’s not physically pleasant, you just go with it, since sleep is not an option.

It’s as if the Lord is saying, “They that sleep sleep at night.” As in ”we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night…” (1 Thessalonians 5:5-7)

Yes, that’s probably a wee bit “literal”, but it certainly reminds me that we live in very dark times indeed, and there are so many who are spiritually sleeping through it, unaware that what they do not know can and will hurt them.

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” (Romans 13:11)

There is always a gift in these episodes. So I wake up and resume reading in my little New Testament. It’s Luke 11, where the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. Here we are introduced to Luke’s treatment of the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus admonishes His disciples to be persistent, with the promise that whoever asks, seeks, and knocks will receive the Holy Spirit.

He also illustrates God’s desire to answer this prayer the way a loving Father would respond to a request from His child: He would not give a snake in place of a fish, or a scorpion in place of an egg. He will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. Nothing less than that. No substitutes.

My attention is drawn back to a familiar story preceding this teaching on prayer, beginning at 10:38, the account of Mary and Martha. It is a segue into the discourse on prayer – something I did not see before which seems to set the stage for it! Stay with me – this is a bit complex.

Not to fault her, but Martha represents the busy approach to Jesus. She is obsessed with the details of serving Him. Clearly she wants everything to be right as a way of honoring and respecting her guest!

However, she is so busy with the details of serving Him that she is not taking time to just sit with Him, to converse with Him, to know Him better, and to listen to what He wants to reveal to her! She must make every detail count to please Him. (Or is she pleasing herself?)

What’s really a bur under her saddle is Mary’s lazy attitude. Just look at that girl, sitting there at Jesus’ feet! She is smiling and laughing while I’m slaving away. I’ll put a stop to this! She may not listen to me, but she’ll listen to Him!

“Jesus, excuse me, but can’t you see how busy I am getting dinner ready? There’s so much to do! Can You tell Mary to please get up and help me? I’m up to my eyeballs in all these details of wanting everything to be right for You, and I need help!”

Martha is hurt by Mary’s lack of willingness to help, but here comes salt to her wounds!  “Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41,42) What? You have to be kidding, Jesus!

Could it be that “carefulness” (anxiety is what the word means) and trouble are not what Jesus asks of us? It seems He desires our friendship. There it is again, the difference between servanthood and friendship! (See my last entry from May 26:

There’s a repeated message coming across. One worth waking up for in the wee hours! What’s going on here? The connection may be a little difficult to pin down at first, especially if we take great pride in being a detail obsessed servant of the Lord.

Might there have been a connection Luke had in mind, as he prefaced the teaching on prayer with the account of Martha the servant and Mary the friend?

Could this be an indicator that points us in the direction, not of the religious “busies”, but rather toward the spiritual stillness and silence, the listening attitude of friendship with Jesus?

Might this be the “posture”, depicted by Mary, whereby we quietly, receptively hear from Jesus all that He hears from the Father, rather than telling Him what we think is the right way to do things and asking Him to bless our mess? Might Mary’s way be the attitude in which we do a different kind of “praying”?

We’re all capable of super-servant self-righteousness. It’s so easy to get caught up in the details rather than getting caught up in the Spirit with the Lord Himself.

The question is: what characterizes my prayer attitude: the demanding servant or the friend quietly listening to His Still Small Voice?

The times noisily cry out to us, on every level from personal to political, “Do something! Do something!” Yet there seem to be few if any lasting solutions.

Although there is a call to action from some “alternative” sources, who may have a better handle on the real news than the mainstream media, the question still remains, is an activist stance or resistance, without the input of the Lord, going to turn it all around as we play social and political hokey pokey?

Some of these sources claim the Name of Christ, yet almost never is there the recommendation to approach Jesus as not only our Friend, but our Elder Brother and ask for the Father’s will to be revealed to us! If ever there were a time when it is imperative to claim the promise of Jesus, that the Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who persistently pursue Him (and consequently the answers only He has), who never give up asking, seeking, and knocking, that time is now!

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” (James 1:5,6)

We must be in the listening mode, as Mary was, not wringing our hands in anxious Martha mode. We must become listeners to the Still Small Voice, in a prayer state of receptivity. That’s a new idea if we’re used to telling God what we think should be done.

It would seem imperative that we sit with the Holy Spirit as we meditate upon and internalize 2 Chronicles 7:14 as to specifics – “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” On some levels it means that God and the Holy angels must intervene at levels we cannot even begin to imagine.

Clearly the answers need to be ascertained by praying for the Holy Spirit first of all, for consecration and single minded devotion to Jesus, Who reveals the Mind and Heart of the Father. The answers to our present dilemmas may be something entirely different than what we think they are… God’s infinite view of first things first is not necessarily our finite view of first things first.



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