Life Remixed

Life Remixed

Colossians 3:5-17

James C. Denison

Tonight on the Discovery Channel a documentary will air claiming that the burial boxes of Jesus and his family have been discovered. James Cameron, director of Titanic and The Terminator, is one of the makers of the film. He’s dealing with ossuaries, burial boxes found in Jerusalem 27 years ago. He claims that the inscriptions on the sides show that Jesus was buried here along with his wife, Mary Magdalene, and their son Judah. His mother Mary and brother Joseph are supposed to have been buried here as well.

Archaeologists have been quick to attack this ridiculous claim, one of them the expert who first found the ossuaries. He points out that Cameron has absolutely no proof for his allegations and that other scholars dismissed this thesis years ago. But it all makes for good marketing during the Lenten season.

If Cameron is right, Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. Then he isn’t the Son of God, and Christianity is false. If he is right, the first Christians, eyewitnesses to the risen Christ 20 centuries ago, are wrong. There is no explanation for the non-biblical records which document that the first Christians believed that Jesus rose from the grave. More than a million people died for a claim they knew to be a lie. There is no explanation for the miraculous birth and growth of the church.

There’s an even easier way to know that Cameron is wrong and that Jesus is alive today. When the “God is dead” controversy started in the 1960’s, someone asked Billy Graham what he thought. “God isn’t dead,” he replied with a smile–“I just talked with him this morning.”

God still speaks, in prayer and in Scripture. If we will put his revelation into practice in our lives, we’ll learn that the Bible really is true. Its claims really do work. Our lives really are blessed when we lead them as God directs. Let’s learn how to be holy in every relationship of our lives, and what happens when we are.

Refuse sexual sin

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” This is a present tense imperative, intended for us all. The tense is active–something we must do. God cannot do this for us and yet honor our free will.

We must put these sins “to death,” not just out of the way to be considered later. Something must die–these sins, or us. Either we kill the cancer, or it kills us.

Now we come to the vice list, five words which all relate to sexual sin.

The first is “sexual immorality,” porneia in the Greek. Any kind of sexual activity outside marriage and outside God’s will. Premarital sex, extramarital sex, prostitution, pornography–all such acts are included here.

Next is “impurity”–the word relates to immoral thoughts and the decision to act on them.

Next is “lust,” “passions” in the Greek. The word relates to emotions, feelings.

Next comes “evil desires,” immoral desires and longings.

Last is “greed, which is idolatry.” In this context, wanting something sexual which we should not have. Wanting a person or a picture, an act or a relationship.

Immoral acts come from immoral thoughts, which comes from immoral emotions, which come from immoral desires, which comes from immoral temptations. We are tempted–we want this–we feel it–we think about it–we choose it. Such sins lead to the “wrath” and judgment of God (v. 6). Before we decided to follow Jesus, we “used to walk in these ways” (v. 7). But now we must follow them no more. We must “put them to death” today.

You can do this, or God would not tell you to.

People sometimes ask more of us than they should. The voice instructor who insisted that I take his class in college wasted his time and mine. The tragic episode reminds me of the farmer who paid for singing lessons for his pig–it just cost him money and made the pig mad. People often ask more than we can do.

But God does not. The inventor knows his invention. Nowhere does Scripture command us to save our souls, because we cannot. It does not tell us to earn our salvation, because that’s impossible. Whatever it does tell us to do, we can do. So, you and I can do this. We can “put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature.”

God will empower us, if we will choose to do this. He will tax the last grain of sand and star in the sky to help us. But the first step is ours. Where are you being tempted by sexual sin today?

Refuse spoken sin

The other category about which Paul warns us is just as deadly, though far less public: “now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other” (vs. 8-9a). From sexual sins to spoken sins.

The list grows in ascending order:

Stage one is “anger,” bitterness we will not release.

Stage two is “rage”–a “burning anger which flares up and burns with intensity,” to define the Greek term. From bitterness to anger–the simmering pot boils over.

Stage three is “malice,” the decision and intention to hurt the other person.

Stage four involves “slander” and “filthy language,” when we speak words which put our malice into effect. We belittle and attack with our words.

Finally comes stage five, where we “lie to each other” (v. 9a). From unkind words we progress to out-and-out falsehoods in our desire to hurt the other. “To each other” shows that the problem existed in the Christian community, not just the larger society.

All of this is so unnecessary, since we have already put off this “old self” when we asked Christ into our lives (v. 9b). We have put on the “new self,” which he is renewing in his image every day (v. 10). He does this for us all, no matter our background or story: Greek or Jew, Hebrew or Gentile; barbarian (uneducated), Scythian (savage), slave or free–“Christ is all, and is in all” (v. 11). We are all the family of God. I am your brother–you are my brothers and sisters.

But the text is in God’s word because we are as tempted by spoken sins as were the Colossians. Where has this temptation found you? Name the person for whom you harbor “anger” today. Give that person to Jesus right now, asking for his grace to see him or her as he does. Every time the anger returns, give it to Jesus again.

If you’ve already acted on your anger, rage, malice, and slander, ask forgiveness and seek reconciliation. Give this pain to Jesus, and receive his grace. It will never be easier than it is right now.

Choose forgiving grace

From the negative, God’s word moves quickly to the positive. Here’s how to replace disease with health, pain with joy: “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (v. 12).

“Compassion” means to “feel with,” to empathize with others, to put ourselves in their position.

“Kindness” refers to kind deeds and actions.

“Humility” requires that we serve others, not because they are superior to us or we are superior to them, but because we are their brother or sister.

“Gentleness” is strength under control, submitted constantly to the Spirit.

“Patience” means “long-suffering,” refusing revenge or retaliation.

Now comes the test: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (v. 13).

“Bear with each other” means to endure their sins against us.

“Forgive whatever grievances” means to pardon whatever has been done to us. We cannot forget it, but we can choose not to punish it.

Do this to the same degree that Jesus has forgiven you, without condition.

How? “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity.” Love is to be the outer garment which “binds together” all the others, which protects them and keeps them in place. “Agape,” selfless, sacrificial love which puts the other first, is the foundation virtue of all the rest.

There is a progression here in our relationships. Think of the person who last hurt you, or who has hurt you the most. Have that person in mind, and think about what he or she did to you.

Begin your response with “compassion.” Ask God to help you feel what they feel, to see things as they do. Why did he do this to you? What insecurity, false information, or past experiences motivated him to act in this way?

To respond unkindly, returning hurt for hurt, only makes things worse, reinforcing his insecurity. Kindness means that I look for actions which respond to his need in grace.

Humility means that I do so while understanding that I am a fallen person as well, that my needs are no greater than his. There but for the grace of God go I.

Gentleness means that I submit to God, asking him to help me give this person whatever he needs. I seek God’s leading and strength continually.

Patience means that I do this for a long time, whatever the person’s response. I am not responsible for what he does to me, only for what I do to him.

Forbearance means that I do this even when he does not respond in kind, and when the hurt continues.

Forgiveness means that I pardon all that he has done to me, and all that he continues to do to me.

Love means that I do this as a lifestyle and commitment, offering him what Jesus has given to me. This is the way to health and peace in this hurting relationship; the only way to resolution. God’s method works!

Experience forgiving grace

Now Paul closes with the internal spiritual health and power which enables everything else we’ve studied today. If we do this, we can refuse sexual and spoken sin, choosing forgiving grace for all we know. But only if we do this.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,” he commands (v. 15a). “Rule” means to umpire, to call the shots. “Heart” is the center of emotions and will. Seek the peace which comes from trusting completely in Jesus. Give your sexual and spoken and relational temptations to him, so fully that you receive his peace in their place.


“Be thankful” for all God has already done for you.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” as you begin the day in Scripture and spend the day meditating on its truth. Then you’ll be able to “teach and admonish” others, showing them God’s word and its application to their lives.

“Sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your heart to God,” worshiping him every day.

And “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Seek to glorify God in every moment, with every decision.

When I am right with our Father, I can be right with his children. Then I have the strength to resist sexual and spoken temptations. Then I have received the grace I can give to those who need it most. When I am connected to the source of the Spirit in my life, I can give what he gives to me. But only then.


We have studied some of the richest, most challenging truths in all of God’s word. But they summarize simply: refuse sexual and spoken temptations. Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another, as the Lord forgave you. How? By starting the day with thanksgiving, in the word and worship of God, seeking to glorify him with all you do.

The result will be days filled with victory, joy, peace, and significance. The result will be the “abundant life” Jesus wants to give every one of us.

A simple essay crossed my path recently. It pictures this text well, I think.

“When I meditated on the word ‘guidance,’ I kept seeing “dance” at the end of the word. I remember reading that doing God’s will is a lot like dancing. When two people try to lead, nothing feels right. The movement doesn’t flow with the music, and everything is uncomfortable and jerky.

“When one person realizes that, and lets the other person lead, both bodies begin to flow with the music. One gives gentle cues, perhaps with a nudge to the back or by pressing lightly in one direction or another. It’s as if two become one body, moving beautifully. The dance takes surrender, willingness, and attentiveness from one person and gentle guidance and skill from the other.

“My eyes drew back to the word ‘guidance.’ When I saw the ‘G’ I thought of God, followed by ‘u’ and ‘i.’ ‘God, ‘u’ and ‘i’ dance. God, you and I dance.”

Dance together with God, trusting God to lead and to guide you through each season of your life.

Who’s leading your dance today?

Relationship Rules

Relationship Rules

Colossians 3:18-4.1

James C. Denison

A friend recently sent me some statements about marriage which he thought I should use only at Men’s Bible Study on Thursday morning. But since I’m not as smart as he is, here goes:

Patrick Murray: “I’ve had bad luck with both my wives. The first one left me, and the second one didn’t.”

Sacha Guitry: “When a man steals your wife, there is no better revenge than to let him keep her.”

Henny Youngman: “Some people ask us the secret of our long marriage. We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight, dinner, soft music and dancing. She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays.”

Rodney Dangerfield: “My wife and I were happy for 20 years. Then we met.”

Fortunately, God’s wisdom on marriage and relationships is far more redemptive than ours. We’ll close our conversations in Colossians today with the most practical discussion possible, as we study God’s relationship rules. They apply to us all–husbands, wives, children, parents, employers, employees, Americans. We don’t break these rules–we break ourselves on them. Let’s learn how to keep them, and why we should.

Marriage rules

“Wives, submit to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord” (v. 18).

“Submit” translates “hupotasso,” the voluntary submission of one to another. Do this, not because you are inferior to your husband, for you are not. Do this because encouraging respect is what your husband most needs from you today.

The Lord designed him in such a way that your affirmation and support is his greatest need. Before he needs the respect of his peers or society or anyone else, he needs it first from you. Encouraging respect is your greatest gift. That’s simply how God made men.

“Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them” (v. 19).

In a culture which made women the property of their husbands or fathers, Christianity was radically different in its affirmation of women. Mary Magdalene was the first person to see the risen Christ, and the first person commissioned to tell the world about his resurrection. Lydia was the first convert in Europe. Philip had four daughters who were preachers (Acts 21:9). Phoebe was a “servant” or “deaconess” of the church (Romans 16:1). Junia was “outstanding among the apostles” (Romans 16:7).

So it is that husbands are not to be “harsh” with their wives. The word means to find fault, to criticize and complain. Such treatment makes our wives a means to our end, an object for our use.

The Jewish theologian Martin Buber distinguished between “I-You” and “I-It” relationships. In “I-It” relationships the other is a possession, something I use for my purposes. In “I-You” relationships the other is my equal, as valuable and significant as I am. We are to have “I-It” relationships with things and “I-You” relationships with people. Unfortunately, we often reverse the two. I know men who love their car and use their wives. As the song put it, “Loving things and using people only leads to misery; using things and loving people–that’s the way it ought to be.”

And so we are to “love” our wives.

Here Paul uses agape, the word for unconditional commitment. Not eros, the word for erotic or sexual love; not phileo, the word for friendship or partnership love. Before our wives are our sexual partners or our business partners in raising our children and running the house, they are first our unconditional commitment. They must come before all others.

God made wives in such a way that this is their greatest need. Before they need our sexual love or our friendship as partners in raising children and running the house, they need to know that they come first. Before all others. Before all ambitions or plans or priorities. Husbands, unconditional commitment is your greatest gift to your wives. That’s simply how God made women.

In my wedding introductions I always quote the statement: “Long ago, the Lord God gave the first woman to be the bride of the first man. The Bible tells us that Eve was taken from the side of Adam. Not from his head, to be a ruler over him. Not from his foot, to be trodden upon by him. From his side, to be equal with him. From under his arm, to be protected by him. From near his heart, to be loved by him.”

Encouraging respect and unconditional commitment are the gifts God made us to need, and to share. How are you doing at giving your gift this morning?

Parenting rules

From marriage to family: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord” (v. 20). “Obey” can be literally translated, “listen under.” Listen to them, then do what they say. “In everything,” in every dimension of life. Why? Because parents are superior to children, of greater value? Just the opposite, in fact.

In a world which saw children as the possessions of their fathers, to be kept or discarded as they wished, the word of God is subversive and revolutionary in its view of children.

Children are his gift, created by his grace: “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3).

They typify all that is best in life: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Luke 18:16).

They are to obey their parents because this is best for them. Such obedience “pleases the Lord” because it blesses the children he has made: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’–which is the first commandment with a promise–‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth'” (Ephesians 6:1-3).

Every child on earth has probably encountered some circumstance where disobeying parents would have led to pain or even death. They would have run into the path of a car, or eaten something poisonous, or played with something deadly, except that they obeyed their parents.

At the time, they are often less than grateful for our wisdom. I remember well the time I was using a razor blade to scrape some paint off a window and Ryan, three or so at the time, was enraged that I wouldn’t let him play with this shiny new toy. His obedience saved him from hurt, as mine to my parents probably saved me years earlier.

Children are to give such obedience to their parents, because this is the parent’s greatest need. A husband needs encouraging respect from his wife; a wife needs unconditional commitment from her husband; and parents need continual obedience from their children. This is the only way they can lead their children and families well.

But there’s a catch: “fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged” (v. 21). The text addresses “fathers” because they were the primary disciplinarians and leaders of the first-century family. Today Paul would speak to fathers, but would include mothers in these parenting rules as well.

We are not to “embitter” our children–the word means to “provoke” or “hurt” them through constant criticism. Such parenting will cause children to “become discouraged,” literally “to lose heart” or to “become spiritless.” John Newton, the slave trader who later wrote Amazing Grace, once said, “I knew that my father loved me–but he did not seem to wish me to see it.”

Ephesians 6:4 adds: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Be the kind of people you want your children to become, because that’s precisely what will happen. Godly example is their greatest need, and the one you can best meet.

Equality rules

God’s word has spoken to marriage and to family. Now it turns to work, with relationship rules for slaves and their masters. The principle is simple: slaves are to obey their masters as unto the Lord, as their witness. Masters are to “provide your slaves with what is right and fair” (4:1). As an employee, you owe your employer your best work as your witness. As an employer, you owe your employee fair and honest treatment, as unto the Lord. Such integrity is what each most needs from the other. This is the clear and transcendent principle of this passage.

But its context provides me an opportunity to speak to a related issue: the sin of racism. People sometimes ask me why the New Testament did not do more to eradicate slavery. My answer is that it did.

Christianity is precisely the movement which has ended the slave trade wherever it has been followed. From England to America and Africa, followers of Jesus have always been the leaders in this battle.

Sometimes, tragically, the process has taken far too long. I believe that racism is still the greatest sin in America. And conversations with black and Hispanic leaders across Texas and the South have convinced me that the problem is still epidemic. We have passed civil rights legislation, but minorities still face the same economic and educational discrimination and prejudice they always have.

It was Paul and the New Testament who began the process we have yet to complete.

First, Scripture abolished even the possibility of racial or social discrimination for followers of Jesus: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28-29).

Second, wherever the early church spoke to this issue, it did so with a view to freedom and equality. Paul knew he could not yet end the institution of slavery, but here he tried to reform it, to end its abuses, to bring it to integrity and godly relationship. The apostle also appealed to Philemon to set his slave free (Philemon 16).

The Christian church gave slaves a family and a home, which is one reason why so many of the earliest believers were slaves. Pastors and congregational leaders were often slaves, for the Church made no distinction between slave and free.

Third, not a single New Testament leader owned slaves or condoned such, even though many such as Joseph of Arimathea and Barnabas had the means to purchase them. Their example inspired Christians across history to do all they could to abolish slavery, and we thank God that they were successful.

But we are not done. The process is not complete until every person in America has the same opportunity and responsibility as any other, regardless of color or race or culture. Employees and employers must treat each other with respect, dignity, and integrity.

And every member of every race must treat every member of every other race with the same respect, dignity, and integrity. This is the only way to the abundant life of Jesus as the Kingdom comes and God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.


Are you here today to work on your marriage? To give your husband encouraging respect, or your wife unconditional commitment? Are you here to work on your family, giving your parents consistent obedience and your children godly example? Are you here to work on your employment relationships, to commit to integrity in every way? Are you here to repent of racism and to commit your heart to respect and dignity?

Imagine a society which lived by these relationship rules. A society without adultery or marital grief or family bitterness. A society with integrity in the workplace and in all relationships. This is God’s dream for our country and our community. Is it yours?

Amazing Grace is the remarkable new movie profiling the life of William Wilberforce. This English gentleman was a member of Parliament and the landed gentry of his society. He had every means at his disposal for a career of popular acclaim.

Prime minister could have been his if he had wanted it. Instead he spent his years, his credibility, his fortune, his life in leading the crusade to abolish slavery in England. Before he died, he saw his revolution come to pass and slavery outlawed in Great Britain forever.

All because one man chose to stand for the word and will of God, for the sake of his marriage, his family, and his society. Does God need another Wilberforce, where you live, today?

Too Busy Not to Pray

Too Busy Not to Pray

Mark 1:35-39

James C. Denison

Last Wednesday I was working on today’s message, searching for an introduction. As I leafed through some files, my eye was drawn to a plaque one of my sons gave me a few years ago:

I got up early one morning and rushed right into the day.

I had so much to accomplish that I didn’t have time to pray.

Problems just tumbled about me, and heavier came each task.

“Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered. He answered: “You didn’t ask.”

I wanted to see joy and beauty, but the day toiled on gray and bleak.

I wondered why God didn’t show me. He said, “But you didn’t seek.”

I tried to come into God’s presence; I used all my keys at the lock.

God gently and lovingly chided, “My child, you didn’t knock.”

I woke up early this morning, and paused before entering the day.

I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.

Have you been there? Problems tumbling about you, heavier each task? The day toiling on gray and bleak because you didn’t seek? I’ve been there as well. There’s only one solution to the restlessness and fatigue of our souls. In these days of economic uncertainty, controversy in Washington, frustration and pain in Iraq, stress on our families and hearts, there’s only one thing to do.

As we watch Jesus prepare for Easter, we’ll learn today how to face our own Caiaphas and Calvary, Judas and Pilate, our own problems and fears and pain. We’ll learn how to find the peace and power of God, where we need them most today.

When Jesus prayed

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went to a solitary place, where he prayed” (v. 35). Jesus has just spent an exhausting day. He started the day by preaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. He exorcised a demon in the worship service. He healed Peter’s mother-in-law. He spent the evening healing all the sick of this large town.

If I were to preach this morning, and cast a demon out of someone right here in church; then go to a member’s house for lunch and heal his mother-in-law; then spend the evening until late counseling with people from all over North Dallas who have come to me with their problems, I would feel tomorrow like Jesus feels here.

Now it’s the day after the Sabbath–Monday morning to us. Jesus gets up before dawn, around three or four in the morning. He leaves Peter’s house in Capernaum and walks out of town. He goes to a “solitary place,” literally a “wilderness place” in the Greek. Some place where no one else would see him, off the road, out in the country.

If I were to get up tomorrow morning around 3 or 4, get in my car and drive out of the city, pull off the road, and hike out into a field alone, I would do what Jesus did here.

And he “prayed.” The Greek “imperfect” tense indicates that he continued to pray, all morning long. Not for just a few minutes, but from 3 or 4 until daybreak, two or three hours of solitude with God.

What did he pray? Mark’s Jewish readers already knew. We Gentiles, 20 centuries after the fact, don’t know much about first-century Jewish spirituality. But when we learn how Jesus grew up in the faith, what he was taught to pray and how, we see how crucial the practice of God’s presence was to his soul. And should be to ours.

We’ll spend the bulk of our time this morning simply listening to what Jesus said to his Father, watching the Son of God commune with the God of the universe.

What Jesus prayed

From the time he was five years old, Jesus was taught to begin each day with the central affirmation of the Jewish faith: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). He began this Monday morning in that way.

Then, like all observant Jews, he continued to recite the paragraph: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9). He prayed all of that to God on this morning.

Next, he recited Deuteronomy 11:1-21 from memory. He followed then with a recital of the Ten Commandments.

He concluded his regular morning prayers with the Shemoneh ‘Esreh, the “Eighteen Benedictions,” spoken to God while facing Jerusalem. They are part of the Jewish prayer book, recited by every practicing Jew every morning, afternoon, and evening, and during synagogue services on the Sabbath as well. Jesus had them memorized. I don’t, but want you to hear them as if he was praying them on this early Monday morning.

First, he prayed to the God of history: “Blessed are you, Oh Lord our God and God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the great, mighty and revered God, the Most High God who bestows lovingkindnesses, the creator of all things, who remembers the good deeds of the patriarchs and in love will bring a redeemer to their children’s children for his name’s sake. Oh king, helper, savior and shield. Blessed are you, Oh Lord, the shield of Abraham.”

Next, he prayed to the God of nature: “You, Oh Lord, are mighty forever, you revive the dead, you have the power to save. You sustain the living with lovingkindness, you revive the dead with great mercy, you support the falling, heal the sick, set free the bound and keep faith with those who sleep in the dust. Who is like you, Oh doer of mighty acts? Who resembles you, a king who puts to death and restores to life, and causes salvation to flourish? And you are certain to revive the dead. Blessed are you, Oh Lord, who revives the dead.”

He prayed for understanding: “You favor men with knowledge, and teach mortals understanding. Oh favor us with the knowledge, the understanding and the insight that come from you. Blessed are you, Oh Lord, the gracious giver of knowledge.”

The typical Jew next prayed for repentance and forgiveness, prayers the sinless Son of God did not need to offer the Father. But he would then pray for deliverance from affliction: “Look upon our affliction and plead our cause, and redeem us speedily for your name’s sake, for you are a mighty redeemer. Blessed are you, Oh Lord, the redeemer of Israel.”

He prayed for healing, for himself and his people: “Heal us, Oh Lord, and we will be healed; save us and we will be saved, for you are our praise. Oh grant a perfect healing to all our ailments, for you, almighty King, are a faithful and merciful healer. Blessed are you, Oh Lord, the healer of the sick of his people Israel.”

He prayed for deliverance from want: “Bless this year for us, Oh Lord our God,

together with all the varieties of its produce, for our welfare. Bestow a blessing upon the

face of the earth. Oh satisfy us with your goodness, and bless our year like the best of years. Blessed are you, Oh Lord, who blesses the years.”

He prayed for gathering of his exiled people: “Sound the great shofar for our freedom, raise the ensign to gather our exiles, and gather us from the four corners of the earth. Blessed are you, Oh Lord, who gathers the dispersed of his people Israel.”

He prayed for the righteous reign of God: “Restore our judges as in former times, and our counselors as at the beginning; and remove from us sorrow and sighing. Reign over us, you alone, Oh Lord, with lovingkindness and compassion, and clear us in judgment. Blessed are you, Oh Lord, the King who loves righteousness and justice.”

Jesus prayed for the righteous and converts to Jewish faith: “May your compassion be stirred, Oh Lord our God, towards the righteous, the pious, the elders of your people the house of Israel, the remnant of their scholars, towards proselytes, and towards us also. Grant a good reward to all who truly trust in your name. Set our lot with them forever so that we may never be put to shame, for we have put our trust in you.

Blessed are you, Oh Lord, the support and stay of the righteous.”

He prayed for the rebuilding of Jerusalem: “Return in mercy to Jerusalem your city, and dwell in it as you have promised. Rebuild it soon in our day as an eternal structure, and quickly set up in it the throne of David. Blessed are you, Oh Lord, who rebuilds Jerusalem.”

He was taught to pray for the Messianic King, an interesting petition for the Messiah himself to make: “Speedily cause the offspring of your servant David to flourish,

and let him be exalted by your saving power, for we wait all day long for your salvation.

Blessed are you, Oh Lord, who causes salvation to flourish.”

He prayed for the answering of prayer: “Hear our voice, Oh Lord our God; spare us and have pity on us. Accept our prayer in mercy and with favor, for you are a God who hears prayers and supplications. Our King, do not turn us away from your presence empty-handed, for you hear the prayers of your people Israel with compassion.

Blessed are you, Oh Lord, who hears prayer.”

He prayed for thanksgiving for God’s unfailing mercies: “We give thanks to you that you are the Lord our God and the God of our fathers forever and ever. Through every generation you have been the rock of our lives, the shield of our salvation. We will give you thanks and declare your praise for our lives that are committed into your hands, for our souls that are entrusted to you, for your miracles that are daily with us, and for your wonders and your benefits that are with us at all times, evening, morning and noon.

Oh beneficent one, your mercies never fail; Oh merciful one, your lovingkindnesses never cease. We have always put our hope in you. For all these acts may your name be blessed and exalted continually, Our King, forever and ever. Let every living thing give thanks to you and praise your name in truth, Oh God, our salvation and our help. (Selah.)

Blessed are you, Oh Lord, whose Name is the Beneficent One, and to whom it is fitting to give thanks.”

And he prayed for peace: “Grant peace, welfare, blessing, grace, lovingkindness and mercy to us and to all Israel your people. Bless us, Our Father, one and all, with the light of your countenance; for by the light of your countenance you have given us, Oh Lord our God, a Torah of life, lovingkindness and salvation, blessing, mercy, life and peace. May it please you to bless your people Israel at all times and in every hour with your peace. Blessed are you, Oh Lord, who blesses his people Israel with peace.”

As Jesus prayed, he gave his problem to his Father: how should he conduct this ministry? Should he stay in Capernaum and minister to the teeming multitudes coming to him? Or should he go to the rest of Israel and to the Gentiles beyond? Should he wait for them, or go to them?

In the midst of this time alone with his Father, he sensed the purpose he needed: “Let us go somewhere else–to the nearby villages–so I can preach there also. That is why I have come” (v. 38). In prayer he found the purpose and power of God.

This would be his pattern for the rest of his ministry. Luke 5:16 says that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

After feeding the 5,000, he prayed until 3 a.m. (Matthew 14:22-25).

Before he chose his disciples, the men who would carry on his work after his ascension, he spent the entire night alone with God in prayer (Luke 6.12).

In the Garden of Gethsemane, facing the cross, he agonized alone with his Father (Mark. 14.32-42).

On the cross, he trusted his spirit to his Father in prayer (Luke 23:46).

Hebrews 5:7 says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”

Jesus is praying for us, right now: “He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

Jesus, the divine Son of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, needed to start the day alone with God. He needed to end the day with God. He needed to pray before making decisions, before solving problems and helping people. He needed to pray for God’s power to fulfill God’s purpose.

He needed to speak with God, and he needed to listen to God. He needed a personal, intimate relationship with his Father. If the soul of the Son of God needed such communion with God, does yours?


Do you begin the morning with God in prayer? Reading his word, thanking him and worshipping him, asking his help with your problems? Do you pray before you make your decisions through the day? Do you confess your sins when you commit them? Do you thank God for his gifts when you receive them? Do you trust God with the problems of other people when you discover them? Do you end the day in prayer, thanking God for his faithfulness and mercy and grace? Do you walk through the day with God in spoken and silent communion and prayer?

If not, why not? The only reason I don’t walk with God in prayer through the day is that I don’t think I need to.

I see time in prayer as time I’m not at work, doing what needs to be done. Until I realize that I don’t know what to do unless God tells me; and I can’t do it unless he helps me. Until I realize that my day of hard work is wasted unless he directs it and uses it. Until I admit that I’m an airplane which doesn’t know how to fly and needs a pilot, a scalpel which doesn’t know how to operate and needs a surgeon. Until I admit that God made me with a God-shaped emptiness in my soul, and that my heart is restless until it rests in him (Augustine, Confessions 1.1). Until I admit that if Jesus needed to walk with God in prayer, who am I to think I don’t?

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went to a solitary place, where he prayed.” “I woke up early this morning, and paused before entering the day. I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.” Now the decision is yours