A Prayer Prompted by Mark 11

Dear heavenly Father,

Your people have often fallen into times of deep hypocrisy and in this chapter we see Jesus confront a group of people who were in one of those times.

Help us to be especially sensitive to the ways that our lives do not line up with your desires for us.

Let us always remember that you get to set the agenda in our lives individually and in the church.

And help us not to forget the importance of prayer. We know it can be really effective when we truly believe and consistently bring our requests before you.

We also know that before prayer comes a heart of forgiveness. Help us to be those people that refuse to hold grudges and refuse to let unforgiveness cloud our relationship with you.

And we thank you for all the ways and the times that you have forgiven us.

In Christ,

Amen.

A Prayer Prompted by Mark 10

Dear heavenly Father,

We acknowledge that we are sinful people who live in the midst of a sinful nation. Particularly in the areas of marriage and sexuality we have so distorted your desires for us that there is no way left for us to untie the knots.

Please forgive us, please transform us and please help us to make right whatever we can.

Help us to rely fully on the sacrifice of Jesus to cleanse us of our sin.

Help us to exercise a childlike faith and trust in you.

Like the blind beggar Bartimaeus, we really are helpless and have nothing at all to lose – except perhaps our sin and shame.

Therefore, we submit fully to Jesus as our Savior, Messiah and Lord.

In Christ,

Amen.

A Prayer Prompted by Mark 9:23-24

The interaction between Jesus and the father of a demonized boy is highly instructional.  

23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 

Heavenly Father,

We know that you are all-powerful and all-good.  You deserve every bit of faith and trust that we can give.  Sadly, however, that faith and trust is still sometimes sorely lacking.  We believe and yet we don’t.  We trust you, but not completely.  We have faith, sort of, but it wavers almost uncontrollably.

We believe, Lord; help our unbelief!  If the faith we have is no more than a mustard seed, please respond by moving the mountains that we face.  It may look as if our chances and hopes are dismal, but they are no worse than the hopes of this father with the demonized son.  Our challenges are no greater than those of the disciples on the Saturday after Good Friday when your body, Jesus, was still in the tomb.

Please act, Lord!  Please hear our prayer!  Please pull us up from the depths of our unbelief, doubt and despair, and teach us to trust more fully in you.

It is in your name we pray,

Amen.

(Un)Belief – Mark 9:23-24

Jesus has just come down from the Mount of Transfiguration with three of his disciples.  Now he finds the other nine stuck in a situation for which they can do nothing helpful.  It seems a father has brought his son to Christ’s disciples.  The symptoms the boy exhibits are similar to epilepsy, but are actually caused by a demon,  When the father asks Jesus if perhaps he can help, the following interaction ensues.

23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 

Isn’t this where we so often find ourselves?  We believe Jesus has the ability.  We pray to God, knowing he is all-powerful and all-good.  And still we doubt.  Our faith falls short.  We lack something in the area of true belief.

Eckhard Schnabel, in his Tyndale NT Commentary on Mark, describes the man, “He acknowledges his lack of faith, which is not an unwillingness to commit to Jesus’ power but an inability to believe in the face of immense odds, given that the nine disciples were unable to heal the boy.”

The reassuring thing is that this admission on the part of the father, “I believe; help my unbelief!” turns out to be enough of an expression of faith that Jesus heals the son.  The demon doesn’t come out without a fight, but it is a fight that Jesus cannot help but win.

We need to be willing to express our faith in Christ and the lack thereof.  Our belief and unbelief which somehow coexist in our torn and divided hearts.  It is not a rejection of Jesus so much as a wavering acceptance with a desire for the waves to calm down.  The doubts of the saint and those of the skeptic are of a different species entirely.

We believe Lord, help our unbelief!  And help he will.

 

Mark 7 Verse by Verse

Photo for Mark edited

Jesus will address issues of tradition and ceremonial uncleanness, which were very important to Jewish life.  He will also go out to Gentile areas and begin a ministry to people there.

Mark 07.pdf

Mark 07.mp3

A Prayer Prompted by Mark 7

Dear heavenly Father,

You are an all-powerful, all-loving, unchanging God. We, however, need to change because without change we will never experience growth.

Help us to see where we have fallen into spiritual ruts. Help us not to get stuck in the patterns of religiosity, in human traditions. Instead, let us learn to draw near to you in all reality, sincerity and truth.

Jesus has taught us by both word and example that our lives need to be grounded in the Scriptures.

Prevent us from either adding or taking away from your word, but rather establish us firmly in it.

And from that foundation, bring us to the place where our faith truly grows.

In Christ,

Amen.

 

Only believe – Mark 5:36

These words that Jesus spoke to Jairus regarding his daughter can easily apply in any number of situations that we face.  Here is how they appear in context.

35 While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” 

The context in this case is vital to understanding what Jesus is saying.  

Jairus came to Jesus as his daughter was dying, asking for help.  Before they got home, however, the daughter had died.  When all was lost, Jesus encouraged Jairus with the words, “Do not be afraid; only believe.”  As it happened, Jesus raised her back to life.

Why does God so often wait until all hope is lost?  Perhaps it is so we are more focused upon hoping in him.  There is something spiritually healthy about being brought to the end of ourselves.  Self-sufficiency can be an enormous obstacle to faith.  Hope in anything or anyone but Jesus can redirect us away from trusting him.

When it is obvious that we cannot do anything to fix our situations, and neither can anyone else, God has the opportunity to intervene without interference.  He must like that, because he puts us in that place of helplessness pretty often.

What hopeless situation are you facing right now?  I am facing a few of them, but I won’t clutter this post with their tedious descriptions.  Christ’s message to us might be the same as his message to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; only believe.”