Prayer and Peace

by Eric Love
Notes from the teaching on May 3, 2009
Podcast available.

Mark 5:21-36

This woman had suffered from hemorrhaging for twelve years. She had spent her entire estate on medical attention and had only become worse (imagine the effect this would have had on her mind). Also, it seems obvious that her physical body would have become drastically weak over the course of her suffering.

A little background on such bleeding, as is natural (Lev 15): a woman who is menstrating would be considered unclean for 7 days, she and everyone and everything that touched her. Following her seven days (once the bleeding had stopped) she would have to present herself before the tabernacle with a burnt offering for cleansing. Only then would she be determined clean. Until that point, she had to be “separated.”

If the bleeding lasted longer than seven days, she would have to wait seven days from the time it stopped and undergo the same cleansing process.

While unclean, she was not allowed in the tabernacle (to keep them from defiling God’s manifested glory and presence). In Ezekiel 36:17, Israel’s idolatry and unfaithfulness toward God is compared to this type of uncleanness.

Clearly, this woman must have lived with a stigma. She had been unclean for 12 years. Weak, outcast, emotionally and financially drained, this woman would have made a desperate sacrifice to push herself through the crowd around Jesus in order to “touch the hem of his garment” – and that’s all she hoped for: to touch His robe. Instantly she was healed: she knew it, the issue was settled… but not for Jesus.

At the risk of Jairus’s daughter’s life (who, in fact, died while he stalled), Jesus looked until he found the woman who had touched him. He wanted to look into her eyes.

And this woman, who had not been allowed in the temple for 12 years to keep from defiling it now knelt before the manifest glory and presence of God, touching his garment – without rebuke, and he called her “Daughter.”

Prayer
God doesn’t need information. That is not why we pray; and we do NEED to pray. Why?

Matthew 6:8
Your Father knows what you need before you ask… (so don’t make flashy prayers)
Vss 9-13
So pray like this:
Our Father who is in heaven (establishes relationship), hallowed (kept holy) is Your name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (this begins to shape the focus even more on the Lord – His will, His kingdom)
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Now we begin to ask – to make our petitions known)
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Again, ends with the Lord as the FOCUS)

1.    Prayer is primarily an act of being in relationship.
2.    It is also one of the ways we “co labor” with God – we bear the burden with the Lord, we become involved (His yoke is easy and His burden is light, but it is still a yoke and a burden: He gives us GRACE so we can manage it)
3.    It deals with our perception: it takes faith to pray and it reminds us to look at Him – it aims our focus

It’s the same principle with worship, intercession, praise and thanksgiving: these are all ways we come to the Lord FOR the Lord, not to get as much as to give – even in prayer.

•    the focus is NOT about us
•    we do these things FOR God

We pray FOR God. We give Him our needs, our anxieties, our faith (cast all your cares…). This is an act of sharing our lives with Him.

It is a GIFT to Him
FOCUS: Him

***If the focus is on us, we will not see our needs met. We will simply see our needs. If our focus is on the Lord, we will be changed – and in the changing, our needs will be changed as well.

Relational:
A relationship is two-way. All of these things are ways we respond to God, what He has already done or Who He is. (worship – response to who He is, intercession – to His heart, praise – to what He’s done, thanksgiving – to what He’s done for us, prayer – to His character)

In a very real sense, prayer is like the woman who touched the hem of Jesus garment: Jesus stopped everything in order to look her in the eye. For Him, it wasn’t just about the “healing power” leaving His body and healing her, it was about intimacy: relationship.

His love for us is unquantifiable. He can heal us without interaction, just like He did her. But He stops in order to look us in the eyes and establish the grounds for our relationship: we are children of God. In Matthew 14:36, there is a crowd of people who are brought to Jesus simply to touch His robe, and they are all healed.

Jesus desires our healing. He desires our needs to be met. But He desires even more so for our relationship with Him to be set. Prayer is “setting” our relationship with Him, or it should be. And it all comes down to what our focus is. At first, the woman’s focus was on her condition. That’s what drove her through the crowd to touch Jesus robe. But in the end, when He called her out, it forced her focus to change: suddenly her focus was on Him.

Peace

There are ugly BAD things deep in me (anger, pride, distrust, paranoiah), and when I experienced the severe pain from my back, those ugly things surfaced quickly. Circumstance has a way of stirring us. (pain, disappointment, discouragement, etc.)

All of these things I have dealt with, with success, over the years, but there are still pockets of them buried deep inside me, lodged there too deep for me to reach: the root, it seems, was too far down for me to grab.

I heard the Lord tell me if I could push through the pain, like pushing through a thick, heavy membrane, on the other side of it I could access the source of some of those pockets of ugly things, that I could actually move deep enough inside myself (not in self focus at all, but in a sort of exploration) to reach deeper than I can without those circumstances stirring me.

***Let me clarify: I do not believe God inflicts pain in order to teach us a lesson. But I totally believe that He loves us too much to allow us to experience pain, a natural part of life, and gain nothing from it (all things work for our God…)

I can’t go that deep naturally yet; I must be provoked. And when I am, the natural reaction is for the ugly things to surface without me having any real success in taking hold of them to get rid of them. (I am too distracted by pain.) They kind of take control.

But I felt the Lord was telling me that pain can stimulate me enough that I have the capacity to go DEEP if I go through the pain.

How?

PEACE.

Background on peace:
In every letter Paul wrote, he ends his opening greeting with “grace and peace be to you,” and most of the time he would end the letter by at least mentioning peace.

The books of Hebrews closes with a brief encouragement involving peace.

Peter begins and ends each of his three letters by reminding us about peace.

John began three of his four letters with a word on peace (and the one he didn’t open up on the subject of peace had no greeting but went straight into the message).

The point? Peace was a fundamental part of the life of believers in the early church. So much so that the early church leaders could simply mention peace in order to remind the church of its importance. It was imperative for them to endure the crushing persectution (which only served to cause the church to grow)

John 14:27
Jesus said “Peace I leave with you. My peace I now give you. Not as the world gives do I give. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

This is in the context of Jesus’ last great teaching to the disciples before his arrest. He addresses a couple of things:

First, He has given us His peace (and when He gives, He gives permanently. This means we have the peace of Jesus). We need peace.

Second, the opposite of peace is fear and anxiety. Fear is the base for every other assault from the enemy. Peace is God’s counter attack.

1 John 4:18
Perfect love casts out fear.

God’s unquantifiable love for us, as we embrace it, as we trust it, literally throws down the spirit of fear in our lives: it overcomes a demonic oppression. This is where God’s peace grows out of: His heart for us, His heart for relationship with us.

Phil 4:6-7
Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition through thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

We see again the counter-connection between fear (worry) and peace. The thanksgiving part helps us maintain our focus – it helps shape our “response” because it focuses on personal acts of God on our behalf – and so makes our prayer and petitioning God-focused. The result is peace that is strong enough to fortify our hearts and minds against anxiety.

In Acts 16:16, Paul and Silas are thrown into prison after being stripped and beaten. They were arrested because they delivered a slave girl from a spirit of divination (in which her owner was making profit).

At midnight, their response is praying and singing praise. How is this possible? At midnight? In prison? After being severely beaten and humiliated?

Jesus gave them peace. Peace dictated their response.

The result? God met their needs in abundance. An earthquake shook the building and broke their chains, the jailer has a miraculous conversion and then takes them to his own house and washes and feeds them. He doesn’t even turn them out to the authorities the following day when they come looking for them (of course, the authorities are too afraid to arrest them now).

Their response was praise and prayer. God’s response to that was to shake them free, and to save the jailer in the process. Would have delivered them if they had not responded this way? Probably. But there’s a good chance that it would now have happened the way it did.

So, when I heard peace, I began to speak peace to the parts of my body that were in pain. I began to speak peace to my thoughts, to my anxiety. Essentially, I began to meditate on the Lord’s peace. Peace that extends beyond my understanding (because at the time, all I could understand was pain.)

I could feel myself “sinking” in a way, deeper and deeper. I would come across one of those deep, ugly things as pain would stir me. When I’d see it, I’d confess it, repent of it, speak peace to it and move on. I went from being unable to move at all at 4 a.m. to feeling better than I had in a long time (emotionally, mentally).

I wasn’t healed. It was something better: I was allowed to drop beneath the pain through focus on the Lord. And in that, He began to cut out the root of things that had been way too deep for me to get myself.

Eric Love, 5/4/2009 1