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Weekly Devotionals

Weekly Devotion: Triumphant in Prayer

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When Jesus heard what had happened, he
withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place
. – Matthew 14:13a

After he had dismissed them, he went
up on a mountainside by himself to pray.
– Matthew 14:23a

 In
an episode of The Simpsons entitled “Bart
Gets an F”, Bart Simpson finds himself in a predicament where he needs to pass
a history test or he will end up repeating the fourth grade. This would be
disastrous because of the resulting ridicule from his friends, the shame of
having to face his fourth grade teacher for another year, and also the unthinkable
humiliation of possibly having to sit in the same classroom with his genius
little sister Lisa. However, being the incurable procrastinator that he is, he
puts off his studies until the very last moment, when he realizes it is too
late. That is when he turns to his last resort; prayer. At the sight of her always
brash and cocky brother being humbled before God, Lisa quips, “Prayer, the last
resort of a scoundrel.”   

Most
of us are glad that we no longer have to face the perils of history exams.
However, that does not mean our lives are lacking of hardships and trials. Perhaps
we have health issues or financial problems, or maybe we are facing difficult
strains in a relationship, or it could be that we feel lonely and depressed. How
do we face our trials? Do we try to overcome them ourselves? What if we fail?
Do we run and hide? Do we try to find ways to try to forget them? Do we agonize
over them with constant worry? I think we can all agree that Bart Simpson is
probably not the best example for us to follow, but what about Jesus? 

In
Matthew 14:13, Jesus hears of the death of his relative and friend, John the
Baptist, and you can imagine that he is deeply saddened. John was a relative of
Jesus, so we can imagine that they probably played with each other as kids
growing up. It was John who baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. Therefore, it
must have been crushing for Jesus to hear of John’s death. Yet, of all the ways
Jesus could have reacted, the Bible says he did one thing – he withdrew by boat
privately to a solitary place. Whenever Jesus withdrew to a solitary place, he
did not go there to just sit around and mope. Instead, he went to pray. 

We
do not know what Jesus prayed about in specific, but what we do see is what
happened after he prayed. The first miracle that took place after Jesus’ prayer
is the feeding of the 5,000. Up to this point in Jesus’ ministry, all the miracles
he performed, as recorded in the gospel of Matthew, had been healings. Indeed these signs show us that Jesus is the Son of God, but in the context of the Jews at the time, they did not see these as anything new because they had seen similar things performed by the prophets of the past. However, the feeding of the 5,000, with only
five loaves of bread and two fish, was something unique and never seen before. It
is not by mistake that this is the only miracle, except Jesus’ resurrection,
that is recorded in all four gospels. It is also no coincidence that the method
in which Jesus performed this miracle was through prayer. Immediately, after
this event, Jesus sends his disciples away on a boat, and what does he do
again? He withdrawals to a solitary mountainside and he prays. The next time
the disciples see Jesus, he appears to them like a ghost walking on water.
These two miracles were things that had never been seen through any of the
prophets of the past, and through these events, Jesus’ disciples first began to
worship him saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”   

In
Jesus’ difficult time, he went to God in prayer, and God not only allowed him
to overcome, but he allowed him to triumph in even greater ways than could be
humanly imaginable. We also know that in Jesus’ most troubling time, at the
Garden of Gethsemane, that he also prayed, and God allowed him to triumphant
over sin on the cross. During this season of Lent, let us take our burdens to
God in prayer, and allow for the power of the cross to overcome all burdens and
trials for us.

In Christ,

Joe