I Never Noticed This About Jesus
I recently noticed something about Jesus I never realized before. He never talked much about how to preach (or how to blog), but he did talk about how to pray. That says something about his priorities for us, don’t you think?
And one of the things he taught is that we should pray with each other.
“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” -Jesus Christ, Matthew 18:18-20
Christians Are Creatures Of Two Realms
I’m reading Eric Metaxas’s excellent book Miracles right now, and in that book he talks about the difference between those who believe in God and those who don’t. And really, what it comes down to, is those who believe in God believe in the evidence that there’s a Creator who dwells outside of the material system. And those who don’t believe think there’s nothing beyond the atoms and molecules that make up the world of matter. But the problem with the latter approach is, “To force a naturalistic paradigm on everything has the effect of closing down science, rather than opening it up.” John Lennox, a mathematician from Oxford said that. And he’s right. Forcing a paradigm onto a premise even when there’s evidence to the contrary makes no sense. But that’s what a strictly atheistic materialistic worldview requires.
To illustrate this Metaxas asks you to imagine you’re flying in a small plane over a group of deserted islands in a remote part of the Pacific. And as you’re flying along you see there written in the sand on the shore of one of those islands the letters H-E-L-P. If you saw that you wouldn’t conclude that the wind and rain were the cause of those letters on that beach. Although that’s possible, you would recognize: that level of organization seen in those four letters of the alphabet are evidence of an entity of some kind on that island. What the strict materialist does with the universe is to say, because we know these islands are deserted, we must limit the possible explanations to exclude a human cause. Therefore those shapes we see in the sand can only be attributed to the effects of the wind and the rain.
So the believer recognizes this Kingdom, this Heaven, that exists outside of the material world of atoms and molecules and space and time. But a problem with the believer is the way he can think about it sometimes. We can tend to think of heaven as a dimension or realm that’s “up there.” And we dwell in the material realm “down here.” Or we can tend to think of it as a dimension or realm that we go to after we leave the material world, after we die. But in reality the Heavenly realm and our material world exist simultaneously. One reason we know this is because of what Jesus says about “the kingdom of heaven.” He was always talking about the kingdom of heaven. He was always saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
And when the Pharisees asked him when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus said,
“The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Luke 17:20-21
Believers believe in this spiritual kingdom. We believe in the kingdom of heaven. We believe in that “silent, invisible, spiritual kingdom which lies all about us, encompassing us, enclosing us, embracing us, waiting for us to recognize it.” And we recognize it when we become as a child, Jesus said. We recognize it when we’re born into God’s Spirit, Jesus said. (Ray Stedman)(Mark 10:15, John 3:1-15)
“When we enter the kingdom of heaven we recognize that kingdom, we believe it, we act upon its reality. Christians are creatures of two” realms: the material, and the spiritual. (Ray Stedman)
Where The Two Realms Intersect
And prayer, is where the material realm and the heavenly realm intersect. Prayer is the gateway to the heavenly dimension. Prayer is the way provided for us to tap into the heavenly realm. Prayer is the way we can call for God to insert Himself from His Heavenly realm, into the material and intervene.
No wonder Jesus prioritized prayer in his teachings.
What Music And Math Have To Do With It
And though the effectual prayer of a fervent man availeth much, as good as that is, Jesus emphasizes praying together. “…if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” -Jesus Christ, (James 5:16, Matthew 18:18-20)
The word agree used in that passage means to harmonize, in the Greek. And that makes sense if you think about it because it takes at least two to harmonize.
I like that musical reference. And I like the math involved too. The “2 or more” reference reminds me of the scripture that says 1 will chase 1,000 but 2 will chase 10,000. When two or more pray, there’s a change. There’s a harmony, and that harmony brings God’s Son into our midst and makes our prayers that much more effectual. (Deuteronomy 32:30)
The early church, having heard Jesus’ instruction on this point, recognized the importance of praying together. When the disciples first prayed for the Holy Spirit they prayed together in the upper room, “with one accord.” When the Sanhedrin persecuted them, they responded by gathering together to pray. And when Peter was put in prison they assembled together to pray. (And when he was miraculously released from prison, they could hardly believe it.) (Acts 1, Acts 4, Acts 12)
Including Someone With God Given Authority
They gathered together. They may have also gone off by themselves individually, but they didn’t neglect gathering together–to pray.
Paul said of Jesus,
…He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23)
When we gather together to pray, we include the one Paul described in those verses to join us, to harmonize with us. We include the One who God gave as head over all things. That’s as good as it gets here on planet earth. Because in Him we live, and move, and have our being. We belong to Him. And He does what He does through us. It’s when we gather together to pray that we can have our greatest opportunity for God to insert His Hand from His Heavenly dimension into the material one. Jesus is what gives our prayer meaning. (Acts 17:28)
So do what Jesus said to do. Follow Jesus’ admonition, the way the early church did.
Gather your family and pray–together.
Find a friend and pray–together.
Go to church and pray–together.
Ray Stedman, Praying Together, RayStedman.org
Eric Metaxas, Miracles, Dutton Adult, 2014
Image via David Amsler – Creative Commons