This morning I was leading a devotional time with our volunteers at Enfold (the drop in centre for Homeless and vulnerably housed people) that is run at Church. It was one of those days when, I had a lot to do and little time in which to do it.
The reflections came from John chapter 7 & 8. In John 7 Jesus is at the Feast of the Tabernacles in Jerusalem and the Pharisees are trying to catch Him out. In John 8 a woman is brought to Jesus who has been caught in adultery again, the Pharisees are trying to catch Him out.
The thought that came to me was from verse 53 of John 7 and verse 1 of John 8;
Then each went to his own home.
But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
If, like me, you went to Sunday School (or children’s activities) you were probably present with a view of the Pharisees as the villains of the story. But, I don’t think that is right. I think the Pharisees were religious men who were trying to do the right thing. However, they had missed the point! As I read the words “Then each went to his own home”, a picture formed in my mind of the Pharisees returning to everyday life. There were jobs to do, rules to keep, tasks to fulfill and advice to give. They were busy people, trying to do good things. I could almost imagine their time being so full, that they had no real time for God. In those circumstances prayer becomes a routine and “religion” creeps in.
In contrast John tells us that Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. I think He went there to get away and spend some time in the presence of His Heavenly Father. For Jesus, prayer is not about ritual it is about relationship. It’s from this relationship that His ministry flowed. Prayer was the “energizer” and not the “rubber stamp” of His ministry.
I believe that Bishop JC Ryle is right when he said;
No time is so well spent every day
As that which we spend upon our knees
I felt challenged to look at my own prayer life today. I realized with a full diary, appointments to keep and tasks to fulfill, my own prayer life could become so easily like that of the Pharisees, routine. What God wants is relationship. I wrote this prayer which, I hope, will help you as much as it helped me;
Today is going to be busy
Full of meetings and thinking
And often my prayer becomes routine
When, all you desire of me, is relationship
Forgive me Lord, for mechanical habit
Give me a heart that seeks after your will
Open my eyes that I may see your grace in others
Open my heart that I may know the move of your Spirit
Grant to me a greater love
And those you have put me among