Prayer as an antidote to pressures

My son sent me a manuscript of an article he had hurriedly typed, requesting my critical assessment. His fingers had mis-typed the adjective ‘precious’ and his spell-checker had ‘corrected’ it as the noun ‘pressures’. Actually, those two words not only sound like, they are in fact closely related in the story of jewellery. Precious stones such as diamonds, and precious metals such as gold were all formed under intense pressure in the rocks of the earth. And, as Peter wrote to those who had ‘been grieved by various trials’, such pressures might sometimes be necessary … so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may .. result in … glory’ when Jesus returns (1 Peter 1:6-7).

How Jesus handled pressures

In addition to the demands of our own daily lives, we can become overwhelmed by recurring news at the click of our radio and television controls about the harassment of our brothers and sisters in the crossfire of many conflicts the world over.

Mark tells of a time when ‘a great crown followed’ Jesus and his disciples, not only from every region of the country but also from surrounding nations. He continues: ‘the great crowd … came to him.’ And ‘he healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him.’ So ‘he told his disciples to have boat ready for him… lest they crush him’ (Mark 3:7-10).

He didn’t get aboard then, but when the crowds continued to follow (Mark 3:20, 32; 4:1), eventually ‘leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was’ (Mark 4:36).

Interestingly, the phrase ‘have a boat ready for him’ (or to ‘wait on him’, King James Version; or to ‘remain near him’, The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament) translates the word proskartereo (meaning ‘constantly attending/attentive to’). Think of a cloakroom ‘attendant’ or a restaurant’s ‘waiter’ and you will get the sense of its meaning. Then consider this: the word is used half-a-dozen times concerning the prayer life of the first Christians.

‘They devoted themselves to prayer’

  • Following Jesus’ ascension the eleven disciples ‘with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with Mary … and [Jesus’] brothers’ (Acts 1:14).
  • With the ‘three thousand’ newly baptised converts, ‘they devoted themselves to … the prayers’ (Acts 2:42).
  • Because of pressures for the practical daily care of the ‘increasing … number [of] widows’ (Acts 6:1), they appointed selected care workers ‘to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer …’ (Acts 6:4).
  • Paul urged the church in the world’s capital to be constant in prayer’ (Romans 12:12).
  • And he told a church in Turkey to continue steadfastly in prayer’ (Colossians 4:2).

It would all sound so daunting, even threatening, until we think of this as our ‘boat’ which we should always ‘have ready for’ the use of the Great Intercessor himself (Hebrews 7:25), who ever holds himself ready for those who will ‘wait for him’ attentively.

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