Monday, May 3, 2010

Prayer - Dwelling with the Messiah

Once there was a monastery in the woods that had fallen upon hard times. In the past it had been a thriving community that was well known and respected throughout the region, but over the last generation the monks had died one by one and there were no new vocations to replace them. Besides this, the monks did not seem to be as friendly to each other. Something just wasn't right. The Father Abbot was quite concerned about the future of his monastery, now consisting of himself and three brothers and, thus, he sought counsel from the local rabbi who was known to be a great sage. The abbot went to the rabbi and asked him if he had any advice on what to do to save his monastery. The rabbi felt at a loss and said that he, too, worried about his own congregation; people were too busy and simply were not coming to the synagogue any longer. The two commiserated together and read the Torah. As the abbot was getting ready to return home the rabbi looked at him and said, "One in your home is the Messiah." The abbot walked home puzzled as to what the rabbi's words meant.

When he arrived at the monastery the monks asked the abbot what he had learned. He responded that the rabbi had given him no concrete advice, but he had said in cryptic language, "One in your home is the Messiah." Over the next days and weeks the monks pondered what this might mean. Was it possible that one of them was the Messiah? If that was the case then most certainly it was Father Abbot. He had been the leader for more than a generation. On the other hand it might be Brother Thomas, for he is a holy man and full of light. Certainly it could not be Brother Eldred. He is old, crotchety, and often mean-spirited, but he always seems to be right, no matter what the situation or question. The rabbi could not have meant Brother Phillip. He is very passive - a real nobody, but one has to admit that he is always there when someone needs assistance.

As they continued to contemplate this question, the old monks began to treat each other with great respect, on the off chance that the one with whom they were dealing really was the Messiah. They again began to live the gospel message. The monastery was a much more prayerful place once again.

Because the monastery was located in a beautiful portion of the forest it was common during the spring, summer, and fall months for families to come and have picnics on the grounds. During this period people who came seemed to sense the new spirit of respect and love that was present at the monastery. The people returned often and one day a young man came to the Father Abbot and asked if he could join the community. Soon others inquired and joined and, thus, after several years the vibrant community at the monastery was again restored because the wisdom of the rabbi had transformed hearts. The monks had once again started to live their lives according to the Golden Rule.

The monks in the monastery learned, "through the back door," of the need to treat their brothers with respect. They were converted to an understanding that prayer must be a way of life. They learned that through prayer, they were in the presence of the Messiah and the old Rabbi was correct when he stated, "One in your home is the Messiah."

Prayer, one's daily communication with God, is a staple of all organized religion and a central tenet to the Judeo-Christian tradition of which we are all members. In the Hebrew Scriptures there are numerous examples of various kinds of prayer that are used to invoke God to act. In Numbers 21:7 the Israelites ask Moses to save them, "Pray to the Lord to take the serpents from us." More positively, Ezra calls the Hebrews to "pray for the life of the king and his children" (Ezra 6:10). Jeremiah wrote to the Jews in exile telling them, "Pray to the Lord on its [the city of Babylon's] behalf" (Jeremiah 29:7). King Zedekiah asked Jeremiah, "Please pray for us to the Lord our God" (Jeremiah 29:7). The book of Psalms is filled with prayers of praise to God. The psalmist writes, "You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him" (Psalm 22:23). Psalm 148, familiar to many, begins: "Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all his angels; praise Him all his host! Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all you shining stars! Praise Him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord."

The New Testament is equally filled with references to the importance of prayer. It is clear that Jesus was a man of great prayer; it was the center of his life. Many times Jesus went off by himself to an isolated spot to pray to the Father (Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46; Luke 6:12), sometimes spending the whole evening in prayer. Jesus encouraged his friends to pray. He took Peter, James, and John up on a mountain to pray and there he was transfigured before them (Luke 9:28-36). After the Last Supper, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and he told these same three apostles to pray as well (Mark 14:32-42). When Jesus' hour had come he prayed for those who would be left behind; he never forgot his friends (John 17:1-26).

My prayer is that I never become too arrogant that I forget prayer is the essence of survival in this life. Praying for you and may His love and grace be found faithful in all our lives - Don

1 comment:

Emeila said...

I also believe in the power of prayer.