Morning Prayer Summary for Thursday, August 17, 2023

Morning Chapel Prayer Playlist

Pastor Heather…

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to prayer. Those of you joining us online, welcome.

What is it about people that stopped Jesus in His path?

Today, I was praying about which direction to go. Throughout the week, I search my heart, “Where does God want to go?” And I just got back from youth camp. I was a counselor at youth camp, and it was beautifully, exhaustingly, wonderful. But those kids were so hungry. And as those kids were pulling, really just pulling from heaven, it was awesome to watch God move on all these young people and pour out His Spirit upon them, watching them pray for each other. It was amazing.

And so you start watching and you think, “Okay, why is this young person being so moved upon while this young person is maybe detached or not quite there yet.” And it just made me think about what does God see that… Well, I don’t want to say, “makes Him move upon us,” because I think He pours out His Spirit on all flesh. He’s not a respecter of persons. But like even in the Bible, you look through these stories and you see blind Bartimaeus, you see the woman with the issue of blood, you see Mary just pouring out and worshiping at His feet. You see Zacchaeus up in a tree. So what was it about these people that stopped Jesus in His path of whatever He was doing? And almost every time, He was doing something else when these people approached and pulled something out of Him. So what was it about these people that attracted Jesus, that made Him stop and pour out a blessing on them? What was it? Because whatever it is, I want that too.

And I think these are good questions to ask. And so you wonder, Was it their hunger? Was it their passion? Was it their expectation? Was it their faith? Was it that they just positioned themselves and they were persistent to get what they came for?

I think it’s all of those things. And how do we do that in our lives? How do we position ourselves in a place to just be like, “Jesus over here! Stop! I’m over here.” And of course, we don’t have to do that because we know He’s in us. He’s always with us. But there are these moments that I think that demand us to press in to be persistent, to know what we want, to know what we’re expecting to know, to have that hunger, and know why we are coming before Him and what He wants us to do. Just all of those things.

The Man That Stopped Jesus…

And so I have an article that I read. It’s a little long, so hang in there with me. Because I think it’s good. I think it’ll really set a good foundation for us as we go into prayer this morning. But it’s called “The Man That Stopped Jesus,” and it’s about blind Bartimaeus. I just love this story. And it’s out of the expository. It’s out of Mack Loren’s Expositions in the English Bible.

Luke 18:38–43, Passion Translation…

So first we’ll read the scripture. “The blind beggar shouted, Jesus, son of David have pity and show me mercy. Those in front of the crowd scolded him and warned him to be quiet. But the blind beggar screamed out even louder. Jesus, son of David, show me mercy. Suddenly Jesus stopped and directed those nearby, bring the man over to Me. When they brought him before Jesus, He asked the man, What do you want me to do for you? Master, he said, Please, I want to see. Jesus said, Now you will see, receive your sight this moment for your faith in Me has given you sight and the new life. Instantly he could see again. His eyes popped open, and he saw Jesus standing in front of him. He shouted loud praises to God, and he followed Jesus. And when the crowd saw what happened, they too erupted with shouts of praise to God.

The exposition…

Now this exposition, I’m going to read it. I think it’s an amazing article and will stir our hearts this morning.

This story of the man that stopped Christ is told by the three synoptic evangelists, and it derives a special value from having occurred within a week of the crucifixion. You remember how graphically Mark tells how the blind man hears who is passing and immediately begins to cry with a loud voice to Christ to have mercy on him. How the officious disciples a great deal more concern for the master’s dignity than He was Himself, tried to silence him. And how with a sturdy persistence and independence of externals, he cried the more a great deal because they did try. And then how he won the distinction of being the man that stopped Christ. When Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called, the crowd wheeled right around at once and instead of hindering or encumbering him, they helped him and bowed him to rise and be of good cheer. Then he flings away some poor rag that he had to cover himself sitting there and wearing his undergarments only comes to Christ. And Jesus asks, What do you want? A promise in the shape of a question. Bartimaeus knows what he wants, and he answers without hesitation, and so he gets his request.

Now, I think in all this incident and especially in its center part, which I have read, there are great lessons for us. And the first of them is, I see here a wonderful revelation of Christ’s quick sympathy at a moment when He was most absorbed. I said that all this occurred within a week of our Lord’s crucifixion. If you’ll recall the way in which that last journey to Jerusalem is described in the evangelists, you’ll see that there was something very extraordinary about the determination and tension of spirit, which impelled Jesus along the road all the way from Galilee. Mark says that the disciples followed and were amazed. There was something quite unlike what they had been accustomed to in His face and bearing. And it was so strange to them that they were puzzled and frightened.

We read too that their amazement and fright prevented them from going very near to Him on the road. As they followed, they were afraid.

Further, one of the evangelists speaks of His face being set to go to Jerusalem. The gentle features fixed in a new expression of resolution and absorption. The cross was flinging its shadow over Him. He was bracing Himself up for the last struggle. If ever there was a moment of His life when we might have supposed that He would’ve been oblivious to the externals and especially of the individual sorrows of one poor, blind beggar sitting by the roadside, it was that moment.

But however, plunged in great thoughts about the agonizing suffering He was going to front and that grand work that He was going to do and the great victory that He was going to win so soon, He had a heart at leisure from itself to soothe and sympathize. Even at that supreme hour, He stood still and commanded him to be called.

I wonder if it is saying too much to say that in the exercise of that power of healing and helping Bartimaeus, Jesus found some relief from the pressure of the impending sorrow. Brethren, is not that a lesson for us all? It is not spiritualizing, allegorizing, cramming meanings into an incident that are not in it. When we say, think of Jesus Christ as one of ourselves, knowing that He was going to His death within a week, and then think of Him turning to this poor man, is not that a pattern for us? We are often more selfish in our own sorrows than in our joys. Many of us are inclined when we are weighed down by personal sorrows to say as long as I have this heavy weight lying on my heart, how can you expect me to take an interest in the affairs of others or to do Christian work or to rise to the cause of benevolence and to the cries of need? We do not expect you to do it, but Jesus Christ did it leaving us as an example that we should follow in His steps. Next to the blessed influences of God’s own Spirit and the peace bringing act of submission, there is no such comfort for sorrow as to fling ourselves into others’ griefs and to bear others’ burdens. Our Lord with His face set like a flint on the road to the cross, but yet sufficiently free of heart to turn to Bartimaeus, reads a lesson that rebukes us all and should teach us all.

Further, do we not see here a beautiful concrete instance on the lower plane of the power of earnest desire? No enemy could have stopped Christ on that road. No opposition could have stopped Him. No beseeching on the part of loving and ignorant friends repeating the temptation in the wilderness or the foolish words of Peter this shall not be unto thee. He would have trodden down all such flimsy obstacles as a lion from the thickets of Jordan crashes through the bull rushes. But this cry stopped Him. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” And the cross and all else that He hastened to, great as it was for the world, had to wait its turn for something else had to be done first.

There was a noise enough on the road, the tramp of many feet, the clatter of many eager tongues but the voice of one poor man sitting in the dust there by the roadside found its way through all the noise to Jesus’s ears which things are an allegory. There is an ocean of praise always, as I might so say, breaking upon Christ’s throne. But the little stream of my petitions flows distinguishable through all that sea. As one of our poets say, We may even think of Him as missing my little human praise when the voice of one poor boy was not heard.

Surely amidst all the encouragement that we have to believe that is our cry that is not sent up into an empty heaven nor into deaf ears and that all the multitude of creatures that wait before that throne do not prevent the individualizing knowledge and the individualizing love of Jesus Christ from coming straight to every one of us.

This little incident is not the least instructive and precious. He that heard Bartimaeus will hear us. In like manner, may I not say that we have an illustration of how Christ who has so much besides to do would suspend other work if it were needful in order to do what we need. As I have said, the rest had to wait. Bartimaeus stopped Jesus. And our hand, if it be the hand of faith put to the hem of the garment as Jesus of Nazareth passes by will so far stop Him as that He will do what we wish, if what we wish is in accordance with our highest good.

Zacchaeus stopped Jesus…

There was another man in Jericho who stopped Christ on that same journey for not only the petition of Bartimaeus, but the curiosity which was more than the curiosity of Zacchaeus stopped Him. And He who had stood still though He had his face set like a flint to go to Jerusalem because Bartimaeus cried, stood still and looked up into the sycamore tree where the publican was the best fruit that ever it bore and said, “Zacchaeus, come down. I must abide in your house.” Why must He abide? Because He discerned there a soul that He could help and save and that arrested Him on His road to the cross.

So, dear friends, amidst all the work of administering the universe, which He does, and of guiding and governing and inspiring His church, which He does, if you ask for the supply of your need, He would put that work aside for a moment if necessary to attend to you. That is no exaggeration. It is only a strong way of putting the plain truth that Christ’s love individualizes each of its objects and lavishes itself upon each one of us, as if there were no other beings in the universe, but only our two selves.

And then remember too that what Bartimaeus got was not taken from anyone else. Nobody suffered because Jesus paused to help him. They sat down in ranks, five thousand of them, and as they began to eat, those that were first served would be looked upon with an envious eye by the last ranks who would be wondering if the bits of bread and fish would be enough. But the first group was fed full, and the last group had just as much. And as they took up the fragments that remain, 12 baskets full enough for all, enough for each, enough forevermore.

There is one more thought rising out of the story…

It teaches a wonderful lesson to the power which Christ puts into the hand of the believing pray-er. What will thou that I shall do unto thee? He had asked the same question a little while before, under a very different circumstance. When James and John came and tried to beguile Him into a blind promise because they knew that it was not likely that they would get what they asked for if they set it out at first, He avoided the snare with that same question. To them, the question was a refusal. They had said, Master, we will that thou wouldest do whatever we should desire.” And He said, “What is it that you desire? Let Me know that first.” But when blind Bartimaeus cried, Jesus smiled down upon him that we could not see the smile. There would be a smile in the cadence of His words as He said, “What wouldest thou that I should do for thee?” To this, that question was a promise. I will do what you want. He puts the keys of the Royal Treasure House into the hands of faith and says, “Go in, help yourself and take what you will.”

We know says one of the apostles that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. Some of us think that’s a very poor kind of charter, but it sets the necessary limit to the omnipotence of faith. What wouldest thou that I should do for thee? Unless our answer always and at the bottom is “not my will, but thine,” we have not yet learned the highest blessing nor the truest meaning of prayer.

For to pray does not mean to insist, depress our wishes upon God, but it means first to desire that our wills may be brought into harmony with His. The old rabbi is hit upon great truths when one of them said, “Make God’s will, thy will that He may make thy will His will.”

If any poor blind Bartimaeus remembers that and asks accordingly, he has the keys to the royal treasury in his possession. And he may go in and plunge his hand up to the wrist in jewels and diamonds and carry away bars of gold and it will all be his.

When this man who had no sight in his eyeballs knew that whatever he wanted, he should have, he did not need to pause too long to consider what it was that he wanted most. If you and I had that Aladdin’s lamp given to us and had only to rub it for a mighty spirit to come, that would fulfill our wishes, I wonder if we should be as sure of what we wanted. If we were as conscious of our need as the blind man was of his, we should pause as little in our response to the question, “What wouldest thou that I should do for thee?”

“Lord, doest thou not see that mine eyes are dark. What else but sight can I want?” Jesus still comes to us with the same question. God grant that we may all say, “Lord, how can thou ask us? Does thou not see that my soul is stained, my love wandering, my eyeballs dim. Give me thyself.”

If we thus ask, then the answer will come as quickly to us as it did to this blind man. Go thy way, thy faith has saved thee. And that “go thy way” will not be a dismissal from the presence of Jesus. But our way will be the same as Bartimaeus was when he received his sight and followed Jesus in the way.

And so it was just reminding me, what do we want? Do we know what we want? If Jesus were to come up to us and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” Does your heart have an immediate answer? Like are we so hungry and so focused and so resolute that we know that when Jesus comes and says, “Ask me for anything and I’ll give it to you,” we know exactly what we want.

And obviously my hope and prayer would be that my answer would be “You! I want all of you. Everything that you have for me. I want that.”

And I think when we think about the woman with the issue of blood, blind Bartimaeus, Zacchaeus, Mary when she’s pouring out her oil upon the feet of Jesus, all those people were pursuing Him so persistently and strong. They cast off all of society’s norms. Like the woman with the issue of blood. She wasn’t supposed to be in that crowd. She was unclean. So she wasn’t supposed to be there. But she knew that if she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, she would be healed. And so she pressed through. She pressed through what people thought about her. She pressed through doing things that she wasn’t even supposed to do because she knew that she knew that she knew … if she got to Jesus, she would receive her healing.

Blind Bartimaeus, he’s just yelling and screaming and everybody’s telling him to be quiet. He didn’t care what people thought. He knew that he knew that Jesus had something for him. And so he disrupted that parade. The woman with the issue of blood disrupted that path as He was going to I think it was Jericho’s house at the time… as He was going to raise the young girl from the dead.

Then you think of Mary as she’s pouring out that oil. She wasn’t even supposed to be in there. When a rabbi was teaching men, the women weren’t allowed to come in and listen. But there she was. She wasn’t allowed to touch Him. She wasn’t allowed to do all those things. All those things were against their society’s norms. But she had so much in her heart that she wanted to give to Jesus that she just went. [end]

And so what is it about these people. Zacchaeus climbing up in the tree. I feel like it’s that passion, it’s that hunger. It’s that pursuit of God that what we have, we know that He has more and we’re going to keep pursuing that and keep pursuing that. And that they weren’t just satisfied with their status quo of what their life was at that time.

So how do we stir that up in our own lives? We get hungry. And you think in the natural, how do you get hungry? Well, you stop eating junk food, first of all. Remember your mom. “Don’t spoil your appetite. Don’t eat that. You’re going to spoil your appetite.” So stop filling up with things that are not the things that He wants you to fill up on.

And then, okay, what’s another way that we increase our hunger? We start talking about food. Have you ever been hungry and somebody starts talking about food and your mouth literally just starts watering, like, “Oh, my mom makes the best meatloaf.” And as they go on and on, you’re like, “I’m so hungry now.” Talk about it. Stir up that hunger by talking about it.

Remember those things that God has done in your life that have turned things around. Remember those times that He showed up? Remember those times that you experienced His presence? Remind yourself of those, stir that up, stirring up your most holy faith. And that’s how we do it with our words.

And then of course, just expectation, just increasing that hunger, that expectation that He’s going to move. He’s going to do something in my life. He’s going to do something in this room today. He’s going to do something in my heart today. And as you stir up that expectation, we’re like that woman with the issue of blood, “If I can just touch the hem of His garment. I know…” Fill in the blank. Whatever that is.

“I know that if I can just press through these crowds, if I can get to Jesus, I know that He will….” What’s your blank? You fill that in right now. Whatever it is you need, whatever it is that you are short of in your life or believing God for you, just press through. You just keep pressing through the crowd. The crowd could be a lot of different things. It could be distraction, it could be tribulations, troubles, trials, things you’re going through. It could just be even your own lethargy or apathy. You just keep pushing through. “I got to get to the hem of Jesus garment.”

And when you’re that close to Him, there’s something really cool about natural hunger. When we eat, we’re full. But hunger of God, the more we eat, the more hungry we get. And the more we get into His presence, we want more. Not in a greedy way, but just knowing that it’s this reservoir that is bottomless. And the more that we pursue and push in, the more we’re going to experience His presence.

And so today, as we go into prayer, I just want to do that. Let’s stir up our hunger today.

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