Armed with Prayer


Years ago I listened to the song, “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone.” The truth is, I do not continually or intermittently see clearly. My mind does get clouded and I do pray for a little insight. I have yet to experience, as some claim they have, God or the Lord telling them what to say or do. I still rely on my own intuition or inner sense to guide me. I cannot help, but take to heart these words of Jesus, “The eye is the lamp of your body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness” (Matthew 6:22-23)!

Jesus’ statement is a realistic assessment of my internal state of mind. There is more darkness within me that I am willing to admit. It is a constant struggle to keep darkness out. Paul, the Apostle, struggled with it. “I find this law at work in me. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. In my inner being, I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members” (Romans 7:21-23). King David had the same problem and cried out, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalms 51:10). 

The light has to be turned on within us before it can shine outside. The switches that turn on the inner light are the B-Attitudes. Immediately after the blessings are installed, Jesus announced, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and cover it up. Rather, they place it on a high stand, and it gives light to all the residence. In like manner, let your light shine before men, so that they can see your good works and give credit to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). These blessings, which Christians pour out on their fellow men are the heavenly lights, which drive out darkness, and point to a God who is merciful and ready to fill others with similar blessings. 

I pray that I shall not have to run on empty. From time to time, I had to be pushed like a car which ran out of fuel. It is very easy to run out of gasoline or oil. In Jesus’ talk on the last three Parables, “The Ten Virgins” remind us how important it is to be prepared to travel to our destination and that we cannot get there on empty (Matthew 25:1-13). We are told that the five were foolish because they had neglected to secure fuel for their lamps. It also suggests that they had stopped shining. The focus was and still is on the wise virgins, who had enough oil to meet their bridegroom. It also says that they trimmed their lamps. That means they were preserving and not sharing their oil. This indicated that their lamps were not filled to capacity and their lamps did no run over, as they should have been (Luke 6:38). Their lights did not influence the other virgins. They, too, were as much asleep, as the disciples were, when Jesus needed them (Mark 14:37). It is a condition, which has affected me and our secular world, in assisting us to run out of oil and we hide our lights in our Churches.

Prayer ought to remind us of our shortcomings. I recall how my mother withdrew into the cellar and exposed vocally her concern for me to the Lord. Some of the things she shared were not favorable. She assumed things, which were not in existence. Nevertheless, her prayers added greatly to the shaping of my life. Her wish to keep me within the Will of God, spoke more potently than a hundred doe’s and don’ts. However, she did this in private and was not aware of me being near by. This method of telling the Lord what we think of others in our prayers in public leaves much to be desired. Unfortunately, we hear many such public disclosures in Churches. The Lord was not fond of such prayers. A Seminary student was sent out to preach. Prior to his delivery, one elder was asked to bless the sermon. It went like this, “Lord, we know this is a poor student. He knows little, but he tries. And we pray, bless his efforts.” Of course, the sermon was no longer delivered with confidence and the student would, never again, set foot in that Church. Obviously, the elder was tactless. But, also the student overlooked a very basic fact; namely, the need to reflect on his own shortcomings. I, too, have been insulted more than once and not just in my early days of preaching. I learned to swallow my pride, corrected my mistakes and continued. Later in life, as I looked back at these unpleasant incidents, I became aware of the fact that they were not entirely unjustified, but more than that, they helped me become a better servant of man.

Inner blindness is not an irreparable condition. We are creatures of habit and become acclimated to darkness. I was nine years old when the Nazis began to fill my mind with their ideology and I became convinced of their false representation of truth. Five years later, it all fell apart. They destroyed my ability to perceive and then chose what was right. The Nazis were not the only ones who had clouded my mind. The world is filled with people who want us to follow their trails which lead to nowhere. It is not easy to discern the spirits which mislead us. I have become very cautious to promises that are unrealistic. There is an inner light in me that I alone operate. I close my door to people who want to walk on water or restore the use of my hands. Peter tried it and had to be rescued (Matthew 14:28-31). He looked forward to being one of the judges in the future kingdom and insisted that he would die with his Master. Jesus shook Peter up by telling him that he was playing into Satan’s hands and that he needed his Lord do the praying to keep him out of Satan’s claws (Luke 22:31). Peter experienced too much glory without the insight or intuition to live up to it.

Jesus told his disciples to pray so that they do not be carried away by temptation (Matthew 6:13). I do not think, they had bad things on their minds. Too much good can also become a hindrance to our well-being. The rich young ruler and the fool with big barns were crashed by their over abundance (Mark 10:17-22; Luke 12:13-212). The Corinthian Christians were flying so high that Paul felt it necessary to remind them, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall” (I Corinthians 10:12). Before I fell on the outside I had fallen on my inside. Bad things come from within me and not from outside of me (Matthew 7:21). I have learned to bite my tongue and grind my teeth and remain standing. In “The Parable of the Weeds,” the sowers sowed good seed and then made the mistake and went to sleep. Good seed, when it is left unattended, becomes defenseless against weeds and then it is forced to coexist with weeds (Matthew 13:24-30). My heart ans mind is such a field where I have planted good and edible plants. It has become a full time job to keep plants out, which cause indigestion; as well as the bugs out, that feed on my veggies. I have to keep my intuition lit, twenty four hours a day. I am closing with poem.

                “I met a stranger in the night

                  Whose lamp had ceased to shine?

                  I paused and let him light,

                  His lamp from mine.

                  A tempest sprang up later on

                  And shook the world about.

                  And when the wind was gone

                  My lamp was out.

                  But back to me the stranger came –

                  His lamp was glowing fine!

                  He held the precious flame,

                  And lighted mine” (Kn. 204).