Hymns: 526 I Need Thee Every Hour 345 Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour
Bible Reading: Mark 6:45-53
We begin to see patterns in the life of the Lord. These habits should be formed in us too. Disciples are supposed to discipline their lives as followers of the Lord. Every workman or housewife has habits that serve them well. When others come to help it can be frustrating as they do things differently. Companies develop policies and protocols and talk about best practices. They are called best because they work. They solve problems and limit the damage.
In this account, we see some of the Lord's habits at work and we will see some of the disciples' habits that don't work.
1. THE LORD'S HABIT OF PRIVATE PRAYER
Read v 45 - 46.
Note how the Lord deliberately went alone. He felt the need to pray and commune with His Father. We would expect this from the One who knew perfect fellowship with God and knew the heart-beat of His Father. If the Lord did not lay strong emphasis on private prayer it would not be consistent with the Trinitarian relationship between Father and Son.
He went out to a secret place. Probably a hillside where there was no traffic and no people within earshot. Communion with God requires quiet times with freedom from the interference and curiosity of men. The Lord expected people to go into their closet to pray in secret. "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." Mat 6:6
We need to get alone. Turn off the T.V. and radio. Close the door and find solitude so you are alone with God.
The value of secret prayer is considerable.
- You will be free from the distraction of sights and sounds. You're now in the atmosphere of God's presence and will know liberty to express your heart's thoughts and desires to your Lord.
- Perhaps the key thing is that you are free from feeling the need to impress others. Secret prayer serves us to be honest and open with God without any attempts to appear holy before men. We are free to express our inner fears and thoughts as well as confess our sins.
- Nor is there any rush due to time expectations as when in family prayer, or public prayer. The value is in the freedom we have to talk with God and be led by His Spirit. We can read and pray, or go back to Bible passages that come to our minds while in private prayer.
The focus of private prayer must be the character of our God.
The word "pray" in v46 is the Greek word, PROSEUCHOMAI, and means to worship. This is the foremost attitude in prayer and the foremost reason to get alone with God. It is to express our delight and devotion in God's character. We turn His goodness to items of praise and thanksgiving. We worship God for who He is and for His marvellous grace toward us.
Petitions should follow our praise. Our wants and pressing needs should be expressed with a full sense of God's name and honour in our asking. We ask then for what pleases Him and what will exalt His name or further His Kingdom.
The Lord's prayer is a perfect model for this. Hallowing God's name and beseeching that His will be done should precede "Give us this day our daily bread." The psalms commonly commence with an address to God's great name and some characteristic of God or His works. The psalms are our prayer book and songbook. We also want hymns that focus on worship before our needs.
To grow in prayer we must grow in our knowledge of God. Prayer cannot be pleasing to God when it is out of ignorance about Him. Our constant prayer should be, Shew me thy glory, teach me thy word, and lead me into thy will.
Hear how the psalmist prayed, "I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments." Psalm_119:7
2. THE LORD'S HABIT OF RESPONDING WHEN CALLED ON IN PRAYER
His response was not to the urgency of the disciples' needs, nor the weakness of the rowers in the storm.
The Lord responded to their cry (v49). You will note from v 48 that His trajectory when walking on the water led near the boat but not directly to it. He was on course to go past it. The Lord was near to the disciples in their boat, but He was not going to intervene.
It was their cry for help that changed the Lord's course toward them. Note how v46 begins with, "But." It was their cry that turned the Lord to them.
The lesson is striking for us. We must never assume that while the Lord is in control of all things and that he knows our needs we don't need to call unto Him for help.
The habit in the Lord's life is to respond to men's cries. Not until sinners cry out for salvation are they given pardon from sin and not until Christians cry out in their weakness will they be given more grace.
- The dying thief on the cross cried, "Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom" (Luke 23:42).
- The woman of Samaria asked, "Sir, Give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw" (John 4:15).
- Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, fell at the Lord's feet and besought him greatly, saying, "My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live" (Mark 5:23).
- The woman with the issue of blood, pushed through the crowd to touch the hem of the Lord's garment and later told him all the truth of her request for healing. The Lord answered, "Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague" (Mark 5:34).
This is the pattern we see repeatedly in the gospels, and, so, we need to learn to cry out to the Lord, fearing that He may pass us by. We must take to heart the fact that the Lord will only go to the aid of His praying people who are seeking him with all their hearts.
3. THE DISCIPLES' HABIT OF FORGETTING THE LORD'S POWER
"For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened" (v52).
This was a bad habit and one that too many of God's own people fall into. The impact of the Lord feeding the 5000 should have been fresh in their minds and should have stirred them to right thinking and complete trust in the Lord's power to save them in the midst of this storm. But, "Their heart was hardened."
Albert Barnes commented on this saying,
"Their “mind” was dull to perceive it. This does not mean that they were “opposed” to Jesus, or that they had what we denominate “hardness of heart,” but simply that they were slow to perceive his power. They did not quickly learn, as they ought to have done, that he had all power, and could, therefore, allay the storm."
This was the cause of their fears in the storm. This was the cause of their amazement at the Lord walking on the water, whom they supposed to be a spirit.
Because of this hardness of heart, or this dull thinking about the Lord, they needed words of reassurance.
We confess that we fall into this habit of neglecting the power of the Lord in our own circumstances. It is sometimes easier to trust the Lord for the needs of others, than to trust Him in our own times of trouble.
It can be easier to pray in faith for the Lord to work in power in some other part of the world where our missionaries have gone than for our own mission field at home, our neighbours or for some soul we could bring along to church to hear the gospel.
We should confess this habit to neglect the power of the Lord in every aspect of life. Learn to cry to the Lord in every time of need.
Instead of the habit of fearing it isn't the Lord, let us develop the habit of seeing that it is the Lord, even when our sight is dim. Knowing the power and the grace of the Lord toward His believing people we should be quick to interpret that it is the Lord moving toward us.
Let us pray for the habit to exercise faith rather than fear. Christians ought to know that either directly or indirectly all things are from the Lord. Nothing happens to His children outside of His control.
He is the one who sent these disciples back over the lake by boat. He knew their circumstances in the storm and understood their "toiling in rowing" (v48).
This is how gospel ministry can be at times. We can feel that we are getting nowhere, but are only wasting our strength. Yet, we must accept that every headwind and set back is the Lord working for our good. We cannot afford to be hardhearted - dull in faith refusing to even recognise it is the Lord. We must pray to be filled with faith, not fear.