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Forsaking a Formula

Sometimes you have to disconnect to stay connected. —Regina Brett

In Luke 5, Jesus was in a town preaching the message of God’s acceptance to anyone who would listen. During this time, a man with a skin disease came to Jesus and said,

“Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. (Luke 5:12-13)

Can you imagine?

As the man was leaving, Jesus said to him, “Don’t tell anyone … ” (Luke 5:14).

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. (Luke 5:15)

I think this guy might have told someone.

You can’t blame him, right? He hadn’t been touched in years, and now he was healed! It would be really hard to keep quiet.

As a result, throngs of people came looking for Jesus. I bet quite a few had skin diseases. The crowds grew, and the needs were great. More and more helpless people needing Jesus’ help. Jesus was surrounded by need.

How Jesus responds is fascinating.

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16)

Was life chaotic? Probably. Were the needs unending? Definitely. In response, Jesus implemented a simple strategy so He could stay connected with the Father.

He withdrew to lonely places.

And He prayed.

When we read this, a lot of people think, Great! How often? What’s the magical formula for staying connected with our heavenly Father?

Sorry. There’s no magical formula. The word often doesn’t actually occur in the original language. It just reads, “Jesus withdrew and prayed.” It’s the original tense of both verbs—withdraw and pray—that emphasizes that this was a regular practice in Jesus’ life. We don’t get the feeling that these times were regularly scheduled. Instead, it appears to be an internal clock inviting Him to take time with the Father.

And consistently, Jesus went.

Lord, formulas offer a surefire way to solve a problem. So it’s tempting to identify areas of spiritual living and think, Hmm, I wonder if I could fulfill this by x, y, and z? Will You gently show me how I tend to make prayer formulaic? Will You set me free from perfectionism in my prayer life? I long for a different way—for an invitation and a response to pray. Amen.

Learn more from Pete’s teaching on Luke, What Will Jesus Do?

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