Avenues of Grace – Prayer

Mark 1:35-37

Word of the Day – Prayer

        Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. “Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!” he said. Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. These are the famous openings words of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade. They say that truth is stranger than fiction. And the story behind this poem is stranger than fiction.

        The Charge of the Light Brigade would be a hilarious series of errors. If so many didn’t die as a result. At the time, officer positions were bought and sold for huge sums of a money. This policy ensured that the men giving the orders had no idea what they were doing. Lord Raglan was the overall commander of the British forces fighting in the Crimea. He sent an order to the light brigade. It read, “Lord Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front. Follow the enemy. And try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns. Troop horse artillery may accompany. French cavalry is on your left. Immediate.”

Raglan intended for the cavalry to prevent the Russians from moving the captured cannons. These guns were cumbersome. And the Light Cavalry Brigade could have forced the Russians to either abandon them. Or be cut down trying. However, due to differing vantage points, the Light Brigade couldn’t actually see the guns Raglan was referring to. The cavalry commander was Lord Lucan. Meanwhile, the messenger, Captain Nolan, was a capable soldier. One of the few who had risen through the ranks because of merit. Lucan asked Nolan which specific lines they were to attack. Nolan responded with a wide sweep of his arm. As if to say, it doesn’t matter. The situation is futile. But Lucan took the gesture to mean that he wanted a suicidal charge towards the main body of Russians. Who were located at the end of a nearby valley.

Ideally, he could have conferred with his commander. Unfortunately, these two men hated each other. They were not on speaking terms. So, confused and unable to see the exact course of the battle, he followed the muddy and vague orders. He ordered a charge into the valley. The result was a slaughter. The able messenger, Nolan, was one of the first to die. Killed by an artillery shell as he charged out in front. Some think he may have been attempting to stop the attack. The charge that was conducted because of miscommunication, confusion, and bad feelings was futile. And the charge became immortalized. In a famous poem written by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

The miscommunication of the Charge of the Light Brigade is similar to miscommunication that we have. How many arguments are simply due to not understanding each other? How many fights could be prevented if we simply stopped. Listened. And gave the other person the benefit of the doubt. Yet, how do we do with our communication with God? If it is important to communicate with our loved ones and colleagues, how much more important is it to communicate with God our Father? And what impact does it have in our life?

Here in Mark, Jesus shows us how to dedicate ourselves to communicating with God. He gets up early in the morning. Then he finds a solitary place. And he prays to the Father. This is a pattern that Jesus gives for us. On the night before his crucifixion, he went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. To talk to his Father in heaven. By reading scripture, we hear from God. In prayer, in this Avenue of Grace, we talk to God. Our Father. And the Bible tells us that Simon and others were searching for him. And they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” Jesus made a point to be alone in prayer. Yet he was often interrupted. People needed him. Do you ever feel like that?

Martin Luther was a pastor, theologian, author, and leader in the church. He often had people who needed him as well. He wrote many books. He translated the entire Bible. He preached. He led. And he said, “I have so much business I cannot get on without spending at least three hours daily in prayer.” Do you ever feel the opposite? We have so much going on. I cannot possibly spend even a few minutes in prayer. Why? I believe that the reason we are unwilling is that it is difficult to see tangible results. When we do something, we tend to see an effect. When we pray, we often feel that there has been no effect. But I would challenge you on that. Pray specifically. Pray with confidence. Pray knowing what 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.” Or in James where it says, And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” Or in Matthew, Jesus teaches, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Jesus teaches us that God wants to answer our prayers. He desires to bless us as a father desires to bless his child.

Some of us are unsure of what to pray. Or how to pray. In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray. This is known as the Lord’s Prayer, which we pray at the end of our prayer time each Sunday. It is a model of prayer. An example of what to pray for. And how to pray. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, the Lord says, “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Friends, we need to pray for our country. Its leaders. For the recent shootings that have occurred. We need to pray for our state and our county. Pray for our church and our families. Pray for the joy of the Lord. pray for an awareness of his presence with us everyday. God promises that if we humble ourselves and pray, then he will forgive our sins and heal our land. And we don’t need to complicate it. We don’t need to know just the right words to say. To pray to God, you don’t need to have your theology figured out or know every passage of the Bible. You simply need to talk to God. To communicate with him.

Archbishop Campbell Tait once said, “I want a life of greater, deeper, truer prayer.” Do you desire that? A life hearing from God in his Word. And a life of praying to him. A life traveled on his Avenues of Grace. And if you are not convinced of the effects, look at what follows this passage. Jesus cleanses a leper. Then he heals a paralytic. He calls Matthew to join him. Jesus starts his day in pray. And his communication with the father leads to good. It leads to works of the Kingdom. It leads to a life rooted in the Gospel.

We get a snapshot of the early church in Acts 2. It says in verse 42, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” The early church committed itself to fellowship, the Word, and to prayer. Are you committed to prayer?

Jesus provides for us a way to do it. Jesus went to a solitary place. Early in the morning. A place that allowed him to temporarily get away from people. So I leave you with these simple questions for application. Where is a place you could pray to God? What time of the day will it happen? And, how will you prevent interruptions? It doesn’t need to be a long time. It doesn’t need to be early in the morning like Jesus. It simply needs to be a time in which you are communicating with God. Hearing from him. And committed to him.

Are you like the Light Brigade, accidentally going one way or the other because of miscommunication? Or will you commit today to travel this avenue of grace and open yourself to communication with God?