“Get Your Priorities Right!” (John MacDiarmid)

Sermon preached at Poole Christian Fellowship 23 October 2011
Reference: Luke 10 v 38 – 11 v 13

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When I was involved in recruiting to fill a vacancy and a really good candidate had been identified we always tried to find out the candidates Most Important Thing (MIT). What was it they really wanted from a job? Was it salary? Recognition? Job satisfaction? Once we had identified their MIT, we could see if we could match it.

We all have a Most Important Thing. Even if we are not aware of what it is, we subconsciously make all our decisions in the light of our MIT.

In the case of Paul there was no doubt about what it was: in Philippians 3 he puts everything that was once considered to his credit on one side and says that they are rubbish compared with “the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”. Knowing Jesus was Paul’s MIT!

The Psalmist (Asaph) said: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”

Surely our MIT has to be our relationship with Jesus, our time spent with our Father, and our relationship with the Holy Spirit. This is our theme as we look at this passage together.

The discussion of prayer that occurs below is thinking of prayer in its widest context. Prayer is simply our time spent with Jesus.

1. The Priority of Prayer

The story of Martha and Mary is a familiar and touching one. We are more than tempted to feel a little sympathy for Martha as she rushes round doing all the jobs that have to be done m whilst her sister is simply sitting at Jesus’ feet and not helping at all. Martha’s frustration builds up and up until she finally explodes with an accusation at her sister and irritation at the Lord for condoning what she sees is Mary opting out of responsibility.

Jesus’ reply “Martha, Martha…” comes out of love, affection and concern…not rebuke. Martha is het up about many of the things that concern us…meals have to be cooked, the house has to be tidied, children have to be looked after…and so on. But what is the most important thing? The most important thing is our relationship with Jesus. Mary understood that. Jesus is not condoning laziness – but he affirms someone who has their priority straight. Our MIT is our time with Jesus. Do our lives reflect that?

2. The Pattern of prayer

Luke deliberately follows this passage with what we now call “The Lord’s prayer”. Here he is not giving us a speech to recite our Father (who needs speeches when there is a relationship?) but is giving us an example of what that relationship with our Father looks like.

What do we see in this prayer – in this “model” prayer that Jesus gives us?

We see:
– Addressing God as father – not the authoritative distant Victorian father, but the intimate “daddy” – no speeches are necessary!

– Talking to God about the things that are important to Him –his name and His kingdom

– Depending on the Lord for our daily needs

– Asking for the mercy and undeserved forgiveness of God to be poured out on our lives – whilst recognising that every day we will receive it to the extent that we are willing to share that mercy and that forgiveness with others.

– Asking for help in the daily battle with the enemy so that we can live lives that please God.

If we want to know what spending time with God looks like – here it is!

3. Persistence in prayer

Jesus follows the model prayer with a most amusing story of about the man who has such an extraordinary cheek that he dares to wake up his neighbour in the middle of the night, because of his own lack of planning. What a nerve! And Jesus Is pointing out that God is quite happy when we behave like this. There is no suggestion that God is like the impatient neighbour who only acts to get rid of the nuisance. Jesus is saying that God honours the bold, persistent and even outrageous cheek of those who bring their requests to God.

To emphasise this point Jesus says that we should go on asking, go on seeking, go on knocking, because we can be assured of an answer. There is, in this sense, no such thing as unanswered prayer. God always respond to the cries of his children.

His final comparison is with the Father who still knows how to give good gifts to his children, even though he falls far short of God’s love. And the thing that Jesus says we will receive is the very thing that we need most to enjoy our relationship with Jesus- the Holy Spirit.

Let’s make our Most Important Thing the thing that God wants it to be – the same as Paul’s – to know Jesus. Let’s follow Jesus’ pattern of prayer as we seek to develop our relationship with Him, and let’s be bold and persistent as we seek God and ask Him to continually fill us with His Holy Spirit

John MacDiarmid
October 2011

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