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Pray Until Something Happens

• Brenda Salter-McNeil

Rev. Brenda’s message today was entitled: Operation Push: Pray Until Something Happens, and was based on John 5:1-19. As stated in verse 19, “the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing.” Jesus walked with his spiritual eyes open in order to see what the Father was doing. He knew he had to stop and say what he could see. That is why Jesus was accurate in prayer. He only said what he could see. He only did what he could see God was doing.

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Rev. Brenda’s message today was entitled: Operation Push: Pray Until Something Happens. based on John 5:1-19. Shortly after having given birth to her son, Brenda took a phone call asking for prayer for Justin, an 8 year old dying of cancer. The mother was hoping that Brenda would come to the hospital to pray for his healing.

Brenda thought about how to say “no” in the kindest possible way. After all, she was too busy, a new mom, but also scared. What if the prayer doesn’t work? When things are very serious and there’s tremendous pressure on us and our prayer, it is natural to fear that we will not be able to pray effectively. Brenda confessed that she was not as adept at prayer as the impression she might have given from the pulpit. But she looked at her own child and knew that if she where in the place this mother was in, she would hope that that someone would show up.

So Brenda went to the hospital and began the relationship. She expected Justin to look awful given the true condition of his health, but was surprised to see an adorable child playing in his bed. The relationship began with Brenda just hanging out with Justin. Over time Brenda found that she began to pray as hard for Justin as she would for her own child. She prayed in every way she could imagine. Yet, nothing seemed to give the results they were seeking.

Desperate and desiring to see God move, Brenda came to her “wits end” where she learned that our extremity can become God’s opportunity. Something about desperation brings us close to God. Brenda wanted to see God do something, she cried out… “Lord! Teach me to pray!” She then remembered something from seminary. “Doing what you see the Father doing” from John 5.

As she reflected on this she noticed things that seem incidental to the story, but stand out when you consider what it might be like to live like Jesus did. Jesus passed this way before. This was a good place for those who depend on the generosity of others for the road was busy. And one day each year, God stirred the water of a pool here and the one who got in the pool would be healed.

On this day, Jesus came to this place, and rather than pass by as usual, Jesus stops and addresses this particular man. Why today, why this man? These circumstances have been here before…and many others with serious needs were here as well. Doesn’t Jesus care about the others? Of course, we say he does, but he only talks to this one guy. Jesus asks him a “no-brainer” question: “Do you want to be made well?” Rather than the obvious and simple response of “YES!” the man begins an explanation of the situation and why he hasn’t been able to get into the pool.

The man clearly didn’t understand who it was that stood before him. This story illustrates well that it isn’t always a matter of what we believe, how much faith we have, or what formula was used when it comes to effective prayer and healing. This man didn’t know Jesus, he didn’t have faith that he was about to be healed, and he had no idea about a formula other than getting into the pool at the right time. Nevertheless, Jesus prayed and prayed effectively. He simply said: “Take up your mat and walk.” Quick precise, accurate, effective. The man responded immediately.

How did Jesus do this? Thankfully, we are given an answer to this. Jesus knew that in all situations God is already working. God is already ahead of the game. For this reason, Jesus too could work and cooperate with what God is doing. As stated in verse 19, “the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing.” Jesus walked with his spiritual eyes open in order to see what the Father was doing. He knew he had to stop and say what he could see. That is why Jesus was accurate in prayer. He only said what he could see. He only did what he could see God was doing.

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Topics: Healing, Prayer


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Focus Scripture:

  • John 5:1-19

    Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?"

    “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."

    Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

    The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat."

    But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.' “

    So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?"

    The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

    Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

    So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

    Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

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