John 11:1–7 (NIV)
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
“The Spirit of Jesus in me greets the Spirit of Jesus in you and brings us together in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.”
We made it; two miles from the Old City of Jerusalem. Welcome to Bethany. Lazarus is dead—four days in the sealed tomb. The sisters, Mary and Martha are distraught. Lots of grieving friends are gathered. Jesus is actually crying. It is a traumatic scene to say the least. Now to our question:
WHAT IS JESUS DOING? W.I.J.D.
He is making a bee line to the tomb.
Interestingly, the first thing he did was to tell them to take away the stone. Here’s the play by play call:
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41–42).
Notice how Jesus first triangulates. But notice what he does not do. He doesn’t say, “Father, would you heal Lazarus.” He sets up the triangle for the benefit of the people around to know from whence this demonstration was coming. And without pause, he collapses the triangle and prays in a straight line.
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43).
Mid-conversation with the Father, Jesus speaks directly to dead Lazarus. The words, “Lazarus, come out!” is properly speaking, a prayer. We have become so accustomed to thinking of prayer as asking God for something that we have lost sight of the shape of much New Testament praying. My favorite Daily Text series ever was the one we did on prayer a few years ago. It was called Right Here. Right Now. Jesus: Moving from a Prayer Life to a Life of Prayer. Here’s a short bit from early in the book:
“What is prayer? A prayer is a word or a series of words spoken in the power of the Spirit. We think of prayer as bringing our requests to God. I am growing to believe God sees prayer as learning to speak like God speaks.” (p.16)
Again, it’s why Paul said, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Eph. 6:18). Prayer, in the manner and mode we are accustomed to is not wrong. It’s just not enough. I’m not saying to go out to the cemetery and start trying to raise the dead. I’m not even suggesting you go and tell your wheel chair bound Aunt Bertha to walk. I am suggesting you expand your way of praying to include calling out to people in their various challenging life situations in the power of the Spirit and in the name of Jesus with words the Spirit stands ready to breathe through you for their sake. How many people do you know right now who are far from dead but who need to “come forth” from the grave their life has become?
The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go” (John 11:44).
That’s Bethany. So tomorrow we are going to Lexington, Kentucky, and a demonstration of this way of praying I witnessed a month or so ago. It’s a Holy Spirit story for sure, but it can’t wait for Saturday.
Still day one.
God our Father, who with your son Jesus Messiah, fills us with the Holy Spirit, thank you for the miracle and the mystery of the day of Pentecost. And thank you for today, and that it is only the day after. Holy Spirit, expand my praying imagination. I have fallen into ruts and the worst rut is we tell people we will pray for them and we hardly do it. Awaken me to prayer not as my speech but as participating in your speech. This feels like a stretch, but I’m ready to be stretched. Praying in Jesus’ name, amen.
Some feel like this way of praying borders on the “name it-claim it” approach of the prosperity gospel. It is not. I suspect if you are wired for the prosperity gospel it could be. Others think it can border on a “Messiah complex.” What bothers or challenges you about such an approach? Let’s be honest about our misgivings. That’s how we grow.
Holy Spirit Summer is in full swing now. I want you to join me for this upcoming course, How to Experience the Holy Spirit. I would say pray about it, but I already know the answer is yes. So many people live with a fuzzy sense of what it means to actually experience the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, we tend to compare our experiences with others which can bring even more confusion and doubt. New Christians and seasoned Christians alike can benefit from this short course. You can get all the details here and register. It will fill. And as always, if you need a scholarship, just ask.
For the Awakening,