I’ve been preaching a series through Mark this season at my church. Truthfully it’s been a difficult process – not in the work behind crafting and preparing for it, which I enjoy – but in the eery way the Journey of the disciples has been too similar to that of my church to be coincidental. It’s almost prophetic. I’m talking about the ups and downs of it all, the flagging understanding, the desertions which dishearten, the opposition of opponents voiced amidst stalwart supporters (“where else shall we go?”). The joys and the small victories (“we healed many!” of 6:13) and yet the setbacks of unbelief (“he could do no miracle there”).
It is too much drama for one pastor to behold in a season.
When I stumbled on the above words by Parker Palmer, voiced by Pete Scazzero, about how we persistently try to push through our requests to heaven, I had in back of mind the passage I was working on for Sunday: 9:29 “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer (and fasting).” Aint that the truth. You can’t push thru something if the door is locked. And sometimes that is an indication that you just have to try a different methodology.
After all you’ve heard the adage; “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” So maybe persistence is not the key but approaching the same thing differently.
I think that’s what the prayer and fasting is about.
Not so much more pleading, persisting, cajoling; that would be just more pounding upon a silent door. But I am of the view that actually praying while performing their exorcisms was something they did not do to begin with, and it was actually novel for the disciples; that what was required was not so much more persistence but a different approach; and if indeed Jesus is talking about prayer AND fasting, then what He’s talking about is certainly not an instantaneous transaction. To expect it to be so is childish.
It’s a process.
So as I reflect on my church’s Journey through Mark I am increasingly aware of my own need to be more process-oriented (as opposed to outcome-oriented); to be less future-minded and more here-and-now; to not neglect the relationships in front of me in favor of one more newcomer; because the work of creating culture and discipling the future of the new city is one that will take – in the words of Eugene Peterson – “a long obedience in the same direction.”