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Prayer: Just What Is It?

And it came about while He was on the way to Jerusalem, that He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. And as He entered a certain village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” And when He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And it came about that as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine–where are they? Was no one found who turned back to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Rise, and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Luke 17: 11-19

Rejection. He had learned well the meaning of that word. And he knew the meaning of other wretched, cruel words–he lived in their depressing presence every day. Isolated–like some vile creature–from the world around him; revulsion from the people on the streets as they smelled his stench and saw the loathsomeness of his gaping sores; abject loneliness; unrelenting pain; total indifference; constant hunger; utter despair. Yes. He knew intensely the depth of meaning in every one of those words. You see, he was a leper.

There were ten of them. Ten miserable men banded together, roaming the streets, staying mostly in the alleys, shrinking from people, trying to conceal the festering wounds, the deformed stumps that scarcely resembled feet or hands. Their cloaks were caves where they could hide themselves from curious, insensitive eyes who viewed them as objects of scorn to be avoided.

“Tishua! Get AWAY from there! How many times have I told you to NEVER go near those frightful, horrible people? Naughty, naughty child! Come over here RIGHT NOW! Did you touch anything? Don’t even LOOK at them!”

This morning was no different than any other. They had gathered enough food from the piles of garbage to relieve the gnawing pangs of hunger. Now the task stretching before them was to endure the dreadful hours of nothingness–hopeless, empty hours filled with–nothing.

They heard the noise and the people shouting before they saw Him and they knew who it was–Jesus. Oh, they had talked many times about Him and His power to heal. They had heard of Christ’s cure of one of their own number. And now–“It happened to him! He was healed”–these ten were thinking, “so maybe–maybe–why not us?” Frantically they huddled together, hearts beating furiously inside emaciated chests and began a slow and deliberate march into the open street just in front of Jesus, stopping a distance from Him.

“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

They saw no revulsion. They sensed no withdrawal. There was only compassion. You know what happened. He did have mercy and He healed them. Ten lepers were given a gift that day–Life!

They ran wildly toward the temple as He told them to do–crying, stumbling and falling on their misshapen feet–and then suddenly there was no pain and they watched incredulously as their fingers became whole and the gaping sores ceased their weeping and closed with unmarred flesh. Tears of joy ran down their dirty cheeks as they grabbed and hugged each other and shouted at the top of their voices–causing all sorts of bedlam in the crowded streets.



But only one–a foreigner, a Samaritan–took the time to return and thank the God-man who had healed him. Do you suppose he yelled at the others, “Come on, guys! Hurry! Let’s go find Jesus and thank Him!” And do you suppose the others thought, “Let him go! He’s not even one of us. He’s not a Jew. He’s a half-breed! We’re better off without him!” I think the words of Jesus were spoken gently, sadly:

“Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine–where are they?”

Only one came back to say, “Thank you, Jesus, for healing me.”

I like to think I would have been that one, Lord. I don’t know. Maybe I would have forgotten You in the magnificent miracle of my day and run madly home to my family. Or maybe I smelled the fresh-baked bread and couldn’t resist stopping at the bakery. But surely they all remembered later on–after the initial shock–when they took a bath or when they sat down at the supper table or crawled between clean sheets that night. How could they forget?

Even as I ask, I see. Oh Lord, my Lord, how sorry I am. You reached out to me with compassion. You healed me. You gave me Yourself–Your Life. I sit down at the supper table and I go to bed between clean sheets. I wake up in the morning with hope.

Tomorrow is another day and I have another chance, don’t I? Tonight–with tears–I say, “Thank You, my precious Jesus. My heart is soft and I remember. Please don’t let my heart grow hard and forgetful again tomorrow.”

Do we realize what our poor stumbling words of thanks and devotion mean to Christ? That our faltering, at times incoherent, broken bits of conversation make a difference to our Redeemer?

In case you should find that hard to believe, it’s written clearly all over the gospels. Why did He choose twelve men at the first? “That they might be with Him,” the writers simply say: which means that somehow it helped Him, in spite of their blundering, that in some mysterious way it encouraged Him to have those men–those friends of His–around Him. And so through the last terrible week He kept returning every night to the healing peace of the home at Bethany, to draw love from Mary and Martha and Lazarus. And so He asked Peter and James and John to stay with Him in Gethsemane. And so, you could easily think, on the road to Calvary His love reached out toward Simon of Cyrene who carried His cross the last stage of that dreadful journey. And so, dying at last–alone–there came to Him through the numbing pain and shouts of derision, a tribute of recognition and devotion from the wretched creature hanging there beside Him: “Jesus, remember me in Your kingdom.” Do you suppose, hearing those words, Christ’s heart responded, for it meant that He was not going out defeated and forsaken; that here was the beginning of the salvation of the world, and all God had promised was coming true already; here was the first tribute of the final victory.

All these–the dying thief and the Cyrenian, the Bethany family, the blundering disciples, and this poor nameless leper with his grateful heart–were God’s reinforcing messengers to our Lord Jesus Christ.

And this? This is prayer. Oh, to realize that prayer is just a word that means being with Christ. Prayer isn’t limited to asking, or praising, or confession, or intercession. Prayer is simply being in the presence of God and talking with Him. That’s all.

About the Author

Anabel spent decades teaching in many contexts through Lifetime Guarantee Ministries. She has taught countless others how to have a genuine intimate faith and a sound marriage. She shared from her heart about living from the heart. Lifetime’s beloved founder and mentor passed away November 7, 2010. Her legacy and influence are timeless and priceless.