May 10, 2018
4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
It is fitting to begin writing on prayer on this, the Day of the Ascension of Jesus Christ. As we say in the great Creed of the Apostles:
“He ascended into Heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”
I love how Timothy Tennent, who writes our Daily Text each Sunday, puts it. He says Jesus did not just ascend from here to there. Because he ascended into the Heavens, he ascended from here to everywhere.
This is perhaps the first and most important teaching on prayer. We aren’t sending our prayers “up there somewhere.” We are speaking directly and immediately to the Risen Son of God. Though unseen to the naked eye, he is right here, right now. Jesus is not with us in the sense that someone who can’t come to our birthday party says they will be with us “in spirit.” Jesus is not with us “in spirit,” but in person–in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Great Commission Jesus gave his disciples ends with the words, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” By this he did not mean, “I’ll be pulling for you in Heaven.” No, he meant WITH YOU. In fact, it is the very meaning of his name: Emmanuel—God with us.
The ascension of Jesus mysteriously means two completely different things all at the same time. He is high and lifted up. He is nearer than our breath. This makes prayer “in the name of Jesus” far more than the expression of human longing. Jesus raises prayer to the level of participation in the unfolding of the will of God— on Earth as it is in Heaven.
The Ascension of Jesus Christ makes Christian prayer possible. To pray as a Christian does not mean, “I’ll be thinking about you,” as well-meaning people are prone to say when our life goes off the rails. It does not mean, “We will keep you in our thoughts and prayers,” as the anchor person on the evening news casually repeats in the wake of unthinkable tragedy. To pray as a Christian means immediacy of access to Jesus, who is right here, right now.
I want you to deeply ponder those four words. They are the foundation on which everything else we will discuss concerning prayer stands.
Right here. Right now. Most people wait until the end of their life to finally discover this ultimate reality.
Discover it now.
Right here. Right now.
Lord Jesus, you are right here, right now. Even as I pray these words, I am aware I believe it more than I know it. I am ready to confess that I don’t know what I don’t know. Open the eyes of my heart that I might know you all at once high and exalted yet nearer than my breath. Right here, Jesus. Right now Jesus. Amen.
- In your prayer life do you tend to think of God as being somewhere “out there” or as immediately present? Reflect on that.
- Do you find it easy or difficult to live in the real awareness of Jesus real presence with you, right here and right now?
- If Jesus really is right here, right now, wouldn’t you want to grow more and more aware and attuned to this? What would that require on your part? on God’s part?
Join the Daily Text Fasting Challenge here. Whenever you sign up, it will begin the following Tuesday.
J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.