The Prince of Passion, Part IV
January 23, 2005
When we think of what God desires from us we think of passion. Or do we?
Passion is the inner fire that keeps the soul alive. It is the best evidence of a purposeful life. It is the spiritual connection between a man and his Creator.
A life without passion is a life without joy, without focus, without direction or purpose or peace or prosperity.
When we think of passion we are reminded that passion is the power behind the Word of God, the love of God, the Spirit of God and the Son of God.
He came with passion – a passion to sort out mankind, to save the children of God, and to solidify them into a population of passionists – like Himself, the Prince of Passion.
Christ is our best example of what godly passion looks like and acts like. If you want new life you must look to him for it because he is life itself.
Passion comes from knowing him, and if you truly want to know him you must embrace his passion. It is his passion for God that brings true spiritual life.
Without Christ you cannot know real passion. And life without passion is a living death – so much so that you might as well go out a buy yourself a shovel and begin to dig your own grave. But then, how far could you get since it even takes a certain kind of passion to dig?
So we learn from the Master. He came with a message of passion that divided the world. It was a message of repentance, but I dare say this is repentance from not having his passion.
It is repentance from not having a passion for the rule of God, or for communication with God, or for trust in God, or for fellowship with God, or for serving God, or for those in need of God.
In the previous message in this series we saw what having a passion for the ‘rule of God’ looked like in Jesus and that we must also make this our own passion.
But it doesn’t end there. In this message on The Prince of Passion we will look at one of the other passions we find perfected in Jesus that round out what real spiritual life looks like. And isn’t true spiritual life what we all really want? Isn’t this why we keep coming to him?
We keep coming to him because this is why he came to us.
Let us come to Jesus now through his Word to passionately perfect our own lives through the passion we find in him.
(1) Jesus had a passion for prayer.
His passion for prayer collided with the prevailing religionists of his day. They made prayer out to be a public performance – a display of repetitious self-righteousness, devoid of meaningful communion with the Father.
ILLUS: When I think of meaningful communion with the Father I think of prayers like my grandson, Mikey, who talks to God like God is his friend.
The passion of the religionists looked good on the surface but it reeked of self at the core. A passion for self is not a passion for God. They prayed to a distant God they didn’t know. They were spiritual frauds who deceived everyone around them, even themselves.
“"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men— robbers, evildoers, adulterers— or even like this tax collector.” (Lu 18:10-11 NivUS)
“"Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely."” (Lu 20:46-47 NivUS)
It would almost seem that their zeal for prayer was not for prayer at all but for money. They wanted to look good. Perhaps this is why Jesus said what he did.
“Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. "It is written," he said to them, "‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’"” (Mt 21:12-13 NivUS)
To be robbed of a true passion for intimacy with God in prayer is like being robbed of your money – it leaves you destitute and without resource, spiritually penniless and bankrupt.
His instruction about prayer led to the riches of a real intimacy with God.
“"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Mt 6:5-7 NivUS)
The passion of Jesus for prayer was a passion for private places with God where passion cannot be misled into pomp and circumstance.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mr 1:35 NivUS)
“After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,” (Mt 14:23 NivUS)
“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray."” (Mt 26:36 NivUS)
“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."” (Mt 26:39 NivUS)
"He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."” (Mt 26:42 NivUS)
“So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.” (Mt 26:44 NivUS)
This was a passion of earnest truth and substance – even agony.
“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Lu 22:44 NivUS)
Do you ever have a longing for that kind of passion in your life – a passion that is your very lifeblood?
This passion for prayer by Jesus was true spiritual power. It was the power that provided the strength and the will for the cross. It was the power that renewed his strength to heal and minister to so many.
“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Lu 5:15-16 NivUS)
It was the power of wisdom in the will of the Father to choose his disciples.
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles:” (Lu 6:12-13 NivUS)
It was his assurance that those disciples were actually the right choice.
“Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say I am?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "The Christ of God."” (Lu 9:18-20 NivUS)
Is there a place for prayer with others? Most certainly as we see in his transfiguration on the mount with his three closest disciples.
“I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God." About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” (Lu 9:27-29 NivUS)
There is a time when we can legitimately allow others into the passion of our private place with God where they, too, might be transformed by the passion of God that falls upon those with a passion for him. It is like a passion by association, not to be confused by a passion for appearance.
This is the pinnacle of passion as deep as the mountain is high. It is a passion for the passion of others. Jesus wants this passion for you, too.
And his passion caught on.
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."” (Lu 11:1 NivUS)
And there is a place in our passion for prayer where it is a blessed encouragement and hope and confidence for others in their presence. We see this as Jesus sits counseling his disciples after the Last Supper and then prays for them – and all believers.
“"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (Joh 16:33-17:3 NivUS)
We find this blessed encouragement and hope and confidence in a passion for prayer contagiously epitomized in Christ’s zeal for our eternal life. Passion brings life indeed.
In my own ministry I see many times when I pray for others in their presence a visible transformation of hope and confidence that brings life. You too can have this kind of ministry in a passion for prayer. (Example)
So we have talked about a passion for prayer in private places with God, but even public prayer can have legitimate benefit.
“Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. "Take away the stone," he said. "But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days." Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" 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." When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 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."” (Joh 11:38-44 NivUS)
This benefit begins with Christ’s passion, and he imparts passion to all who receive it – like being released from the grave to a new life of passion. Can you imagine the compounding of passion in the life of Lazarus from this experience?
Has the new life Christ given you multiplied your passion for prayer like his?
We see in this message about passion in the life of Christ concerning prayer that private is good and public can have purpose. Both have their place.
The real assessment involves your passion. Is it truly for God (and by extension for others) – or for self? Answered prayers begin with passion for God. And I dare say, they end with a passion for God because of those answers.
ILLUS: As you know, we have started a new format for our prayer meetings on Wednesday nights. It is different than most of us have been used to here at Mayfair.
Prayer is hard work because real prayer demands a passion that separates us from ourselves and the world, and unto God the Father. And hard work always seems to bring out constant reassessments to find an easier way.
However, we are not looking for and easier way but a more effective way.
Some people like private prayer and some like corporate prayer. Both are effective with the right attitude. But our new initiative places the emphasis on private prayer with corporate prayer as an option between small groups by arrangement or request.
In fact, I sometimes wonder if corporate ‘private’ prayer can be even more effective because of the inherent demand for passion that our own thoughts require.
Instead of listening to another, we have to frame it in spiritual words ourselves where intimacy is demanded.
We must beware of borrowing the prayers of others lest it expose the lack of our own.
And no public prayer can proceed in strength unless it first be sprung forth on the wings of private prayer.
Even and hour or an hour and a half in private prayer can seem too short for the one with passion. Passion doesn’t seem to run out of things to say, or needs and purposes to pray about. Passion demands spirituality because that’s what passion is.
But don’t make the excuse that you can pray just fine by yourself at home or wherever, and so you don’t need to come.
We can have the best of both private and corporate prayer here in the sanctuary on Wednesday evenings even as we gather together even to pray privately. God is very pleased when we come together for any cause of his.
“"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."” (Mt 18:19-20 NivUS)
We hand out a suggested list of concerns to pray about and so we are all on the same page in our passion, even as we individualize it. And we ask that you make your prayer concerns known so we can pray about them.
And even if you legitimately can’t come, you can get the weekly prayer list on e-mail or pick it up Sunday mornings.
God’s glory shines when we come together.
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (Joh 17:22-23 NivUS)
This is the legacy that the new believers embraced.
“They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” (Ac 1:14 NivUS)
This is how the Holy Spirit moves and shakes.
“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Ac 4:31 NivUS)
This was how the work of the church went forward.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” (Ac 2:42-43 NivUS)
And the apostles enforced it.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb 10:24-25 NivUS)
Like Christ, our Prince of Passion, let’s get passionate about prayer this year. We have already begun to see many answers to fan our passion into flame.
We stand to be amazed even as we pray.
“Then Peter came to himself and said, "Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating." When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!" "You’re out of your mind," they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, "It must be his angel." But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.” (Ac 12:11-16 NivUS)
Conclusion: (Prayer is not a discipline; it is a passion for life; [more] it is life itself.
Want to hear a prayer of extreme passion just to see what it sounds like?
Polycarp, a disciple of John, was hotly pursued by the proconsul. He withdrew to a farm where, night and day, as was his habit, he prayed for the Church throughout thte world. Polycarp fell into a trance and for three days lived in the presence of his Father. While in that trance, he saw his pillow burning with fire. Immediately he knew that his life would be taken at the fiery stake. When the proconsul’s men found him, he persuaded them to grant him an hour that he might pray. For two hours he prayed with great grace and power. Those around him were amazed and repented.
Nevertheless, they returned him to the city where he was burned at the stake. From that stake we can still hear Polycarp’s passionate prayer.
“O Lord God Almighty the Father of Thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the knowledge of Thee, the God of angels and powers of all creation and of the whole race of the righteous, who live in Thy presence; I bless Thee for that Thou hast granted me this day and hour, that I might receive a portion amongst the number of martyrs in the cup of (Thy) Christ unto resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and of body, in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among these in Thy presence this day, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as Thou didst prepare and reveal it beforehand, and hast accomplished it, Thou are the faithful and true God. For this cause, yea and for all things, I praise Thee, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, through the eternal and heavenly High-priest Jesus Christ Thy beloved Son, through whom with Him and the Holy Spirit be glory both now (and ever) and for the ages to come. Amen.”
The witnesses there that day said that the fire seemed to form a vault around him. Neither did they smell burning flesh, but rather a fragrant odor, as of some precious spice. Thus Polycarp ascended into the arms of his Father.
Closing Scripture: Pete Crowell
Let us have some praises and requests in prayer at this time.