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“The prayers of God’s saints are the capital stock in heaven by which Christ carries on His great work upon earth.” 

~ E. M. Bounds

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. . . . These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:7–811

Prayer pursues joy in fruitful fellowship with Jesus, knowing that God is glorified when we bear fruit in answer to prayer. Why do God’s children so often fail to have consistent habits of happy, fruitful prayer?

Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the reasons is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to.

If you want to take a four-week vacation, you don’t just get up one summer morning and say, “Hey, let’s go today!” You won’t have anything ready. You won’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned.

But that is how many of us treat prayer. We get up day after day and realize that significant times of prayer should be a part of our life, but nothing is ready.

We don’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned. No time. No place. No procedure. And we all know that the opposite of planning is not a wonderful flow of deep, spontaneous experiences in prayer. The opposite of planning is the same old rut.

If you don’t plan a vacation, you will probably stay home and watch TV. The natural, unplanned flow of spiritual life sinks to the lowest ebb of vitality. There is a race to be run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your life of prayer, you must plan to see it.

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You probably know well the story of Jesus and his disciples in their boat at sea during a raging storm (Mark 4:35-41). But you may not have ever meditated on it by using Rembrandt’s famous painting of this story, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee. Recently I was inspired to do this by an article in the Conversations journal, “In the Storm.”

Linger with Rembrandt’s masterpiece painting of this Gospel story and you’ll begin to feel the stormy gale blowing in your face and the enormous waves tossing you up and down and splashing you with freezing cold sea water! You’ll feel the force of the trials in your life that threaten to sink your boat. You’ll see yourself in the boat and the role you play in your family, work, or other group.

Most important of all, you can find in Rembrandt’s painting Jesus and his cross — you can come to experience more of his peace in the storm.

Visio Divina

Spiritual directors call meditating on a picture “Visio Divina.” Applied to a Bible passage, it’s an imaginative and refreshing form of Scripture meditation that helps us to enter into the narrative of Scripture and bring ourselves to Jesus. It’s similar to Lectio Divina, but instead of quietly listening to God through words we use a picture.

In my personal devotions and in the groups and retreats I lead for pastors, leaders, and caregivers I have found that using Picture Prayers that come from the Bible can evoke deep personal emotions and needs, even things that we were not conscious of, which we can then pray about. It’s also a great tool to help us hear God’s voice, often in ways that surprise us!

It seems that a picture provides a generous space for each of us to project our unique self and life circumstances into so that we can then bring ourself to God. What you see in the picture is probably different from what others see. So also, the message you hear from God, spoken to you in part through the picture, is personal to you.

I invite you to join me in meditating on Mark 4:35-41 as it was painted by Rembrandt in The Storm on the Sea of Galilee. You can do this in a time of private devotion or share this with a prayer partner or small group.

Meditate on the Gospel Passage

Mark 4:35-41 tells the story that inspired Rembrandt’s painting of The Storm on the Sea of Galilee. Read the passage slowly and prayerfully. You can do that here.

What is one word or phrase that you’re especially drawn to? Remain in quiet prayer to absorb this word from God.*

Meditate on Rembrandt’s Painting

Now let’s turn to Rembrandt’s meditation on Mark 4:35-41. He painted The Storm on the Sea of Galilee in 1633. His painting of Jesus and his disciples in their boat on the stormy sea is dark, shrouded in shadows, but there is a ray of light streaming down to help us see what is going on in the boat.

You can meditate on The Storm on the Sea of Galilee using this large image of Rembrandt’s painting. (If you’re sharing this meditation with a group then you’ll want to print out copies of the picture.) Ask God to guide and direct your impressions and thoughts as you look at the painting.

What do you notice? What part of the painting or character in it does God especially draw your attention to? Quietly pray and reflect on this for a couple of minutes.  [It’s best to do this part before you do the guided parts of this meditation below. Let your mind be open to whatever impressions or thoughts God may give you.]

Finding Yourself in Rembrandt’s Painting (Guided Meditation, Part 1)

Let’s meditate on The Storm on the Sea of Galilee one more time. This time I will guide you. An interesting thing about the painting is that in addition to the twelve disciples who accompanied Jesus in the boat there is a thirteenth person sailing in the boat. Who is that?

Rembrandt is known to have painted himself somewhere in his paintings. He’s setting an example for us to find ourselves in the Gospel, bringing to God our stress and our sin, our hurts and our hopes. (This is the way we need to meditate on Scripture. It’s also what we need to do with others when we preach or teach from the Bible.)

For the rest of the post…

“…prayer in the name Jesus Christ is the way Jesus Christ himself has appointed for His disciples to obtain fullness of joy.” 

~ R. A. TorreyHow to Pray (1900), 16.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12.11: Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit. 

What does it mean to be “fervent in spirit”? Vance Havner once defined it in a sermon…

To be “fervent in spirit” is to be “boiling in spirit,” and to boil we must be near the Fire. How shall we obtain the burning heart? Jeremiah said it was God’s Word that did it and it was Jesus expounding the Scriptures that did it and it was while listening to Luther’s exposition of Romans that Wesley’s heart was warmed (Vance Havner, Hearts Afire, MCMLII, 12).

There you go! The key to possessing a fervent spirit is the reading, listening, studying and meditation on God’s Word.

Are we fervent in spirit?

Illustration of John 3:16

“If we then are to have fellowship with Jesus Christ in his present work, we must spend much time in prayer; we must give ourselves to earnest, constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer.” 

~ R. A. TorreyHow to Pray (1900), 14.

“He (Jesus) commands us to pray for our daily bread so that we’re reminded that every last gift is from God”

~ John OnwuchewaPrayer, 57.

“When Jesus built the church, he built a praying congregation.”

~ Armin Gesswein


November 2020