Mark 6:45-52

Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.

When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased.

And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. Mark 6:45-52

The crowd was fed. The disciples dispatched. Jesus was alone. He took some time to pray.

It is kind of a cyclical thing but people occasionally pay a lot of attention to prayer. Sadly, most of those times appear immediately after the senseless tragedies with little beyond “thoughts and prayers.” I sometimes wonder if, after people say that, they do it?

Sometimes articles appear in newspapers and magazines about the health benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Cortisol is the hormone our body naturally makes and releases when we are under stress. Too much cortisol, the effect of too much stress, is not a good thing. It causes anxiety and depression, disrupts our concentration, troubles our sleep, and even causes weight gain. The simple practice of setting aside time for quiet, for prayer, for mindful breathing, can literally help our body to settle down.

I like to define prayer as “what we do when we are consciously aware of the presence of God.” In that, the words we use, or even the thoughts we think, don’t matter as much as the heightened awareness that we’re not alone. That we’re not accidents. That there is a purpose to our lives and a power holding us together.

Following Jesus means following him to those moments when we too find a place to be quiet, to be attentive, to bring all of who and what we are into the presence of God. He did that. We ought to as well. For our own good.

But you can’t live on the top of a mountain. It is beautiful up there but it isn’t a place to say. Life awaits. So Jesus came down from the mountain and walked into a storm. I think it usually works like that. Your prayers won’t stop the storms any more than storms can stop your prayers. But there is something about heading into a storm strengthened by prayer that puts the storm in its proper place.

Jesus looked out and saw his disciples struggling in their boat so he went to them. I don’t want to get caught up in the math about that one – I’m just going to move into my day with the image of a boatload of frightened disciples, overwhelmed, as they have often been in their lives, by the storms they well recognize, shocked by the inexplicable appearance of Jesus.

The curious phrase is “he intended to pass them by.” I’m reminded in that of the wisdom of a parent letting their child learn by doing rather than constantly rescuing them.

Seeing Jesus, they were terrified. Sometimes the help we need scares us at first. But the words of Jesus stilled the storm in the air and the storms in the hearts of his clueless disciples: “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Let us pray: Dear Lord, thank you for breath. Thank you for time. Thank you for giving us the power to slow down, to turn our thoughts toward you, to remember who we are and Whose we are. Walk to us in the storms of our lives. Hear our cries. Settle our hearts. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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