Book of Mark

When “praying” really means “begging” (Mark 7, Part 3)

Pray

Lord, you are the fountain of living water. May I drink deeply today, being refreshed and restored. Lord, your word is the bread of life. May I feast on it and be nourished. Lord, you are the light of the world, and your word is the light to my path. May I see the world illuminated by your grace and may I walk in your ways.

Read

Read Mark 7:24-37. The first section has always been very hard for me to wrap my mind around. If that’s the case for you as well, read it several times and note anything that causes you to have questions or that seems to be speaking to you. What can even a very confusing passage tell us today?

And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (Mark 7:24-37 ESV)

Reflect

The thing that’s hard in this first section, of course, is that it seems like Jesus is calling this woman and her child “dogs.” That is totally out of character with everything else I believe about Jesus. I have read commentaries in the past and have heard some very wise and insightful explanations, but for this blog and this series of meditations I’m writing, I’m intentionally not referring to outside commentaries. I want to engage with the words on the page and seek understanding through the Holy Spirit and the rest of the Bible. So it may be that I’ll move on from some passages without coming to a total and clear understanding, and that’s OK.

So that hard question aside, what does this passage teach my heart today? How does it inform my life?

I am impressed again by the fact that in both cases we see here—the woman with the demon-possessed daughter and the deaf man—people interceded on behalf of their sick and possessed to be healed. The woman “came and fell down at his feet.” She “begged him to case the demon out of her daughter.” The people near the Sea of Galilee “brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.”

The healthy need to intercede for the sick. Regardless of the affliction, we are starting to see a pattern in scripture, over and over. Mark gives us so many examples of people who hear about Jesus’ power to heal (and, I’d like to point out, his willingness to use that power to heal), and they don’t seem to doubt what they hear—they come. Sometimes from long distances, they come, and they bring their afflicted—their demon possessed, their deaf, their paralyzed and lame, even people with speech impediments! They bring them to Jesus to be healed.

And how do they intercede? With polite, quiet, well-chosen words? Apparently not. She “begged him” to cast out the demon. They “begged him” to lay his hand on the deaf man with the speech impediment. There is a posture of humility that accompanies begging. Think about it for a second. Begging is one of the most abased, humiliating things a person can do. But what I’m getting from this and other passages is, that is exactly the way we ought to be when we come before God. Sometimes I think we have too high an opinion of ourselves and too low an opinion of God. When I read these passages, there is such a huge difference between how I see people coming to Jesus and relating to him then, and how I see myself and many others coming to him and relating to him now. We treat him more like a buddy than a king. Spending some time begging God to heal is good for our souls! It’s a good reminder of who God is and who we are.

Apply

Who do I need to bring to Jesus to be healed? Let’s spend some time now, continuing to “bring” people to Jesus in prayer. As I pray, I find it helpful to actually envision myself taking that person by the hand (or wheel chair) and bringing them to Jesus.

And how do I pray for their healing? We read here about people “falling at his feet” and “begging him” to heal. This is not a normal posture for prayer in my circles, but maybe it should be. On our knees, yes, even begging Jesus to heal.

 

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