Simplicity in Prayer

There is a fine example of prayer given to us by Mary, the mother of Jesus. She, along with Jesus and his disciples, had been invited to a wedding celebration (John 2:1-11). In all likelihood the wedding party included relatives or friends of Mary’s. An embarrassing situation arose when the hosts ran short of wine for the wedding feast. This is where Mary gives us a valuable lesson on prayer.

She went straight to Jesus. Had she tried to do this before? Is that why she felt free to come to him with this need? We cannot know what went on during the silent years of Jesus’ earlier human life with his family. The Bible does not tell us. But this incident reveals that she knew enough about Jesus’ identity and power to bring the problem to him.

Notice what she said to Jesus. In a few simple words she stated the need. “They have no more wine,” she said. That’s it. That’s all she said. Mary knew that she did not need to cajole or nag him with her proposed solutions to the problem. She simply stated the problem and left the solution with Jesus. When we pray for ourselves we tell the Lord what we need. When we intercede for others, we tell Jesus what we see that others need.

Mary left the matter with him. She relied upon his compassion and understanding. Someone has said that prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is, rather, laying hold of his highest willingness. She had never seen him turn water into wine and she probably had no idea how he would solve this problem. But she knew that Jesus would know what to do. It was up to him. She had fulfilled her responsibility.

I am aware of what the Bible teaches about importunity and persistence in prayer. This lesson is not about that. Nor is this about spiritual warfare. That is a subject for another article.

This is about prayer in its most basic and simplest form. She knew Jesus. She trusted Jesus. She presented the problem to Jesus. One of the ways the Holy Spirit helps us in our praying (Romans 8:26), is to help us to know Jesus better (John 16:14) and to feel safe when we have left our troubles with him.

Ole Hallesby, in his famous book on prayer, wrote, “As we learn to know Jesus in this way better and better, our prayers become quiet, confidential and blessed conversations with Him, our Best Friend, about the things which are on our minds, whether it be our own needs, or the needs of others. We experience wonderful peace and security by leaving our difficulties, both great and small, with Him . . . who understands what is best for us.

“And especially will our prayer life become restful when it really dawns upon us that we have done all we are supposed to do when we have spoken to him about it. From that moment we have left it with Him. It is His responsibility then, if we dare to use such a childlike expression. And that we dare to do!

“When the Spirit of God has succeeded in teaching us this secret, our prayer life will be freed from a great deal of that inner anxiety and worry which we formerly had when we prayed. After we have prayed, too, we experience a new peace. We have left the matter in the hands of Jesus.”

That is what Mary did. Her confidence in Jesus was not shaken by his abrupt and ironic reply to her. She was so sure of a positive outcome that she went right to the servants at the feast and told them, “Do whatever he tells you.” They did what Jesus directed them to do, and the result was a miracle, or sign by which God was glorified. Jesus turned water into wine, the best they had ever tasted!

There are many valuable lessons in this story. The one that stands out to me today is Mary’s example of simplicity in prayer. She presented the need to Jesus, and she left the solution to him.

Pastor Randy Faulkner