“Great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But (Jesus) would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” Luke 5:16
It’s amazing to me that Jesus would put prayer above the preaching of the word and the pressing needs of others. I would have thought these things were more important. But Jesus knew that, as much as these things were beneficial, he could help people the most by staying close to God and enlisting the Lord’s assistance.
Seeing the way the church in Tokyo prayed impacted me. I was so impressed with how the members of the congregation gathered at the church building early every morning, from Wednesday to Saturday, to worship and to pray for their upcoming service. There was very much a feeling that prayer was absolutely vital to the success of every element involved in the event.
We, the America Ninjas, joined the church members in their morning prayers. Here are two women I prayed with. They prayed in Japanese. I just kept saying, “Amen.”
So in order to do this, each day, Ken and I would get up at 5:30 AM. We would leave by 6:15 to walk to the train station with our hosts, Shinchi and Ryoko Kajima.
Okay, I have to talk about Ryoko for a minute. It’s wonderful how God gives us exactly what we need. Ryoko was the perfect friend for me to stay with. She’s open and authentic, and it was easy for me to relax around her. She’s humble, enthusiastic, eager to learn and passionate to serve God. I was so encouraged by the talks we had on the 45 minute subway ride to and from church.
It reminds me of how God gave Mary someone to be a support during those first months of being pregnant.
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Luke 1:39-42
Mary didn’t have to go through that crazy time of complete life change alone. Elizabeth was the one person who would understand what Mary was going through.
And God gave me Ryoko to be a friend and support during my crazy time of being in a completely different country.
But having Ryoko as a friend was just one of the many ways God blessed me while I was in Tokyo. Each person I met was a treasure. They were so happy to serve God. They were so happy to get to know me. I was amazed and encouraged.
And that brings me to the last verse I want to share. In my study of Luke, I read the story of how Jesus called Peter, the very story that the Tokyo church is using for their theme this year.
And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”. . . And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. Luke 5:4-11
Just as Peter received a net full of fish, there are times in our lives when God gives us an abundance.
As my stay in Tokyo continued, I began to realize that even though the Japanese campaign was meant to benefit others, on another level, there were so many ways that God meant it to benefit me. I made friends who uniquely touched my heart. At a time when my faith was slumping, I was energized. I was inspired by the church, the people, the campaign.
There was even a musical!
I hadn’t known there would be one. I LOVE musicals. When I watched the show, I felt like God brought me all the way across the world so I could see this tremendously moving performance!
Now as I am back at home reflecting on all this, the questions for me are the same as they are for all of us who have gone through times of great blessings:
Will I be humbled by the abundance God gave me in the same way Peter was humbled? Will it change me? Will it motivate me to follow Jesus, as Peter was motivated?
I’ve come down from the mountaintop. It was so awesome, but now, back home, I feel a bit directionless. I see needs all around me. How should I address these? I want to come up with plans of action and run around doing things.
But first, I think I’ll pray.