ENGAGING THE PRACTICAL TIP
This week, Pastor Nigel took us through the parable of Lazarus and the rich man from the 16th chapter of Luke. He invited us to inhabit the parable by making our home in it, as opposed to taking away one salient point or lesson. Pastor Nigel also pointed out that the rich man was not only “rich”, he was exceedingly rich and pretty much flaunted his wealth. Lazarus, on the other hand, had essentially the opposite life. There was nothing about his life that went well, other than the potential medicinal benefits of dogs licking his sores. Lazarus was laid at the rich man’s gate, which seems to imply that he was unable to walk. He had some kind of skin disease (sores). He was exceedingly poor, living entirely by begging. Pastor Nigel pointed out the patience that Lazarus must have had to live much of his life within earshot of the life of someone who had the means to help him, but didn’t.
As we enter into this story, it would be easy to either see the rich man as far richer than we will ever be or see Lazarus’ life as more trying than our own, making the parable a nice story, but basically irrelevant. But if Jesus only wanted those as rich as the rich man, or as poor as Lazarus to be touched by this story, I think he would have said so. Instead, I suggest that we approach this parable as if we might have something in common with either the rich man or Lazarus, or both. As Pastor Nigel suggested in his sermon, let us read the parable (printed below) three times slowly, opening our heart to Jesus as we do so. (If you are not familiar with praying with Scripture, there are some suggestions below.) The first time through, you might focus on Lazarus. As you read the parable, imagine yourself as Lazarus in the first century, with its level of medical care, social structure, technology, etc. Imagine being carried to a place every day to beg for money for food. Imagine seeing extremely rich people pass by who did not help you. Likewise, imagine being with Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel and seeing the rich man on the other side. Invite Jesus into your imaginings. How do you feel about how God let Lazarus be treated. Share your feelings with him. Invite him to comment. Listen. Jot down anything that seems significant.
The second time through, you might focus on the rich man. Sure, he is more wealthy, relatively, than you’ll ever be. But you might have more “stuff” than someone else. Imagine you are the rich man as you read. You see Lazarus every day, but don’t help him. After you die, you find yourself in a different situation, one much more painful and challenging than before, while Lazarus now seems to be doing quite well. Does Lazarus represent anyone in your life? Again, invite Jesus into your imaginings. Share your feelings with him. Invite him to comment. Listen. Jot down anything that seems significant
If you have time, read the parable one more time. This time, focus on those parts of the story which caught your attention the first or second times through. Are your feelings the same, or are they a bit different? What might God’s feelings be? Do you have something to say to God or he to you? Jot down anything that seems significant and thank God for this opportunity to talk with Him.
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Praying with Scripture
One time tested way to pray is to meditate on a passage from the Bible. To do this, one selects anywhere from a verse to a couple of paragraphs from the Bible and reads them through slowly several times. You can read the passages out loud or to yourself. Reading out loud, when appropriate, can be beneficial, as it slows you down. You also effectively read twice each time through the passage, once when process the written words and a second time when you listen to yourself speak them. As you begin, you might invite God to join you in this activity. (This may seem odd, since you are praying to God in the first place. However, since we have no way to reach God on our own, God is both the enabler and the recipient of our prayer.) As you are reading, if something in the passage strikes you in a particular way, stop for a few seconds or a minute and let that thought or feeling sink in. Consider asking God about that thought or feeling and whether it is from Him or not. When the thought or feeling passes, return to reading the passage. Repeat this process if another part of the passage strikes you in a particular way.
The second time through, read more slowly. Again, stop if anything in the passage strikes you in a particular way. Pay particular attention to those portions where you stopped the first time through. Recall the experience from the first reading and ask if there is more to the thought or feeling than you sensed the first time through. After you have completed the passage the second time, thank God for the time with Him. You might note any significant experiences or inclinations that came to mind during your time of prayer. You can always read it three or more times if you would like. Also, some people find it helpful to take a minute or two before starting to read to quiet your mind. The main goal here is simply to effectively put aside whatever has been occupying us for the time of prayer. As you are trying to be “quiet”, as things or people come to mind, simply acknowledge them and present them to God’s care while you are praying.
Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.