Matthew 14:22-23 – Vitameatavegamin And Prayer: What In the World Do They Have In Common?

Posted: January 2, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 14:22-23
Jesus Withdraws from the Crowd Again

One of my favorite episodes of the old black and white “I Love Lucy” shows was the episode, “Lucy Does A TV Commercial”, where she auditions for the spokesperson for the pick-me-up tonic, Vitameatavegamin. The Lucy show is an American icon and the re-runs are still watched today so I know that you know this episode.

It is hilarious. Lucy finagles her way into auditioning for the commercial. She shows up ready for the audition. She looks fabulous and has her lines down cold. But not being a professional product spokesperson, she initially doesn’t understand about holding the product up for the camera and little nuances such as that. The director explains their sales pitch regarding the “Vitameatavegamin” health tonic to Lucy. What Lucy and the director are unaware of is that the tonic contains 23% alcohol, making it in effect a 46 proof spirituous liquor, and that it is not meant to be taken more than once a day. Lucy begins her first take and obviously grimaces as she tastes the tonic. Feeling unsatisfied with the take, the director asks Lucy if she could do a few more. The lines that Lucy is supposed to say are as follows:

 

Hello friends. I’m your Vitameatavegamin girl. Are you tired, run-down, listless? Do you poop out at parties? Are you unpopular? The answer to all your problems is in this little bottle. Vitameatavegamin. Yes, Vitameatavegamin contains Vitamins Meat Vegetables and Minerals. Yes, with Vitameatavegamin, you can spoon your way to health. All you do is take a great big tablespoonful after every meal. Mmmmmmm….. It’s so tasty, too! Tastes just like candy! So why don’t you join all the thousands of happy peppy people and get a great big bottle of Vitameatavegamin tomorrow! That’s Vita-meata-vegamin! (wink)

 

After a couple more takes, it appears that Lucy has acquired a taste for the tonic–and its alcohol content. She begins to take bigger gulps when it comes to the part to taste the product and her speech becomes comically slurred. After several takes and a sequence of incorrect pronunciations of “Vitameatavegamin,” it becomes apparent that Lucy is drunk and the director asks if they could take her back to her dressing room in order to sober her up. Only Lucy could play this part and make it a comic gem. In 1997, TV Guide ranked this episode of recurring shows as the 2nd greatest episode of all time, right behind “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode of the 1970’s classic sitcom, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” But back to Lucy in this episode. There are people that make reference to this classic episode every day in American society. Why do I mention it here?

I don’t why but when I read this passage about Jesus withdrawing from the crowd, this commercial came to mind. In the “always looking for the humor in any situation” mind that I have, there were some things that Lucy said in that commercial audition that came to my mind that made this connection between the passage and Lucy. Anytime, Jesus withdrew from the crowds that followed Him, he prayed. And that made me think of my prayer life and the prayer lives of many people like me. Tired, listless, run down, pooped. The answer my friends is in these two little verses. Let us join those happy, peppy people by improving our prayer lives. Let us read what the scripture says,

 
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone.

 
In this episode of Jesus’ life, we see him withdraw to pray. It’s not the first episode that we see this happen. There are at least 12 references to Jesus withdrawing to pray that I can find in the New Testament. Jesus made specific time to be alone with His Father. So should we.

Have you ever really thought about your prayer life? If you are like me, you think you have a good prayer life. We say we pray. We say we commune with God, but do we really? Do we really spend time alone with God as much as we should? Just look at Jesus. Man, the dude had a serious prayer life. It is not lost on the writers of the gospels that Jesus withdraw to be alone with the Father. I think it is to prove a point to us. We must imitate Christ in every way. He is our example. Let us remember that Jesus Christ is part of the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The trinity has existed all throughout eternity even before the creation of the universe. There was and is and will always be this great intimacy in the trinity. When Jesus was on earth functioning as the fully divine and fully human Son of God, the intimacy that the Godhead had experienced in all other eternity was different. Jesus had to commune with the Father and the Holy Spirit as often as He could. Jesus prayed to the Father not as an inferior created being but to commune with His co-equal Father. While on earth, He was functioning at the direction of the Father but was no less His co-equal. Jesus had set aside His glory as part of the trinity and was function dutifully at the will of the Father. So, even Jesus as God in the flesh desired community with the Father as often as He could on this side of eternity. In the Garden of Gethsemane, we see the most intimate of these prayer times. Jesus laid it all on the line in that prayer session. He was honest and real with the Father. Since Jesus was as fully human as he was fully divine, the humanness in Jesus pleaded with God to avoid the horrible pain of the cross. Jesus in his 30 plus years on earth probably had seen the evidence of crucifixion and the horrible, long, agonizing death that it was. He knew of the beatings that people took even before they got to the cross. He knew of the days and days that people often slowly died on the cross. It was not a quick and painless death. He knew that it was a death by slow asphyxiation and the painful shutdown of body parts and the pain of nails in the muscles and have to suspend your weight up and down to get air in and carbon dioxide out of your body. He pleaded in prayer for God to take it away from Him in his humanness. But in the intimacy that He has with the Father, He understood from the Father that it was a necessary thing and He walked away from that prayer prepared for the pain to come. His other prayer episodes we see are always are recovery and/or preparation. This prayer episode here that we see is part recovery. He is still hurting from the pain of hearing about his cousin’s sudden death at the hands of spineless Herod Antipas. His prayer time was interrupted by ministry needs of preaching, teaching and feeding the 5,000. Now, he is back at prayer. He is dealing with human emotions of loss (recovery) and he is dealing with what’s coming next in His ministry (and there is a lot that is about to happen). Jesus had to have His prayer time. He made time for it. He got away from the disciples. He got alone. He needed to be with His Father without distractions. It was just Him and His Father. Are we like that?

Most of us are not like that. Jesus, part of the Holy Trinity of the Triune God, made specific time to be alone with His Father but yet we who are not eternal, not part of the Holy Trinity, think we do not need specific time with the Lord. I know I am that way. And we wonder why our prayer life is listless, run-down, and tired, to steal the line from Lucy’s commercial. God wants more from us in our prayer lives.

God wants more than dinner table recited prayers. Many of us count our dinner prayers as our intimate prayer time. Many of us offer up robotic prayers at the dinner table that you can’t remember what you said five minutes later. Is that your intimate time with God? Sometimes, yes, we offer up our heart at the dinner table and yes those prayers are what God wants. He wants our heart. He wants to hear us be real with Him. But He wants more than dinner table prayers. Sometimes we offer up prayers in public settings and yes those are needed and wanted by our God. Sometimes our public prayers can reach others through the Holy Spirit. Our public prayers are often necessary in the work of the Holy Spirit on our own hearts and the hearts of others. Sometimes, we have on-going conversations with God throughout the day that get interrupted by the squirrels or bright shiny objects of the day that take our attention away. We may have these intermittent prayers with God while we ae doing other things and the other things that we are doing often demand our attention away from God (so that we don’t burn the dinner we are cooking, our don’t cut our hands off while trimming the shrubs, etc.). And, yes, God wants us to have conversations with Him throughout the day. He wants us to be aware of His presence in our day-to-day routine. I am not saying that we should not do this. We should and must have on-going conversations with God all day long. He is present with us. He is Immanuel. He wants to recognize His presence with us. It makes Him smile when see an unique flower and say, “God, wow, you are really showing out here.” Or, as we are going through our day we are intermittently talking to him about something we need an answer. Or, as we are going through our day, seeking his advice for something that just happened or celebrating being able to see His hand in things that just happened. All of this is necessary in our growth in our relationship with God. But are we like Jesus? Are we like Jesus in seeking out and specifically setting aside time to be alone with God?

Jesus needed it. And ya better bet if Jesus needed that intimate alone time, we most certainly by multiples of infinity need that time. Our intimate time with our Father in Heaven is where our relationship with Him grows. I have heard wiser Christians than I say that if your prayer life is listless, worn-out, and tired so will your Christian walk be. And we should not count robotic prayers that we have heard elsewhere or using the latest prayer catch-phrases as part of our private prayer time with God that you say in like 2 minutes and be done with it. God wants us to be real with Him. He wants us to take time to really talk to Him about everything and about honoring who He is as the Master of our life. God wants to know when we are hurting (like Jesus in this episode of back to back prayer sandwiched around ministry). He wants to know when we are pain and do not understand what He is doing. He wants to hear that! He wants to know when we are angry at Him. He wants us to be real with Him in those situations. He is the Creator of the Universe so I think He can handle it when we are angry with Him. He wants to know when we are happy. He wants to know when we are sad. He wants to know when we are confused and we know not what to do. It is in intimate prayer time that we grow in our relationship with Him. It is in this intimate prayer time that we learn to depend on Him. I have often heard it said that prayer does not change God, it changes us. He changes us through prayer. When we have intimate prayer time with Him, we become more keenly aware of His will for our lives.

I fail miserably in this area myself. I rationalize it away that this writing I do here virtually daily is my intimate prayer time. But when you think about this writing, it is my meditation time on God’s Word. It is not prayer time. It is not me, by myself, talking to God alone with no audience other than Him. My writing here is meditation for me and it is my way of preaching since I do not get much opportunity to do so otherwise. It is my way of using my gift of writing given by God to help reach others through Holy Spirit guided writing. It is my pulpit of sorts. However, it is not intimate prayer time with the Lord. My rationalization is that I have a busy life. When I am not on vacation like I am now, I do indeed have a busy life. I have two jobs, not by necessity but because of my calling to ministry. I work my secular job and I work at my church as the administrative pastor (and pastor in training). My secular job demands a great deal of my time and my work for my church goes well beyond the 8 hours a week that I spend in the office at the church. In order for me to have time to exercise (which I must get back to on Monday morning after a two month break from it due to illness and vacation time) and to do my Bible study, I must get up at 4:45am Monday – Friday just to be able to fit all those things into one day. I say I do not have time for intimate prayer time with God. But it is really an excuse I think. We prioritize what is important to us. We make time for what is important to us. I make time on Saturdays in the fall to watch each and every game that my Clemson Tigers play football, but I don’t have time for an intimate time with God? Go figure! Yes, I do a lot of things that are good and needed in a mature Christian’s life (Bible study, service to my fellow man, serving in whatever capacity my church needs me to serve, meditating upon God’s Word, educating myself on God’s Word, praying publicly whenever I am called upon, praying for my family at the dinner table, participating in small group, etc.) It’s all good. It’s all a part of being a well-rounded Christian. But where’s my intimate time alone with God. I need to make it priority. I need to scratch and claw out some time to be alone with the Father as Jesus did. Instead of watching reruns of Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, Everybody Loves Raymond, that I have seen hundreds of times each, maybe I should use some of that time to give 30 minutes of intimacy to the Lord. I am not saying there is anything wrong with needing downtime and being mindlessly entertained by your favorite television show or sporting event because we do need down time just to let the batteries recharge. However, can we not, can I not find a fraction of that needed down time to go upstairs to one of the guest bedrooms (away from the TV, away from my wife, away from all things outside me that may distract me) of my house and be quiet and spend time with God. Jesus withdrew from everything to have intimate time with God. At Gethsemane, He had his best friends stop at one location in the garden and he went on ahead, away from them and spent intimate time with the Father. It should then be the same for us. It is only when we are truly alone with God.

One of my former pastors, Johnny Baker, once told me that he had to physically go set in a closet to develop this habit of intimate time with God. There he was in the dark in the closet. Alone with God. He said no longer really needs to be in the closet in the dark but he still does it that way because it forces him to have to sensory inputs and forces him to be alone with God. Maybe for me, it’s just going upstairs and getting in a quiet place. Maybe for you it’s going on the back porch. Maybe for you, it’s after your husband leaves for work and the kids are safely at school and you take time before you begin the long day’s work of being a stay at home mom/wife. Maybe for you, it’s going in the woods to a special place you have created to sit and pray. Whatever it is you do to set aside personal time with God that works for you, more power to you. There’s no one way that we should have quiet time with God as long as we prioritize doing it and make it happen. Jesus did and He was the Son of God, part of the Holy Trinity. So should we, especially us limited and completely flawed, sinful human beings!

Otherwise we do not grow. Otherwise we do not know God as intimately as we should. Otherwise our walk with Christ becomes listless, tired, pooped out and falls into a rut and is no longer vibrant and is no longer vital. We get stuck in the performing and not in the loving of God. If we are not intimate in our marriages, they become listless, rountine, and ripe for the temptations of Satan. It is the same when we are not intimate with private time with God, we are ripe for the temptations of Satan. We need time alone with our spouses to keep the fire going and to ensure the cement that holds our marriages together. It is the same with our relationship with God. We need to square off time to be alone with Him in intimacy. We need to square off time to be alone with Him and reveal our innermost feelings to Him and seek His understanding and seek His guidance. We also need this intimate time with Him to simply be with Him. Sometimes the best prayer time alone with God is simply to be quiet and listen for Him. Sometimes, it is just to praise Him for who He is. We need our intimate time with the Lord. It is the tonic that we need to keep from being listless, rundown and pooped out in our walk with the Lord. Make time for the Lord in 2016. Start the habit this week. I am right there with you my friend in needing to make this change in 2016.

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