Elderberries and exercise are just two of the many recommendations made to stay healthy. Along with vitamin C they help strengthen the immune system. But what should we do to maintain our spiritual health? One of the prayers Jesus told His followers to pray points us beyond taking wise precautions to avoid sickness.
Be on guard, that your hearts may not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:34-36)
Luke includes this at the end of Jesus’ teaching about the end times that precede His second coming. Those times include false leaders, natural disasters and persecution. The instinctive human responses are to run after hope-givers, act in self-defense, “flee to the mountains”, or faint from fear. But Jesus called His followers to not be afraid; instead, allow the Lord to make our defense, endure, and to simply stay alert. The events He mentions are signs that the kingdom of God is near—that’s good news.
The word used for prayer in verse 36 implies urgency, almost begging. Jesus does not ignore the natural fight, flight, or faint response; He tells us to pray for strength for two things: to escape and to stand. Escape means more than avoiding trouble, or surviving. It is not the kind of strength that enables us to scale the mountains, it is prevailing strength. He tells us to pray for strength so that we prevail through the ordeals and stand before Him at the end.
What ensures that we can stand before Jesus in the end? Surely it includes heeding the warning of verse 34. Over-indulging in life’s pleasures distracts us. Worry about preserving our lives gobbles our time and mental energy. The word “dissipation” describes a dizzy staggering, hence its link to drunkenness, where alcohol impairs focus and balance. Spiritual focus is distracted so easily. Jesus says stay alert. Staying alert means choosing our focal point. Constantly refocus on Jesus, the Son of Man, and His kingdom that, despite appearances, will increase and outperform all other kingdoms.
Prayer is a lifestyle, not just a time when we recite to God our list of needs. To pray without ceasing means to keep the conversation with God going all the time, asking about His will, listening to Him. If we do that, with His kingdom on our hearts, we will be prepared to help others look beyond the distractions and worries of this life and experience the good news of the kingdom. Sharing about the King and His kingdom is part of the focused life.