Priorities in Prayer

After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town. And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” Matthew 9:1–2

Just prior to this passage, Jesus cast out demons from two men from the town of the Gadarenes. Afterwards, the townspeople told Him to leave their town, so Jesus departed by boat and arrived in Capernaum, which was where He had been living after leaving Nazareth. This encounter with a paralytic on a stretcher is what awaited Him when He disembarked from the boat.

Recall that when Jesus had returned to Nazareth, where He grew up, He was not able to perform any miracles there because of their lack of faith. Their familiarity with Him tempted them to disbelieve that He was someone special. But now, in His new town where He had recently moved to, Jesus was able to perform mighty miracles because the people had manifest faith. 

In the passage above, try to enter the scene. Jesus was just rejected by the Gadarenes, He came by boat to Capernaum, He disembarked and was immediately met with a group of people who had clearly been waiting for Him. Try to imagine their conversations while Jesus was away at the other side of the lake. They knew He would return to His new home, they prepared a stretcher for the paralytic, and then they waited, hoped and prayed that Jesus would come and heal the man. It is also clear that Jesus could immediately sense their faith and was deeply touched by it. One of the most important parts of this passage is that Jesus did not simply say “Yes” to the physical healing and leave it at that. Instead, His response to the paralytic was to first forgive his sins. There is an important lesson for us to learn from this which will help us know how best to pray.

Oftentimes when we pray, we pray for this or that favor from our Lord. We pray for what we want Jesus to grant us. But this story shows us that what Jesus wants for us is different. First, He wants to grant us forgiveness for our sins. This is His priority, and it should also be ours. Once the forgiveness of sins takes place with this paralytic, Jesus also heals, as proof of His power to forgive sins. This story should help us to order our priorities in prayer according to Jesus’ priorities. If we make sorrow for sin our first priority, we can be certain that Jesus will answer us. From there, Jesus knows all of our needs. We can present them to Him but only when we are reconciled within our own heart with Him.

Reflect, today, upon the way you pray each day. Try to understand the importance of making a daily examination of your sins. This must become the first and most important part of your daily prayer. Though many people do not like to look at sin, it is much easier to do when the focus is not so much the sin as it is a focus upon the mercy of forgiveness and spiritual healing you need. The more aware you become of your daily sin, the more mercy you will receive. And the more mercy for the forgiveness of your sins you receive, the more our Lord will be able to bless you abundantly in other ways. Always start with the mercy of our Lord and your own need for that mercy every day, and all else will be taken care of by our Lord.

My merciful Lord, You desire reconciliation with me, in the innermost depths of my heart, to be my daily priority in prayer. You desire to forgive and to heal me so that I will grow closer to You. Please do forgive me for my sins, dear Lord, and help me to become more attentive to the ways that I sin against You and others every day. Thank You in advance for this saving grace and mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.