The Reading: Matthew 8:5-13
“only say the word, and my servant will be healed” (v.8) RSV
Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” This is true, very true
(see ‘Explore More’ below); but more often than not prayer needs to be followed by action, and without that action prayer becomes comparatively ineffective. Prayer is meeting with God, bringing into his presence our concerns, and then listening to him to know what he wants us to do. Once we know what his will is, we go out and do it. If, however, we continue to pray and to say, “Please, please” then we are not receiving any answers nor are we receiving any directions.
Prayer brings us into line with God so that we can then go and work in step with him. God doesn’t create gardens and husband cattle, we do. He said, “Have dominion …” (Genesis 1:28). God wields much of his authority and his control through us. If we do not move in this faith but wait for God to act then little will be achieved.
The centurion in today’s readings expresses it so well that Jesus is positively amazed. He remarks, “Not even in Israel have I found such faith” (v.10). So, what was this exemplary faith? The centurion knew that things happened through the exercise of authority: “I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes” (9). Action is achieved by order not by request.
We shall see through the following weeks that Jesus healed no one through prayer! Oh yes, healings were preceded by prayer, for Jesus always found out what his Father in Heaven was doing, but when it came to the crunch prayer became action and authority: “Come forth”, Stand up”, “Come out”, etc.
The centurion knew that Jesus didn’t even have to come into his house or wave his hand over the sick servant. “Only say the word” was the message that the centurion had conveyed to Jesus. Again and again Jesus had healed and delivered the possessed through the word of command. This is the faith he wants us to exercise. He has given us authority, just as he gave the twelve and the seventy two. If we don’t it is probably because we have no idea what God is doing or what we should be doing. It is not our will that we are commanding, but his. We need to find that divine-will from our Father otherwise we will not only be ineffective but possibly also presumptuous.
Lord, thank you for the authority that you have committed to your people. Help me to minister in your name. Amen.
1 Who was healed without seeing Elisha, but by command?
2 Who brought about a great change through prayer alone?