“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened” (Luke 3:21 NRSV)
Often missed in the Gospel is how much Jesus prayed. This version of Jesus’ Baptism suggests that the Baptism was over and then Jesus begin to pray and at that point the heavens opened and the Son of God pronouncement came.
Prayer, in particular prayer of thanksgiving, is so important. Nobody likes to be taken for granted, including God. For what ever reason most of us have learned to pray for a future event. We are not able to see far into the future of how things will turn out. Our short future prayers include a prayer as simple as grace before a meal or a good night’s sleep. More distant prayers are said for the healing of someone or for help for us in a serious situation.
Then we wait and in God’s time help will come only in the way God wants it to. We may not recognize it as an act of God but it is. I remember the old story told long ago. It goes like this: A little town was being flooded and everybody evacuated except for the town preacher. As the water level rose the preacher’s church began to take on water. The old preacher finally climbed to the top of the steeple. At last a man in a boat came to his rescue. But the preacher denied the assistance proclaiming that God was going to save him. Later, another man in a boat came but the preacher would not get into the boat saying that God was going to save him. Lastly a helicopter came but the old preacher still refused. He was finally overcome and drowned. He was taken to the pearly gates and standing before God almighty. He asked, “Good Lord, I have preached in Your Church for over 47 years. Why did you not save me? God said, I sent you two boats and a helicopter, why did you not let yourself be saved?
For most of us when we receive blessings we are very much aware that we have been so blessed. What we need to think about is thanking God for that blessing. I like to let loose a “Thank You Jesus” when I know a blessing just happened. I knew a service member that I served with who had the strange habit of saying the grace before and after the meal. Most of us just say grace before the meal. This man said that he looks back and is thankful for what he has just received.
In our church tradition we give thanks and specific prayers for events that just happened. For example; after baptism there is the “we receive you into the household of God…” prayer. And after, communion there is the Post communion prayer. Prayer should be like a hard-cover book. A hard-cover book is opened, read and then closed. Our prayers should open for the asking, the blessing received, and then closed with thanks giving.
Let us not take God for granted, When God has done something or just been present with you in your life and you know it to be so, pause and give thanks, and you too will realize that the heavens are opened to you.
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people.