The following is a post of my friend and fellow Methodist minister James Howell of Charlotte. See what you think….
Life as a prayer – read Mark 9:38-41
St. Francis of Assisi died 786 years ago last night. He was the ultimate Bible student. Whatever he heard in the Gospels that Jesus did, he added that to his to-do list; whatever Jesus said, he took it personally as a direct command, not something requiring spin, or reinterpretation, or postponement until a more convenient time.
Like Jesus, Francis had a handful of eager but overanxious followers. One day, Jesus’ friends raised their eyebrows and duly reported that we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us (Mark 9:38). Today, some great religious leader might try to straighten the guy out, or to make sure he wasn’t infringing on his territory. But Jesus, relaxed as always in the face of good, tells them to chill: Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us. Imagine if, in the long, sordid history of Christian division, splintering, and inquisitions, we had taken a breath and remembered Jesus’ generous spirit. Why flex the slightest muscle against others who are trying to do good for Jesus, even if they do not quite suit us?
Jesus keeps it simple, and do-able: For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward (Mark 9:41). What a relief! Merely giving a cup of water is all Jesus wants! But can we even manage that? Aren’t we busy? or fearful of the thirsty one? or busy tipping the waiter at our own watering holes? Jesus admires humble acts of charity – something Francis made his daily, even hourly habit.
Dorothy Day once asked, “Does God have a set way of prayer, a way that He expects each of us to follow? I doubt it. I believe some people – lots of people – pray through the witness of their lives, through the work they do, the friendships they have, the love they offer people and receive from people. Since when are words the only acceptable form of prayer?”
Holy acts, even by those who may not have sharp faith or profound spiritual insight, are precious, and honored in God’s heart. How can I please God? Find those in need, and do something simple.
See if you can live out Mark 9:38-41: John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.
I wrote a book on St. Francis, if you’d like to learn more: Conversations with St. Francis (and also a shorter blog on his life and significance). And I have a biographical blog on Dorothy Day if you’d like to learn about her life.