Prayer and Management
In this section of Luke, we find Jesus continuing a ministry that’s spreading out further into the society, and in the process selecting 12 people from the group around him to be his “apostles”, i.e., the sent-out ones. You might ask, where is this idea coming from? What is primary in his motivation for taking this step?
One answer is that it’s common sense efficiency. The job is getting too much for one person and so it’s only sensible to expedite things by distributing the load, by delegating duties. Good management. Now most likely at some level that entered into things. But for sure that’s not where Luke puts his emphasis in describing the underlying character and source of Jesus’ motivation here.
And that arises from what went on the night before when Jesus was up on the mountain. Luke tells us that’s where he walked to, stepping away from the crowd at evening time and climbing up to for the whole night — to pray. This is a theme Luke brings out more clearly and pervasively than any of the other evangelists; i.e., the ministry of Jesus moves along on a life of prayer. And so:
– At his baptism Jesus was in prayer
– At the peak of his popularity when the crowds were following him, he withdrew for prayer.
– Here at this juncture of making the choice of the twelve.
– When he asks his disciples to tell him who they think he is.
– When he goes up on the mountain and is transfigured
– Just prior to teaching the disciples the Our Father, when he himself is praying to “Our Father.”
– In the Garden of Olives, just before “it” all comes down,
The point of course is that for the Lord Jesus, prayer and decision-making weave so tightly together in the work of bringing on The Kingdom. Encompassing the good planning and smart management in his decision to pick these twelve is this deeper font for Jesus’ action: the life and light and strength that flows up out his union with his Father. As one commentator puts it, “The might of prayer elevates this action into the larger purpose of God.”
This is not to say that good management and efficiency are opposites of prayer or that they have to be separate, or even that their sequence always has to be prayer first management second. It’s just that underneath and around its processes, any move to continue Jesus’ ministry has to flow up and out of that lived contact with God in Jesus Spirit.
In their service of God’s least ones, so many in the Vincentian family “manage.” The oversee operations like clinics, schools, thrift stores, counselling centers, food distribution centers, not to mention the work that goes into running the organization internally. But more than that, they’re asked to take up what in another place St. Paul calls the ministry of administration. This is good management as it’s suffused with God’s grace, a practice so close to the hearts of Louise and Vincent. It’s prayer as it pairs with effective supervision and governance. It’s the coming together of decision making and life in the Spirit.
St. Luke picks up this same theme in the days and years after Jesus’ resurrection. Strategizing how best to spread the Good News beyond the Jewish world, the community struggles with a decision about which step to take next and who should be the ones taking it. But notice how their decision making process follows in line. First they “worship The Lord and fast.” (Acts 13:2-3) Then while immersed in that praying, they discern the Holy Spirit directing them to choose Barnabas and Paul for the task. Finally after still more prayer and fasting, they lay hands on the two missionaries and send them off to Cyprus – and beyond. Forward looking management and ongoing communal prayer go hand in hand.
Thanks for this reflection, Father Tom. Another connection for our Seminary Study this week.