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The Scriptorium

The True Spirit of Prayer (3)

Are you seeking Jesus? Luke 18.18-23

Luke 18 (4)

Pray Psalm 16.1, 2, 11 (ESV).
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you”
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Sing Psalm 16.1, 2, 11.
(All to Christ: Jesus Paid It All)
Preserve me, O my God; I refuge seek in You.
You alone are all my good, my Lord and Savior true!
Refrain v. 11
Make me know life’s way! Pleasures fill Your hand.
Fill my life with joy each day! Before Your face I stand.

Read Luke 18.1-23; meditate on verses 18-23.


1. What did the ruler seek from Jesus?

2. How did Jesus respond to him?

The rich young ruler had a very specific petition for Jesus. He wanted to know what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Clearly, he wanted something from Jesus, not Jesus Himself.

Here was a man who had everything (v. 23). All he needed to be completely satisfied and fulfilled was the assurance of eternal life (v. 18). He would do whatever Jesus said to gain that. He called on Jesus as “Good Teacher” because he believed Jesus could help him realize the good life.

Jesus interrupted him with a question, intended to refocus his petition. Why was he calling Jesus good? Only God is good. Jesus clearly implied that if we want a good life, we must seek God, to know, love, and serve Him (v. 19). If he knew Jesus was good, he should also have known that He was God.

The rich young ruler was an obsessive moralist, a genuine do-gooder (vv. 20, 21). The first four commandments – which all have to do with loving God – don’t seem to have been on the radar screen of his soul. He had done every good work, and he possessed many good things. What more should he do to “inherit eternal life”?

Jesus popped the balloon of his “stuff-centered” life: “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (v. 22). And as it turned out, Jesus was not enough for him. The “Good Teacher” was not this young man’s greatest good. He looked at Jesus merely as a supplier.

In prayer, if ultimately we’re not seeking Jesus, our spirit is not what the Lord expects it to be.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Jesus had just told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector and lo, who appeared? But a real living “certain ruler” who was “perfect”. The folks could see Jesus’ story enacted before their very eyes.

We can safely assume that because this man thought he had kept the law perfectly from his youth, he also thought that he had earned eternal life. “I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess” (Lk. 18.11, 12), and I serve on multiple committees at church, I’m there every time the doors open, and frankly, the world is blessed that I stride through it.

So why the question to Jesus? Is it possible that he was waiting for Jesus to be as amazed with him as he was?
That they could participate in a mutual admiration society? Since, after all, they were both “good”? (Lk. 18.18, 19) Or maybe he wanted Jesus to tell him in front of the present company of onlookers, “You, my friend, have reached your goal.”

Whatever reason this certain ruler had for posing that question to Jesus, he did not get the desired result. Turns out, he wasn’t perfect, or good, or first in line for inheriting eternal life.

Do we ever harbor these same thoughts? Do we think Jesus wants one thing from us, when really, He wants something completely different? Is there anything any of us can do to earn eternal life? All the things we think Jesus wants for us are not what He wants most for us. Because what He wants most for us is to know Him.

To know is to perceive or understand as fact or truth; apprehend clearly and with certainty; to be cognizant or aware of; to be acquainted or familiar with; to understand from experience or practice. To comprehend—perceiving or grasping facts and ideas. To know is to be aware of, sure of, or familiar with through observation, study, or experience. To grasp something mentally and to perceive its relationships to certain other facts or ideas; to be fully aware not only of the meaning or nature of something but also of its implications.

When we are truly His, we know that He has saved us. “Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” (Ex. 6.7). And out from under the weight of sin. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19.25-27)
“…for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Tim. 1.12).
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn. 17.3).

Unlike the certain ruler who had the cart before the horse, we also keep the law, but for a different reason.
We keep it because we know and love Jesus. Not to earn our salvation (which is impossible anyway), but to demonstrate that we have it. It is part of the deal (Jn. 14.15): “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 Jn. 2.3).

And truly, when you know and love Him, you will want to know Him better and please Him more. And there is no better way to know Him than through His words to us and our words to Him. Voracious reading of the Bible and continuous Jesus-seeking prayer. It is what He wants for us. Most of all. And it pleases Him.

For reflection
1. Jesus is the Fount, Focus, and Fruit of our salvation. Explain.

2. How can you make sure that your attitude going into prayer is to know, love, and serve Jesus?

3. Jesus will not give us idols to distract us from knowing, loving, and serving Him. What are some things in your life that might try to do that? How can you keep that from happening?

So that was Christ’s method: to bring this man by these holy insinuations, by these approaches and degrees to a knowledge that he was true God and so was the Messiah who was expected. John Donne (1572-1631), Sermon 14, Preached at Whitehall, March 4, 1624.3

Pray Psalm 16.8-11.
Pray that you will find the Lord to be all you need – your portion, cup, and inheritance. Ask Him to remove any idols from your heart, everything to which you look for meaning or happiness other than Jesus. Call on Him to be your all in all, so that all you have and are may be devoted to Him each day.

Sing Psalm 16.8-11.
(All to Christ: Jesus Paid It All)
You are ever with me, Lord; in You I shall not fall.
But rejoicing in Your Word, I abide within Your call.
Refrain v. 11
Make me know life’s way! Pleasures fill Your hand.
Fill my life with joy each day! Before Your face I stand.

Soon Your glory I shall see, for as Jesus rose again,
You will come to gather me to my home with You in heav’n.
Refrain v. 11

T. M. and Susie Moore

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by
clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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