Soul Cultivation

"After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, "Why couldn't we drive it [a demon] out?"  He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer.""  Mark 9:28-29

The cultivation of the soul is the most significant work we can do because it is on that soil that we meet God.

That is a pretty big statement I guess, but the more I think on it, the more true it becomes to me.  Regardless of the task, or ministry, or job..............the most significant thing about us is our ability to know God - and that comes through a cultivation of soul.  When the soul is a freshly watered garden, it is amazing the harvest that results.  Not just personal peace and satisfaction (which can be a by-product), but the harvest of Christ-likeness that comes from the Gardener Himself.  What would a soul look like that is freshly watered and bearing fruit that remains?  What would a life look like that was so rich and drenched in God that it overflowed onto everything and everyone?

Well, to speak plainly, it would look like Jesus.

Just look at this little interaction in Mark 9.  Jesus' disciples are having a devil of a time with a demon that is tormenting a young boy.  They can't seem to do the trick on casting the demon out.  Enter Jesus.  He brings the boy to Himself, asks dad how long this has been going on, then ends up telling the demon to beat it.  Needless to say, the demon exits stage left (after making one last shriek and convulsion for the boy to remember him by).  Jesus picks up the boy, dusts him off, and gives him back to his dad.  Cool stuff.

The problem is with the disciples though.  They ask Jesus how come they couldn't do it to begin with.  And Jesus tells them that this one could only come out by prayer.  Seems simple enough on the face of it for the disciples.............until they start replaying the scene in their minds over and over and something seems like its missing.  "Jesus told us that this one only comes out by prayer, but, dare I say it, did anyone see Jesus praying when He did this?"  "Yeah, I was wondering the same thing.....He never prayed but told us that this one only comes out by prayer....".  So, did He or didn't He pray?  I guess it depends on how we define prayer.

If prayer is only a formal time of speaking to God, then Jesus didn't pray I don't suppose.  But if prayer is any word that flows from a well-watered, God saturated soul, then pray He did.  It is amazing to think that the soul of Jesus was so saturated with God, so overflowing with Real Presence, that every word that exited His mouth could be considered communication with and about God.  How does a regular guy or gal not named Jesus come anywhere remotely close to that point of God saturation?

I don't know that I have the answer for that, but at least there are some clues:

Solitude - Without a doubt, Jesus withdrew from time to time for extended periods of alone time with the Father.  He also practiced the presence of God at the beginning of His day as well.  You and I would be well served to follow that example of communion with the Father.

Silence - When alone with God, it is important that there is a two way conversation going, not just one sided (our side).  God speaks to us in a still, small voice but often we have drowned God's voice in the sea and hum of noise.............whether it is the TV that never turns off, the light hum of the computer screen, the iPod we listen to, or whatever.  We must silence the noise in our ears and our head if we want to amplify the voice of God through His Word.

Submission - Will we do what He says when we get to that place of being called to obey?  If we don't ever get alone with God, and silent before Him, then we don't really need to worry about submission because we don't know what He asks of us to begin with.

These aren't all the answers, but they are some clues to soul cultivation.  What if you and I, and all God's people, were really serious about solitude, silence, and submission?  I wonder if the church as we know it would be a church we have never known before?