Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
Jesus said to his disciples:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”
The word advent is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventus, which means “coming”.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, a season observed by Christians as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the incarnation and birth of the Second Person of the Triune Godhead, and of His return — His coming — at the end of all things.
In today’s reading from Luke 21, Jesus, once again, warned about the end times, the timing of which, He stated in Mark 13:32, “no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
Since no one knows the precise day or hour of the last days, our Lord instructs us to “Be vigilant at all times and pray“. For that matter, in Luke 18:1, Jesus emphasized “the necessity” for us “to pray always without becoming weary.“
Being a loving God, what He counsels us to do turns out to be good for us (see “Neuroscience explains why gratitude is good for our health“).
Did you know these benefits of praying? —
- Regular prayer and meditation has been shown in numerous scientific studies to be an important factor in living longer, reducing stress, coping better with sickness, and staying healthy. (allnurses)
- When we pray, our heart rate slows down, blood pressure goes down, and our breath becomes calmer and more regular.
- A study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that those who attended religious services at least once a week and prayed at least once a day or studied the Bible frequently were 40% less likely to have high blood pressure. (NCBI)
- Praying helps patients heal, according to a study by Dr. Andrew Newberg of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia. (NBC News)
- Praying helps people have fewer migraine headaches and an increase in pain tolerance, according to a study by Ken Pargement of Bowling Green State University. (US News and World Report)
- Praying reduces levels of infidelity and alcohol consumption by helping us maintain self-control, resist temptation and enhance emotional stability, according to a 2013 study by German psychologists at Saarland University and the University of Mannheim. (Daily Mail)
Not only are we told to pray for ourselves, we should also pray for others.
Here are the reasons for intercessory prayer — petitioning God on behalf of and for the benefit of another, even those who have hurt us (“Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” – Matthew 5:44):
- Jesus, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead, is the foremost intercessor:
- On the cross, “he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).
- Since His return to heaven, He has been continually occupied with His ministry of intercession: “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25); “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:34).
- When we are baptized, we are gifted with the infusion of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Triune Godhead, who also intercedes for us! “For we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit [Himself] maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26).
- Studies found that intercessory prayer really works:
- In 1988 and 1999, randomized controlled trials of remote intercessory prayer (praying for persons unknown) showed a beneficial effect in patients in intensive coronary care units (Southern Medical Journal, July 1988,81(7):826-9; Archives of Internal Medicine, Oct. 25, 1999; 159(19):2273-8).
- In 2000, a systematic review of randomized, placebo controlled trials of distant healing found that 57% of the randomized, placebo controlled trials of distant healing showed a positive treatment effect (Annals of Internal Medicine, June 6, 2000; 32(11):903-10).
- In 2001, a double-blind study of 3393 adults hospitalized with a bloodstream infection found that remote intercessory prayer is associated with a shorter hospital stay and shorter duration of fever in those patients even when the intervention is performed 4-10 years after the infection (British Medical Journal. Dec. 22, 2001; 323(7327): 1450–1451).
And remember, always, to tell God you love Him with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and with all your strength.
May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!