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Praying without realising it

On the road to Emmaus

“Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognising him.” Luke 24:13-16

What a comical passage we have here! Jesus has just died. The disciples are heartbroken and are talking through their pain with each other. Obviously, there is nothing humorous about that. But then Jesus Himself comes up to them and gives them the impression that He has no clue why they are so troubled. Without realising it, they end up sharing their sorrow over Jesus’ death with Jesus Himself! If prayer can be described as communing with the Risen Lord, the disciples actually pray without realising it. Somehow, in spite of the emotional upheaval the disciples are going through, I can picture Jesus meeting them with a twinkle in His eye, betraying the secret of His joy. But He doesn’t hurry the revelation of His identity. Instead, He meets His disciples where they are at first.

My husband and I have recently been drawn to process memories from our past. God seems to have arranged a season of healing for us! So as I was reading the passage about two of Jesus’ disciples on the road to Emmaus, I was struck by a few things.

The disciples had been talking about everything they had gone through: Jesus’ ministry, death and then finally the claims of His resurrection. They had a lot to think through and frankly, they seemed disoriented, sorrowful and confused. Jesus comes to them in the middle of their process. He asks them obvious questions and thus pushes them to state the situation openly. I find it psychologically fascinating that God would care to help us voice our pain. Once the questions have been voiced, Jesus begins to address the issues. He gives His disciples two revelations: firstly, that it was because of unbelief that they could not see what God was doing and secondly, that God had been at work all the time, fulfilling His plan.

Strangely enough, even though Jesus spoke so openly to His two troubled disciples, they were kept from recognising Him! Personally, I cannot help wondering if this was to provoke them to process their situation. I doubt the disciples would have voiced all their pain and questions if they had known they were talking to the Risen Lord! Perhaps this is also the case with some of the conversations we have where there is no visibly spiritual element – and yet with hindsight we can recognise the hand of God in them. It can sometimes be in the comforting touch of a friend or in a word from someone who didn’t even realise they had one for us! Sometimes we might recognise that He was with us in a special way only after a specific moment has passed. But if ever we do feel “our hearts burning within us”, may we remember that perhaps we have just met with God without realising it.

For me, it has been comforting to read this passage this week. I know now that I can expect Jesus to join in our walks down memory lane. And isn’t that yet another comforting thought? We don’t have to try to reach Him. He catches up with us. But let us not limit Jesus to a traditional way of meeting with us. Let us be on the lookout for His presence however and whenever He steps on the scene.

On our trips down the roads of life, we can find comfort and clarity in Jesus’ presence, just like the disciples did on the road to Emmaus (which apparently means “hot spring”). And just like their tears were transformed into a spring of joy, psalm 84:6 proclaims that as we pass through the valley of Baca (weeping), we will “make it a place of springs”.

Elina Placentino

*Painting: The walk to Emmaus by Lelio Orsi

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