Getting Near to the Divine--Affective Prayer
(Based on Luke 9:28-43)
When I was just a young sailor the navy, I became aware that sailors were not in very good physical shape.  After leaving boot camp physical exercise just seemed to fall by the way.  So, they instituted a physical fitness program.  The quarterly physical exam was coming up so another sailor and I were doing pull-ups to see if we could pass.  I did about twenty if I remember correctly—probably two in reality—then he began doing them.
NRSV LUKE 9:28-36, 37
28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must  I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And 
all were astounded at the greatness of God.
He suddenly fell to the ground writhing and shaking,his eyes were wild and then rolled back in his head.  I just stood there like a dummy.  I knew he was having an epileptic seizure, but did not know what to do.  When he came to he asked, “How long was I out”  He then asked me not to tell anyone because you couldn’t be in the navy as an epileptic.  
I never told a soul until now, probably sixty years later.
In the Gospel reading (right), what was called "an unclean spirit," was probably an epileptic seizure. Whatever it was, Jesus rebuked it and the boy was made whole.  After all, what matter whether you rebuke a demon or a disease?  The result is the same—wellness.  Those people knew when someone was sick—they were feverish, ached, had a runny nose, possibly threw up.  Epilepsy offered no such diagnostic tools, so they thought it was a demon—what else could it be?  It certainly described what was happing to the sailor above.
Times change. Science and knowledge advances.  Much of what they would have called possession back then we now label as some sort of disease.  There is a Catholic priest, however, who says that much of what is diagnosed as insanity could be possession—and I think that he is probably right.
The ancients didn’t have all the tools we do, but some things do remain the same, such as glowing when you come in contact with the Supreme Being we call God.
One day when I was still living in Virginia Beach I went to see my brother.  I knocked at his door and waited.  Nobody answered and I was just getting ready to leave when Jane opened the door.  She literally glowed…especially around her head and shoulders.  The look on her face was serene and peaceful. I had interrupted her while she was praying and the affect was visible.  For a little while she had come in contact with the Divine. 
Both Jesus and Moses had something in common when this happened—they both had mountaintop experiences.  Over the years I’ve gone up many mountains.  I’ve often been over-awed at what I saw on them.  I’ve often prayed on mountains because the majesty of God’s creation hit me hard…so beautiful.  There was a place off Lone Mountain Road in O’Brien, OR that Sylvia and I used to go to where you could see the tops of mountains as far as you could look.  The horizon appeared to be beyond the mountains. 
There was another place I used to go to get the same vision—the top of Happy Camp Rd, between Cave Junction, or and Happy Camp, CA.  Going south into Grants Pass, OR, Mount Sexton offers a beautiful view we’re all aware of.  In the immortal words of C.W. McCall singing about Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado, “My, my!  Ain’t it pretty up here?”  Mountaintops are more than just pretty; they’re awe-inspiring.
What is it about the mountains that bring us such an awe-ing experience—an experience that many get at the coast or in the desert?
I think the majestic beauty of God’s handiwork brings a recognition of God’s wonderful nature by reaching into our innermost being and touching some part of our soul.  It is this recognition that brings the desire to worship; a desire that some never experience.  These moments are but a foretaste of the majesty of God is like and what a glorious thing eternity will be.
The problem is that, as it was for Jesus, we leave the mountaintop experience, go back down and life comes crashing in.  
Mountaintop experiences aren’t for everyone because not everyone is impressed.  You see, it’s not just going up on the mountain, it’s what happens while your there.  Does it cause you to worship? Does it make you want to pray?  Or, could you care less?  Think about Sexton again.  Those of us who have taken that route often sometimes fail to see the beauty stretching out in front of us.  When you're taking that curve at 75, there's no time for gawking.
Those who could care less are probably not that impressed with God, either.  If there’s no awe, no recognition of beauty in what God has created, then there’s probably no desire to pray, either. 
In order to have the mountaintop experience, it is not enough to merely go up the mountain; you must be aware when you go up the mountain—an awareness that causes you to pray.  But, how do you pray in such a manner that will make you serene, peaceful and possibly even glow?
There’s multiple ways to pray and many things to pray for: we can pray for goodies, pray for others, pray for health.  We can pray for people we don’t know, such as earthquake victims. We can pray that we are right and another is wrong.  We can pray to win. We pray to meet deadlines and pray to succeed.   
But, there’s another way to pray that brings us closer to God and also brings that peace that surpasses all understanding.  Jane found it that day—and perhaps many times—I wouldn’t know about that. 
To have that experience you must sit down and get quiet.  Close your eyes and relax.  Let your mind be aware of a presence that is surrounding you; even touching you.  Perhaps it simply feels like energy.  Just let go; relax.  Let God do the rest.
Here’s the deal: if you are willing to step out of the rat race of life and take the time to be still, God will take the time to give you that mountaintop experience—sometimes in the most unlikely of places, such as in prisoner of war camps.  When the majesty that is God enfolds and encircles you, you, too, will glow.  You, too, will have that mountaintop experience regardless of where you are.