But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. Luke 10:42 (KJV)
Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. Colossians 3:2
Isn’t it funny that many times the things we think are unnecessary and inconsequential end up being the “needful things”? It can be the task that we chose to do later that day or a relationship we failed to develop. The reason we often overlook needful things is because we fail to see the true value and impact they can have on our life. We become so attached to the immediate present that we fail to consider the imminent future. For many who finally see the light, the action they didn’t take often ends up being a regret later languished over. Such is the case when we fail to pursue the prayer-filled life.
Martha, without a doubt, loved Jesus and was excited to have him visiting with her family, but her immediate concern was feeding Him rather than receiving the heavenly manna He had to offer that day (John 6:32-33). Such is the danger we face as believers when we fail to engage in the prayer-filled life. This contemplative life may seem impossible in light of the competing demands in our world. It is not my objective to minimize those activities but to expand our appreciation for life lived in communion with the Living God (Psalm 42:1-2).
Martha was “careful and troubled”. Mary, on the other hand, was drawn to “an awareness and celebration of God’s abiding Presence.” Martha offered Jesus her service while Mary offered her heart. A prayer-filled life proceeds not out of duty or guilt but out of love. It reflects where our true affections lie. Affections are those things which “motivate” us to act, to respond, and to commit. Our affections should move us closer to (and not further from) the Needful Thing, our First Love, Jesus Christ (Rev. 2:4).
At the end of the day, Mary had received something that could not be “taken away from her”—love, joy, and peace. Jesus is love (1 John 4:8). In His Presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). Jesus’ peace excels that of the world (John 15). Love, joy, peace and much more are available to believers who learn to live intentionally in the flow of the Spirit (Gal. 5: 22; John 14:27). It’s been often stated to “remember to keep the main thing the main thing.” I would like to modify that adage based on Jesus’ desire for our life: “Remember to keep the main thing the needful thing—a prayer-filled life, in fellowship with God.”