Monday, March 10, 2008

Study on Prayer - week 5

As we finish up our 5 part study on prayer, we come now to the Gethsemane Prayer, Jesus’ last and most intense time of prayer with His Father. Many times as we go through our Holy Week services, we tend to “hopscotch” from the Last Supper, to the cross, to the empty tomb, and we never seem to spend much time on this prayer. But it is here that Jesus reaches the very core of His humanity.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “He (that is, God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

As we studied “The High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus last time, we saw that the perspective of that prayer was like it was from “the other side of the cross.” In other words, Jesus prayed like the crucifixion was a “done deal” - like it had already happened. In fact, if you didn’t know better, you’d think that prayer was being prayed after the Resurrection!

But it wasn’t… and now we have come to the moment of entering the garden, where Jesus is preparing to take on all the sin, of all mankind, of all eternity…

Let us listen in…

I’ll be reading from Matthew’s gospel, chapter 26, verses 36-45, with details (in italics) added from Mark 14 and Luke 22. I’ll be reading this from the KJV. I normally use either the NASB or the NLT, but there’s just something about the KJV that allows us to feel the magnitude of the moment…

Mat 26:36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
Mat 26:37 And he took with him Peter (and James and John) the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
Mat 26:38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
Mat 26:39 And he went a little further, (about a stone’s throw) and fell on his face,
(and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.
and He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.)

Mat 26:40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
Mat 26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Mat 26:42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it… thy will be done.

Mat 26:43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy (and they didn’t know how to answer Him.)
Mat 26:44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

(Then Luke tells us, Luk 22:43-44 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground. )

Mat 26:45 Then, cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Let us pray… Oh my God, we cannot read this and be unmoved. The agony that Christ felt… Though He was fully God… He was fully man, and His fear was so very real. We cannot begin to imagine the terror that He felt on that night, knowing, fully, what lay ahead of Him.

As we look at this prayer, let us stop and think for a few moments what our salvation, what our redemption from an eternity in hell, really cost.

In Jesus’ Name - Amen.

Jesus prayed 3 times that the “cup” might be taken away… There are several differences of opinion of just what the “cup” actually was that Jesus prayed for God to let pass by; some believe it was a premature death right there in the Garden, before He ever made it to the cross (you remember, He said His soul was deeply grieved, to the point of death) or whether it was the cup of God’s wrath, which is a well documented theme throughout the Bible, or possibly as Wesley taught, the cup of terror and fear, or even as some have said, an avoidance of the cross all together. Perhaps we’ll study that in depth at some other time, however what the “cup” actually was is not the subject of this particular study - but what Jesus did with the cup is our concern.

E.M. Bounds, in his book titled, “The Reality of Prayer” says that in the Gethsemane prayer, “Jesus sought to be relieved from that which seemed too heavy to bear. He prayed, however, not in revolt against God’s will, but in submission to that will, and yet He prayed to change God’s plan and to alter God’s purposes.”

Bounds goes on to say, “Simple submission to God’s will is not the highest attitude of the soul to God.” He says, in essence, there is a difference between submitting to God’s will and conforming to His will…

Conformity to God’s will involves submission… But submission in itself falls short of and does not necessarily include conformity.

For instance, think about a cake pan. If I take 2 cake pans and pour water into one and cake batter into the other - both the water and the cake batter have “submitted” to the shape of the pan, but after 30 minutes or so in a 350 degree oven, only the batter will “conform” to the shape of the pan. The water will pour right out.

A prisoner of war may “submit” to his captors, but seldom will he “conform” to their ideology.

“Conformity means to ‘stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.’ It means to delight to do God’s will…"

William Barkley says that “It makes all the difference in what tone of voice a man says, “Thy will be done.”
1. He may say it in a tone of helpless submission, as one who is in the grip of a power against which it is hopeless to fight. The words may be the death-knell of hope.

2. He may say it as one who had been battered into submission. The words may be the admission of complete defeat.

3. He may say it as one who has been utterly frustrated and who sees that the dream can never come true. The words may be those of a bleak regret or even a bitter anger which is all the more bitter because he cannot do anything about it.

4. Or, He may say it with the accent of perfect trust. That is how Jesus said it. He was speaking to one who was “Father”; He was speaking to a God whose everlasting arms were underneath and about him, even on the cross. He was submitting, but he was submitting to the love that would never let Him go. Life’s hardest task is to accept what we cannot understand; but we can do even that if we are sure enough of the love of God.

Let me end by sharing the story of a woman I know who found a lump under her arm as she was putting on her deodorant one morning. It was about 7:00am and so it was about an hour or so before she could call a doctor to make an appointment.

She spent that hour in prayer, in an agony of her own. She had 2 small children and a husband for whom she was deeply worried. The word “lump” strikes a fear in anyone’s heart, and it did hers as well.

She was a Christian, and knew what the outcome of even the worst diagnosis would be - that is, an eternity with Christ - but no one wants to go through pain and suffering.

And so she prayed.

At first her prayer was to beg God that it not be anything serious - but, resignedly ending it as she had always been taught, “nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done…”

Then her prayer progressed to “but if it is serious… if we cannot avoid this suffering…” then with a deep breath she said, “whatever You say Lord, Your will be done…”

She continued to pray and to cry, thinking of her children - her “babies” as she called them, and as she prayed, a calmness came over her; a peace that she didn’t understand.

She saw that her Loving God and Father loved her children more than she herself did; more than she ever could - and that even if the diagnoses was a serious one, God was still God, and would provide… no matter what.

And as she rose from her knees, and reached for the telephone, she confidently declared, “Thy Holy and perfect will be done!”

Jesus spoke like that; and when we can speak like that, we can look up and say in perfect trust, “Thy will be done!” And we will be “conformed” to the image of God.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

God Bless you for sharing this anointed message

6:12 AM  

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