One of the hardest parts of praying is accepting the reality that the immediate answer to our prayers, even the most urgent and sincere prayers, are not always given to us. Jesus’ agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is one of the highest moments of the passion of Jesus before His crucifixion and resurrection.
We have in this a picture of the Son of God; the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, the sinless Lamb of God on His face in the dirt of Gethsemane’s olive grove. This was no walk in the garden alone, while the dew was still on the roses. This was no sweet hour of prayer.
This was war. A bloody, soul crushing, strength-sapping struggle happening. Prayer is warfare. When you start to pray, you are picking a fight. You are launching ICBMs into the enemy’s camp. Jesus was beginning to be crushed by the weight of our iniquity that was placed on Him.
Have you ever felt guilt? Have you ever felt the sting of shame? Imagine how it felt to this One who was “in all points like as we are, yet without sin.” For the first time, Deity tasted the wages of sin for us. He took upon Himself our guilt and shame, our sin and judgement.
And He began bearing that in Gethsemane. It was crushing to Him. And He cried out to the Father, “If it is possible, take this cup from Me… nevertheless not my will.” Have you ever found yourself needing to pray NEVERTHELESS?
Jesus did. And the Heavens did not answer. The Father did not stop the outpouring of wrath. The Son of God was not delivered from this cup, so that He might drink it from us. The most incredibly impassioned, sincere prayer ever prayed to the Father… was answered with a “NO.”
And yet the prayer was not in vain. It was not a waste of time. What Jesus needed to know, He found out. YES, it is the Father’s will that He be crushed for us. YES, it is God’s will that He die for the sins of the world. YES, it’s was God’s will that crucifixion would come, because without it, salvation couldn’t. Atonement couldn’t. Resurrection couldn’t.
We need to pray even when we don’t understand what’s going to be on the other side of “nevertheless.” But we know that, whatever it is, our Father knows best.
Does prayer “work?” I’ve heard the question asked directly and rhetorically, by authors in book titles and from people who are looking to have their “best life now.” Does it “work?” In other words, “Is it really worth my investment of time to do it?”
What is implied in the question is that there is a “right” formula or “right” combination for prayer to be effective. Now the Bible does talk about “the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man” availing much. But nowhere does Scripture infer that “doing” it right… the right posture, the right time, or the right combination of words… will force the hand of an Almighty and Sovereign God to do something.
I will commend “laboring” in prayer, if that’s what is meant by “working.” Prayer doesn’t do the work…WE do the work to make prayer a reality. Our trusting investment of time and energy, lack of sleep and focus of thought are the tools needed to build an effective life of prayer.
But the focus of our next few weeks in this blog as well as in our sanctuary on Sunday mornings is “PrayerLIFE.” Prayer is not a job; not an add-on to an already over packed schedule. It IS our life. We are to be continually, perpetually, unceasingly praying to the Father. Occasionally, it will be expressed in words from our lips. Other times (more frequently) it will not be.
The other thing that troubles me a bit about the question, “Does prayer work?” is that the focus of the question is on PRAYER as almost separate from God. It is a “thing” we do; a religious act we practice, rather than the yearning of a heart that desperately wants to connect with Father God.
So my answer to the question, “Does prayer work?” No. But is GOD always at work for our good and His glory? A thousand times YES! Don’t confuse the two. Prayer is a pathway; a communication line to connect us by faith to the throne and ear of our waiting Father.
My advice? Don’t stop short on the bridge. Don’t stop until by prayer and faith you’ve arrived at the THRONE and the One who is seated there!
How’s your prayer life? Few questions can make a believer feel guiltier. We know we should pray. We know we should pray MORE. We know we should pray LONGER.
We believe in prayer. Really, we do. We admire people for whom it seems to come so naturally. We may have even made a New Year’s resolution to pray more… longer.
But many would honestly confess, “I don’t know how.” “I don’t know the words to use.” “I don’t know whether to kneel, or stand, or sit, or raise my hands or sit on them.”
If any of that feels familiar, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Even the twelve men who followed Jesus most closely didn’t know how to pray. Once, they asked Jesus, “teach us to pray.”
Some would have to confess, “I never saw my parents pray. I didn’t grow up in church. I went to a church where you read prayers from a book or you simply left it to the specialists.”
But prayer is not a specialization. We are all to be about the business of talking daily, hourly, and even moment by moment with our Father who is waiting… RIGHT NOW… to hear from us!
Come and walk with us the next few weeks as we begin a series titled “PRAYERLIFE” and learn about the most familiar and perhaps the most important prayer we will ever pray: The Lord’s Prayer.
Whether you are a veteran prayer warrior or a novice, you can grow deeper in your understanding and your walk with God as you learn to pray as Jesus taught us.
Hope you’ll commit to being in every service and experience an intimacy with God that you’ve never known before!
Dr. Maynard’s sermon series PRAYERLIFE will begin Sunday, February 17. You can listen live at www.fruitcove.com/livestream or on the church app. Search Fruit Cove Baptist in the App Store. Sermons are posted online at www.fruitcove.com/sermons by the following Wednesday.