Monday, May 8, 2017

Does Prayer Always Work?

The Christian life is full of landmark moments, those crucial points in time that led us to the cross and continued to change us as we grew in Christ.  It begins with the first time that God sends someone to plant the seed of faith in your life.  Later, others come along to water that seed that was planted.  Eventually, you hit the most pivotal moment in your life.  The day you accept God’s gift of salvation by putting your faith and trust in His son, Jesus Christ.  Your history re-written, you begin to move forward in your new Christian walk.  As you grow and develop, becoming more and more like Christ, you face many moments that later will become landmarks to you.  These are the moments, that if carefully recorded, you can look back on decades to come and see how God used each moment to change you into who you are today.  Maybe you have moments that are not so good landmarks, moments that you were faced with a crisis of belief and you chose to turn a blind eye for a time.  Sorrowful as those decisions may have been, they are still a landmark pointing you to the exact spot that you sit right now. 

Landmarks in history.  Pivotal moments that alter the course of life.  We all have them, and most often they appear through moments of extreme anguish, heartache, or pain.

The most pivotal landmark, I believe, in all of history can be read about in the gospels of the New Testament.  Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, on the brink of the most agonizing time in His existence.  The plan was set before the foundation of the world.  He would give up some of His godly rights, join mankind on earth to become one of us, so that He could meet all the requirements of a just God to be the only sacrifice worthy of covering the sin of every person to ever live.  As 100% God, He knew the plan, He knew it was the only way, and He knew it was time.  As 100% man, he was in utter agony over what He was about to go through. 

Three times He asked His Father to let there be another way.  “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” Matthew 26:39.  “If this cup cannot pass away from me unless I drink it….” Matthew 26:42.  He “prayed the third time, saying the same words.” Matthew 26:44.

In His moment of trial, knowing what was coming that night, agonizing in the sorrow of what He would go through Jesus did the one thing He knew would work to get Him through this overwhelming time:  He prayed.  He went to a familiar place, where He often went to be alone with His Father.  He fell on His face, He prayed, cried out, agonized with His Father about this task that He didn’t want to do.  If there is any other way! 

Pivotal moment.  If Jesus had stopped right there, begging God to change His circumstances, refusing to go through what needed to be done, then mankind would be completely and utterly lost.  There would be no hope of the resurrection.  There would be no remission for sins.  We would still be slaves to the law, trying our best to be good enough but falling short every single time.  There would be no salvation.  What a dark, bleak future that would have been. 

Alas, Jesus did not demand his circumstances be changed.  He asked for there to be another way, but He humbly followed it up with “not as I will, but as you will… your will be done.”  Jesus trusted God completely.  The prayer of Jesus that night in the garden didn’t change His circumstances one little bit.  He would still be arrested, tortured, beaten and bruised, and hung on a cross to die the death that you and I deserve.  I am so thankful that He didn’t give up. 

I think my favorite part of this landmark  in time is the moment Jesus gets up from the ground.  I picture my savior in a crumpled heap in the dirt, crying out to God in agony, sweating drops of blood from the sheer physical strain of the emotions He was experiencing in that moment.  Face down, grasping at the ground as He wrestled with his humanness of the moment.  He prays… He prays some more… He prays even more, fueling up for what is waiting for Him when he turns around.

Then, my Jesus stands up.  I imagine Him slowly coming up from the dirt, raising himself up to his full height, squaring back his shoulders and taking a few steps forward to wake up his friends.  Gone is the agony.  No fear, no anxiety, no hesitation.  Jesus doesn’t leave His prayer time to go hide in the bushes in hopes that the Roman soldiers won’t find Him.  Nope, not my Jesus.  He grabs His disciples and says, let’s go, my betrayer is at hand. Matthew 26:46.  I love the way John describes the next scene in John 18:4.  It says “Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, WENT FORWARD and said to them, ‘Whom are you seeking?’”  No running away.  No cowering.  Jesus faced the circumstances head on and did what He needed to do to be obedient to His Father and to open the doors for everyone who will believe that we too can have a relationship with God the Father. 

Are you as in awe about this as I am?  Do you know my Jesus?  When you are overwhelmed, facing a storm that you just don’t want to go through, you can go to the Father trusting that He knows what He’s doing.  You can spend time with Him in prayer, not to change your circumstances and make life easier, but to grow 10 feet tall, square your shoulders back, and walk into that storm head on.  No fear!  No anxiety!  That is the power of prayer.  That is the power of my God.  That is power that comes with believing in Jesus Christ.  If you don't know Jesus yet, then that's the first thing you need to take care of right now!

Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28.  “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

When you’re struggling, when you’re weak, when you just don’t think you can keep going, fall on your face before your Father and cry out to Him.  Simply trust Him.  

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