Praying Fervently

Jesus and the disciples are in the Garden of Gethsemane:  “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like drops of blood falling down to the ground.  And when he rose from prayer,  he came to his disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them ‘ Why are you sleeping?  Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ “
Luke 22:44-46    

Jesus is praying fervently (to the point of sweating blood), concerning his upcoming Crucifixion, which will appease God’s wrath against  all of OUR sins.  We might assume that he is praying that he might not be tempted to turn aside from God’s plan.  At the beginning of  his ministry, he was tempted and resisted three times. (Mt. 4: 1-11).  Now he is to face, not only an excruciating death, but also the final and most severe temptation: denial and disobedience.

Over the course of three years, he has spoken to his disciples many times about what is to happen: his death, and the pressure to fall away from Him and belief  of God’s words.   He has asked the disciples to pray with him.  Yet the tired disciples sleep and can not pray for even one hour. (Mt. 26:40).

What can we learn from this encounter?

Are we like the disciples, who having heard God’s word and warnings, do not understand, and are in denial? (Mk. 16:21-23)

Are we caught up with short prayers for our own immediate needs, ignoring God’s warnings?

Like the disciples, do we not understand Jesus, that WE, too,  will be persecuted, even to death,  for standing for God’s Truth in Christ, and can fall away and betray each other and Christ?  (Mt. 24:9-10)

OR

Are we like the men of Issacher who seek to discern and understand  the times?  (2 Chr. 12:32)

Do we pray that we might not enter into temptation?

Do we pray fervently that we might stand firm in / on Christ, in the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20)  and boldly declare the gospel –  no matter the penalty?
~Pam Herbert

Focused on God

And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
Luke 22:44-46

It is not difficult for us to think of things that can distract us these days. We are bombarded with screens and often pointless information from dawn til dusk, for many of us any moment of quiet is interrupted by our phones or something else trying to grab our attention. It often feels as though we truly are at the mercy of many things not in this world. And yet in Luke we see that these distractions from God can come in even giving in to tiredness.

For a long time it almost seemed unfair in my mind that Jesus would get upset over his disciples tiredness. However it has become clearer to me that any form of putting our supposed needs before Christ’s is giving in to the sin of thinking ourselves higher than God. It surely isn’t easy, but it strikes at the core of our relationship with Christ. While the disciples were sleeping, his concentration on God was so intense his sweat dropped like blood.

We need to approach God with that same utterly complete focus, and say with Christ, not my will, but yours be done.
~Brandon Dieleman
One thing remains clear or at least sensed: doubt and temptation about the meaningfulness of being cast to and fro, of being at the mercy of things, will not cease as long as we remain focused on ourselves, as long as in one form or another “the other” (i.e. that which is not of this world) does not step into our lives.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Our Hearts Melt

Lead us not into temptations, but deliver us from evil. 
Matthew 6:13

Do you remember going to the county fair with your family when you were a young child?  Your parents told you to stay near and stick with the family.  You went through the barns and saw all the giant Clydesdales and the little ponies.   Then you ran into the Gibsons,  with their beautiful golden Haflingers.  After a little visit, your family  continued walking along.  Something interesting caught your eyes. Maybe it was another child with an interesting prize that he won at the game area.  You momentarily forgot about your family and became transfixed on this new toy. Before you knew it, you lost track of your family and they were out of sight. You took your eyes off your parents and became temporarily lost.  That is what happens when we are tempted to do wrong.

God wants us to keep our eyes on Him, to follow him. But we sometimes take our eyes off Him and follow other things.

We are told in the Bible that there are 3 things that tempt us. The world, the flesh, and the devil.  The devil is really behind them all. So, how do we withstand temptation?  We pray like Jesus taught us to pray, so that even though we are tempted, we would not give in to the temptation.  We ask for Jesus to  deliver us from the evil one [the devil].

Though we do this year round, the cycles of the church calendar focus our attention on how this prayer is answered. At Lent we look at the cross and we see that Jesus paid for all the times that we did take our eyes off Him and gave in to temptation. But, in the death and resurrection  of Jesus, we also see that He has freed us from the tyranny of the world, the flesh, and the devil. As we pray this prayer we are also asking the Father to send us His Holy Spirit.  He will help us to live by the Spirit instead of by the flesh. When our hearts are melted by the height, depth, and width of this great sacrificial gift that God has given us in the death and resurrection of His Son, it can’t but change us and make us glad.
~John Doesburg

“Be glad. celebrate! Lose your mindless fear, and take courage today. No, don’t ever be afraid, no matter what’s happened to you before.  That’s right, don’t be afraid, no matter what you may see coming.  Take courage because Christ was crucified for you.”
~Catherine of Siena

The Eclipse of Temptation

“When tempted, no one should say ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers.”
– James 1:13-16

I’m sure I never realized as clearly as I do <in prison> what the Bible and Luther mean by “temptation.”  Quite suddenly, and for no apparent physical or psychological reason, the peace and composure that were supporting one are jarred… It feels like an invasion from outside, as if by evil powers trying to rob one of what is most vital.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

As Bonhoeffer sat in prison, he felt the depth and intensity of sin and temptation more than ever before. Similarly, it was in the wilderness that Christ was approached by the devil. As the distractions of the world are pulled away like a curtain, it reveals a window to the pain and brokenness of the human life. The desert fathers and countless monastics recognized this truth, the nature of the broken world is to draw us into love of many things that cloud how truly alienated we are from God in our sin. We see clearly in James that the desire springs up in my heart and is given space in my actions. Isolation accentuates the loneliness of sin. The season of Lent leads us to this desert land, in which we must grapple with our own sins and decisions.

The isolation of Christ, of Bonhoeffer, and of so many others leads us to a matching truth, however. Humans are meant for fellowship. Whereas we are given a clear vision of our own brokenness in our isolation, we begin to receive a vision of shalom and fulfillment in Christian fellowship. Lent was not just a season of naming temptations, but a season of forgiveness and repentance in preparing for ecclesia. New believers were prepared for baptism and separated brethren were restored from their egregious sins. Lent reminds us that our guilt and sin is not the end of the story, it is a reminder of how much more is offered in forgiveness and reconciliation with God and others.

While Bonhoeffer was brought to the depth of his own sins in prison, he was simultaneously brought to a deep recognition of what life together looks like:
“In a word, live together in the forgiveness of your sins, for without it no human fellowship, least of all a marriage, can survive. Don’t insist on your rights, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t find fault with each other, but accept each other as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts…”

Our sin is real, but the reality given by forgiveness and reconciliation eclipses that dark night of isolation and sin.
~Ben Gibson