It has been too terribly long since I have written a recap of a service message. Come to think of it, it has been too terribly long since I have had the opportunity to sit at our church and hear a message. I am very committed to the children's ministry at church and have serving most of the Sundays in the new year. Additionally, we were out of town two other Sundays this year, already!
So here I am, back at it. Today's message really captured my attention. It might be that I was just so hungry for the Word after being gone for so long. I also think that I yearn more now for the teachings than I ever have before. In fact, today I really started thinking about how eager I am to learn and I hope to find a class or a study that will help shepherd me even more.
But I digress. All this year at Lake Norman Fellowship we are studying prayer. The children ministries at our church will also be following the same topics and theme so when I'm not in church, I am still teaching the same message. But today, hearing the message was so powerful for me. We read in Luke, chapter 22 about Jesus praying on the Mount of Olives:
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)
The last two weeks, Doug has been teaching on Jesus' Prayer Life. How did Jesus pray? And what did his prayers sound like? How can we learn from Jesus' prayer life to improve our own?
Identified in Luke 22:39-46 are four truths about Jesus' prayer life:
1. Jesus prayed regularly.
2. Jesus prayed honestly.
3. Jesus prayed submissively.
4. Jesus prayed intensely.
All through the New Testament Jesus is lifting up his voice in prayer to God. He is in constant communication and reaches out to God about everything. Am I that regular with prayer? I have this concept of "Daily Quiet Time" that I strive to maintain. Sometimes in the morning, sometimes later in the afternoon, sometimes at night, and even in the middle of the night. I try to focus some time each day to pray, but all too often it falls to the wayside. What would it mean to be in constant communication with God? Prayer is where the action is. Many times prayer can seem to be a cop-out. "Oh sure I'll pray for you" is an answer we give to get out of actually helping others. But prayer is an action and is help. Praying frequently is so very important. Having an appointment with the Lord and keeping it is the best way to maintain a regular prayer life. Don't just pray when you feel like it.
On the Mount of Olives Jesus was open and honest. He cried out "Take this Cup from Me!" The cup referring to the wrath of God Jesus was to experience on the cross when he took the sins of the world on himself. Jesus was fully man, and I can only imagine him to be very anxious, weary, fearful, and alarmed at what was to come. His sweat became blood drops as he prayed. What a tumultuous time. He died an awful, horrific death so that we could live. And he cried out to the Father. Am I honest when I pray? Do I pray in it or about it? Am I lifting up prayers that sound rhythmic and rehearsed, or do I cry out to the Lord? We don't need to put on our pretty little Christian persona to pray to God. He already knows our hearts. Pray open and honestly!
But even in our honest prayer, like Jesus, we must submit to God. "Not my will but yours be done," Jesus proclaims right after he pleads with God for his life. Not my will but yours be done. No one else is as worthy of our surrender. When we pray "thy will be done" we pray in faith and submission that God is head of all and in control.
Finally, Jesus prays so intensely and passionately that he requires the help of an angel to strengthen him. The passage tells us "And being in anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground." Now that is intense. That is a passionate prayer. My prayers tend to stay light, almost beating around the bush of the tough issues. There is a difference between saying prayers and praying. And that difference is intensity. Intensity doesn't have to mean one thing or another. You can pray intensely even if you're quiet; you can pray intensely if you are being loud. The key is to allow yourself to actually pray, not to say rehearsed words out of duty.
Jesus tells his disciples to pray so that they will not fall into temptation, and that command is for us as well. We do not pray to manipulate God into acting in our will, but to allow ourselves to act in His will. Prayers can be a preparation for testing and temptation we are likely to experience.
My prayer life is always growing and changing. This year is an exciting time for our church as we discover together a stronger and more real prayer life. The best example is of course from Jesus and His prayer life.