getting ready: prayer
Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Matthew 26:38-44 | ESV
In his final hours, of all the things he could have been passionate about, of all the activities he could personally pursue and urge us to embrace, Jesus focused in on prayer.
“Watch and pray so that you don’t enter into temptation!”
He was slightly emphatic about the whole thing.
Clearly they didn’t get it.
All too often we miss it too.
Prayer as an empowering spiritual dynamic can seem ever so elusive to us. We know prayer as a ritualized formality. We know it as the “911” emergency level when we’re in a tight spot needing immediate assistance or answers. We also know it as something we feel incredibly inept at and guilty over our lack of it. I suspect most of us can use a healthy dose of how Dallas Willard describes prayer in the introduction to his revised edition of his book Hearing God:
Hearing God’s directions is only one dimension of a rich and interactive relationship. Obtaining guidance is but one facet of hearing God. Ultimately, we are to move beyond the question of hearing God and into a life greater than our own – that of the kingdom of God. Our concern for discerning God’s voice must be overwhelmed by and lost in our worship and adoration of him and in our delight with his creation and his provision for our whole life. Our aim in such a life is to identify all that we are and all that we do with God’s purposes in creating us and our world…Learning the two-way communication between us and God will develop as a natural part of such a life. It is very important to remember and to always keep before your mind this fact: You are an unceasing spiritual being, created for an intimate and transforming friendship with the creative Community that is the Trinity.
We need just such prayer.
Out of it flowed Jesus’ anguished cries in the garden that summoned angels to his side as he was pressed beyond measure. It was ground saturated not only with his tears, sweat, and blood, but with his intimate relationship with the Father. It was thoroughly Abba ground.
Whatever Holy Week we may be facing – a week of holy beauty or holy horror or whatever mixture of the two – the threefold cord of solitude, silence and prayer will serve us well to be ready for what it will bring and what he will do through it, and through us.
What does prayer look like for you? What do you most struggle with in prayer? What significant moments can you see out for focused prayer to your Abba? What might this look like for you?
Lord, teach me to pray as you prayed. Free me from false and harmful conceptions of prayer that keep me from experiencing the rich dialogue with you that prayer is intended to be. Show me how to practice your presence this week. Through Christ.