Sunday, November 27, 2011

THE LORD’s (most difficult) PRAYER

                            (is not what you think)

In the Garden. The last night. Armed guards approaching. Judas’ voice. Jesus has prayed with bloody sweat wetting the soil near his knees, “Never the less, not my will but Your will be done.”

With monumental effort, Jesus has placed himself, his safety, his rights, his comfort, his will behind that of His Father. Though it would gain him everything, it would cost him all. The reward would outweigh the price, yet, certainly, we might all agree, this would be the most difficult prayer anyone could offer—with one exception.

To fall into the hands of a good and gracious Father is far less horrifying than to fall into the hands of a wicked man, don’t you agree? Give me a lenient Judge any day over a legalistic hard nose with a vengeful attitude. Jesus prayed in Gethsemane to a good and loving God. At the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus entrusts himself to One who would watch over him—even though men would do all the harm they could. Often over looked, or missed all together, was a more difficult prayer Jesus faced at the onset of his career.

“Father,” He began. Ahh. The trusted, loving, caregiver of our lives. To begin here is to begin safely. It was like calling to your Dad, when he isn’t busy, or resting, or upset, but when he is actually already looking forward to some time with you.

“What can I do for you? How can we get things around here like you want them?” What Dad or Mom wouldn’t brighten up if the kids all came running to help with the dishes, the lawn care, or take out the trash? Any parent would break into wide smiles (if not shock in disbelief)? How could even a cool hearted, ill tempered Pop help but warm inside a little at such an sincere offer of humble availability from his child?

“Just give me what I need to get the work done.” No requests for extra. Nothing personal. No excess. No interest in hoarding. Jesus simply wants what it takes to please His Father. How could a good Father refuse? What good Father would stop with the bare essentials? Jesus knew his Dad’s heart was generous. There was not need to request excess. He only needed to know what was desired and then what was required to get it done.

So far, not too tough a prayer, but the hard part comes next: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

That is a sobering prayer you may agree, but it doesn’t seem half as difficult as the Gethsemane prayer. Think again. Reword it so that the original meaning is clearer, stronger. The prayer becomes, “Do to me as I do to others.” Wow. Think this through. Do you want really God to treat you the way you treat your wife, your kids, your enemies, your hired helpers, etc.? I don’t! No way.

Jesus had taught this same principle before: “With the measure you use it will be measured to you;” “If you do not forgive your brother from your heart, your Father in heaven will not forgive you your sins.”

A sobering teaching indeed. A prayer I can’t pray easily and without some soul searching.

The greatest two commandments are here. First, love God-- “Hallowed be your name. Your will be done.”—understanding that those who honor Him, He will lift up. But understanding the second command, “ to love neighbor as self” is actually a statement. The declaration that as we treat others so we will be treated takes our breath. Who can pray such a prayer, and not flinch? I’d venture a guess--only the Son (and sons) of God.

Keeping this in mind, let’s all do a better job of loving our neighbors, our friends, even our enemies.

All material copyrighted by Stephen Meeks