So a few weeks ago, I set aside some time to fast and pray with a friend about a situation I was quite emotional about. Now, I’m quite a logical person and if you’re like me, you will understand how much of a blessing and a burden this is because it means you are incredibly organised, but also incredibly complex. This is an even greater problem when you’re trying to hear the voice of the Lord about something you’re either emotionally involved in, or have thought through every option about.
Anyway, back to my story, at the end of the first day, I realised that I actually couldn’t pray about this topic anymore because I had thought through every possibility that I couldn’t hear anything but my thoughts; I couldn’t decipher the voice of God anymore. I shared this with my friend and they mentioned that although they understood where I was coming from, when Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, He didn’t have that problem, and to be honest, they didn’t even expand much so I’m not sure in what context they meant it that statement. It also didn’t resonate much with me when they said it, but about a week later I started to ponder on how Jesus was still able to pray and decipher the voice of God even in such an emotionally charged situation!?
Jesus Prays in Gethsemane – Matthew 26:36
36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch[a] with me.” 39 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.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.
I mean, it doesn’t get any more emotionally charged than this. Jesus knew he was about to be crucified, and his prayer was basically, “Lord, this is extremely hard! Do I have to do this?”. A few lessons jumped out at me though, so I’d like to share them with you
- Withdraw and pray – It’s so much easier to pray when you’re alone with God. Even the bible talks closing your door and praying in secret (Matthew 6:6). Follow Jesus’ example and find a quite place to hear his voice. I find that I have to go for walks in nature or stay up late at night to have focus to pray. The shower really helps too haha.
- Get a prayer team – Even though the disciples didn’t do too well in supporting Jesus in prayer, I believe the bible is teaching us an important principle; when it is most difficult to hear the voice of God, find people to support you in prayer. This is especially important when like I was, you’re spiritually tired, or too emotionally or logically involved in a situation (Matthew 18:19-20; proverbs 11:14)
- Be honest with God – I love how the bible describes this story. Jesus was sorrowful and troubled. He was sorrowful even to death. His flesh was weak. His emotions were all too real, and he took them to God in prayer. Coming to God with a facade and macho demeanour just means we don’t actually need his help. Psalms 51:17 (ESV) says “…a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV) says “28 Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I have learnt that in the times you are most broken and honest with God, he is the most comforting to you. Don’t front; tell him how it is. Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
- Talk to your friends – Coming from a person who used to bottle things up, the best thing you can do, especially if you are a deep thinker/processor is to talk. Jesus didn’t hide where he was or how he felt from his nearest and dearest. In fact, he was so explicit, “Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch[a] with me.” He also did not isolate himself. “remain here and watch with me.” The worst thing you can do is isolate yourself and be alone with your thoughts. Let others support you in prayer and companionship. It really helps!
- Pray BEFORE you get too emotionally involved – If you carefully read Jesus’ prayer, it carries an air of “I know what you want me to do, I just need the strength to do it.” Each time he prayed, he told God how he felt, but he also added “…nevertheless, let your will be done.” Jesus didn’t wait until the last-minute to know the will of God regarding the situation, he had settled it before and now was praying for the grace to follow through. How amazing it would be if we could adopt this approach! We have been taught to praise in advance, but we need to also start PRAYING in advance. We all have 2, 5, or 10 year plans so why don’t we ask God for guidance on issues before we get there when we are not burdened with our emotions and thoughts? If we did that, when the rubber hits the road, we only then need the grace of God to carry us through.
- Never stop praying – In this short passage, we see Jesus praying three times about the same thing. We need to persevere in prayer, especially to break through the mental or emotional barriers to hear the voice of the Lord. 1 Chronicles 16:11 says Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says “pray without ceasing”. It will be difficult in the beginning, but the more you pray, your mind has no choice but to align to scripture and bow to the power of the will of God
I hope this helps you guys
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