41 He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. (Luke 22:41-43 NLT)
I believe there are few absolute truths in our lives; Jesus is God, we are born, we will die, and in between we will have difficult times. What then differentiates us from the world is the way that we should respond to challenges.
We are often aware of what the “Christian” response to a situation should be (patience, long suffering, forgiveness etc), but having the boldness to respond accurately doesn’t always happen; we feel like we just don’t have the strength. In fact, in the times that I feel strongly that I should do something, it is hardest to actually do that thing.
Take for example you have served someone consistently for a number of years. They were homeless and you clothed them; they were hungry, and you fed them; they were naked and you clothed them. If that person turned around and stole from your family, stole your identity and did credit card fraud, it would be understandable for you to not speak to the person, and be extremely angry for a long period of time, however the urge to forgive and release them from your heart will be undeniably strong. Too far fetched of an example?
- A church member has missed church for a few weeks, and they keep coming to your mind during your personal prayer time. You see them the next Sunday and know you should probably have a word, but every reason why you shouldn’t runs through your mind.
- You see a homeless person sleeping rough in winter, and you’re moved with compassion to buy them a hot drink.
- Or what if you feel led to start a bible study group at your university or a new business?
The thing I love about this passage is that Jesus perfectly answers the question of how; the strength will come when we pray.
Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane about to be momentarily forsaken by his father in heaven while he bears the weight of condemnation of the sins of the entire world on His shoulders. He will bear the full cup of the wrath of God. In verse 42, Jesus clearly expresses how great and difficult the task ahead of him is, and his desire to be relieved of it if in any way possible, but check verse 43. Immediately after he prayed, an angel came from heaven to strengthen him. You see, when we genuinely pray (genuinely meaning expressing our honest feelings, but still asking for the Lord’s strength to do his work regardless), we are submitting our will to the will of the Father. We are putting aside our pride, and saying Lord, if you don’t help me, I cannot do this in my own strength. If and when we do that genuinely we invite the Holy Spirit to empower us in our weakness and he immediately sends us strength from heaven.
The strength will come when we genuinely pray. That should be our response. That should be our default position.
So the next time you feel led to step out in faith and do something, take a moment to pray. Tell God how you genuinely feel and ask him for the grace to do his will. He will send you strength, but make sure you use the strength he gives you to do his will; there’s no point asking if you will only be disobedient.
Until next time…