Words of Faith 1-28-19
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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 He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,  "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."  An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.  And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.  "Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."
In Florida, we have certain season defined by boards, shutters, and sandbags. We pray for a quiet season each year, and we thank God in advance for it! The last couple of hurricane seasons have been plenty! When a storm is imminent, we respond by boarding up and shoring up. They call it "hunkering down." But how do we hunker down for an impending spiritual hurricane?
Jesus withdrew. There are many ways to pray, but none replaces the need to be alone with God. Prayer groups are good, but they are no substitute for personal, private, earnest prayer. Jesus was facing the most significant storm of his life, and He had a choice. He could have a prayer group or be alone with God. Jesus chose to be alone with God. He asked the disciples to be in prayer, but He personally chose to be alone.
Prayer groups are powerful, but in our human frailty, we can fall into temptation when we gather in groups for prayer. We can fall into gossip or chit-chat. We can become more socially inclined than spiritually inclined. We can become more concerned with our words or how we impress others than we are with hearing God. Solitary prayer is more about listening than talking. Jesus was there a long time and said only a few words.
Jesus knelt. He humbled Himself before His Father. If Jesus needed to take a posture of humility before God His Father, then do you suppose that I do as well? This physical position reminds us of a spiritual reality. Some of us don't kneel very well because of physical conditions. But when we hunker down, we certainly need to be in a spiritual posture of absolute humility before God. The position of the body is not nearly as important as the condition of the heart. We must do whatever it takes to be bowed before God.
Jesus prayed honestly from His heart. Jesus was facing the most challenging storm of his earthly life. Not only would He face beating, torture, humiliation, rejection, betrayal, and death. Jesus also would actually carry the sin of the whole world. He would sense the separation that is the punishment of sin. So, in His human response, He needed to pray, "Father, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless not my will but thy will be done." In complete surrender, Jesus prayed His heart.
I had someone ask me recently: Is it okay to pray for a hurricane to miss us? I said: It is always okay to pray anything from your heart. The marvelous thing about the Psalms is that they are prayers from the heart. There are joyous songs of praise and anguished prayers of lament. There are even vindictive prayers, praying for revenge upon enemies. People ask: Is this a proper prayer when I am very angry? I say any prayer that expresses your heart is appropriate. That does not mean it will be answered the way you want. But it is proper.
People sometimes say: "I am too angry to talk to God" or "I am too hurt to pray." Then Satan is getting his way in your life. Remember, his goal is to get you not to pray and get you separated from God. I say: Go somewhere and scream at God if you have to. You will not be the first or last. Go to the beach (if you live near a beach) and scream at the waves. Go to a canyon and shout at the canyon, if necessary. These are laments, and they are entirely proper in an honest relationship with God.
One marvelous thing about all of this is that because of the suffering of Christ, we know that God understands. "We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are yet was without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). He experienced it all.
The Gospel of Mark tells us that in the Garden Jesus said to the disciples "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" (Mark 14:34). Jesus understands even the overwhelming feeling that sometimes causes one to prefer death. Jesus understands what it means to have emotions that would block us from prayer. And Jesus still taught us, in such times, to pray.
God's response was marvelous. An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. When we pray, we open ourselves to the ministry of Angels. Angels will battle in our behalf. Angels will minister to us the strength that we need. Angels will care for us. When we bring our agony to the Lord, the Lord is not unresponsive. The Lord will minister to our spirit. The Lord will strengthen us. And we are hunkered down.
Jesus did all this with great perseverance. Being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. There is a condition in which small blood vessels cause blood to appear in sweat. This may also refer to sweat that was "like blood" falling to the ground in heavy thick drops. This is for us to understand the perseverance of Jesus.
When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. "Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation." This whole scene reveals to us the lack of preparedness among the disciples. They were asleep.
Sadly, this may well describe the Body of Christ at times. The Body of Christ falls into temptation because of our lack of prayer. Jesus calls us to get up and pray that we will not fall into temptation or testing. There is probably a great deal of testing and temptation that can be easily avoided if we are hunkered down. The lessons of recent years have shown that a population that is unprepared for a hurricane is at enormous risk. It is the same in the life of the spirit.
So how is your prayer life? Has it been a while since you had a talk with God? Perhaps you have seen one of the billboards around the county that merely says: "We need to Talk" -- God.
If a Spiritual Hurricane blew into your life how are you set? Is there water on the shelf? Do you have a means of communication? Are you tuned to the correct station? Do you have charged batteries for light and connection? Do you know where the shelter is?
Read Psalm 91, and you will find the nearest shelter. Are you finding time alone with God as well as corporate times of prayer? Are you bowed before the Almighty God? Are you seeing the ministry of the Holy Spirit and of Angels? Are you building perseverance in your prayer life?
How do you hunker down? Commit to being a little more prepared today than you were yesterday. Every person can pray a bit more. You do not run a marathon in one day. Just grab five minutes. Find the place of solitude. Or prayer walk for fifteen minutes. Come in more humility before God. Come with more honesty before God.
Lord, teach me the life of prayer that is a joy and delight. Cause me to long for a time shared with you alone. Teach me how to prepare for the storms and to hunker down for the big one. In Jesus' name.