The gospels of Matthew and Mark identify the place where Jesus prayed shortly before his betrayal by Judas and then later his trial and crucifixion as Gethsemane. Jesus was accompanied by three of his followers, Peter, John and James, whom he asked to stay awake and pray. During his agony as he prayed, “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44).
As much of the world will celebrate or at least recognize Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter a common ritual will take place at all the events – prayer. Every Holy Week service will have at least one if not several prayers. The same will be true with all worship, Christian events on Good Friday and Easter. Prayer is always commonly associated with worship, church events, potluck dinners and almost any activity associated with Christianity.
Prayer has been a point of focus for millions of Americans. We’ve even battled over whether we should pray at school, ballgames and political gatherings. Unfortunately many Americans may not be praying at home which is where everyone has the complete freedom to do so without harassment or consternation from anyone else.
Jesus knew he was facing more pain than any human being could withstand. What he would experience during his trial and crucifixion was evil and barbaric. Emotionally, spiritually and physically he tried to prepare himself for something that he or no one could really prepare for yet he realized how vital it was to pray with intensity never quite like anyone before. The scriptures say he prayed, “His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.”
Many of us have prayed fervently. Many years ago I held my dead stillborn son for over two hours and wept without ceasing. I prayed as I wept that I would wake from this nightmare. I prayed that our little boy would awaken and cry as other newborn babies do but while I prayed with everything in me that little baby would not come to life and would later be buried in a grave where I still visit today. There have been many other times I have prayed in agony. I prayed for the healing of my wife of 27 years who died from a long illness of multiple sclerosis. I have prayed for other people and in other scenarios. The prayers did not stop death from coming to my wife nor has prayer necessarily changed a lot of other stuff that I prayed for or about along the way.
When Jesus prayed it did not alleviate the cruelty of the cross or make his treatment from evil people any easier or better. His treatment could not have been any worse. Why did Jesus even bother to pray? Why do you even bother to pray?
Prayer is a spiritual event of the heart and mind. Prayer often prepares you mentally and enables you to deal with what is going on. Prayer is about something that is beyond us. Prayer is about the unseen. It’s about the spiritual and is all about bringing God into the scenario.
Jesus did not in any way fail in his prayer life. The intensity of his prayer was truly answered as Jesus accomplished what he set out to do and that was to take the sins of the world on him as he suffered, bled and died on a rugged cross. The ultimate victory is seen in that God empowered him to come back to life conquering the grave, death and sin for all of mankind. Nothing was more beautiful to the followers of Jesus than seeing a risen, living Jesus. Thomas a follower exclaimed in marvel upon seeing the risen Jesus and the nail prints in his hands, “My Lord and my God.”
We need prayer in America. We need it bad. Our federal and state governments are in bad shape financially. Mismanagement, selfishness and chaos abound all around. Our schools need prayer. Our young adults in America are more lost than ever before. Families are suffering and torn apart. Homelessness continues to grow. We have become a nation that believes our only hope is to legalize more drugs, build more casinos, enact more taxes yet all the while we need more mental health workers than ever. We cannot hire enough security guards and arm them fast enough for our schools and other public places because our country is becoming scarier than what our soldiers are facing in Iraq and Afghanistan. All the while little unborn babies are not safe in America and the aged in America continue to increasingly work out the rest of their lives in order to survive.
Are we a happy people in America? Happiness comes and goes based on the events of the day it seems but overall there is a sense of emptiness and struggle in many Americans.
While you are buying Easter candy this week take time to pray. Prayer doesn’t always bring about what you specifically pray for. Sometimes it does and many times it does not. Just remember in his hour of greatest struggle that’s what Jesus did – he prayed. More than ever we need to pray for others, our country and ourselves.
Dr. Glenn Mollette is the author of 12 books. His syndicated column is read in all 50 states.