The Invitation - Day 33

Matthew 26:36-44

”Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed.

He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.”

When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again.“

For our second day of reflection on this text, albeit from a different gospel, we will reflect on prayer and unanswered prayer.

Three times, Jesus prayed for God to take this cup from him.  The cup, of course, was what was about to happen.  Jesus was about to be betrayed, humiliated, tortured, and spit on by the very ones he came to save.  He would look into the faces of those nailing him to the cross and ask the Father to forgive them.  He would suffocate slowly, over hours, while his arms, legs, and lungs felt like they were on fire as they were all exposed to the harsh elements of wood, air, vinegar, and more.

He knew he came to the earth for this very moment, but if there were any way to avoid it, he’d love not to have to go through with it.

And the above was all the things he was going to experience physically.  Think of what he was going to go through spiritually.  For the first time since forever, the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit would be severed.  How could Jesus endure such a thing?

So Jesus cried out three times for the cup to be taken, but we know what happened.  That prayer wasn’t answered.

If we’re praying for people, we’ve all had unanswered prayers and left with hurt, questions, and maybe even scars.  And some of us leave faith altogether when this happens because it seems either God doesn’t care or He’s not there.

I’ve told this story before, but it’s such a good reminder regarding prayer.  On day one in this series, Jesus taught us a parable to teach us to pray and never give up (Luke 18:1).  He doesn’t say that’s easy.

My in-laws prayed for six years for a child.  They tried all the natural methods, and when those didn’t work, they tried a couple of alternatives, but they didn’t have the money to spend the big bucks it would take to do that well.  They also didn’t have the funds for adoption, but they did check into it.

The seventh year of their journey was the toughest, spiritually.  They were angry with God and each other, and it was ever-so-difficult to keep going spiritually.  But they tried.

At the end of that seventh year, to make a long story short, news came about a potential baby, but the price tag was still too much.  Then they talked to a friend who asked what they needed to make it happen.  My in-laws didn’t tell them a number; they just said it’s too expensive.  Their friend said that one year ago, God impressed them to put money away for them in case an opportunity arose.  They then handed my in-laws a check for the exact amount of money needed, and within a month, they were in a hospital room, holding their baby just moments after it was born.

So here’s what I’ve learned about unanswered prayers: I don’t know why some get answered and some don’t, why God seems active for some and quiet for others.  But I have chosen to believe that God knows best, that He is always up to something for our good, and my job is to trust in Him.  And when I struggle to do that, I need my faith community to help hold me up.

Jesus never said following Him would be easy; He just said it’s what we were made for and that He’d be with us every step.  This, I believe.

Questions to consider:

  1. Are there unanswered prayers that are still tough to think about?
  2. Do you believe God wants what’s best for us no matter what prayers get answered?  Why or why not?
  3. What do you think the purpose of prayer is?
  4. PRAYING TOGETHER - Read together Proverbs 3:5-6, then pray that prayer over each other, that you can learn to trust in God more and more whether He answers your prayers or seems to go silent; help us count that He is always there, always listening, always loves.

By Pastor Paddy McCoy

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