Jesus Prays For Me
Prayer is powerful When I was a child we had catechism class at 8 AM on Saturday mornings. And let’s just say, that at that time of the day, I wasn’t always at my best. So there weren’t too many thought-provoking questions I asked our pastor. But others did. I remember a fellow student ask this question once, “If God knows everything we are going to say and has it all planned out, then why should we pray?” And I thought to myself, “oooh, good question.” The pastor said that it was true that God knows every word you are going to say even before you open your mouth to say it. But he promises that he will hear your words. He promises that he will listen. He promises that he will answer your prayer according to his good and kind will. He told us that it ends up being a mystery. On the one hand, God has all events all planned out. On the other hand, in prayer, out of kindness to us, God bends his own will to meet our own. On that day, maybe for the first time, we began to see how powerful prayer actually is. This evening we see how powerful prayer is too. Only in these words the emphasis is not as much our prayers. The emphasis is Jesus’ prayers. In Luke 22, we read: “39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”” (Luke 22:39–42 NIV11-GKE)
These words take place on Holy Thursday night. They have had a large feast. They have had wine. It’s really late at night. And they have already had a long day. The only item on Jesus’ disciples is to get some sleep. But Jesus give them this invitation: “Pray that you will not fall into temptation” (Luke 22:40 NIV11-GKE) Then, in what follows we see a very clear and specific way that they and we too today can fall into temptation. Jesus offers up a prayer. He has a two part prayer. First, he says, “take this cup away from me.” Often in the bible, the phrase “drinking a cup,” simply means “to finish what you start.” Jesus knows that in a short amount of time he will be betrayed. And when that begins he needs to faithfully follow that path all the way to the end—all the way to crucifixion on Calvary. But isn’t what he asks for strange? He’s been telling his disciples that that is what he came here for, to suffer and die for them. It almost seems as if it’s a sinful prayer, against his Father’s plan and Jesus’ own purpose. But that is precisely why this prayer is so amazing. He prays and pours out his thoughts to his Father even though they are messy. Here Jesus is being tempted in every way as we are. But where we sin, Jesus did not. And that is shown by the words in the second part of this prayer. He says, “yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42 NIV11-GKE). Jesus put his Father’s will and work above his own.
And this is where we pause and compare Jesus’ prayers with our own. How often could we say of our prayers that instead of saying, “thy will be done, “ we say, “My will, not thy will be done?” For example, when the Lord chooses to bring suffering into our lives in all its various forms. We pray that God would take it away, and he doesn’t. We get frustrated and angry and say, even if it’s in our own heart and never reaches our lips, “My will, not thy will.” Or we could say the same when it comes to silence. We pray and it seems like nobody up there is listening. If only God would do what we want, right?
That’s where the prayer that Jesus offers up tonight is so powerful and precious. For Jesus’ prayers cover up all those prayers I prayed when I said or meant “my will, not thy will be done.” But these words continue: “45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” 47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”” (Luke 22:45–48 NIV11-GKE)
Notice how these words continue. Again Jesus begins with an invitation. Jesus invites his disciples to not fall into temptation. In the first part the temptation was to fall into the temptation of not letting God’s will be his will. Here the temptation is to not pray at all. And isn’t this such a temptation for us? Think in your life of all the opportunities you had to pray but didn’t. You were too busy. You had other priorities. You forgot. You thought you could do with your own hands only what God could do with his own will. I had a professor once who invited us to go to our church council and say, “I want 10 hours a week off to do nothing but pray so that our church would grow.” And when the church council says, “You need to get out there, do more visits, fill out more reports and attend more meetings,” then remind them of the book of Acts, where the apostles appointed deacons so that the disciples could devote themselves to prayer. That is our great sin sometimes, isn’t it? Sometimes we don’t pray because we overlook and forget it. Other times we don’t pray because we conclude that it might not really work.
And that’s why what Jesus does here is so important. Jesus prays for me not just when I do pray. Jesus also prays for me for all those times when I don’t pray. For all those times when I concluded that prayer was something I could forget or something that didn’t actually do a whole lot—those sins are forgiven by Christ and covered up by his own prayer.
The last detail to add here is to mention here at the end of the sermon the promise that the Holy Spirit gives to us in prayer. Jesus prays for us. And that means that all our sins of either mis-praying or not praying at all are forgiven. But the Holy Spirit doesn’t just deliver that forgiveness to us through his word. No, he also teaches us to pray properly. He teaches us to continually pray that his will would be done. He teaches us to take advantage of prayer, trusting that it is powerful. And so, my dear friends in Christ, Jesus prays for us. Jesus prays for us when we do pray. And Jesus prays for us when we do not pray. Amen.