How Do You Pray?
What characterizes your prayers particularly during a time of great temptation or trial?
After eating the Passover with His disciples and discoursing with them, Luke 22:39 states that Jesus left the upper room and went to the Mount of Olives. Luke is careful to include the little but powerful phrase, “as was His custom.” The Holy Spirit uses this word, “custom” some twelve (12) times in the New Testament. It carries the meaning of customer, manner, rite, or we would say habit.
This passage, verses 39-46, is pregnant with rich meaning and application. I will save some of its riches for later posts. Today, I am captivated by the example of Jesus as He prays to His Father prior to the most significant event in His earthly life; namely His impending death. As I examined His example I had to examine my own prayer “life.”
I discovered four (4) characteristics in Jesus’ example of prayer during this crucial moment. Without much distracting comment on these characteristics I wish to share them with you in the hopes that you will measure your custom of prayer against them. I discovered my prayer time was found to be wanting in the balance because I did not…
1) Pray regularly – Luke recorded, “as was His custom.”
Jesus made a habit of praying. It was part of His lifestyle. If I were honest, much of my prayer is “reactive” rather than “proactive.” I seem to be praying “catch-up.” Jesus made a habit of prayer.
2) Pray earnestly – Luke recorded, “…He prayed more earnestly.”
The more agony that Jesus experienced the more He intensely prayed. Guard against your prayers becoming routine, perfunctory, or wimpy. This sometimes happens on its own, the more desparte we think we are or have become, the more fervently we tend to pray. However, do you find that you are pray "earnestly" for deliverance or comfort rather than for the will of the Lord to be done?
3) Pray defensively – Luke recorded, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Someone once said, “The trouble with fleeing temptation is that most of us leave a forwarding address.” We always want our pet temptations and sins to find us.
Notice two things: the first is that Jesus did not say pray that temptations would not come. They will come. As a matter of fact, James, His half brother makes it clear that temptation comes from inside of us as the residue of sin lures and entices us by our own desires. (James 1:14-15) Our internal desires lure and entice us to sin and when we give into them, desire gives birth to sin.
The second thing to notice, is that Jesus gave this as a command to the disciples not just once, but how many times? Twice! Jesus must have thought that this was important.
As part of our prayer time, we must pray for wisdom, discernment, and strength to resist temptation when it rears its ugly head from time to time when our internal desires attempt to entice and lure us into succumbing to sin. The devil did not make you do it! That is a foolish lie. Your mother didn’t make you do it, your spouse did not make you do it, nor did your siblings make you do it – you & I give into the enticement and luring of our own desires and succumb to temptation. Why is that?
Well, I think for at least two reasons. The first is that we didn’t pray defensively. In other words we didn’t pray for the wisdom to see temptation raise its ugly head, we failed to pray for discernment about resisting temptation, and we did pray defensively for the strength to withstand it. The second thing is that we love sin!
We hate the consequences of sin. We hate the way it make us feel, guilty. We hate the possibility of being chastised for our sin. We hate that we failed. We hate the fact that we failed those whom we love including God.
So, we are to pray defensively. We need to ask God regularly and earnestly to help us withstand and resist temptation when it comes. You are well aware that it will come!
4) Pray sacrificially – Luke recorded, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
How we want our own way. How often do we think we know better than God? More tragically, how many times do we want what we want rather than accept joyfully what God had designed for us? It is hard to be a disciple! It is hard to die to self and all that I want in order to have Christ. It is hard to become last in order to be first, to die in order to live, and to serve in order to be exalted. I must pray sacrificially – Father, this is what I ask of you, yet nevertheless, thy will be done and not my own will.
Well there you have it from Luke 22. Luke recorded four (4) characteristics of Jesus prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. He prayed regularly, earnestly, defensively, and sacrificially.
Please excuse me, I hear the Mount of Olives calling me to prayer.