Thursday, February 15, 2018

Praying in Pain and Anguish

  You're in our thoughts and prayers."  This is our standard response to the pain and sorrow we see in the lives of those around us.  School shootings, teen suicides, accidents, and dire diagnoses - "you're in our thoughts and prayers."  But do we really know HOW to pray in times of pain and anguish?

   Perhaps we've been told that we must accept whatever comes into our lives - "it's a part of God's plan" we're told, so no arguing.  Meek acquiescence is the expected reaction.  But doesn't this make our Lord out to be a rather dictatorial sovereign and not a Father?  

   Others say, "name it and claim it!" like it's some kind of magic formula!  But doesn't this reduce the Most High God into a weak parent Who is always caving in to their petulant child?

  Like so many lessons in life it is wise to look at the behavior and listen to the words of Jesus.  On the night He was betrayed Jesus went out to Gethsemane - a garden on the Mount of Olives.  Knowing the totality of the pain that was coming to Him, He knelt and prayed to His Father in heaven.  He prayed with urgency and strong pleading.  He prayed with trust and obedience.

   St. Mark tells us Jesus prayed: "Remove this cup from Me." (Mark 14:36 ESV)  Our English translations, while good, do not carry the weight of the original Greek.  In writing his Gospel, Mark made it clear that Jesus was emphatic that His Father remove the cup - in other words, "NO PAIN!"  This was no suggestion or gentle plea, but the heartfelt cry of a Man Whose sweat turned to blood in His anguish.  

   But just as soon as He made such a bold statement, Jesus prayed "yet not what I will, but what You will."  Here in the Son of God and the Son of Man we see the delicate balance of prayer.  There is a boldness born from our relationship to our God as His beloved children, and there is trust and obedience that grow out of our faith in our Father's goodness and love.  We are encouraged to cry out to the Lord from the deepest parts of our pain and sorrow.  Our Father wants us to hold nothing back!  We are encouraged to ultimately trust in a Father Who loves us with an everlasting love.  Our Father has given us a living hope of an inheritance that does not fade away.

  Left to ourselves we could never pray in this manner.  But the One Who is teaching us how to pray is the One Who endured that pain so He could bear our sin.  It was humanity's rebellion against our Creator that opened the door for sorrow to enter creation.  Jesus walked down a road that led to His death on the cross that that door might be ultimately be slammed shut when He returns again.  In the meantime, we hold on to the hope that is ours because Jesus rose from the dead, never to die again.  So child of God, pray boldly and pray trustingly, for your Heavenly Father is listening . . .

Go to dark Gethsemane,
All who feel the tempter’s pow’r;
Your Redeemer’s conflict see,
Watch with Him one bitter hour;
Turn not from His griefs away;
Learn from Jesus Christ to pray.
John Montgomery
Public Domain