Rev. Dr. Selvam Robertson
Luke 22: 39-46
As we have come together with one accord to share with each other and to learn from each other about prayer, I deemed it appropriate to meditate upon the theme, prayer. I have located the expression “Jesus prayed”, for this holy purpose. The prayer of Jesus (as in the text) fascinated me and strengthened me all through my life. I am convinced that this will be an encouragement and strength to all of us who have embarked on this noble dialogue.
Jesus, after his last supper with his disciples and just before his betrayal and arrest went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. There, he took peter, James and John little farther into the garden before he himself began to pray alone. Because of the imminent death on the cross, Jesus began to be greatly distressed, sorrowful and troubled and said to them, my soul is very sorrowful, even to death, remain here and pray with me. Jesus then fell on the ground face-down and prayed, not once, but thrice for its removal or strength to fulfill the eternal will of God.
I Pray that you may not enter into temptation
Jesus, while praying, asked his disciples to pray so that they will not enter into temptation. But, during the prayer Jesus found that his disciples could not awake and pray for a while. He asked, ‘could you not watch with me one hour?’ Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. He also said, the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
The temptations may be their questions about the humiliating and helpless death of Jesus their master on the cross, and questions about the sustainability of their discipleship. Psychologically and spiritually they are ready to continue with. But in the real realm of life (flesh) in the society there may be challenges. All their questions were answered and challenges overcome only on the eve of resurrection. A new vigor came to them and enthusiastically witnessed to their original commitment.
We have embarked on a noble cause in accordance with conviction of our mind and our spiritual commitment. We will do all that is humanly possible to continue. The temptations of non-acceptance, dissatisfaction, disappointment and obstacles are prone to come on our way. The possible way before us is constant surrender of ourselves and our commitment to God and continuous prayer for God’s wisdom and guidance.
II Not my will but your will
Jesus prayed, if it be possible, let this cup (cross) pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as you will. Further, ‘abba father all things are possible for you. If this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done. Jesus prayed not once, but thrice as he was subjecting himself to the will of God to be crucified on the cross.
We may often be hard-pressed, in the context of many challenges and sincerity of our commitment for dialogue. We might be tempted to know, whether God really intends this. God is gracious, merciful and omniscience. Hence our prayer has to be to fulfill God’s plan and purpose in and through our lives and programs. We are not to seek for our prestige, comfort, self and ego but to seek the eternal plan of God.
III Angel strengthened Jesus
As Jesus was overwhelmed with the immanent pain of death on the cross, he prayed and even seemingly suggested that this pain and death may be removed. But, Jesus in all his prayers did not fail even once in his willingness and preparedness to absolutely surrender to the will of God.
When being distressed, sorrowful, falling on the ground face-down, ‘there appeared to Jesus an angel from heaven strengthening him’. God knows our limitations, strength, distress, sorrow, etc. Thus when we surrender ourselves and our plans to God he will strengthen us for the cause to which we are committed. It is not easy but if we have to go through and if it is God’s plan he will strengthen. As we intensely serve God pain and anguish of different forms are part and parcel of our dialogical journey. Without becoming weak and vulnerable there is no strengthening from God.
IV Jesus prayed more earnestly
Jesus, after being strengthened by Angel, ‘prayed more earnestly and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground’. In our agony, as in the case of Jesus, God will grant his strength. It is not to rescue us from the plan of God but to continue more earnestly. Not to give up because of the tedious, shameful and painful process, but commit more and more sincerely to become true instruments of God, for promoting justice, peace and harmony.
Jesus, the incarnate son of God asked his disciples to pray and he himself prayed when overpowered with agony. We need to pray for ourselves and all those who are behind and with this endeavor so that we will not be overtaken by obvious challenges. In our toil and journeying together let us seek God’s will and not our own. Let us be confident that when we are enveloped by fear and pain, God will strengthen us. God’s providential strength is for us not to look for smooth passages but to resolutely carry on our commitments. When Dr. S. J. Samartha an Indian Christian theologian was diagnosed bone cancer, at the twilight of his life, he did not pray for the healing of it rather prayed to God for strength to endeavor the excruciating pain. May God graciously strengthen us to be fruitful and be different when justice, peace and harmony are threatened.
Religion and Dialogue