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To Pray Or Not To Pray

Recently, someone asked me an interesting question, “If the Bible had already stated what is going to happen, should we pray?”

To pray or not to pray when the Bible had already said so?

The best way to answer this question is by taking a look at the great example of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus already foreknew that He would die on the cross the very next day. This was foreordained by God before the foundation of the world.

Hebrews 9:26
He then would have had to suffer often
since the foundation of the world;
but now, once at the end of the ages,
He has appeared to put away sin
by the sacrifice of Himself.

Then why did Jesus pray? Did He try to change the will or the decision of the Father? Of course not.

Jesus could just simply accept the will of the Father, and not pray.

But why did Jesus pray? Because the will of the Father was to be done through Him. He was the chosen vessel.

Jesus was concerned about His own physical ability whether He was able to carry out the will of the Father, and complete the task ahead.

In Matthew 26:37-41, Jesus began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to the disciples, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Please notice the phrases of Jesus: "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death", “the spirit indeed is willing” and "the flesh is weak".

Jesus was not afraid of dying on the cross, but He was concerned about the limitations of His physical body. What if He failed?

Even though He was God, He condescended and took on the form of a man!  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

Even though Jesus was full of the glory of God, He had all of our human limitations. He was hungry, thirsty, and tired (Matthew 4:2; John 19:28; Matthew 8:20).

In Luke 22:43-44, an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

In accepting His role as the Lamb of God to be sacrificed for the sins of the world, Jesus suffered the great effects of fatigue, stress and strain.

He loved His people, but they wanted to crucify Him. He came in love, but they rejected Him in anger. His heart was broken. He could have suffered a heart failure. His soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.

Jesus was not praying for deliverance from the death of the cross, but He was praying for the will to carry on the task!

The crucifixion process was very strenuous physically, emotionally and spiritually! It was also excruciatingly painful and unbearable. Could He endure all the sufferings, pains, betrayals and mockeries?

Even before His crucifixion, Jesus was physically weakened by the beatings, scourgings and other horrible abuses and mistreatments. His own disciples left Him. One betrayed Him, and another denied Him thrice!

He could foresee that His human strength would physically fail before He could make it all the way to Golgotha. That’s why the solders made Simon a Cyrenian to carry the cross for Jesus for the rest of the journey up the hill (Luke 23:26).

In the garden, Jesus knew the will of the Father, He was willing to do it but He had to pray! He would be presumptuous if He didn't pray! He needed to commune with the Father in this hour of prayer. Just to be closer to the Father, listening to His voice.

He was praying for the physical strength and endurance necessary to make and complete the journey of the cross. He was willing to do the will of the Father with complete obedience and trust!

Jesus could have asked God for divine assistance - a miracle, a sign or a wonder. He had the power to call for more than 12 legions of angels (Matthew 26:53) to deliver Him. But He did not! If He had done so, He would not be able to fulfill the eternal divine purpose that was revealed in the Holy Scriptures (Matthew 26:54).

Through the process of praying, Jesus simply surrendered Himself completely to God, placing His total trust in His Father. He did not violate His role by relying upon divine powers or miracles as a way of escape.

Jesus knew the will of the Father, and He still prayed so that He would be able to fulfill what the Father had willed Him to do.

Some of us are like Peter. When we are told about the will of the Father, we violently object to it.

In Matthew 16:21-23, Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”

But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

Peter minded the things of men, and not the things of God. He even tried to stop the people who came to arrest Jesus in the garden.

In John 18:10-11, Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.

So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”

Peter thought that his sword could stop the people from arresting Jesus. He tried to take the whole matter into his own hands. But Jesus stopped the folly of Peter. Jesus was willing to drink the cup which His Father had given Him.
In John 12:27-28, Jesus predicted His death on the cross:

“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say?
‘Father, save Me from this hour’?
But for this purpose I came to this hour.
Father, glorify Your name.”

Jesus was praying that He would be able to endure this hour because this hour was the very purpose that He came for! He must complete the mission even though it was a mission impossible. He desired to glorify the name of the Father!

Sometimes when we read the Word of God, it is quite difficult for us to reconcile and agree with all that were written therein.

A good example is about the Day of the Lord:

Zechariah 14:1-4
1 Behold, the day of the Lord is coming,
And your spoil will be divided in your midst.
2 For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem;
The city shall be taken,
The houses rifled,
And the women ravished.
Half of the city shall go into captivity,
But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
3 Then the Lord will go forth
And fight against those nations,
As He fights in the day of battle.
4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives,
Which faces Jerusalem on the east.
And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two,
From east to west,
Making a very large valley;
Half of the mountain shall move toward the north
And half of it toward the south.

We desire to see verses 3 and 4 fulfilled but we do not desire to go through the process of verses 1 and 2. We want only the victorious part but no shame and no agony.

Again, no cross, no crown. No death, no resurrection.

We must be willing to go through the valley of the shadow of death. Therein we will fear no evil. For He is with us; His rod and His staff, they comfort us.

We must pray that we are able to endure the whole journey of faith! We must be willing to lay down our lives on the altar of sacrifice. Trust and obey God for there is no other way!

What was the difference between praying and not praying after knowing the will of God?

Assuming Jesus didn’t pray in the garden, would He be able to have the strength to fulfill and do the will of the Father?

Assuming Jesus knew the will of the Father, He didn’t pray but just accept the plain fact that He was going to die. What would be the difference? There was a great difference. A willing vessel and an unwilling vessel!

Many of us don’t pray. Many of us do not care enough to pray. Many of us are unwilling to pray! We mind the things of the world, and not the things of the Father!

Maybe we know a little about the will of God or maybe God will do everything He willed to do even without our praying.

But herein is the big difference of praying. It is moving from knowing the will of God to doing it! Yes, we can become a vessel that God can use!

If Jesus had to pray to do the will of the Father, how much more we need to pray to do the same? Praying let Your kingdom come and Your will be done! And use us in whatever way possible. We are willing to do Your will, O Lord.

God is looking for a man to stand in the gap, and to intercede on behalf of the nations:

Ezekiel 22:30
So I sought for a man among them
who would make a wall,
and stand in the gap before Me
on behalf of the land,
that I should not destroy it;
but I found no one.

There was such a man many years ago - Abraham. He prayed and bargained with God not to destroy Sodom. But in the end, the two wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were completely destroyed.

Did Abraham not stand in the gap? Did God not answer the prayer of Abraham?

Yes, Abraham did stand in the gap, and God did answer Abraham’s prayer but in a different way – a far better way! Beyond all our thoughts and imagination.

God sought for a man and He found one in Abraham. Abraham became a father of many nations. In him, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

We are blessed by the life and deeds of Abraham. Through him, Jesus, the Son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1), was eventually born at the appointed time of God. The Saviour of the world! He came to deliver and save us from our sins!

A better solution!  A better answer to the prayer of Abraham!

When we look at the things of the world and our difficulties and circumstances, God looks at the person.

We look at the cross but God looked at the Christ who was going up the cross. Was He willing? Was He able to fulfill the task? Was He strong enough to carry the burdens of the cross? Was He able to run the race that was set before Him?

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore we also,
since we are surrounded
by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us lay aside every weight,
and the sin which so easily ensnares us,
and let us run with endurance the race
that is set before us,
looking unto Jesus,
the author and finisher of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before Him
endured the cross,
despising the shame,
and has sat down
at the right hand of the throne of God.

Now, God still looks at us, and not our problems and troubled times. Are we able to run with endurance the race that is set before us? Are we willing to be a part of His divine plan and purpose? Are we willing to move one step further from knowing His will to doing His will?

When the Jews were in exile in Babylon (Psalm 137), they longed for Zion. By the rivers of Babylon, there they sat down and wept when they remembered Zion. They hung their harps upon the willows in the midst of it. They could not sing even one song of Zion. They were unable to do anything praiseworthy.

But at the same time in the same city of Babylon, there was a man praying. His name was Daniel. He sought the Lord and prayed. God was able to carry out His plan and purpose through this man, a greatly beloved of the Lord!

Concerning the nation of Israel, are we willing to stand in the gap, watching and praying for her peace and her people? Praying that they will know the will of God, and also that they will do the will of God!

To pray or not to pray?

God is still looking at you and me!

Written on 18 September 2012