Saturday, August 11, 2012

Jesus, Suffering, and Prayer

I was thinking about Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane again and saw something that made me feel better about my own prayer.  

Like everyone, when faced with a difficulty, I ask the Lord to grant a certain outcome - the one that appears to hold the least amount of discomfort for me.  I realize that my desire may not match up with God's however, so I follow Jesus' example and pray, "but Thy will be done."  When I pray those words I feel inadequate.  I expect myself to feel detached from the outcome, as if I should no longer desire that God answer me one way instead of another.  But that's not what Jesus did in Gethsemane.  After He prayed "Thy will be done," He still petitioned the Father two more times to remove the cup of suffering from Him (Mk.14:41).  And His prayer to the Father was anything but dispassionate - "he fell on the ground" (Mk.14:35), and "offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death" (Heb.5:7).  Ending His petitions with "yet not what I will, but what you will," did not extinguish Jesus' desire to be spared the cup of suffering.  If that was true of the Master then it is absolutely ridiculous for me or you to beat ourselves up for continuing to desire what we perceive as the "positive outcome."

Detachment is called for as soon as the Lord makes His will known.  Once Jesus saw Judas leading the party to arrest Him, He had the Father's answer and detached Himself from crying out to be spared.  We no longer see Him "sorrowful unto death" (Mk.14:34), but instead perfectly composed.  So it's alright for us to cry out and petition the Lord to spare us from a bad outcome; it's natural to do so.  But if the Father says "no" - if makes us share in Jesus' suffering (Col.1:24) - then we place ourselves in His hands and pray for the grace to endure.  That is practicing detachment - not by being void of emotion, but by accepting God's decision and maintaining faith in His love for us.  That is when we love the Lord's will more than our own.

Look at the life of Jesus. "Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him" (Heb.5:8);  and consider the promise made to us, "if we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him" (2 Tim.2:11-12).

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