Summary: Task: To nudge people back to praying.
This Christmas I traveled to Sun City Center, FL to spend time with my parents and my brother’s family. I love going to see my folks in FL. My wife and I love the beach, the warmer weather, and I always get to go fishing in the bay. I bet you have a favorite place or two as well. Don’t you? I’d like to know where your favorite place is. And so on the count of three, would you do me the honor of telling me what one of your most favorite places in the world is. One, two, three….
I said that One of my favorite places in the world is in Florida, another one is in a little garden half a world away from here; the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem, Israel. It’s one of the holiest and most sacred sites in the entire world, maybe even the entire universe. Why would I say that? Because the gospels teach that Jesus “often” went there to pray. Jesus, God in the flesh poured out his prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. The small chunk of real estate is drenched with the prayers of God. As I walked through the olive orchard a couple years back I was reminded that some of the olive trees I was looking at are over 2,000 years old. That means they were in the garden when Jesus was in the garden. Their bark felt the back of the Messiah as he leaned up against them and their leaves and branches heard his prayers. Once I stepped on that property I sensed I was on very holy ground. But that was just the start.
After walking around the garden I entered the Church of All Nations which is built on part of that olive orchard. In fact, it is built over the rock that tradition says Jesus prayed the night he was betrayed. There at the front of the sanctuary protruding through the floor was a rock surface the size of our chancel. Surrounding the rock which was laid out in a square was a short black chain fence. On the outside of the fencing was a prayer rail that surrounded the rock on three sides. When you walked in those doors of that church it was like a magnet drew you too the front, to the prayer railing. I don’t know about the others, but I suppose some of them felt it too, but I was drawn to pray. I could do nothing but pray. It was as if I was compelled to pray. I was drawn to the rock. I walked around the prayer railing, stepped over the chain fence and knelt on the rock. I’m telling you I could have prayed there for hours.
But, that’s not the case with everyone who has visited Gethsemane. On the night Jesus was betrayed he went to Gethsemane to pray. He was burdened, he was under stress, he was maxed out as he carried the weight of the world on his back. And so he took his three most mature disciples, his three leaders, those in his inner circle to go with him and pray for him while he also prayed. Matthew 26.36-46 tells us that Jesus told his three trusted pray-ers to pray for him while he went off to another location to pray in the garden. Under so much pressure that the bible says Jesus began to sweat drops of blood he prayed. At one point Jesus returned to his disciples and found them sleeping instead of praying. This happened three times.