Summary: I pray we will fail in our pursuit of happiness and that as our focus transforms from the selfish to the holy we will become more and more in tune with His Spirit, with His mission to reach and serve the world around us for His Son.
For the last two weeks we’ve been talking about prayer. The first week we discussed Daniel and how he showed us through his story that prayer matters. We discovered that prayer matters because it helps us to rely on God’s mercy. Because it helps us to confess sin and ask for mercy and prayer helps us to see God for who He is. God. And prayer matters because we honor God when we pray. Then last week we talked about Jonah and his story helped us to define what prayer is all about. Prayer is about asking for God to do the supernatural. A healthy prayer helps us to stop living with our sinful nature and selfish desires and through praise and adoration tap into the eternal. We experience the supernatural presence of God through prayer. We can conclude as Jonah, “our salvation comes from the Lord alone.” There isn’t anything more supernatural than God forgiving us our sins. Prayer helps us share this message with the world around us, even in parts of the world where it’s illegal or dangerous for us to do so. And today we’re going to take a look at Jesus and let Him share with us how we pray is important.
The most important factor to a life with Jesus is the state of our heart. The prophet Isaiah said, “the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.” Isaiah 29:13. We should be very careful not to allow our worship and our prayer life to become a routine of man-made rules. Sometimes it’s healthy for us to evaluate how we worship and pray not only as individuals but as a church, too. Jesus quoted Isaiah, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Matthew 15:8. It’s important for us to make sure that our hearts are in tune with God as we worship and as we pray. A few weeks ago we discussed Ezekiel.
We spent three Sundays talking about how God demands exclusive worship, purity and holiness. We discovered that God expects us to use the free gift of our salvation. We use this gift with worship because we love Him and we do so by serving others. We are pure through confession and repentance and we remain so through prayer. And we are holy through obedience to truth because our special purpose is to share the gift with others. When we live a life of worship, purity and holiness we bring glory to God. We point our life to him and we make God the center of everything we do. Everyone around us knows who Jesus is because everything about our life is about him. When our church becomes united around these concepts the message of Jesus will explode in our community just like it does in every community where God reveals His glory. We are His church. When God’s people show up to do God stuff God’s way God shows up in power. There isn’t one verse in all the Bible that says God is interested in your happiness. But God is very interested in your holiness. It is the expectation of God that His children will focus their life on holiness rather than on happiness. And guess what! Joy is the result. How we pray is important and according to Jesus our heart, our attitude towards His mission and the things that are important to Him is key to how we pray.
Simply Philippians 2:5 says, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” and 1 Peter 4:1 says, “So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with thesame attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin.”
In the garden of Gethsemane a few short hours before Jesus was betrayed by Judas He was seeking some time to pray. Jesus knew what he was getting ready to endure. He had already made it known to his students at dinner that he was soon to be betrayed by one of them, although at the time they didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. The dinner that night had been the annual Passover meal. According to the IVP commentary it was customary to discuss God's redemptive acts for a few hours after the meal before singing the Hallel. The song of praise and thanksgiving quoting Psalms 113-118.
First it’s important to note that the one thing Jesus felt he needed to do before his torturous experience began was to pray. This is why he went to the garden. And he brought his favorite students with him; Peter, James and John. I want you to think about the things these guys experienced with Jesus. They saw more and did more with him than any of his other students. Three experiences are recorded in the Gospels although it’s entirely possible they had more experiences alone with Jesus than these three. They went on a campout in the mountains and witnessed Jesus meet with Moses and Elijah and watched his body glow like the sun, they spent a night at Peter’s house and Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and then it seemed like the whole country brought their sick over for Jesus to heal, and then here in the garden. Peter had mentioned just a few moments earlier that he was ready to follow Jesus to his death. He had been on the frontlines of the miraculous, the supernatural, the walking on water, raising the dead, fearless power of Jesus. Peter, James and John knew the person of Jesus maybe even better or more intimately than his own mom. Jesus came to the garden to pray. He wanted his friends to watch his back. “He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Matthew 26:38