EDEN GARDENS & GETHSEMANE
When asked to name his best ever innings, the just-retired Cricketer Rahul Dravid named the innings in which he made 180 runs when India followed on versus Australia in a Test Match at Eden Gardens, Kolkota, in 2001. The partnership he put up with VVS Laxman, who made 281 in the same innings, brought India back, sensationally, in that game. For a whole day Dravid and Laxman played without getting out! Eventually India won that Test Match.
Jesus entered yet another garden-the Garden of Gethsemane- hoping to build another kind of partnership, the partnership of prayer (Matt. 26:36-46: Mk. 14:32-42; Lk. 22:40-46). What happened there? From this event, we learn precious lessons on the Christian discipline of prayer.
Here is a summary of the lessons on prayer from GETHSEMANE put in the word ‘G-E-T-H-S-E-M-A-N-E’ itself.
G-GODLINESS PROTECTING DISCIPLINE IS PRAYER. Prayer is a discipline that brings in godliness. When we pray, we receive power to overcome temptation (Lk 22:40). Prayerful Jesus overcame temptation that arrived in Gethsemane. That temptation was to run away or stay, when the arrest party came. Jesus stayed because He had received power that comes to overcome temptation when one prays. It was this power He talked about when He kept saying, “Watch and pray so that you can overcome temptation!” The disciples, however, did not stay because they were sleeping, instead of praying. One disciple, so starved of prayer, ran so fast out of fear, that his underwear fell through (Mk. 14:51)!
E-ESTRANGEMENT FROM MEN OFTEN HAS TO HAPPEN FOR SERIOUS PRAYER. Jesus left His disciples (Jn. 18:1) and went a stone throw away from His closest disciples (Lk. 22:41) to pray. We may need to be estranged from men to talk to God in prayer. We must rush to lonely places to pray like Jesus often did during His earthly ministry. Commenting on Luke 5:16, from where we come to understand this particular habit of Jesus, The ESV Study Bible, the best Study Bible presently available in my opinion, says, The Greek construction of Luke 5:16 indicates a continual practice and could also be translated (that Jesus) “was regularly withdrawing and praying.” If we put Luke 5:16 and Mark 1:35 together, we get to glean out two phrases that describe to us WHEN and WHERE Jesus regularly prayed. Here they are- “lonely places” (Lk. 5:16) and “very early in the morning, when it was still dark” (Mk. 1:35)! Jesus wanted to spend time with His Father before He spent time with His fellowmen!
T-TREMBLING IS INVOLVED IN PRAYER. Jesus ‘knelt’ down and prayed (Lk. 22:41). Kneeling is a posture that expresses reverence, respect, trembling of heart. The Bible commands us to do it: “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” (Psa. 95:6). We must tremble as we enter the presence of God in prayer. This trembling is practically expressed when we kneel and pray. Yes, we can pray even while we are in the rest room relieving ourselves. But there should be regular times when we kneel before God in prayer with fear and trembling.
H-HEAVENLY FATHER SHOULD BE ADDRESSED IN PRAYER. Jesus began His prayer by saying, “Father...” (Lk. 22:42). We must pray to the Father in the name of Jesus. Some people pray to dead saints. The Bible never asks us to do that. Some people pray to the Lord Jesus directly. There is nothing wrong with this. When he was about to be stoned, Stephen prayed to Jesus (Acts 7:59). But, for our regular prayers, we need to pray to the Father in heaven, in the name of Jesus. This is the Biblical pattern (See Jn. 16:23,24). For example, we must ask the Father for the Holy Spirit, Jesus taught us (Lk. 11:13).
S-SUBMISSION TO THE WILL OF GOD MUST BE EXPRESSED IN OUR PRAYER. Prayer is not twisting God’s arm for Him to agree to all our whims and fancies. Prayer is, rather, a spiritual preparation for submission to the will of God. Jesus submitted Himself to the will of the Father in His Gethsemane prayer (Lk. 22:42). A leading healing evangelist once said, “Never go to God saying, If it is your will.... Don’t let faith-destroying statements punctuate your prayers.” This evangelist was teaching something contrary to the Bible, when he said this. Even Jesus, who knew the mind of the Father perfectly, submitted to the will of the Father by praying “not as I will, but Your will be done.” Since we do not know all, it is always wise to submit to God’s will. Example, you may be praying that you get married to a particular person. God knows how that person will treat you after you get married to him/her. But you, with your limited knowledge, don’t. So, it’s always wise to pray, “Lord, if it is your will, I want to marry so and so!”
E-EMPOWERMENT FOR PRAYER HAPPENS WHEN WE START TO PRAY AMIDST CHALLENGING CIRCUMSTANCES. Often times, we do not even start to pray because we simply don’t have the motivation or empowerment. But the secret of prayer is praying in secret, someone said. In other words, start to pray, and power for remaining in prayer will be supplied. Just do it! When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, angels from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him” (Lk. 22:42). Claim the promise found in Zechariah 12:10 - “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy....
M-MEAN WHAT YOU PRAY WHEN YOU PRAY. Jesus prayed in Gethsemane in “earnest” (Lk. 22:44). In other words, He meant what He prayed. Be earnest. Be truthful. Be sincere. Don’t just go through the motions. Don’t let your thoughts wander and just babble something which you don’t mean. Jesus said, And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matt. 6:7 ESV).
A-AGONY IS OFTEN GUARANTEED WHEN WE PRAY. It is often said, that the Devil does not mind us doing anything -- preaching God’s Word, articles about prayer like what I am doing right now, helping the poor, etc. But He does mind when we earnestly pray. When we earnestly pray, we come into conflict with him and his powers for the Bible says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). And when we pray, and pray with earnestness like Jesus did in Gethsemane, Satan brings agony to us. He may not refrain from causing physical discomfort to us. He did that to Jesus. His sweat became like great drops of blood during his prayer time in Gethsemane (Lk. 22:44). Prayer can land you in trouble. But if you don’t pray – you are in greater trouble!
N-NUDGE THOSE WHO DON’T PRAY TO PRAY. When Jesus found His disciples sleeping, He nudged them, He charged them, He pleaded with them, to pray (Lk. 22:45,46). In the space of 6 verses, He tells them twice, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Lk. 22:40 46). It is not enough that you alone pray. You must encourage others to pray. Start a prayer cell in your school. We had one in Ida Scudder School, the School in Vellore where I went to. Start a prayer cell in your office. I did. When working in HSBC in Hyderabad, I ran a prayer cell right in the office building during the break times.
E-ENDURE IN THE HOLY HABIT OF PRAYER. People get heart attacks. We can also get ‘prayer’ attacks. We may read a hard-hitting article on prayer and decide instantly to increase our prayer time daily. We start off well. Slowly, the enthusiasm for prayer fizzles out. The discipline of prayer gets derailed by other unimportant activities, pretty soon. We could talk with friends for hours together without batting an eyelid. Or watch an inconsequential IPL cricket game with our eyes glued to the television! But during prayer, even if it was just 3 minutes old, our eyes tend to become heavy. This has happened to yours truly. Oh, when will we learn to persevere in the prayer habit? To stick stubbornly to our supplication schedule? At this point, I want to bring to your attention that Jesus endured in the discipline of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Bible says, after Jesus charged His sleeping disciples to pray, He “once more went away and prayed same thing” (Lk. 22:46). What an example Christ has provided for us to endure in the discipline of prayer! Because the end of all things is coming soon, we must not put an end to our prayers! Hear Peter in this regard: ‘Everything will soon come to an end. So be serious and be sensible enough to pray’ (I Pet. 4:7, CEV).
So, here is the summary of the lessons on prayer from GETHSEMANE put in the word G-E-T-H-S-E-M-A-N-E itself, once again as we seek to recap the golden lessons we have gleaned from Gethsemane about prayer:
G-Godliness bring in discipline in prayer
E-Estrangement from men often has to happen
T-Trembling is involved in prayer
H-Heavenly father should be addressed in prayer
S-Submission to the will of God must be expressed in our prayer
E-Empowerment for prayer happens when we start to pray amidst challenging circumstances
M-Mean what you pray when you pray
A-Agony is often guaranteed when we pray
N-Nudge those who don’t pray to pray
E-Endure in the holy habit of prayer
Let’s pray the Gethsemane way!