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Cultivating Prayer Causes Growth

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We should desire a prayer life that is a normal part of our lives so as to continue serving and living for God when the adversaries attack.

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Have you ever noticed how we speak of weeds choking out a garden? The weeds are thriving and doing wonderfully, but that’s not what was planted. The purpose of a garden is to produce vegetables, fruit, and flowers. That requires cultivation to make sure the weeds don’t get the upper hand. I know there are no-till methods that are used, but I am choosing to use a method which is known to most everyone and that makes a better parallel for me.
Cultivation requires work and effort, just as prayer does. Sometimes, it means we have to get rid of something or recognize that which is not beneficial in the purpose of the garden. We may have to be brutal as we turn over the soil or pull out those weeds. It is the same in our prayer lives. Sometimes we may be forced to recognize and deal with some things and brutally remove them from our lives, with the Holy Spirit’s help. For if we don’t, they will choke out that which is good and beneficial in our Christian walk.
This also requires diligence. It is not just a one-time effort. Our prayer lives are a discipline that we must develop. If we don’t, we will not grow as we ought. And if we don’t grow in Christ, we will find ourselves facing adversaries of all kinds that will suck us in or take us out of making a difference for Jesus Christ.
After awhile of cultivating on a regular basis in the garden, it becomes second-nature to get rid of the junk when it’s small. It becomes part of who we are to see what needs to be done so that the plants grow and mature as they ought to. It is the same with prayer. After it becomes a part of your discipline or habit or routine, it becomes second-nature to get rid of that which is harmful by confessing and repenting sin when it’s small. It becomes part of who we are to see areas that need pruning or watering or fertilizing in our lives, so we can serve and live in a way that is honoring to the Lord. Then we adversaries attack, we don’t fear, for we know how we are to respond for the glory of God.
We should desire a prayer life that is a normal part of our lives so as to continue serving God and living for God when the adversaries attack.

Prayer - 22:39-46

Luke 22:39–46 NASB95
And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, and said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Luke
As we prepare to look into these verses, we notice that despite the knowledge that Jesus is going to endure the most horrible physical, emotional, and psychological torture any person has ever experienced; despite the knowledge that He was going as an innocent man, willingly letting Himself be crucified as a guilty person; the thoughts of Jesus are on being with His disciples and spending time in prayer with His heavenly Father.
This section, I’ve broken down to 1) the custom of prayer, 2) the contents of the prayer, and 3) the crisis in prayer.

Custom of Prayer - 22:39

We see that Jesus went out from where they were to the area where the Mount of Olives, or the Garden of Gethsemane, was. What should strike all of us is that Luke states that this was His custom. In other words, Jesus was not doing anything unusual compared to all the other times. This was normal for Jesus to go out and interact with His heavenly Father.
Some might think that Jesus was desperate and was using this as an emergency escape from the upcoming situation. Yet, we know that this is why Jesus came. Some might think that this was just a tradition and ritual that really had no meaning. Yet, we know that the relationship that Jesus had with the Father was as One and that the Father referred to Jesus as His beloved Son.
My friends, I want to encourage and challenge each of us to deepen our relationship with the Lord so that our prayer time will be seen as part of our normal routine or custom. Whether we are experiencing an euphoric spiritual mountaintop or whether we are experiencing a devastating and depressing spiritual ditch or valley; we need to keep our prayer time diligently.
What is most important is the beginning; that we develop a custom of prayer; that it be a habit just like any other habit we may have which is beneficial.

Contents of Prayer - 22:40-42

These verses deal with the contents of prayer. In this, we also see Jesus teaching his disciples about a very real danger. The danger of temptation is not one in which any of us has the ability to defend ourselves in our own strength. We need the very real help of God to enable us to not be ensnared by the subtle or blatant temptations that are out there.
Jesus then goes to a place that was a distance from them so He could experience a bit of privacy, yet not that far away from them. Luke then points out that Jesus knelt down and began to pray. Many could easily get caught up in the position of the body, but don’t let that happen to you. The Bible speaks of many different physical postures we can take while praying. Kneeling is a very common one and is one which many parents will do with their children in teaching them how to pray. It is indeed a position of humility before our heavenly Father. In addition, this would have been somewhat unusual for a Jewish person. Normally they would stand up while looking towards heaven while they were praying. It may be that Jesus was so overwhelmed in His humanity, that He literally went to His knees.
We’re reminded from , that Jesus willingly set aside His rights as God when He came to this earth. Here we see another example of this. Jesus does not demand that something else be done. He does not exert His authority and right as God to squash the religious leaders who have things so wrong in their theology and living. Listen as Jesus humbly entreats the Father: Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. The cup, throughout the Bible, is in reference to God’s judgment. This cup would be the result of Jesus allowing Himself to become sin for all humanity.
There is no arrogance or demands. Jesus is expressing his humanity, even though His deity knows that this is what must take place. If there were any other way to satisfy God’s demands for the punishment of sin and the salvation of those who would believe on the Name of Jesus, that would have been easier. But we will see that the real focus is on God’s perfect will.
I hear of so much self-centered praying being taught, written about, and practiced that is so wrong. The idea that we can demand anything from God or that He is obligated to act on our bidding, smacks of spiritual arrogance and an affront to His holiness. Even when we beg and plead that hardships or sickness or whatever difficult times are coming in our lives, we must do so with the understanding that God may have a bigger, better plan for us than we could ever possibly understand. And you know what; He does.
Not only does Jesus come in humility in the first part of verse 42, He reminds us that yet not My will, but Yours be done. Isn’t that really what we should be praying? The only way that God truly receives glory from saints or sinners is when His will is accomplished and not what we would prefer to be done.
But even in Jesus’ prayer life, it is sometimes incredibly difficult, in particular, during this time of prayer.

Crisis in Prayer - 22:43-46

We saw in verse 42, just how incredibly intense the time of prayer was for Jesus. Even as He may have felt overwhelmed, God sent an angel to give Him strength to continue in prayer. Angels serve in many functions. The meaning of the word refers to one who is a messenger. Yet, Hebrews reminds us that angels are God’s servants who take care of the needs of His children, those who belong to Him because of Jesus.
And continue in prayer, Jesus did, with incredible intensity: And being in agony He was praying very fervently. Jesus wasn’t just praying fervently, it was very fervently. The use of this word describes being under incredible strain or being stretched to the point of nearly breaking. Some may wonder how this could be if Jesus had such a close relationship with the Father. We can look back on this some 2000 plus years, knowing what is about to happen in the next few hours and glean some answers.
In the last part of verse 44, we see how fervent His prayers were. It was hard work. The struggle which Jesus was experiencing was incredibly real and intense. So much so that He was not only sweating, but it was like drops of blood. Luke presents this as a simile to show the intensity of the sweat dropping on the ground. Remember Luke wasn’t there, but is recording the events from eyewitness testimonies. This is an actual condition that is referred to as hematidrosis. This is where mental and emotional strain, and sometimes physical strain, can cause capillaries under the skin to burst and gets mixed in with sweat. The issue is that Jesus was experiencing a struggle that nobody else has ever experienced.
Then verses 45 and 46 reveal another unique crisis. Here was Jesus in the midst of the greatest struggle anybody has ever experienced with His closest companions—and they were sleeping. But Luke presents a perspective that many of us have experienced. Jesus found them sleeping from sorrow. This group was now eleven. The twelfth had gone to do his dark, dastardly deed. It is almost as if they were beginning to understand that something terrible was about to happen. Often sleep brings a peace to a troubled spirit. However, now was not the time, as the timetable of God is upon them.
So, Jesus reminds them again in verse 46, to pray that you may not enter temptation. Jesus knew full well that incredible temptations were just around the corner. These close friends and students, who would become the leaders of the early church in a few months, who would lay down the foundation of the truths and biblical doctrine as moved by the Holy Spirit, were going to be tempted in ways they could not possibly imagine. They would be tempted to flee and have no connection with Jesus. They would be tempted to deny any relationship with Jesus for fear of their own lives being jeopardized.
Even with being as close to Jesus as they were; even with receiving instructions for life from the Son of God, they would still need to rely on prayer. They needed prayer for spiritual survival and strength, as they need food, water, and air for physical survival and strength.
We know this because of what is happening next.

Adversaries - 22:47-53

Luke 22:47–53 NASB95
While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.” And He touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come against Him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as you would against a robber? “While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.”
Sometimes, the lightning is far away to warn of an approaching storm. Sometimes, the lightning flashes just before the explosion of thunder. Sometimes our prayers seem to have no immediate connection. Other times, our prayers are the beginning of the reason behind them.
In these verses, we’ll look at the adversaries to Jesus and God’s kingdom. We’ll look at the approach from the one who was alongside Jesus to now being an adversary to Jesus. Then we’ll look at the well-intentioned, but wrong-headed attack by Peter. Then we’ll look at Jesus’ answer to Peter’s inappropriate attack. Then finally, we’ll see the accusation which Jesus levels at this group of power-hungry religious leaders who were driven by hatred.

The Approach - 22:47-48

Luke shows the absolute immediacy of the events unfolding after Jesus’ prayer time: While He was still speaking. A few hours earlier, they were celebrating the Passover Supper. Jesus and the twelve were reflecting with food, Scriptures, songs, and wonderful fellowship, as were many in the area. Then Jesus steadfastly moved forward to the Mount of Olives for that quiet time of fervently pleading with His Father, though He knew the purpose for which He came. And now this.
This crowd had come and infiltrated their place of prayer. They were even being led by Judas, one of the twelve. Remember earlier, how Luke had commented that this was a customary place where Jesus came. Judas knew this. How sad that one who had experienced so many miracles and seen so many come to follow Jesus, would now turn His back on Jesus. You see, Judas was not at all concerned about his spiritual well-being; he was all about the nation of Israel being restored.
If that’s not bad enough, Judas comes forward to give a kiss to Jesus, as a sign of greeting and loyalty and love. It was a normal form of greeting someone. This doesn’t really make sense, as they had all been together a few hours earlier that evening. Thus, Jesus points out the contradiction in this when He asks Judas why he would betray the Son of Man with a kiss?
Sometimes, our adversaries against us and the things of God come in close relationships. It might be a close friend. It might be a job or career that you love. It might be a family member who would distract you from God’s intended purpose. That’s why prayer must be such a vital and essential part of your discipline with God.
Well, we know that Peter won’t put up this with tomfoolery, as we’re given the identity in another gospel.

The Attack - 22:49-50

The disciples saw what was happening and actually asked Jesus if they should attack with the swords they had with them. Jesus did not give the command to attack or to defend themselves. He knows that nothing can happen to Him or His own without God’s permission. But it didn’t end very well, as we see that one of the disciples chose to take matters into his own hands.
Well-meaning, wanting to prove love and loyalty to the end, the disciple attacks. There are different ideas about the significance of the right ear being cut off. It seems to make the most sense that Peter was trying to cut off the head of the high priest’s slave and simply missed. Nobody really knows.
Now, how do we know that this was not what God wanted, nor did Jesus condone this action? Let’s look at verse 51.

The Answer - 22:51

Here is where we see Jesus’ answer or response to what was just done. Verse 51 starts out with But Jesus answered. What was it that Jesus answered? He answered the question as to whether or not the disciples should respond with violence against the religious leaders and their followers. Obviously, the answer would have been “NO.” How do we know this? Jesus speaks Stop! No more of this. If that’s not clear enough, then by the fact that Jesus touched his ear and healed him ought to show what was meant.
But Jesus didn’t just allow them to complete their terrible deed without presenting them with an accusation that shows their guilt before God.

The Accusation - 22:52-53

Jesus directs his rhetorical questions where the answer is obvious specifically to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come against Him. They knew what they were doing. They also knew that it was wrong on so many levels according to the Law and even basic ethics and decency.
Jesus points out how ludicrous they were in hunting Him down with such “firepower” as would be needed to capture a criminal.
He goes on to point out their hypocrisy and cowardice in verse 53 as He reminded them that every day in the temple, when they were also there, they never bothered to try to capture or arrest Him then. We know that the reason for this is that they feared the people.
Then Jesus closes by stating that this hour and the power of darkness are yours. My friends, it is obvious that they are doing the work of Satan and his demonic forces. They are doing all that they are doing against the very teachings of God.
Yet, my friends, it was for this very reason which Jesus came into the world. This is all part of the journey to the cross. However, all who participated against the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ, are held responsible for the choices which they made.

Pondering

There are a number of things which strike us as we go through this.
We know that the disciples would have been well acquainted with this area in the Garden where Jesus had prayed. Jesus knew that Judas would know it as well. Still, Jesus did not go elsewhere, but was quite intentional about doing what was always His custom. You see, Jesus knew that this had to be so that everything would continue to lead towards the cross.
I also am impressed by the fact that when Jesus prayed, it was not to try to figure anything out about all of this. His intent was not to change God’s mind about what had been planned since before time began. It seems that it was a tremendous example of what it means and what it takes to completely surrender to God’s will and perfect plan.
I also see an incredible illustration of God’s forgiveness and love being shown when Jesus healed the ear of the high priest’s slave.
I wonder if anyone else thought about the use of swords in the New Testament? One thing that seems almost eye-opening or something that amazes me is the fact that physical swords don’t have any benefit in bringing people to salvation. However, the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God has everything to do with bringing people to salvation and causing growth in the believer.
This passage is a wonderful reminder and encouragement that we must make our prayer lives a priority. It must be almost like a custom where we know what must be done. This passage challenges us to share our desires while submitting ourselves to God’s Will and being happy to make sure it’s about Him and never about us. This passage also is a reminder that there will be many adversaries out there who want to silence us or attempt to destroy our reputation and discredit Christ. Yet, if we are in the custom or habit of biblical prayer, we will continue to serve God and live for Him, knowing that we belong to God because of Jesus Christ.

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