A Follower is a Pray-er
For the past several weeks we have been in the Fan or Follower series, and we have defined wether or not you fan of Jesus or a follower of Jesus, by looking at 2 Peter 1:1-11.
Now, we are going to look at specific aspects of Jesus followers. Certain traits that all followers should have. Each message will be kinda like a break-out session.
A follower is prayer (pray-er).
Before we dive into the text, especially since our scripture text is a little heavy, I will start with an illustration. I spent some time working in the transportation industry. For a while I was in operations management. Operations has to look at the big picture. There are consequences to decisions made here locally that can affect people a long way off. There were people above me, that were looking at things outside of my area. Although I worked in a city here in Minnesota their people that looked at the whole Midwest; and even others that looked at the whole country. Often the people above us were facing challenges, that we could not see. Often they would give us directives that we did not want to follow because it interfered, or interrupted our preferred way of of doing things the way we wanted to do them. When we recieved those directions often people ran to management and wanted answers. Why are you doing this? What is behind this?
Now, what worked best was when leadership explained the big picture to us. Then it was easier for us here on the local level to submit to their decisions. It was even better for us, when they came back and checked on us, to see if we were following the suggestions.Surprisingly today’s text from Mark is a little bit like that. Jesus is the leader of a group of followers. Jesus is dealing with a big problem up here, at a level far beyond the everyday followers. The things Jesus is facing is outside of their full understanding. Jesus explains to them what they should be doing, and why, and comes back to check on them to see if they are implementing the solution.
If we are following Jesus, we should see what Jesus does, how Jesus prays to see what we can learn from it. A very famous text on praying is found here in Mark chapter 14, verses 32 through 42, in the garden of Gethsemane. This text is extremely ominous. When we think of the garden of Gethsemane we are submerged in a flood of dark emotions over us. It is known as the agony in the Garden, because it is here that the wrath of God begins to poured out on Jesus for the sins of men. In this passage, in verse 34 Jesus says, that his soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
Our first reading was from Psalm 42. Psalm 42 describes the feeling of a troubled soul. The Psalmist asks the question, why are you so downcast my soul why so disturbed within me?
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Jesus suffered in his soul more than we will ever know, but we do have times when we need God. We have times when we suffer, we have times of pain of loss, we have feelings of loneliness or abandonment, or worry. Followers will at some point in time have a longing for help, divine help, help from Jesus, we need it we long after it.
We do not always know the reasons God has for doing what he does. We don;t why we have an illness or why are business or family is failing, but in here in our souls we feel that something is wrong, and we don’t like it. Or we sense some sort of disconnect with what we are doing and what we should be doing. So in our souls is a longing, or a disturbance.
The Psalmist says in Psalm 42, verse 1.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
When a follower, has a need for God in their soul, their soul pants for God. the Psalmist says my soul pants for God like a deer pants for water. A follower is thirsty for the living water only the Lord can provide. When that happens, the Holy Spirit is drawing us closer to God.
God the Holy Sprit draws followers to prayer.
God the Holy Spirit is draws followers to Him in prayer as needs arise. As we go through life in our relationship with Jesus Christ sometimes God, by the the Holy Spirit calls us to Him in prayer. To find relief for our souls. To drink from the stream, to seek after God.
When we are being drawn to God, we need to get to a place to meet with God. We need to go and get with God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
That is the first thing that we notice about the passage today in Mark 14, at verse 32.
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”
Jesus purposefully, goes to this specific spot to pray.They were just at the Last supper, they were in the upper room of a house in town. Jesus is very purposeful about this Olive Garden. The name means oil press. Like under pressure. The place seems very purposeful, he is ordering where people are. Sit here while I pray.
He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.
He took the three closest disciples, the inner circle a little farther. He left the larger group, separated these three. Jesus is “deeply distressed and troubled” the wrath of God for men’s sins is beginning to trouble His soul, and Jesus leaves those three, and goes on farther.
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.
Overwhelmed with sorrow, to the point of death, instead of staying with his closest follower Jesus goes off even farther, by himself, and prayed. As the Psalmist said, why are you downcast oh my soul why so disturbed with me. Ultimately, this prayer, this time is between the Son of God, Jesus the God man, and God the Father. It is as if at that moment, He is entering the heavenly.
That is our next point.
A follower needs a place for prayer
Now, this is not to say that we don’t pray continually to quote 1 Thessalonians 5:17. I do that. I was talking to someone on Friday who does that. If you do that don’t stop. That is what we should be doing, but there comes a time for a purposeful place for prayer. There is a time when your soul is downcast, or when your soul pants for God.
As in the song we sang last week “Blessed be Your Name” , when we are found in the desert place, and when we walk through the wilderness. When the Holy Spirit presses in upon your heart to the point where you can almost physically feel the need to pray, we need to purposefully, find a place for prayer. I talked to someone else last week who talks about her daughter going into the woods to pray. Sometimes we need to go the woods, or beside the lake, or into our prayer closet like in Matthew 6:6, “But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Maybe it is in the morning, maybe at night by your bed, maybe in the car, or at the park , in an empty chapel. Sometimes we need to step into the heavenly just us and God, and fall to the ground in prayer and we to satisfy our thirsty souls like deer by a cool stream drinking in the living water of the living God.
This is a sacred time and an important time between us and God. Not that we don’t pray in a group, this is just in addition to that. In this place it is between us and God. No one else. This is a sacred time set apart for us and God, a time to enter the heavenly. A follower sometimes needs a place for prayer.
“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Jesus, troubled in soul overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, is facing something that you and I cannot imagine. He is the Son of God, and he is talking the wrath of God for all of the sins of mankind upon him, and this is horrible. Father Jesus says, in an intimate way, Father everything is impossible for you, and I don’t want to go through this, but Father it is not about what I want it is about you want. Prayer is less about getting God to do what we want as it is about getting us to do what God wants.
I get it. We have needs. We need things. And God does tell us to ask. right James 5:16 "And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.” and Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” And God does heal people. God answers prayers, all the time. But sometimes the answers to prayers are that the trial that we are facing may not go away. Everything might not be fixed the way want it in this life. Sometimes we need to accept what God’s will may be in this situation, and through it, he will walk us through.
It might be a battle, it might be a struggle and we might want more than anything else to be rid of it, but in it. In the middle of it, Jesus will be with us. And we must come to terns in the heavenly with submitting to God’s will. And that is our third point.
A follower submits to God’s will.
Next, there are really two different battles going on here.
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
The disciples want to sleep. They are not submitting to Jesus’s instruction, they are submitting to their own earthly desire to sleep. Jesus tells them again Watch and pray.
Three times Jesus returned.
Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.
Three times, Jesus exhorted the disciples to pray and watch. They are in their prayer place, Prayer is about submitting to God’s will not our will, and they are not following through.
Jesus stepped out of the heavenly, and into the world of the disciples. Jesus came back from the cosmic spiritual battle that he was fighting on their behalf, on our behalf for their sins, for your sins, for my sins,. Jesus left that and came back to the disciples. That is astounding isn’t it? I mean why not just let them sleep, and focus on the task at hand?
He is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, and deeply troubled in soul. He has entered this sacred prayer space alone. Here the wrath of God, is being poured out on Him. Jesus is fighting this battle between Him and Satan, paying the price for our sins. Jesus is submitting to God’s will, and he goes back to check on the disciples.
There are two battles here, and Jesus is helping the disciples fight theirs. Jesus is fighting the battle for our souls. Jesus is overcoming temptation on our behalf and receiving the wrath of God meant for us. Jesus will go onward to the cross continuing to pay the price, while the disciples will eventually be left behind here. Jesus won that battle for us. He died once for all.
For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
And we know that he won the battle because death had no power over Him, the grave could not hold him and three days later he rose from the dead. Jesus won that battle, on our behalf, and what we are seeing here is the battle that those who are left behind in the world are fighting.
Jesus won the battle of temptation.
The disciples are fighting the battle that you and face every day. This battle between submitting to our will, the flesh and submitting to God. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. While as followers of Jesus Christ we are citizens of heaven and we are born again, we are still in this world. While Jesus has given us the victory over sin, and made us righteous by His blood, we are still continually fighting the battle fo the flesh., The pleasures of the world. This is temptation. We are tempted to gratify the desires of the flesh rather than submit to the will of God.
Jesus is not concerned that disciples are watching and praying so that somehow this horrible crucifixion comes to an end. See that is how we would see it. But Jesus has submitted to God’s will, that mission is going forward, and the disciples really do not understand fully what is taking place.
Instead, Jesus, interrupts this important battle that he is engaged in to come back to the disciples to encourage them to pray so that they can overcome temptation.
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Jesus is concerned about the disciples overcoming temptation. Jesus’s concern is their holiness.
Prayer keeps us holy.
Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
Jesus is telling the disciples to pray so that they will not fall into temptation. Temptation is the desire to submit to ourselves rather than submit to Jesus. Prayer keeps us from temptation. In prayer we are asking God to keeps us holy. Jesus is telling the disciples to ask God to help keep them holy. And he doesn’t let up on them.
Three times Jesus returns for them. Three times Jesus returns to encourage, to exhort to tell them, pray. Watch pray, don’t submit to your desires ask God to keep you holy.
Followers, and fans alike pray. We pray for jobs, we pray for health conditions, blessings, relationships all kinds of things that we need. We should keep praying for those things, but there comes a point when there is a time when the Holy Spirit presses in on you on your heart, and you need to purposefully head to a place to pray, and we need to submit to God’s will and pray to be made holy by God.
Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
The disciples did not quite succeed at this. They fell asleep. The consequences for Peter was that he denied the Lord Jesus. After he had done that he went out and wept bitterly. Perhaps , things may have turned out differently for Peter had we watched and prayed. It is out of that the verse in 2 Peter 1 comes to life.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;
Make every effort to add to your faith goodness. Peter is saying make every effort to stay awake. Make every effort to watch and pray. Make every effort to avoid temptation. When you avoid temptation you add goodness,
We can relate to Peter and the apostles. We can get tired, our flesh is weak. Sometimes, we sleep instead of pray. Sometimes we do not pray as we should to avoid temptation but instead we submit to our weak flesh, and we go down a path like Peter. Perhaps, we are not openly denying Jesus, but as we fall to temptation and step away from goodness we are not living up to being the follower we should be.
A follower is pray-er. A follower is drawn by the Holy Spirit placing a thirst for God in our souls, to purposefully sets out to pray. Because the Lord Jesus Christ has won the battle of temptation, and remained without sins, he paid the price for our sins, as we turn to Jesus in prayer, he helps us to overcome our temptation, and helps us become holy as He is holy.
In Jesus name.