Monday, April 10, 2017

Why we Should Meditate on Jesus’ Model of Prayer

Matthew 26:38-39, 27:46 (CEB): Jesus’ Model of Prayer
38 Then he said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert with me.” 39 Then he went a short distance farther and fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”
46  At about three Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?”
Although sometimes solemn, Holy Week contains its own joy. We celebrate the joy of Jesus’ faith, resilience, and love for humanity in the face of incomprehensible human suffering. He takes our iniquities with him to the cross, dying so that we may live, emptying himself so that we might be filled. And Jesus does this not with ease because he is God. Jesus, rather, embraces the sufferings of his humanity by experiencing sadness, reluctance, and abandonment.
While in Gethsemane, Jesus experiences the pain of sadness. He knows that the cross looms in the distance, and his prayer reflects this: “Then [Jesus] said to them, ‘I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying . . .’” (26:38). How can God Incarnate feel the same troubling emotions as us? Jesus is as human as he is divine. Sadness, then, is a feeling that we all experience, and Jesus does, too. He wants his faithful to know that he suffers as we do. Therefore, when we are grieved by our own personal struggles, we should turn to Christ, knowing that he understands firsthand the pain of sadness and grief. And by meditating on Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane, we can identify with his pain and sadness, a common human struggle that he willingly took on for each of us.   
Sadness is one thing, but God being reluctant to face death is another. Jesus, lying prostrate, prays, “My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want” (26:39). Scripture clearly indicates that Jesus prefers to let “this cup of suffering” pass. This cup, of course, represents the humiliation and pain of Christ’s Passion and death. Jesus, like us, is reluctant to suffer and die. But he seeks to serve the Father’s will, not his human will. How do we handle our own sufferings in life? Do we remove our own cup or, like Jesus, empty ourselves to God’s will? Jesus’ reluctance ends with his obedience.
Jesus also expresses abandonment. Moments before his death, Jesus prays the opening line from a Davidic prayer, Psalm 22, and it is a question he poses to the Father: “My God, my God, why have you left me?” How many times do we feel that God is silent to our pleas? Whether a simple or profound petition, when our prayers are not answered, we, too, feel a sense of abandonment. And this shakes our faith. But Christ’s unshakable faith is our model. As Jesus cries out to the Father “Why?” he faithfully holds firm to his purpose and offers up his life for the sins of the world.
I pray that as we proceed through this Holy Week, we meditate on those difficult moments in Jesus’ prayer. And in that meditation, I pray that Jesus’ model of self-emptying love fortify our faith, uphold our hope, and deepen our devoted love toward God and neighbor.

Have a blessed Holy Week.
Stan