The Passion Prayer

A minister noticed a young boy kneeling off to the side of the room after youth group and praying very fervently. As the preacher came within earshot of the boy, he was surprised to hear the boy saying: "Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo."
After the boy finished his praying the preacher approached him and said, "Son, I was very pleased to see you praying so devoutly, but I couldn’t help but overhear you saying something like ’Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo.’ What was that all about?"
The boy replied, "Well, I just finished taking my geography test in school, and I have been praying as hard as I can that God would make Tokyo the Capital of France."

How many of you think that boy’s prayers will change the Capital of France to Tokyo? Not going to happen is it?

Now, I believe that prayer is one of the most powerful gifts from God that we have. It is apart of God's grace to us.  The very fact that we can even approach God is amazing in and of itself.  And that God hear us when we come to Him with broken and contrite hearts. However, I also know, there are going to be times when prayer will not change what’s going to happen. Please understand, God can do whatever He wants to do, and He can change whatever He desires to change. Let’s face it, Tokyo will always be the capital of Japan… not France.

Jesus has something similar happen to Him during a deep intimate time of prayer with the Father.  He was asking something to happen that in His heart He knew was not going to happen.  But way ask it if you know its not going to come to be? In Luke 22 we have Jesus praying for God to take a “cup” from Him? What does that mean? What is this cup? You have to look within the Old Testament to find the answer.

Isaiah 51:17 says “Awake, awake! Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger.”

Jeremiah 25:15-16 says much the same thing: when it declares “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: ‘Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it…’"

The “cup” Jesus asked be spared of was the cup… of God’s wrath;
The reason Jesus came to earth…The reason He took on the form of a man…The reason He had preached and taught and healed the crowds for 3 years…Jesus came to die for us. He came to be our substitute. He came to pay the price for our sins.

Jesus came to drink the cup of God’s wrath so we would not have to taste it for ourselves. And now, just hours before the deed is about to be done, Jesus prays "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me..." Luke 22:42a.  The Gospel of Matthew also tells us about this Garden prayer, but Matthew goes into greater detail, telling us that Jesus didn’t just pray this prayer once… He prayed 3 separate times saying pretty much the same thing every time: “Father, take this cup from me.” The question is, "Did Jesus believe that there was some other way to get the job done?"

I don’t think so…I know what your thinking, "So why pray the prayer?" If Jesus knew the Father was going to deny His request, if Jesus knew the Father was going to tell Him NO, if Jesus knew His prayer wasn’t going change His destiny on the cross. Why pray the prayer?

Well maybe perhap its because prayer isn’t ALWAYS about changing our circumstances and fixing our problems. Sometimes prayer is about laying hold of God…drawing near to Him, letting Him bring your strenght and comfort. The problem is, too often people see prayer as if it were a magic incantation. They think, "If I can say the right words, in the right way, at the right time – Abracadabra, presto chango, everything becomes better."

About 10 years ago, Isaac Bruce, a receiver for the St. Louis Rams, was talking to Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly about his game-winning catch in Super Bowl XXXIV. Speaking about that catch, Bruce said "That was all God. I knew I had to make an adjustment on the ball, and God did the rest." Something about that answer troubled Reilly and he went on to ask Bruce about a recent car accident he’d had. Bruce’s vehicle had flipped several times, but he walked away unscathed because, as he claimed, he invoked Jesus’ name during the tumble. Reilly then asked Bruce if another professed Christian - golfer Payne Stewart - would have survived his plane crash had he done the same thing. Bruce replied, "Oh, definitely." Reilly then asked him about another professed Christian athlete, Kansas City linebacker Derrick Thomas, who would (soon after) die from injuries sustained in a wreck, and about the Columbine High student who was shot after affirming her belief in God to the person who kill her.

Like a prosecuting attorney, Reilly probed and questioned until he had exposed the shallowness of Bruce’s understanding of prayer. A commentator at the American Family Association web site observed: ”… for Bruce to assume that yelling "Jesus!" was a surefire way for everyone to avoid tragedy was simply bad theology…. Many people have been lead to believe God to be a cosmic convenience store where all the good things in life are readily available.”

So the question is, why pray? If I can’t always get what I want when I pray, then why pray?

Well, the easiest way to answer this is that sometimes prayer has a different purpose in mind. Prayer does something to someone who is totally trusting in the authority and will of God the Father.  It is a purpose that stands strong in the face of circumstances that MAY NOT change. This “purpose” of prayer is best summed up by the following poem;

“Sometimes God stills the storms of the sea
At other times, He stills the storms within me.”

Prayer makes all the difference in the world when facing a storm in life.  No matter what God's answer may be it is always the best answer.  Just look at the cross!  Jesus took the wrath of God upon Himself so you and I would NOT!  God's ways are always the best ways, His will always better than our will.  Remember, God has your best interests at heart. He always calms the storms in your life, whether the are the external storm, which is the circumstance itself, or the storm within.  I love it when God calms me when trouble comes my way. He truly is the rock on which we should build our lives upon, so when the winds blow it will not be blow down.

Billy Graham once wrote: “I watched the deck hands on the great liner United States as they docked that ship in New York Harbor. First they threw out a rope to the men on the dock Then, inside the boat the great motors went to work and pulled on the great cable. But, oddly enough, the pier wasn’t pulled out to the ship; but the ship was pulled snugly up to the pier. Prayer is the rope that pulls God and us together. But it doesn’t pull God down to us; it pulls us to God. We must learn to say with Christ, the master of the art of praying: ‘Not my will; but Thine be done.’”

We need to realize that Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane was not a prayer of hopelessness and defeat. It was a prayer of surrender to His Father’s Will. And in that surrender, Jesus found the strength to overcome. It was when Jesus prayed that prayer that the Father reached down and comforted Him. Luke 22:43 tells us: “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.”  It’s that kind of supernatural strength from God that I want in my life. But first we must be willing to pray the way Jesus did.

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