April 21, 2011 - An Unanswered Prayer
Rev. Jonathan K. Twitchell
Maundy Thursday is that day in the Christian Calendar when we gather to remember the Last Supper, the betrayal by Judas, and the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. The word Maundy comes from the new command (latin: mandatum) that Jesus gave his disciples - to love one another.
This day is full of action and things to do and see. We might gather and celebrate communion. Some churches have a foot washing service. We read about Judas betraying Jesus, and we can picture Peter going for his sword to slice off the ear of the high priest's servant.
But in the midst of all that action and intrigue, I'm consistently drawn to a quieter moment in the garden. Jesus is praying, more fervently then most of us have ever prayed. He is crying out to the Father, asking for deliverance from what is about to happen. He is praying so intensely that blood is coming through the pores in his face. It appears as though his prayers may have lasted three hours that night, longer than many of us can imagine praying.
We don't know all of the content of his prayers; after all, the eyewitnesses were sleeping. We do know that he asked for deliverance, but then conceded to the Father, "Not my will, but Thine be done." Obviously, I don't know for sure, but I suspect that he might have quoted some of the psalms (maybe 130 or 143?).
This prayer of deliverance in Psalm 143 identifies the enemies faced by the psalmist, and affirms his faith in the God who can deliver. The Psalm seems to end on a note of optimism, as though the psalmist assumes that God will provide the deliverance that he asks for.
I don't know about you, but such assumptions rarely seem to work for me. The people I want God to heal aren't healed, the financial resources that our church needs are sometimes slow to appear, and the broken relationships that I intercede for are not always reconciled. It might be easy to believe that I'm doing something wrong, or that God isn't hearing my prayers.
Today, I take great comfort in the idea that the Son prayed passionately for three hours... and the Father did not answer the prayer in the way that Jesus hoped.
Father, let me daily adopt the prayer attitude of Jesus, who said, "not my will, but Thine be done."
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