Isn’t God Listening?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. Matt 26:44 NAB-RE
And, moreover, since Christ took it into his hands, work has become for us a redeemed and redemptive reality. Not only is it the background of man’s life, it is a means and path of holiness. It is something to be sanctified and something which sanctifies. (1)
2. We believe, teach, and confess that the preaching of the law is to be diligently applied not only to unbelievers and the impenitent but also to people who are genuinely believing, truly converted, regenerated, and justified through faith.
4 3. For although they are indeed reborn and have been renewed in the spirit of their mind, such regeneration and renewal is incomplete in this world. In fact, it has only begun, and in the spirit of their mind the believers are in a constant war against their flesh (that is, their corrupt nature and kind), which clings to them until death. (2)
As I read this passage from St. Matthew’s gospel this morning, I was struck with an odd thought.
Why is Jesus praying again for the same thing, for the third time even?
I understand why I will pray often for the same thing, for the same people. But why did Jesus, in the Garden, pray in agony that the cross would be rendered unnecessary? The very moment the Father and He planned for, he prayed would be removed?
And why would the Holy Spirit determine that you and I needed to see this agony, to see this cry of desperation to our Father? Three times he would cry out, and twice in His agony, He found us asleep. (It is ironic that they could sleep while he is in agony, considering the lesson with the storm, when He was asleep in the back of the boat. They only thought death was imminent. He knew it, felt it stalking Him!)
I don’t believe it was only to give us a lesson, or a model how to handle stress, anxiety, and despair. It may serve that purpose, and serve it very very well. But ost of us aren’t facing death in a few hours, and our death won’t include the weight of the sins of all history.
It is also not because of unbelief. Far often we use this prayer as our “out”. If it isn’t answered then we can dismiss our pain (yeah, sure!) by saying it wasn’t God’s will that He would address this situation, or provide that healing. It surely cannot be that God isn’t listening either, for that means He isn’t God, and His promises are simply frauds.
I think the lesson is far deeper than that, for Jesus, and as we realize why He prayed, you and I.will find a desire to pray.
The obvious – prayer is commanded, or perhaps it is better described to be urged by God. It is one of those “works” that flows because we take God at His word. We believe His promises, we count upon His mercy and we depend upon His love. There is no other option, even as there wasn’t as Jesus cried tears of blood in the garden. Obi-wan isn’t our only hope, Jesus is. It is not just law, but the law helps us see the necessity, as the Holy Spirit reminds us, we need God. We can’t live life in a vacuum where He doesn’t exist.
And prayer, like the other sacraments (see Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XIII) reminds us that not only did Jesus command it, but there is a blessing attached to it, a promise.
He will listen.
He does listen.
He is listening, right now!
And this prayer, this action is on God uses in us to work out our salvation, to remind us we are being regenerated, we are being renewed. This work, as the Vatican II pastors wrote, is a work that is a redeemed and redemptive reality.
As we pray, as we give up our burdens, our fears, our anxieties and our sins, there is a growth that occurs, a communion with God that leaves us in peace. That leaves us able to bear a cross, that leaves us assured of His presence, His support, His love. As Jesus prayed to the Father, as He knew the Father was listening, that comfort of the Father’s love sustained Him. That moment of surrender, to say this is yours Father, I can’t deal with it, makes our being His children ever more real.
And we become sure His kingdom will happen right here, right now. It becomes redeemed and redemptive, holy and right, it floods us with His presence, and even through the tears, we know His love.We know it in a way we can depend upon, no matter if what is next is the cross, or the resurrection… or both.
Pray, cast your cares, your burdens upon Him, and know His peace…and if you need to do so again and even a third time.. and depend upon Him, for He is listening..AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1453-1454). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 480). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.