Saturday, October 24, 2009

Luke 22.39-46, concluded

This leads us to a second instructive aspect of this text. Jesus urges the disciples to stay awake and pray that they not fall into temptation. Then he moves away from them, leaving them to pray. What happens when the physical Jesus leaves their presence? When they lose sight of him, and they can no longer hear his voice, the disciples fall asleep. Rather than praying that God keep them from temptation, they succumb to it. Apparently they have full stomachs and they are tired and so taking a short nap while Jesus is off doing whatever it is he’s doing makes sense. The problem is that napping is not what Jesus had asked them to do, and it isn’t what he asks us to do. The disciples are to remain in prayer even when it is not apparent that Jesus is around. So are we. Scripture asks us in another place, “will God find faith on the earth when he returns,” asked in the context of prayer. Separate from whether prayer “works,” prayer is an indicator of our faith. If we believe there is a God out there; if we believe he hears and responds to us, the expectation is that we will speak with him.

Jesus asked his disciples to pray that they not fall into temptation. This is another way of wording Jesus’ own prayer that the will of the Father be done rather than his own. Praying not to fall into temptation is essentially the same as praying to be in the center of God’s will even if it doesn’t look like that is the place we want or should be. Later in the evening and after a short show of bravado and violence, the disciples are going to abandon Jesus to the arresting mob. They will all run, one even losing his clothes. True enough, some will follow from a distance and witness the evening’s and early morning’s trials. But one of those will end up denying any association with Jesus three times with increasing frustration and anger.

It is important here to note that he does not tell them to pray for what they want or even for the salvation of the world, but that they not fall into temptation. Our prayer is primarily to be the same. While we are encouraged in other passages to ask for what we want, that wanting must yield to the will of God. It is critical that we understand the difference between being in the will of God and God actively willing whatever is befalling us at the moment. Primarily the will of God is summed up in Micah 6.8 – we are to be people who love (extending) mercy, who act justly (toward others), and who walk humbly with God (even when we don’t quite get it). When we have allowed ourselves to be transformed, we can see more clearly the will of God but even if we can’t, we rest in the belief – the knowledge – that God knows what he’s doing. We avoid the temptation of judging God and we live in his will and presence.

The example of Jesus in this passage provides us a window into the way of life for a God follower. We are called to works of goodness, we are called to tell others of God, but our primary calling is to remain in the will of God even when it may seem that he isn’t listening or even there. Our ability to and habit of prayer are intended to keep us in step with God and they are direct indicators of our faith in his existence and his faithfulness to us.

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