1 When Jesus Prayed THREE PRAYERS DURING HIS LAST 24 HOURS INTRODUCTION A. I believe most disciples understand that Jesus is our supreme example and that we should examine His life regularly to see what He did and taught that we might imitate His life and be guaranteed we are pleasing to Him and to God. In every way, He set the example for us to follow, and it is no less true when it comes to the matter of His prayers. If we were to look at His prayers, we would learn what we should be praying for, how we should pray, and when we should pray. We could just read of the time when He told the disciples a story of a persistent widow, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1), but wouldn't it mean more to read that Jesus often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed (Luke 5:16)? We could just read His instructions to the disciples about how they should not pray as the hypocrites, but gave them a better way when He said, In this manner, therefore, pray (Matt. 6:9), but wouldn't it make more of an impression on us if we actually took the time to see the manner in which Jesus prayed? B. When we near the end of our lives, it is then that we often start thinking more seriously about the proverbial 'things that matter most' and are compelled to speak to others about what is on our minds and, for the spiritually-minded, prayer is one of the things that suddenly becomes even more important than it ever had before. For this reason, I believe it would be of great benefit to us to consider not just the prayers of Jesus, but to consider the prayers He prayed during the last 24 hours of His life before He was crucified. In the three prayers recorded within God's word, we find some important instruction about the content, intensity, and motive for our prayers all things that should be important to us who are God's people. C. So today, let's consider the times When Jesus Prayed not long before He was to be taken away, tried, and crucified. In these prayers we will find some insight into His thinking as he neared the fulfillment of His time on earth, and what was most important to Him in a most stressful period. Let us consider His words and requests, and let us then learn how we should pray, the manner in which we should pray, and for what and whom we should pray. I. WITH THE DISCIPLES [John 17] A. FOR HIMSELF. [John 17:1-5] 1. Restored Glory. The prayer of Jesus begins with a request to the Father to Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, and ends with the request repeated: O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. Let us note two points about this request: First, Jesus asks that He be glorified, that He may glorify the Father. As hard as it may be to believe, Jesus is asking that His glorification be done that God be glorified, but that glorification He knew would come in His death (cf. John 12:23). God would be glorified when the gospel began to be preached and men would hear of how God had conceived of a plan for our salvation before time began, and was made effective through the death of Jesus on the cross. Second, let us note that Jesus asked that He be glorified with the Father as He had with Him before the world was, indicating the eternal nature of Jesus as deity, too. Jesus was not a creation of God, but
2 coexisted with Him. As John said in the beginning of his record, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God (John 1:1, 2). 2. Let Us Seek To Glorify Him, Too. As we consider this prayer of Jesus and even this part of His prayer, let us recognize the glory He deserves because of His sacrifice, and let us also seek His glory. Let us join with those seen in the vision of the heavenly throne as written by John, where he saw the multitudes praising Him, singing, Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing! (Rev. 5:12) But let us not wait until we stand before Him in Judgment to give Him this honor and glory; let us glorify Him by exalting His will above our own, exalting Him as the only head and authority of the church, and by exalting Him as the only Savior. Truly, He is worthy of the glory He sought to have again. B. FOR THE APOSTLES. [John 17:6-19] 1. For God's Protection. The second part of this prayer is related to the apostles and their work to be done after He departs. Here, Jesus addresses two matters related to them: their protection and their work. He notes they have kept Your word and they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me (vv, 7, 8). The words Christ taught them were of the Father and the apostles received them and believed Jesus when He said He was of God. With the word given to them, now they were to go out into the world and preach it and it is because of this Jesus then asks the Father that He might keep them from the evil one (v. 15). If secular historical records are true, we see that all but one of the apostles died at the hands of others, and most certainly a result of their preaching the gospel. There was a reason Jesus prayed for God's protecting hand! While it may seem like this prayer was not answered in the affirmative, the apostles did spread the gospel throughout the civilized world and were responsible for its spread far beyond their personal travels. 2. Let Us Pray For The Word's Spread. While we do not have the apostles with us today, we do have the word of God in written form and we have many individuals around the world who have dedicated their lives to its spread, either on a full-time basis or simply as often as they can. It is still a good thing to pray for [those preaching the word], that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that [those preaching the word] may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith (2 nd Thess. 3:1, 2); and it is still worthwhile to be praying also for [those preaching the word], that God would open to [those preaching the word] a door for the word, to speak the word of God to the lost (Col. 4:3). C. FOR ALL DISCIPLES. [John 17:20-26] 1. For Unity. The last thing Jesus prayed for was that all disciples may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me (v. 21), that they may be one just as We are one (v. 22), and that they may be made perfect in one (v. 23). Let us note the emphasis Jesus puts on all disciples being united! And let us also note the qualification of that unity: in Us [that is, in God and Christ; Jesus cared how disciples would be united; unity in error was not what He desired], just as We are one [not some superficial 'unity'], and perfect in one [not lacking unity in any way]. 2. Let Us Strive To Fulfill That. Obviously, Jesus had a strong desire for unity among His disciples, and let us admit here and now that the only way that unity is going to be achieved is if we also have an equally-strong desire for the kind of unity Jesus desired. We must, as Paul urged the Corinthians,
3 speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment (1 st Cor. 1:10), and we must be endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). Unity takes effort on the part of all who would desire it, and humility and self-sacrifice must first be present for any unity to exist. Let us also pray for that unity not that others would agree with us, but that we would all unite on the word of God! II. IN THE GARDEN A. THE FERVENCY. 1. Praying Three Times. The first thing we should note about this occasion when Jesus was praying is the fervency in which He prayed. We are told that when He and the disciples came to the Garden, He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed (Matt. 26:37) and, after departing from them, He prayed, O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will (v. 39). But He came back to find them sleeping and left again to pray, speaking the same words (vv ). He returned again to find them asleep again and He went away to pray the third time, repeating the same words (vv. 43, 44). Three times He prayed the same words; it should be clear to all that this is what was at the forefront of His mind! 2. Intensity. The fervency of Jesus in prayer at this time is seen not only by the number of times He prayed, but also the intensity of His prayers. We have already seen that Matthew recorded He was sorrowful and deeply distressed, but Luke adds, Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:43, 44). He was already burdened with sorrow, but now He is in agony and an angel is sent to strengthen Him! He increases the earnestness of His prayer and so intense was His prayer that He was perspiring as if He was bleeding! Friends and brethren, that is intense! B. THE CONTENT. 1. For Another Way. But we must take the time to consider also what Jesus prayed for in this stressful, sorrowful time. And, as we might imagine, Jesus prayed for another way to accomplish the Father's will, asking in each prayer, O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me (cf. Matt. 26:39). Jesus was not asking out of the crucifixion without regard to the eternal plan of the Father, but asking as any human being in that situation would if there was another way for it to be accomplished. He was sorrowful and deeply distressed because He was about to be scourged and beaten and spat upon and then nailed by His hands and feet to a cross and hung up for the better part of a day! Under these circumstances, I don't believe we would wonder why He asked for another way to accomplish the will of the Father! 2. But That The Father's Will Be Done. But let us note with great comfort that for each time He asked if there might be another way, He also added, nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will (Matt. 26:39). To the very end, Jesus was fulfilling what He said He had come to do the Father's will. He said as much when He walked freely and without threats to His life (cf. John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38), and He has not cowered from this awesome charge He has been given now that His life is on the line! C. FOR US: 1. We Need To Pray With Fervency. The prayers of Jesus on this occasion should set the example for
4 every disciple and we should learn to pray just as fervently and intensely as He did here. Remember that Jesus does desire that men always ought to pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1), that God's word teaches us that we should pray without ceasing (1 st Thess. 5:17), and that we should Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving (Col. 4:2). Let us pray fervently, as did Jesus, because The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (Jas. 5:16). 2. We Need To Pray That God's Will Be Done. As we strive to follow the example of Jesus in prayer, let us also pray as He did, asking that the Father's will be done in all things for us and for others. As we have been taught in God's word, Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him (1 st John 5:14, 15). Our prayers are offered up to God as we seek His help and His blessings, but all we ask should be as Jesus asked, that the Father's will be done in all things. III. ON THE CROSS A. FORGIVENESS. [Luke 23:34] 1. For His Enemies. Let us note the fact that Jesus has just been taken in the dark of night by a mob sent by the religious leaders (cf. Matt. 26:47), put on a mock trial (vv ), scourged (Matt. 27:26), mocked and beaten again (vv ), and finally nailed to the cross by His hands and feet (v. 35). But even as He hangs on the cross, He is mocked further by those who put Him there (Matt. 27:39-44), yet Jesus prays. And His prayer is this: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do (Luke 23:34). Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matt. 5:44), and He followed His own words even in this most difficult situation. 2. Our Prayers Should Include This. As we have just noted, Jesus instructed us to pray for our enemies and those who spitefully use us and persecute us, and this we must do. Peter notes that Jesus when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth ; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously (1 st Pet. 2:20-23), and if He is the pattern we should follow, we must follow! B. SURRENDER. [Luke 23:46] 1. Fulfilling God's Will. In His final words, Jesus prayed, Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit. To the very end, Jesus did the will of the Father and, in this final act of dying, did what He came to do! He had said he had come to do the will of the Father, but He also knew that this meant dying, in the end; this was not a surprise to Him or a need for a 'plan B' because he failed to establish some earthly kingdom! Jesus had said during His earthly life, the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28); He left heaven, knowing this would be His end and He willingly did it all that we might have eternal life (cf. Phlp. 2:5-8). 2. The Aim of Our Spiritual Life. As disciples of Christ who, by freely choosing to follow Christ and His teachings, strive to live lives pleasing to God, our aim is in all things to do the will of the Father, understanding it is not merely lip service, but actual obedience that enables us to enter the kingdom (cf. Matt. 7:21), it is not lip service that proves our love for Christ, but obedience to His will (John 14:15);
5 and it is not a one-time act that ensures the eternal reward, but a faithful life until the end (2 nd Tim. 4:7, 8). Our aim should be the same as Christ, faithfully doing the will of the Father until our last breath! CONCLUSION As we stated in the beginning, we can read what Jesus said about prayer, and what He instructed and commanded, but the more powerful lessons are seen in His actual prayers, and none more powerful than those He prayed within the last day of His earthly life before He was crucified. In the prayers we have considered today, we can learn some important, life-changing lessons about what our prayer life should be like. But will we follow in His steps? Will we pray as Jesus did?
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