People are interested in prayer. A magazine conducted a poll, asking Americans what subject they most wanted to hear about at church. The number one request was how to make prayer more effective.
Jesus set an example of effective prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.
A special place
“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives” (Luke 22:39). Jesus used Gethsemane as a special place of communion with the Father, so much so that Judas knew where to find him. We can pray anywhere, but it’s helpful to have a regular place.
A private place
Jesus wanted his friends near him during this stressful time, but he took only three of his closest companions inside (Luke 22:41). Then, when Jesus had his most intimate conversations with the Father, he got completely by himself. Group prayer has benefit, but the most effective prayer occurs in privacy.
An intense place
Jesus told his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed ... to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). Jesus knew the horror that awaited him. Luke 22:44 describes Jesus’ pain: “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
It’s easy for prayers to be perfunctory, but intensity is more important than correct grammar or length. Repeating words by rote does not impress God. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16, King James Version).
A submissive place
Two attitudes of Jesus should instruct us. First, he expressed his own desire: “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” Second, he surrendered his desire to the will of the Father: “Not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Prayer is expressing our thoughts to God but at the same time submitting our wills to his direction.
A place of understanding
When Jesus discovered his disciples were sleeping instead of praying (v. 40), he was disappointed: “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” But Jesus understood: “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (v. 41).
A tangible by-product of prayer should be patience with others. When we’re energized by the Holy Spirit, he makes us gentle, patient, kind, and loving toward others.
A repetitive place
Jesus repeated his prayer almost verbatim (v. 42). Sometimes we’re hesitant to repeat requests too often. But Jesus told us to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking (Matthew 7:7).
God honors faithful, persistent, intense prayer. (See Luke 11:5-8.)
A strengthening place
“Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go!” (vv. 45,46). Something happened during that three hours in the garden that emotionally, physically, and spiritually revitalized Jesus. He entered the garden in sorrow-he emerged with determination. When Jesus got up from his place of prayer, he knew God’s will and approached the cross with a spirit of resolve, confidence, and even joy.
So, when we think of prayer, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
Think about It
I. What has been your “Gethsemane,” the issue that caused you to pray with your greatest intensity?
2. What has been your greatest hurdle to praying “Your will be done”? How could that hurdle be removed?
3· If you were to pick a time and place for regular prayer, what would they be?
Paul Leavens is the Minister of Lindsay Christian Church. Visit the church website at www.lindsaychristianchurch.org.