Four Prayers

Although we will never experience the full suffering of Jesus, we sometimes find ourselves in situations that are similar in type. Jesus knew trouble was coming: Betrayal, abandonment by friends, false accusations, a mock trial without due process, unjust condemnation, mockery, torture, and cruel death. We have so many things to shout when someone cuts us off on the highway. His lack of words is surprising. His choice of four prayers is instructive.

      1. In Gethsemane, Jesus’ human tension is obvious. He asked to be spared suffering under the wrath of God; but He wrenched Himself back and surrendered to the will of God.  “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Thy will be done” (Matt. 26:39-42). We need to come to terms with the relationship between suffering and obedience. Obeying God is hardest when it costs us some loss or pain. If we obey, especially under those circumstances, we grow more like Jesus. His initial wavering is exactly where we often find ourselves; His final resolve should be our goal.
      2. The raw terror of Jesus’ crucifixion is heard in His cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46)1. More than all the emotional and physical pain, evident in the bloody sweat of Gethsemane (Luke 22:44), His sense of being severed from His Father was the greatest agony. Feeling that God is not speaking or acting for a short time is hard for us. As the unresponsiveness continues our sense of abandonment intensifies. It takes great faith to trust God in those times.
      3. Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Instinct wants to lash out, to change, punish, or get even with those who hurt us. Jesus saw no need for those responses because He knew His opponents were only misguided players in something God was doing that would open the door for everyone to enter His kingdom. The way of bargaining, bitterness, and unforgiveness is the way of the flesh. Jesus chose to live the kingdom life.
      4. Jesus’ dying words revisit His surrender in the garden but add blind faith—faith that something wonderful lies behind the blackness. “Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46)2. We want to prove our innocence, or have the pain removed, or return everything to what it was. All those desires are understandable, but worthless compared with trusting ourselves to the vindication and resurrection of the Father. We can’t dictate what resurrection will look like; we must openly receive whatever God has planned, just as Jesus did.

For Jesus, anything more than these four prayers would have been an attempt to argue God out of His will. These four together are the essentials to surrendering in the midst of human-inflicted suffering. If you are like me, you might have a problem trusting God in new situations because you assume the outcome will be like previous outcomes—so you make a fuss. But that was before we learned to trust and obey. Back then we drew from our human nature and therefore limited God’s work. What if we choose surrender as Jesus did? What if we focus on God’s faithfulness to produce a glorious resurrection on the other side of pain and death?

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  1. This is a quotation from Psalm 22:1, which actually ends in praise to God. []
  2. This is a quotation from Psalm 31:5, which is full of statements of trust and hope in God. []

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