When I was a boy growing up in a pastor’s home, my dad had a prayer ground. You don’t hear about these places anymore, but for my dad it was a very sacred place for him to go and pray. It was a place in the woods where he could be alone with God and hear from Him. I can remember going with him on a few occasions and knowing that I needed to remain quiet and still while daddy prayed. I also remember daddy would take rocks with him and build a prayer altar out of rocks that he had, piling them up every time he prayed.
One time, daddy and my cousin Stevie set the woods on fire. I remember it so well because when mama and I came home from Gainesville that day there were fire trucks, forestry bulldozers, and a lot of people all over our property. Fortunately, the fire was put out before it hit all of Skitts Mountain, but still there was a lot of the woods behind our house that were burned.
One place that the fire did not burn (and I promise you are not going to believe this, but I saw it) was my daddy’s prayer ground. The fire burned all the way around it but did not touch that prayer ground. I don’t understand what all that means, but I know this was a place where my daddy met with God and God heard His prayers and moved in mighty ways in his life, our family, and in his ministry as a pastor – it was a sacred place.
I have this on my heart this morning because as I was reading from Matthew 26 I was reminded again that Jesus had a special prayer ground. Jesus was a man of prayer. You might say, “Of course He was, He was God in the flesh; He had to be.” But I submit to you that Jesus had a desire to not only teach us about prayer but to lead us by example. The Bible is very clear (Philippians 2) that Jesus willingly took upon Himself the form of a man and in doing so showed us the need of every person to spend time in prayer to the Father.
The Bible tells us He would go to the mountains to pray or even go to a secluded place. But we also know there was a certain garden that he would go to and pray, known as the Garden of Gethsemane. It was here on the night before the cross that Jesus allows us to have a view into His private prayer time with His Father at one of the most critical times on His journey to the cross to give His life as a sacrifice for all of mankind.
Luke tells us that this was a place he would often go to. On this night he took the 11 (Judas had already left the group to set in place the plan to betray the Lord) and left eight of them at the garden gate but then took His inner circle of Peter, James, and John to His prayer ground. When He got there, he asked them to pray with him and watch. He tells these men that His soul was so heavy, near death. We read on and find that He was deeply distressed and troubled. Jesus was feeling the weight and burden of our sins and knowing He would become sin for us on the cross and would therefore face the wrath of God on our behalf.
That is why in His humanity He cried out to the Father, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” I fully believe Jesus was not trying to get out of the cross or was afraid to die. He knew that is why He had come. But Jesus, the sinless Son of God, knew He would be facing the full wrath of His Father and must endure His own Father turning away from Him because He was made sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21).
Jesus was surrendering His human will to the divine will of the Father. He laid it before Him and wrestled it out in prayer. But in the end, He found peace in laying His will down in the hands of the divine will and power of the Father to accomplish His perfect will. I praise God He did. He was willing to go the cross for me and for you, so we could be saved and know God as our Father as well.
This also shows us that Jesus knows what it is to be in agony, troubled, have a heavy soul. He shows us what to do with this – go to the prayer ground and call out the Father. Mark tells us He even cried out in Aramaic, “Abba Father,” which means Papa Daddy. Jesus by example shows us to bring our burdens to the Father and lay our will down.
Unfortunately, this passage also shows us how we as followers of Christ struggle to follow His example. Jesus not only brought Peter, James, and John with Him, He personally asked them to watch and pray with Him. But they fell asleep. They were tired; I know this. If you are like me, you know what it’s like to be exhausted from life and ministry. But so was Jesus. He says to them, “Could you not watch with me one hour?”
He then went on to say, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus knew what Peter was going to face, and He also knew He would need the power of God to overcome the trial and temptations that were coming His way. Jesus says the spirit is willing and wanting to be strong, but our flesh is weak. We must stay alert, wake up, and pray and find the power to overcome the temptations of life.
As the passage closes, Jesus finishes His prayer time and tells the men to get ready, His time has come. Judas was on his way to betray Him and set in motion the plan of God that would send Jesus to the cross to give His life as a sacrifice for our sins and then raise Him again on the third day. But Jesus was ready – He had prayed and laid His burdens before the Father, and God gave Him strength for the journey ahead. The battle was truly won in that sacred prayer ground in prayer.
This passage really challenged me today and here are few takeaways:
I don’t know about you, but I am grateful that God allowed the gospel writers, as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit, to give us a glimpse into the prayer ground of Jesus. It helps my soul. I am also grateful that I have sweet memories of my earthly father and his prayer ground. Both stir me to return to my prayer ground this morning and seek the Father and cry out as Jesus, “Papa Daddy.” Just as He was there for His Son, He is here today for His children. Thank you, Father, for prayer. May we watch and pray and find sweet victory today.
This post originally appeared at Wilkes’ blog.
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