Aug. 18, 2016

Cross Purposes 4 / When The Garden Becomes A Jungle

Scripture for consideration: Luke 22:41b-43. “... He kneeled down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done.’ And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him.”

What becomes clearer is the realization that when we pray for ourself or others, that it is often not done in the manner that Jesus came to the Father - in full surrender of His will and the situation. Very often instead we approach asking for some blessing, or healing, or other dispensing of Grace, based upon our own ego’s agendas for “happiness”, with a finite and therefore limited perspective on what we may think is best. 

Thus within our personal will-full-ness we may wind up standing in the way of God’s best and highest for us... (instead, Father, may we align our hearts with Yours, and thus pray “in Your Name”!)

As we pause and bask in the light of the above text, we can give thanks that the Holy Spirit ever reveals new facets of more effectual prayer. And perhaps, with this realization, we might follow the lead of the disciples as they ask Jesus (Luke 11:1), “Lord, teach us to pray...” Certainly the accounts of our Lord in the New Testament are full of the answers to this prayer, as He exemplifies for us what it takes not only to intercede in times of need, but especially to attune to that Still Small Voice.

We discover in searching these out that very often our prayers are reactive rather than pro-active. (I’ll leave it to you to ponder how this might be so, perhaps as we catch ourselves wringing our hands, and saying such things as, “There’s nothing left for us to do except to pray”).

Yet in today’s little meditation, first of all we see Jesus withdrawing from the disciples who were with Him in Gethsemane as these Passion events unfold. He removes Himself from the bewilderment they must have been experiencing in those hours, a stone’s cast away - maybe far enough but not too far, as He is all too well aware of their fearfulness at this point. He must distance Himself for this act of surrender, which they were neither ready for, nor could they understand fully.

Here we see Jesus kneeling down and praying to the point of sweating blood, in full knowledge of what He must do and the horrific events ahead. If the very Son of God kneels down in humility, who are we to be “coming against” some greater plan that we judge as undesirable in our life, as we experience parts and pieces and fragments that seem to assault our human ideas about what we want? Who are we to be “declaring” and “decreeing” to the Almighty Father of Spirits and Source of all creation, as if He’s some genii in the bottle who has the duty to grant our wishes?

As we kneel here with our Lord, as we together embark upon embracing the Cross, we’re reminded that the god of this world does not relish being on his knees before the Father, but that he prefers to strut about in defiance, without humility, declaring his multiple, “I will” statements. And thus we acknowledge that all such attitudes have no place in our mind and heart, let alone coming from our lips. For here and now Jesus is teaching us how He prays.

Instead we’re moved to surrender our self with Jesus, saying, “Father if Thou be willing remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but Thine, be done!”

Much of life consists of episodes where things are changing and pointing toward a “Winter”, as they so often do in the Autumn (although our particular Scripture focus is often associated with Spring and the Easter season). Summer’s green - whatever that may represent to us -always passes away. And it may mean that what has been must pass away, with a winter ensuing, which prepares us for what lies beyond it - green and verdant again and radiant with new life. For the Winter can mean a dark night of the soul, wherein the Lord works through the night in deeper and incomprehensible ways, and so we must ask for His strength and stamina to go through it without being able to control it.

But then we can also know that wherever the Winds of the Spirit may take us, we always have divine strength to sail through it, knowing the experience has its greater purpose, knowing simply that this too shall pass.

And it may pass all the more serenely if we are surrendered instead of resistant and insistent, concerning what the outcome ought to be! For perhaps all our resistant praying is only about as effective as a water pick against a forest fire.

It is at this point of surrender and realization that the angel appears to strengthen us with a strength which we ourselves are incapable of generating. (And may we recognize and acknowledge such when they appear!) Therefore, as we receive these angels, these bearers and messengers of divine strength, we know that we can grace-fully enter into the cross which awaits us.

We acknowledge, Father, that You are mightily present in all things - even what we may rather avoid, and that Your strength is made perfect in our weakness, more so than we can imagine. And in this greater understanding we willingly pray with our Master Jesus, not my will, but Yours alone Father, be done. For You reign in all things omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. You are infinite and unconditional Love. You always bring us through what will work in us Your highest and best, eventually fitting us and preparing us for our eternal abode with You. To You be all glory now and forever, through Christ Jesus.