In the olive grove, with a stone for an altar, Jesus prayed. “Abba, Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36, CSB). Matthew tells us that Jesus was “sorrowful and troubled” (Matthew 26:37). Luke, the physician, records: “being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44, ESV). At Gethsemane, with the cross looming large, the Son spoke to His Papa, acknowledging His omnipotence and accepting His eternal plan with its immediate personal cost. With Peter, James and John snoozing nearby, Jesus pleaded and prayer... three times (Matthew 26:36-47).
He prayed three times.
My wife’s mom prayed three times. That is, she prayed again, and again, and again that God would take away the ravaging cancer and allow her to live. Specifically, she wanted to live long enough to celebrate the birth of her last grandchild. She left for heaven one month before Lizzy arrived on earth. In heaven, she is cancer-free, and alive, like never before!
God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want. He’s not a Jeanie in a bottle ready to grant our three wishes.
Paul prayed three times. I’m pretty sure he prayed again, and again, and again. The Apostle had a “thorn in the flesh” that “harassed” him, and he “pleaded with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9), begging for relief.
So, what was it? What was the “thorn in the flesh” that afflicted Paul? No one can say for sure. The poor guy had been beaten, whipped and imprisoned so many times, maybe there were crippling residual effects. He had been blinded on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). Maybe his eyesight was permanently challenged. No one knows.
Here’s what we do know. Again, and again, and again, Paul begged God to fix it.... to heal him... to take away the trouble. God said, “No. I won’t take you out of the storm, but I’ll be with you in the storm.”
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ ” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9, ESV).
The examples of Jesus and Paul teach us to pray persistently. Pray again, and again, and again! Jesus taught his disciple to keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking (Matthew 7:7).
Pray passionately. Jesus pleaded. Paul begged. How long has it been since we’ve prayed with real intensity? ... with urgency? We’re admonished to “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, CSB).
We must also learn to pray submissively. “Not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36, CSB). “Our Father in heaven... your will be done...” (Matthew 6:9-10).
God doesn’t promise to take away our troubles... He promises something even better. His glorious promise is “grace sufficient” for every struggle.
South Georgia Baptist Church
Mike Martin, Pastor