Circle Maker Sermon Series 4: Think Long
Luke 22:39-45 39 He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. 40 When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”[g] 41 Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” [[43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44 In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.]]
About a month ago, I went down to Kansas City to attend a conference that the church of Resurrection holds every year. I decided to go down there driving with other three pastors. The driving hour is about 7 hours and we are four. So if we take turn driving, it would be not too bad. That was our initial thought. We have formed a kinds of covenant group for the past two years. We gather almost every other months to share our lives, read a book together and discuss, and pray for one another. We are kind of friends, so that 7 hour trip must be a so fun thing for us to do together. But a week before the trip to Kansas city, my boss, which we call District Superintendent, but to me she is BOSS, called and and asked if I was going to the conference. “Yes! I am going!”, I said, and I made a big mistake. I asked my boss, “Do you want to go with us?” What kind of person am I asking boss to join the fun trip? Did I lose my mind or what? But anyway I asked her and unexpectedly, she said “I love to!” Ugh, then I thought to myself, “What did I do?” Then I had to send a text to other three pastors asking if our boss- those three pastors are all in DeKalb District- could join our trip, confessing that I, by mistake- invited her to join us. No one answered to the text for the first 24 hours. That was funny. They all read the text and didn’t respond. But what could they do? Boss is boss and the boss wants to go with us, then we go with the boss. What made things worse was that I also asked her to stay at our place for the three days of the conference. Well, the three pastors ended up hating me. I didn’t think deep and the trip was long. Don’t get me wrong. I love my boss. We love our boss. She is the best boss ever in the world. But, just saying, boss is boss. I didn’t think long.
For the past three weeks we’ve been on the journey about prayer life. What it means is to pray bolder and have a deeper relationship with God through prayers. We’ve learned about this from people from the Bible like Joshua, and Moses. And last week we looked at a story when Jesus was teaching his disciples. For the past three weeks, we’ve been reading the same scripture when a disciple asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. (slide 1) Let’s read this together. “Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray…”
Through the last three and about half year of his life, Jesus showed many things to his disciples. Today I’d like to look at the times when Jesus actually prayed during the time. That would be the perfect end to this series. There are moments that Jesus prayed and I think we need to know when Jesus actually prayed and how he prayed.
On the last night when Jesus had been on earth before he was crucified. We all know the story, right. He came to Jerusalem about a week ago. He teaches people, He turns over the tables of money changers in the temple. Then it is time to celebrate the passover meal. Jesus gathers the disciples. They borrow a room, the upper room, a kind of like a second floor of a house. They share the passover meal. Now we call it the last supper. Jesus knew this was their last supper, but the disciples still didn’t quite get that. And then after the supper, the Bible tells us that Jesus led the disciples to a quiet place to pray. Now all the four gospels tell the same story of what happened next in Jesus’ life. Matthew and Mark say that Jesus went to the place of Gethemane. They give us the name. John calls the place a garden. Gethemane comes from a Hebrew word, that means olive place. So this place is a kind of grove of olive trees. And Luke tells us this place on the mount of olives. The mount of Olives is a hillside that is placed right out of old part of Jerusalem. The place looks down to the temple in the Jerusalem city. This is where Jesus took his disciples to pray. Look with me how Luke begins this story. (slide 2) This is Luke 22:39. “39 Then, accompanied by the disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives.” Circle the world “as usual.” This is an important word, “as usual.” Older Bible translation says this this way, “as was his custom.” Jesus was no stranger to the garden of Gethemane. It is a real place. We can still go there today. (slide 3) Jesus had a habit to go there and walked the path to pray. Now the garden of Gethemane comes to the end of Jesus’ life story in Luke 22. But this was nothing new to Jesus. Go with me all the way to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. This is Luke chapter 5. (slide 4) “16 But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” (Luke 5:16, NLT) There is another important word that we need to circle, “often.” Jesus withdrew often to pray. From the early Africans who followed Jesus, when they read this verse of Jesus often withdrawing to the wilderness, the African Christians decided to literally put this into practice by finding their own private spot on wilderness. They would go and pray. Over time the path that people walked to go to their praying place actually wear down the grass on the path . As a result of this practice, one of the Christians started to neglect the prayer life, and friends of the Christian gently encouraged him or her by saying this, “Hey, the grass grows on your path.” What about our prayer life? Grass grows?
When we say we learn how to pray from Jesus, it would be (slide 5) “Pray consistently.” When I say something consistent in my prayer life, that is inconsistency. I am so consistently inconsistent in my prayer life. When we started this sermon series, I also started circling my two churches in prayer. In the morning before I start a day or in the evening after everything is done, I come to the sanctuary, and I pray. But the problem that I am facing now is this. I sit in the same spot, and I pray the same prayer that I prayed yesterday. It sounds so boring and I even feel like I am bothering God by just repeating the same repertoire to God. “God, am I irritating you? Is it joyful noise to you or just noise to you?” I felt like I was bothering God, but you know what? This is what I preached last Sunday. God is our daddy. To my dad, I was so brazen. In the morning when mom was busy packing our lunch box in the kitchen, I followed dad who was getting ready to go to work and smiled mischievously and said, “Daddy, I need 10 box. I used up my pocket money.” If I did this to my mom, she would chew me up for at least an hour and didn’t give money. But I knew I could do this to my dad, because he never refused my request. And I did that the next morning again. So to me, praying to God with the same prayer is like this. My dad always laughed at me about being brazen. God would be totally okay for listening to the same prayer I pray for. We can be consistent. Pray the same prayer!
When Jesus started praying in Gethemane, he prayed like this. (Slide 6) 40 There he told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.” 41 He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Luke 22:40-42, NLT)
Two weeks ago we read Moses’ most authentic prayer together. When the Israelites complaint about food, Moses got so upset and prayed to God, “Kill me!” I love that prayer. Today Jesus is praying the most genuine prayer. He prayed, (slide 7) genuinely. Adam Hamilton, the rock star pastor of United Methodist Church, tells us a story one time several years ago during a church service with hundreds of people. In the middle of service, it was his responsibility to baptize a baby. He lifted a baby up before the congregation and was getting ready to lead a prayer. Close his eyes and open his mouth, “Lord, bless this food that we are about to receive.”
Let’s continue to see what Jesus prayed that night. Let’s read this out loud together. (slide 8) “I want your will to be done, not mine.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him.” (Luke 22:42b-43, NLT) When his disciples asked Jesus how to pray, Jesus taught them the Lord’s Prayer. In the prayer we all know that we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” I have prayed for so long for my kingdom, my desire, my dreams. It is not a bad place to start prayers, but we need to grow in God to pray for God’s kingdom and God’s will. Prayer is not pulling God to my kingdom. Prayer is pulling myself in line with God’s will.
So it order to surrender to God’s will we need to (slide 9) pray submissively. When Jesus was praying in Gethemane, he was aligned his will even though he didn’t want to take the cup. A missionary who was working in Mongolia once says that he went to Walmart and was waiting in line at a counter to buy something. There was a two, three year old boy was standing before him with his dad. The boy had a real nice, big toy in his hand. The boy’s daddy wanted him to put the toy on the counter so the cashier could check the price with a barcode scanner. But the boy could not understand that in order to have the toy forever first he needed to let the toy go away. His dad tried to take the toy away from him and the boy resisted his dad with all his might. After a long tussle, the boy ended up lying on the counter with his toy because he didn’t let his dad take the toy away from him. So his daddy just put him on the counter for the cashier to check the price. It happened several years ago, so I think at the time they didn’t have the portable barcode scanner thing. The boy must be so cute laying on the belt with his toy, but his daddy should feel so embarrassed with his son.
It is hard to put things in God’s hands, isn’t it? When we feel like God is not giving us what we need, we try to grab things so tight so that no one can take them away from us. I am often like the boy on the counter. I just can’t let things go away from me and made God embarrassed. Right, I need to learn more how to trust God.
Let’s see how Jesus prayed. (slide 10) “44 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” (Luke 22:44, NLT) (slide 10) There is a small and simple chapel in Gethemane, that people call the church of agony. It is named after the verse that we just read. The picture is the interior of the church by where the altar is. The 6 and 8 inches rock is right before the altar and the church tradition says this rock is where Jesus prayed on the night when his sweat became blood. Look at the rock. Look so uncomfortable. It must be really hard to even sit on. But Jesus prayed on the rock until his sweat is pouring down like great drops of blood. (slide 11) He prayed passionately. He didn’t ask his kingdom and his will to be done. He didn’t want to take the cross on his shoulder and didn’t want to go on the way that God placed before him. But Jesus didn’t argue with God. He prayed to follow God’s will so submissively, and so passionately.
Today is the last day that we talk about prayer. I hope all of us have things in our minds that we will circle in our prayers. Whatever we pray for, keep circling around it. Keep bugging God. God will love us bugging God. It is way better than not bugging God, right? Remember that God has been knocking on our door and wants to talk with us. Start circling around our dreams and our fears will be a great, nice start to talk with God. Thanks be to God! Amen.