image courtesy of Carl Heinrich Bloch
Danger of Principles Over Relationship
I was recently reading 6 Principles for Prayer from Jesus by Bogdan Kipko. He took the prayer of Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane to pull out these principles of prayer. The principles were well thought out and neatly explain what Jesus did as He prayed. Probably because my mindset while reading, I was struck that these principles without Jesus’ motivation can be very dangerous to our faith.
I have recently been rereading Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. One point he makes throughout the book is that focusing on the dynamics of the disciplines over our relationship with God would lead to a form of religion. Religion leads us away from relationship with God by making us try to earn His response to us.
Bogdan’s six principles are there in Gethsemane (distance, demeanor, disposition, declaration, dedication, and determination). Jesus sweated blood as he prayed here. But, what was motivating Him to go to such lengths in prayer?
What Normally Motivated Jesus?
Jesus said earlier that He only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19). Was this what the Father was doing? We know that God so loved the world that He sent His Son to die (John 3:16), but that was the Father’s motivation for sending Jesus. Was Jesus’ motivation the same? We know that for the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2), but this was just the preamble to that suffering. So what was His motivation?
As I understand it, Jesus needed something before going through the suffering that He could only get from prayer. He had become sorrowful and troubled to the point of death (Mark 14:33-34). He is so troubled He asked His three closest disciples to watch and pray. We know that Jesus asked God to take the pending cup from Him. We also know He bowed to the will of the Father. What we don’t know is what He prayed for so long?
In Jesus’ sorrowful state, God sends an angel to minister to Jesus and strengthen Him (Luke 22:43). And each time Jesus found the disciples asleep, He encouraged them to pray warning against falling into temptation.
What Motivated Jesus Prayers at Gethsemane?
Jesus knew that the spirit was willing, but the body was weak (Matthew 26:41). Prayer connects our body with our spirit to come into agreement with what God is leading us to do. In our body, we get tired, we get hungry, we get needy, we get hurt, we get scared. But in our spirit, we are devoted to God. In prayer we reorient the rulership of our lives from our bodies to our spirit. And even Jesus needed to maintain the proper order in His life. Jesus body did not want to drink the cup; His spirit said yes to God.
We need to forget our prayer lists and intercession until we have gotten this point straight. We need to quit our activities for God until we are tapped into the power He has provided us. We need to connect ourselves to the Head and from there make requests, intercession, ministry, etc. It is in this connection with the Father that we need to strive for every minute of every day.
God wants to spend time with each of His children. He beckons us to His side to provide us all that we need. In prayer we are reminded of His complete delight in us and good plans for our lives.