We’ve all been there. Some call it that spot between a rock and a hard place where we feel the weight of life crushing us. Bad things will happen, the other shoe will drop, and our day of reckoning is near. And we’re desperate for relief.
“God help me” is a typical response when confronted with such situations.
There are thousands of metaphors and illustrations that fit the occasion. And if you can’t think of one, just tune into the latest reality show or news source. For example, my heart breaks every time I watch news coverage from Ukraine highlighting the massive destruction, suffering, and death caused by other humans.
But I don’t have to look a thousand miles away to find distress. Every day I feel surrounded by desperation and despair. On better days, our community looks full of promise and potential. On other days I see only the suffering and the cries for help.
Pew Research discovered that most of us find meaning and purpose in our job. I’m blessed to be in this fortunate group. But I spend my days among many persons experiencing high levels of unemployment for whom purpose must be carved out of creative ingenuity.
Sadly, seventy percent of U.S. teenagers ages 13 to 17 report that anxiety and depression are significant problems among people their age in their community. Feeling overwhelmed is one of those places that feel like the pressure is more than we can bear.
As we near the end of our series on prayer, we’re reminded that, for Jesus, prayer was an ongoing source of strength and grounding. His prayer habits kept Him in a continued Oneness with God that kept His human challenges from derailing His divine purpose.
How do I know this? First, Jesus followed Jewish practices of praying multiple times each day. Second, the gospel accounts share stories of Jesus finding time to pray even during a high-pressure day.
But the most apparent evidence for me is how Jesus treated others. He never condemned people that disagreed with Him. He wasn’t cruel to people who judged or belittled Him. The strength it takes to speak love into the face of hate is beyond human capacity. But Jesus had divine power bolstering Him. Divine power fueled by a universe of energy.
The fifth prayer of Jesus that is this week’s focus comes as He is praying shortly before His arrest.
Robert L. Morris, Jr.. in Pray Like Jesus, positions the Garden of Gethsemane as a metaphor. He writes:
Gethsemane was a place of business. You see, geth in Hebrew (gat) means “press,” —and a press was a large five-foot-high square pillar made of stone. The word semane in Hebrew means “olive.” So Gethsemane literally means press of olive, or as we would say today, an olive press…olives were gathered in a woven fishnet bag and placed on a special stone table with a trough on one side. Then the geth, or press, would be brought down on this bag of olives and left there, sometimes for two to three hours. It would take that long for the olives to be totally crushed and every drop of olive oil was funneled away.
The metaphor works when we consider that Jesus went to Gethsemane with a few of His followers on the evening He would be arrested. Knowing that His life on earth would soon come to a brutal end, Jesus and a few His followers spent the final hours together after supper.
During supper, Jesus told His followers what to expect and why. He also knew that they didn’t grasp reality when they heard what He said. Nevertheless, they did and saw a lot together over the past couple of years, including numerous miracles. While Jesus was clearly different, they also experienced His humanness.
I fall short when I imagine what it would be like to face what Jesus faced. Sometimes it helps me to put my own worries into perspective. But, honestly, other times, it doesn’t help any more than others telling me their problems. Neither gives me more strength to face my own challenges.
Father, if You will take this cup of suffering away from Me. Not My will, however, but Your will be done.
Sometimes, even when you have every reason to feel blessed, instead, you feel like you’re one of a thousand olives placed between a stone table and the pressing stone. At such times you feel like every drop of what makes life enjoyable is oozing out from the weight of the trouble facing you.
Isn’t it just like Jesus, when He felt crushed by the weight of an impending cross, when He felt crushed to the point of anguish, that He went to a place of crushing.
The gospel writers offer poetic descriptions of this time. Such as Jesus sweating blood as He prayed in anguish. His prayers didn’t stop what was about to happen. Jesus would suffer intolerable cruelty. A sacrifice that should and can be avoided by love.
Jesus did this, so we no longer have to be crushed by dread and despair. It is not prayer that changes our circumstances. Instead, prayer prepares us to face our circumstances, knowing that God is in control and wants joy and abundance for each of us.
Sometimes we’re blessed to experience God’s miraculous power in response to prayer. Other times, it happens without our awareness. Usually, God’s will differs from our own, and we cannot see where our future leads.
Only God bears the burden of foresight.
Each Sunday during our series, Pray, we’re collecting prayer requests. You can submit a request online from our website home page. In addition, prayer request forms are located around the church and during water and food giveaways.
You can join us each Sunday in person or online by clicking the button on our website’s homepage – Click here to watch. This button takes you to our YouTube channel. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.
A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to connect@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.
Content for this series is based in part on:
Robert L. Morris, Jr.. Pray Like Jesus: What We Can Learn From the Six Recorded Prayers of Jesus. Bloomington, IL: Westbow Press, 2019.
Patrick van Kessel . “How Americans feel about the satisfactions and stresses of modern life.” © Pew Research Center, Feb 5, 2020. Retrieved from: link