Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The School of Suffering and Unanswered Prayer

Tuesday, March 7, 2017
While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death.  And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God.  Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.  Hebrews 4:7-8(NLT)

In the Gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus, whenever he prayed, big stuff happened!  People were healed, changed, cleansed of demonic possession, and even raised from the dead.  The writer to the Hebrews underscores that, claiming that the prayers and pleadings of Jesus were heard by God.  You cannot help but notice the writer calls the prayers and pleadings loud, and with tears.  Jesus was no whispering prayer warrior. 

But the tears sound like Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, and the loud cry reminds us of the great shout on the cross just as Christ gives up His spirit.  Neither of those times of suffering appears (on the surface) to be prayers that were answered.  In Gethsemane the prayer of Jesus was for the Father to save him from the cup of suffering.  On the cross his shouted prayer was Tetelestaiit is finished, the prayer of an accomplished mission. 
So…were Jesus’ prayers of release from suffering, and completing his mission by bringing in the Kingdom of God answered…or was the Hebrew writer wrong?  Did God hear AND answer Jesus’ prayers…or not?
We know Jesus had to plow through the agony of Gethsemane, and God did not “rescue” Jesus from suffering death on the cross; Scripture tells us he sweat great drops of blood in that time of prayer for our souls, and he died, stone-cold dead! 

So…were the prayers of God the Son ignored by God the Father?  Was Jesus’ suffering and death a matter of unanswered prayer?  It probably appeared that way at least to Peter who was ready to give up all this religious stuff and head back to his fishing nets.

The explanation of this (and so much more) is found in the drama surrounding the resurrection of Lazarus, who had died and was buried.  Jesus showed up four days later and told them to roll away the stone covering the tomb:

So they rolled the stone aside.  Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me.  You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.”  John 11:41-42(NLT)

From the mouth of Jesus we hear that God the Father always hears his prayers.  And we also hear from Christ that, for the sake of our faith, sometimes he suffered through some things so we can see and be made stronger by His obedience.

In Jesus’ agonizing prayer and shout from the cross, he was not trying to awaken God to his own needs; the Christ was identifying with what we are, fragile, afraid and dependent, so that we can see through the experience of our suffering, that obedience, even in the face of pain, is Godly and worthwhile. 

It’s a tough road, this school of suffering and unanswered prayer.  But in heaven’s perspective, it isn’t unanswered prayer at all; it’s God answering the way God chooses is best. 

For You Today

Some suffering is unavoidable.  Some suffering in your life is going to be a blessing in somebody else’s life.
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!

Title image: Gyula Bencz├║r [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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