Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
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How do you exercise hope when you are grieving in the depth of your soul? In the 12th chapter of John Jesus showed us something about this spiritual discipline. Listen to His voice as his heart bleeds with sorrow in verses 27,28.
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
In this chapter Jesus and His disciples come to the ultimate clash of good and evil. The chapter begins with Mary Magdalene anointing Jesus’ feet with the costly perfume, and of course, Judas’ objection. Then came our Lord's triumphal entry into Jerusalem with the multitudes shouting, “Hosanna!” Even some Greeks asked to see Jesus. But Jesus knew this was all leading to the ultimate sorrow of the cross. And He spoke the words, “Now is my heart troubled.” This heartache no doubt intensified as He went with His disciples to the garden to pray saying, “My heart is sorrowful even to death.”
Many of you have experienced deep sorrow in your life. If you have not, you will. While our heartaches are not as deep as our Lord's, we face sorrows that overwhelm our lives. In such times you will need a hope that is deeper than all that you are losing, a hope that goes beyond life and death. In His great sorrow Jesus gives us a glimpse of such a hope.
First He asks how He should respond. I'm not sure from the text whether He is praying or simply asking me how I think He should pray. Either way He asked if He should pray for God to save Him from the crisis. There is certainly a place for such prayers. That is how Jesus began praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. In Matthew 26:39 we read His prayer.
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”
But of course, even here He prays in submission.
“Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
But there comes a point where God tells us that escaping the sorrow is not His will. And as difficult as it was, Jesus knew His sorrow was the purpose of God. He says, “For this purpose I have come to this hour.” We often cannot see the purpose of what we endure. Your grief may seem pointless to you. But God knows the purpose of your heartache.
Then Jesus gives us the right prayer in sorrow. “Father, glorify your name.” This is the goal for anyone who has been redeemed, for anyone whose life is being transformed, who has been brought from alienation to the embrace of God's love. If your goal is something less than that, your sorrow will only deepen.
God's hope reaches beyond the darkened corridors of death. In 2 Corinthians 1 Paul speaks of facing death.
“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”
The point of our lives and the heart of our prayers ought to be for God to be honored whether we succeed or fail, whether we live or die. Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians from jail, not knowing if he would be released or executed. And he encourages them with these words.
“It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”
As Jesus prays God's glory in John 12, something spectacular happens. A voice comes from heaven, saying, “I have glorified it and I will glorify it again!”
Some of the people standing around Him said it must have thundered. Others said an angel spoke to him. But Jesus said that was not it at all. He said, “This voice was for you.” They were the ones who needed to know God's glory and judgment were at hand. As we learn to pray for God’s glory, He speaks to our hearts, assuring us of His glory and grace. And others around us will glimpse His glory as well.