Working to change.
In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and He was heard because of his reverence.
So far in Lent we have focused on the change and reform necessary in our lives. We have been focusing on the various Lenten disciplines, the means and methods by which we achieve conversion, change and reform. These disciplines help us become more ardent and faithful livers of Jesus’s gospel way.
The subjects of fasting, sacrifice (or giving), and study have been covered thus far. Next week we continue with the consideration of proclamation. Today, we focus on prayer.
This year we study from the Gospel according to St. Mark. In the first chapter of that Gospel, we hear that Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Prayer was a regular part of Jesus’ life. In Mark 11 we hear of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.’ In the same chapter Jesus reminded His disciples of the power of faithful and right prayer: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
Jesus’ time on earth was a time of “prayers and petitions.” These two words portray a life of constant and persistent supplication. Not only did Jesus pray constantly and persistently, He prayed fervently. “Fervent cries” could also be translated “loud crying” or even “powerful shouts.” It makes us think of Jesus in Gethsemane, where He was “very sorrowful even to death”: And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And He said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray…” And going a little farther, He fell on the ground and prayed.
Yet all this still does not exhaust the agonizing depth of Jesus’ prayers, for He prayed “with tears.” Jesus sobbed as He prayed. He threw Himself completely into prayer.
Jesus knew every facet of human suffering. He groaned under the depth of it. Through all this agony, Jesus learned something: He learned what it was like to obey as a suffering human in a fallen world and for that faith He was heard.
We are called to the same constant discipline of prayer that Jesus lived. Our prayer must be faithful and right. Our prayer must not be limited. Our prayer, heartfelt even when it groans without words, must call out to God. With prayer, like Jesus, we learn and are given just what we need to endure and cross into glory.