STRENGTH THROUGH PRAYER
Where does his strength come from? We might wonder this about Jesus as we study His encounters with the Pharisees in chapters five and six of the Gospel of Luke. In these chapters, the Pharisees try to pin down Jesus with argument after argument. First they challenge Jesus for eating with sinners and tax collectors (Luke 5:30). Then they question Him about what they perceive to be His and His disciples’ lack of spiritual discipline (5:33). Next they criticize Him for working on the Sabbath, first by plucking grains (6:2) and then by healing a sick man (6:11). It’s one battle after another. Even though Jesus wins these battles, we are left wondering, “What is He going to do the next time? How long can He keep going?”
How long can He keep it up? Just as Jesus was fully God, He was “fully human in every way” (Hebrews 2:17). Jesus “suffered when He was tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). And so if Jesus suffered in the experience of temptation, as He was tempted by the devil on the mountaintop (Luke 4:1-13), then He also must have felt beaten down and fatigued at times by the relentless opposition He received from the Pharisees and others who opposed God’s message. “You unbelieving and perverse generation. How long shall I stay with you?” (Matthew 17:17). Jesus spoke these words as yet again someone didn’t believe in the power of God. Jesus did get tired and weary in His labor for God.
How did He do it? How did He keep going? Where did His strength come from? After the repeated jabs and punches from the Pharisees as outlined above, we read this: “And it came to pass, in those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray and spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12). Yes, He may have been weary, but Jesus did not give up hope. To get the strength He needed — to be replenished — He turned to His Father in prayer. It had been several rounds in the ring with the Pharisees, and so to get His strength back, Jesus spent several rounds in prayer with the Lord. After His time in prayer, Jesus came back refreshed and refilled to serve God. He started by naming the twelve disciples (6:12-16) and then by preaching a sermon in which, among other things, He encouraged the disciples to take heart when they are being persecuted, because great is their reward in heaven (6:23).
We see how not just here but in other instances, prayer is Jesus’ go-to for a recharge. He spends an evening healing a village of people; the next morning where is He? — in prayer (Mark 1:35). After feeding the five thousand, Jesus dismisses the crowd, and what happens next? He goes “on a mountainside by Himself to pray” (Matt. 14:23). Just before He goes to the cross, where does He go? He goes out “as usual to the Mount of Olives.” To do what? To pray (Luke 22:39).
It’s at the Mount of Olives that Jesus reveals a secret about prayer. He says to the disciples: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matt. 26:41). There are very real pressures of fatigue and weariness that will come and that will tempt us to give-in and give-up. But those things are a signal to us that we need prayer more than ever. Prayer is the antidote.
It is during Jesus’ prayer that an angel comes to give Him strength (Luke 22:43). God ministers to us through the time we spend with Him in prayer, giving us answers, strength, direction, help, and deliverance.
Sometimes we get to the end of the day or the end of the week and say, “I just need to decompress.” “I need to lie down.” “I need to watch some TV.” All of that is OK. We need to stop sometimes and separate from our stress. But to really make it through, to really keep on going, to truly be restored, we need something more: we need time with God. We need time in prayer.
This month, do not forsake Jesus’ invitation to you come away with Him and pray. In prayer, He will restore you, help you, and give you the strength you need. Amen.