Monday, June 10, 2013

Prayer Changes Everything

In Luke 9:18-20 we see Peter confess Jesus Christ. In verses 21-22 Jesus predicts His death and as we read on to verse 23 and go through to verse 27 we see Jesus tell all to take up their cross and follow Him. About eight days later Jesus takes three apostles with Him on a retreat of prayer up the mountain. Peter, James and John were those three men chosen by Jesus to travel with Him.

Isn't it cool when we are reading the Word of God and it all comes together for us? I have read these verses hundreds of times, but over the last few months I decided I would dig deeper into the Word and remain there with new vision. I wasn't in a hurry to read through. I wanted to take my time and soak up everything. So, as I'm reading I  get to the transfiguration and it hits me. Why did Jesus take these three? Was it that Jesus needed them, or was it more that they needed to see this moment in history to further their walk with Jesus?

Can you imagine being on the mountain with Jesus and all of a sudden there before your eyes stands Moses and Elijah? Now, I am just filled with questions. Was this encounter with Moses and Elijah encouragement for Jesus? Jesus knew what was about to take place. Remember, He was all God, but He too was all man. He felt every possible emotion. After their time on the mountain they come down. Their ministry with Jesus continues as they encounter people in need all around them. They witness miracle after miracle from Christ. They see their Savior as He reaches out to others, meeting them right where they are. The encouragement continues.

I can envision the apostles just watching the Lord in awe. They were walking with Him and with each step they take forward is growth for the journey ahead. Let us move ahead a bit to where Jesus predicts that Peter will deny Him. Luke 22:39-46 "And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." But he said to Him, "Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death." Then He said, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall now crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.""

Did you catch that? Satan asked for Peter! Just as Satan had asked for Job, he now asked for Peter. Nothing touches us that first does not go through the hand of Christ. Jesus knew what Peter was about to face and He was praying for him. I love this! What a picture of our Savior's love. Jesus knows what must come and He too knows that Peter is part of what is to come. He knows to strengthen Peter, He first must allow Satan a time with him. As we read in scripture we too see that Jesus knows Peter will return to Him. What faith we can encompass. What hope we can have for today.

We see Peter confess Jesus. Peter is one of the three on the mount to witness the transfiguration of Christ. Peter himself is about to go through a transformation! Just as Moses and Elijah were encouraging Jesus, here I see Jesus encouraging Peter. How wondrous for Peter's heart to hear that His Savior is praying for him. Of course, Peter can't even fathom that he would deny Jesus. But do any of us? Do we think we will deny Jesus? Of course we don't, but friends, we do just that when we are not making a stand for Christ. Every time I allow an opportunity to pass I am denying my Jesus. I am denying Him the opportunity to move through me and use me for His glory. Denying isn't always an unspoken word. Many times it is simply through our actions or lack of actions.

This next part really pricks my heart. In Luke 22:39-46 we see Jesus make His way to the Mount of Olives. One of the first things we hear Jesus say is, "When He came to the place, He said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation."" Luke 22:40 Jesus knew they were about to be tempted. Jesus was about to be taken away and He knew they would be on their own. He had prepared them in every way, but here again we see Jesus calling them to prayer.

Now, as we read on and in verse 46 we hear Jesus say, "Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation." Prayer is powerful. Prayer is strength and courage. Jesus knew what they would need.

We can read in Matthew 26:36-46 that Peter, James and John fell asleep three different times. Three different times Jesus asked them to pray. Jesus was praying. He knew the power of prayer. Having that circle of friends around you in your time of need is so comforting. It brings peace in the moment of despair. There would not be a fourth time for Jesus to wake them from their slumber. His betrayer would be near. Judas was right around the corner. Oh, how Jesus needed prayer.

So, this brings me to my question. What if they had prayed? Yes, what if all three would have kneeled together in prayer, what would have happened? Would they have found a new strength? Would they have seen with new vision? Would things have gone differently when Judas approached? I know that our Savior had to face the cross, but with Jesus calling these to prayer, did He know that things could have been different if they had just obeyed and opened their hearts to prayer? If Peter had prayed would he have denied Jesus three times or would have found the strength he needed to stand at the cross with Christ? What about James and John? Wouldn't prayer have added to their faith? Why do we miss this? We continue to miss the importance of prayer. We cannot have a relationship with Jesus without prayer. It's our connection. It's our conversation time.

As we move to Luke 22:47-62 we see that Peter denies Jesus three times. He hears the rooster crow and he is reminded. It is then that he knows. Jesus knew. Would prayer have changed his circumstances? Would it have given him the strength to say, "Yes, I am a follower of Christ. He is my friend. My Savior."? We need that added strength, friends. We need our prayer time with Jesus. It's important in our journey. The closer we get to Christ the more we understand who we truly are. Our vision is increased and our hearts expanded. Prayer changes us to look more like Jesus.

Soon Jesus would die on the cross and three days later He would rise. He too would spend time again with Peter, James and John,and the other apostles. He would ask Peter three times if he loved Him. He would give forgiveness and embrace Peter. Jesus knows the whole story. He too knows what can take place if we humble ourselves a and pray.

His friends left Him. They left when He needed them the most. They left Him at a pivotal time. Have you been forgotten? Left at the way side when you needed your friends the most? I think there isn't one of us that cannot relate to that feeling of loneliness and abandonment. Don't you see, Jesus loves us no matter what. No matter the past, He is ready and waiting to give us a new future.

In John 17 we see Jesus praying. I wish I had room to write every word. This is such a beautiful chapter. First Jesus prays for Himself. "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have give Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." John 17:4-5

Now we see Jesus pray for His disciples. Such a precious and powerful prayer for those who have followed Him. In the end He prays, "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth." John 17:15-19

Jesus doesn't stop there. He continues His prayer and prays for ALL believers! Friends, this prayer is for you and I also. Doesn't that stir your heart to praise? Jesus prayed for the believers at this time and for those to come. Prayer is powerful! "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You.; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me." John 17:20-23

Sure, it's easy for us to look at Peter and the others and send some judgement their way. Oh, but friend, if not for the grace of God there go I. There is so much to take away from these verses. We need to encourage one other. We need to reach out when others won't. We need to pray without ceasing. How awesome to have a continual conversation with Jesus throughout the day. He knows too what we will face this evening. He knows what tomorrow will bring. Why wouldn't we pray instead of just allowing this precious time to pass by. We have an opportunity. Jesus knows just what we need for the journey. He knew what Peter had needed. Prayer changes everything, most of all, the heart of man. Prayer transforms us. Seize the moment in prayer and watch the Lord empower you for tomorrow!

"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." Matthew 18:20

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

"Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." Philippians 2:1-4


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