Prayer and a Lesson Learned in the Garden

By Curtis K. Shelburne

A time of trouble is a time to pray. The Apostle James tells us plainly, “Is any of you in trouble? He should pray” (5:13). Have you tried it? What happened?
Maybe the answer to your prayer was a resounding, “Yes.” Remember the time you prayed for a dear one in a life-threatening situation to live, and to the doctors’ utter amazement, he did. Or remember the time you prayed for the troubled marriage of dear friends and watched in grateful awe as they got serious about making their marriage work. Maybe you prayed for an answer to what seemed like a “no-win” situation, and then God amazed you with just the right answer. Those are wonderful experiences for which we gratefully rejoice.
This column is not about those experiences. Those we can handle.
Not nearly so wonderful are the times when we feel deep need, we pray, and the only answer is either an absolute refusal or, what may be worse, deep silence.
What about the time you prayed at your loved one’s bed, and then he died? Or the time you prayed for your friends’ marriage, but it only got worse? Or the time you prayed earnestly regarding a baffling problem, and it just remained baffling? What then?
Then we must learn the lesson of Gethsemane. Nothing was wrong with Jesus’ faith when he prayed, “Father, if it be possible, remove this cup from me.” But the cup of suffering was still pressed to his lips. You see, he had also prayed, “…not my will, but thine be done.” Jesus’ primary concern in his anguished prayer was not that he avoid a cross, though he wished he could; Jesus’ main concern was to submit himself to God’s will. Jesus’ prayer did not change that will, but through it he found strength to walk even up Calvary’s hill to the cross.
“Prayer changes things,” the saying goes. Sometimes, in amazing ways, it does. But more often and in some ways maybe more amazing are the times God uses prayer to change the pray-er and grants the strength to walk in that will — even under the weight of a cross. In that answer, too, we see the hand of God.