PRAY YIELDS INNER STRENGTH
At Gethsemane, Jesus’ spirit was at the bottom of his earthly life. He said to Peter, James and John, “My soul is deeply troubled with sorrow to the point of wanting to die. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Jesus withdrew to be by Himself and asked the Father, if it were possible to not make Him drink the cup of shame, suffering and death. The disciples also were exhausted and fell asleep. Again, Jesus repeated His request saying, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation; for the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” Mt. 26:36-46). It was Jesus’ last prayer that gave Him the inner strength to complete His redemptive mission.
In like manner, I too feel unprepared and weak without prayer. Things do not go too well when I am unprepared to face the unexpected. Surprises are like a thief, they come not while one is awake but when one is asleep (Mt. 13:25). What Jesus said regarding His surprise “Return” can equally be applied to our own daily choices and tasks? “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It is like a man going away. He leaves his house in charge of his servants, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all of you, ‘watch’” (Mk. 13:33-37). Luke found another Jesus’ statement that hits closer to home, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For, it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Lk. 21:34-36).
The disciples were under the teachings of Jesus for three years, and they remained unprepared when their teacher was taken from them. This tells us how difficult it is to become or even to stay prepared or strong enough to face adverse and negative surprises. Very few, in life, escape without facing a downturn in life. I have not read this in books or reports what someone else told me. I was there myself and fell as low as a human being could possibly fall. I was on the edge of death many times and I was unprepared. We were fortunate to have a mother that had enormous inner strength to save us. We were third generation Germans living under Poland when World War II began. Father had served in the Polish army and was kept in reserve. He had to report back to his unit on the day Germany invaded Poland. That same night, all able men, boys and women were hauled together like cattle and put in prisons. They came to our home, but when they learned that father was in their army, they left without taking our mother. Our mother was thirty, my brothers were seven and four and I was nine. Our mother took no more chances and hid with us every night somewhere else. These radical Poles came every night looking for us and then they simply disappeared when the Russians rescued us. All our people, the Russians traded to the Germans who needed our people to manage Polish holdings in Western Poland.
Five years later, the Russians were knocking on the door of German territory. During the five years, father tried to endear himself to the Germans by investing all his income in improving the farm and the buildings. When we had to evacuate, we were unprepared except for our mother. She, unbeknown to father and the German inspectors, sold some butter and eggs to the needy and saved two thousand Marks. This money, and the supplies we were able to load on our wagon, kept us while were homeless and living in our wagon for more than half a year. She also saved me from being inducted in the German army. I was fourteen and had orders to report to one of their camps, but mother did not let me go and the next day we had to leave our home. Some of my friends that reported to the camp, never made it back.
We are no different from the best and the worst people in the Bible. In fact, we live in far more dangerous circumstances and situations than they did. Our destructive weapons are a threat to all of us. My accident with kerosene would not have happened in Bible days. In our so-called advanced technical world, the misfortune accident nearly took my life and left me seventy-five percent disabled. I had become to one observer that spoke Ukrainian to another person that understood, neither of them knowing that I also understood, “that German is good for nothing.” As I improved and my fingers were fixed in a solid position so that I could pick up some things or hold a stick, these men began to marvel. Fortunately, I longed for people that had inner strength and the Lord did sent them my way. A compassionate Lady by the name of “Ruby” introduced me to two clergymen, one was from Holland and he spoke German. These people helped me to trust God. Ruby and a kind nurse took time off to see me safely delivered on a train some five hundred miles, to Toronto General Hospital. Ruby then introduced me to some of her friends that did my legwork. The first minister wrote to a friend in Toronto and this man had a mouth of gold, his name was Alfred Price. I was totally lost, what I could do when I was released into society? Rev. Price dropped these pearls into my head and heart. “You can become a minister.” I replied, “How can I with a grade seven education and no English?” The dear pastor with a smile on his face remarked, “Let the Lord do it.” His words of direction and encouragement gave me an unimaginable inner strength. Within eight years, I went through High School, college and Seminary. Eight more years after that, I earned two more advanced degrees for my work in the Lord’s vineyard.
If I could do it, so can you. Just give a little of yourself to the Lord and it will amaze you what you are capable of. John Zebedee, in his Gospel about Jesus, picked up one of the pearls that Jesus promised. “On the last and greatest day of the Feat, Jesus stood up and said in a loud voice, ‘If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified” (Jn. 7:37-39). In his first Epistle, or Small Gospel, John wrote, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (I Jn. 4:4). The two quotes speak of a time when a person reinvents him or herself and discovers a mysterious inner strength one did not realize before. It takes a jolt to re-awaken the dormant spirit or soul in a person. In the Creation Story, God puts “His breath or Spirit” in man and he became a breathing or living soul or being (Gen. 2:7). Sin came and imprisoned the “Spirit” in man. King David understood the absence of God’s Spirit, in his life, when he allowed sin to push the Spirit out of the way (Ps. 51:11). Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing” (Jn. 6:63). According to Peter, Jesus’ own Spirit had to be quickened or energized (I Pe. 3:18).
Paul, in the Greek text, speaks of three kinds of energies that a person can choose, the spiritual (pneumatikos), the emotional (psychikos) or the fleshly (sarkikos) (I Cor. 2:13-3:3). Only the spiritual believers emerged in over coming their burdens and hardships. The Lord Jesus, Himself, was troubled when His task overwhelmed Him and He, too, cried out for help and an angel was sent to strengthen Him (Lk. 22:39-44). There is no shame in admitting weakness, but there is shame when we do nothing about it. It is only when we fall asleep that we are overcome by weakness itself.