“So he [Jesus] left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing” (Matthew 26:44 NIV).
Pray, pray, and pray. How many times did I mention the word “pray”? Three times, but that is not all. Jesus may have prayed several times more on the same topic before and after Gethsemane. If Jesus prayed that much, should we not imitate his example and pray many times?
In a rare expression of human emotion for himself, Jesus was “sorrowful and troubled” at Gethsemane on the night in which he was arrested on the orders of the chief priests and elders of the people (Matthew 26:37 NIV). Jesus knew about the troubles and sufferings ahead of him; including, betrayal by Judas; desertion by his other disciples; false accusations by the chief priests and elders of the people; temporary rejection by his Father for taking away the sins of the whole world upon himself; and the unlawful arrest, beatings, torture, humiliation, sham trial, and death by crucifixion in the hands of the Roman authorities.
Indeed, Jesus Christ endured sufferings of betrayal, desertion, false accusations, rejection, unlawful arrest, beatings, torture, humiliation, sham trial, and death by crucifixion - all within less than 24 hours. And so if you think your problems or troubles are unique or too big or too many for Jesus to understand and handle, think again. Jesus experienced much more; he understands and can handle more than we can ever imagine. That was why Jesus said much earlier in his ministry, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NIV). And, the Apostle Peter, one of the people who knew Jesus very well, reinforced that by saying of him: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV).
One way to cast our anxieties, wearies, and burdens on Jesus is through prayers. The Bible invites anyone who is suffering or in trouble to pray (James 5:13). However, the question often arises regarding how many times or how often we should pray about the same topic. In the above-quoted Bible verse, we see that Jesus prayed three times, saying the same thing. It may be that he also prayed before and after that prayer session in Gethsemane.
Fortunately, apart from the Gethsemane example, “Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1 NIV). Keep in mind that justice delayed, is justice denied. The parable was that a widow brought her case to a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. The widow kept going to the judge to rule on her case, but for some time the judge refused. Finally, the widow’s persistence seemed to wear the judge down. The judge said that he did not fear God or care about men, but because the widow kept bothering him, he would see to it that she received justice so that she would not eventually wear him down with her coming to him. Jesus remarked that if an unjust judge could grant justice to the widow, would not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry out to Him day and night? Jesus said God would see to it that they receive justice and quickly (Luke 18:1-8).
Then Jesus curiously asked whether when the Son of Man comes he would find faith on earth. That is a question we need to answer individually and collectively. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV). Prayer and faith are two sides of the same coin. Without faith, prayer may be just empty talk. Jesus said that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, we could tell a mountain to move and it would move, and that nothing would be impossible for us (Matthew 17:20). Will Jesus find faith on earth? Faith to always pray and not give up? Faith to continue to hope and trust in God? Faith to keep pressing on when God seems silent? And faith to know that Jesus experienced the sufferings, problems, and troubles that we are going through and that he is able to help us go through them?
Many of us experience sufferings, problems and troubles. Sometimes, praying about them once may not be enough. We need to pray, pray, and pray – and more. How many times should we pray? In the words of Jesus quoted above, we “should always pray and not give up.” Pray many times. Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Jesus prayed three times, saying the same thing, but that was only at Gethsemane. We do not know how many times he prayed on the same topic before and after Gethsemane. Nor did Jesus tell us how many times the persistent widow went to the judge to plead her case. She kept going until the unjust judge granted her wish. And so by faith, let us “bother” God with our prayers about our sufferings, problems and troubles, for as many times and for as long as it takes to get a clear answer from Him.
Prayer is the key. May God grant us the grace to seek Him daily through our prayers.
Dr. Daniel Gyebi, Attorney-at-Law, Texas, U.S.A., and Founder, PrayerHouse Ministry, Kumasi, Ghana.
PrayerHouse Ministry is dedicated to providing a quiet facility for Christians to pray individually by themselves without any intermediary priest, pastor or any other person. This is a free service. No money is demanded or accepted. One facility is located at Kyerekrom / Fumesua, near Building and Road Research Institute Offices, one mile off the Kumasi-Accra Road and next to a house called Grace Castle. If you are interested, please contact Agnes at 054-7498653. Another is located at Kantinkyiren, at the junction of Kantinkyiren and Konkori, off the Kumasi-Obuasi Road, branching left at Trede junction. Contact Kwadwo at 020-8768461 / 0246-989413.