“Our Prayer with Jesus”

(Hebrews 5:7-9 – Lent 5 – March 21, 2021)

Hebrews 5:7-9 – … 7Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear,  8though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.

Dear Redeemed in Christ Jesus:

Near the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry, He taught His followers to pray the “The Lord’s Prayer,” otherwise known as the “Our Father” (Matthew 6:9-13). The Son of God teaches us to speak to God this way, because His Father has now become our Father in heaven through Jesus’ saving work. Right to the end of His earthly walk, Jesus taught in these terms. As He stood beside His empty tomb, Jesus told Mary: Go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God'” (John 20:17). Even now, as Jesus sits at the right hand of His Father in glory, He still invites us to call His Father: “Our Father in heaven.”

Our text tells us how Jesus prayed to His Father as He walked this earth, as our brother in the flesh. From these words we learn about “Our Prayer with Jesus.” For our prayer, like His, is 1) A Prayer of need, and 2) A prayer that is heard by our Father in heaven.

1) A prayer of need

What did Jesus need to pray for? What could the Son of God possible be in need of? Everything in the universe was created by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16); it is already His! Yet it says He “offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears” (vs. 7)

Why should Jesus need to ask, even beg, His Father for anything? Because as the Son of Man He felt our human need – our hunger, thirst, tiredness, sorrow, and pain. He raised His eyes to heaven, held out His hands to His Father and prayed with us: The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:15-16). So we join our brother in the flesh, as we pray for every bodily need in the words He taught us: “Our Father in heaven… Give us this day our daily bread.”

During His walk on earth, Jesus needed to pray to His Father for many things. But the words in our text especially remind us of His anguish of soul and prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before His death on the cross. There He “offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death” (vs. 7).

Death was not something Jesus could face alone, according to His human nature. He needed His Father’s help. By His divine nature, Jesus knew exactly what was coming. He could see just ahead the mocking and torture, the suffering and dying. His human nature shrunk back from the horror of things we cannot begin to understand. The heavenly Father, with whom Jesus is one, and whose love He had known from eternity, was about to turn His back on His Son. Jesus was going to die, and His Father would not save Him from all the pain and the excruciating death.

In a limited way, we can imagine what Jesus went through. Suppose it was revealed to you that some terrible tragedy was going to strike you tomorrow. Maybe it was going to be an accident that would cripple you for life, or a disease that would cause you to die a painful death. The fearful anticipation might very well destroy even the strongest person.

But the stress Jesus suffered was far worse. He was about to suffer the hell we deserved. On His own holy body was to be placed all the shame and guilt of the sins of the whole world. Our sin was to be the fuel in His fiery suffering. His human nature shrank back at the thought of that tortuous death. As He poured out His soul to His Father in prayer, we read: “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). Like a child cornered by a roaring fire, He prayed to His Father “with vehement cries and tears” to save Him.

We remember how, as Jesus led His disciples to Gethsemane that night, He said: “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me” (Matthew 26:38). The Man Jesus truly cherished His disciples’ human presence. When our soul is in dark distress, how comforting it is to have a friendly voice and human touch, as a child yearns for the voice and touch of a loving parent after a nightmare. But above all, in the midst of the darkness, Jesus needed His heavenly Father’s loving assurance and comfort. So He prayed in His need.

Jesus also prayed because He needed His Father’s help for obedience against temptation. We know how persistently Satan afflicted Jesus, for example, in the wilderness. At that time: “When the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). Now in Jesus’ moment of great weakness, Satan was taking advantage of this “opportune time,” trying to distract Jesus from His mission to save sinners, trying to distract Him from His Father’s loving promises. Yes, our brother in the flesh needed to pray the very words He taught us to pray: “Our Father in heaven… Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.”

It is easy to do something that brings pleasure. But there is no greater obedience than to do what is right even when it hurts. That is what Jesus was doing, for us and for our salvation. When life is full of trouble, we often cannot understand why God allows certain things to happen. We can be tempted to give up. Jesus understands. There He was, even He, unable to see past the present darkness – begging, pleading “with vehement cries and tears”: “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). In His hour of desperate need Jesus looked to heaven and prayed, trusting His Father to answer in the best way. So Jesus showed us how to pray with Him, in our time of need: “Our Father in heaven… Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:9); answer our prayer as You know is best.”

2) A prayer that is heard

Our text says He “was heard because of His godly fear” (vs. 7). The Father answered Jesus’ prayer because He was perfectly submissive and obedient to His Father’s will. In the midst of His soul’s anguish, as Jesus prayed at Gethsemane: “An angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him” (Luke 22:43). It was His Father’s personal touch, the assurance He needed. The Father answered His prayer, not by sparing Him from suffering and death, but by giving Him the strength He needed. Then as the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, with bold obedience He said to His disciples: “Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand” (Matthew 26:46).

Jesus’ prayer was heard because of His godly fear and obedience. But why can we expect our prayers to be heard? How can we go forward boldly, trusting God’s gracious answer to prayer?

It is certainly not because of our obedience! If we had been there in the Garden of Gethsemane, wouldn’t we have been doing what the other disciples were doing? As Jesus prayed fervently, He repeatedly returned and found them sleeping. Doesn’t His rebuke to them hit home with us? “What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:40-41). We know what our prayer life is like. Often it is more like sleep than vigilance. We are enveloped in weakness and need, surrounded by evil and temptation, burdened by sin and guilt. Yet we often yawn and pray halfheartedly, as an afterthought. No wonder we are not always ready to obey and follow Jesus in the way of the cross. Like the disciples in the hour of trial, we too have fled for love of our lives.

No, it is not because of our vigilant obedience that we can expect our prayers to be heard in heaven! It is because of Jesus’ obedience for us. Our Father in heaven hears us for Jesus’ sake.

As it says: “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (vs. 8-9. When it speaks of Jesus “having been perfected,” it does not mean that He needed to be made morally perfect. He always was the perfect Son of His Father, without any sin.  But it is in the sense of having become “perfectly complete” in carrying out His saving work. Once Jesus had finished the work His Father gave Him, “obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8) for our sins, He became the source of our eternal salvation.

Now because of His obedience, heaven is wide open to us. For “It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:34). “We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:1-2). As Jesus pleads in our behalf, His Father always listens and answers in our favor. For Jesus’ sake, God forgives all our sins. For the sake of His beloved son, He looks upon us with delight as His children. And as such, Jesus promises: Whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you” (John 16;23).

What needs do we have to speak into the listening ear of our gracious heavenly Father? What tasks do we face in life, for which we need His strength and blessing? As the hymn says:

With the Lord begin thy task; Jesus will direct it.

For His aid and counsel ask; Jesus will perfect it.

Ev’ry morn with Jesus rise, And when day is ended,

In His name then close thine eyes; Be to Him commended.

Let us begin even the simplest tasks by committing them into His hands. Let us ask Him to guide us and work in all things to accomplish His gracious will. Let us pray as Jesus: “Thy will be done.” Then, having put it all in His hands in prayer, like Jesus we can go forward boldly.

There are many difficult tasks we face in life. They may be in relationships as we try to get along with difficult people. What a blessing it is to be able to commit our cause to our heavenly Father. We can ask Him to help us share His forgiveness and love, as Jesus taught us to pray: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12).

Maybe the great task on our minds has to do with daily work and purpose in life. What a blessing it is to be able to begin our task by praying: “Heavenly Father, You have redeemed me by the blood of Your Son; You have filled my life with purpose as Your child. You have also blessed me with certain resources and abilities. Guide me to serve each day to Your glory and for the good of others, where You would have me at this time in my life.”

Maybe we have a big task before us in planning for the future, as we get along in years. We may be concerned for health, finances, distance from family, and other factors that shape our future. What a blessing it is to be able to lay it all in our heavenly Father’s hands and pray: “I trust in You, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand” (Psalm 31:14-15).

What a blessing is our prayer with Jesus. Our Father in heaven looks on us with love and hears for Jesus’ sake. So we can pray confidently in the face of every need, and commit all things to Him. Yes, even in the hour of death we pray with Jesus: “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Truly our bodies and souls are in His loving hands. Our heavenly Father knows our every need in life and is deeply concerned with bringing us through this world to His heavenly glory. He is fulfilling Jesus’ prayer for us that night before He went to the cross: “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).

And so, as we bow our heads in prayer, we say with Jesus: “Amen… Thy kingdom come.” Let Your Kingdom come among us today, as You nourish our faith through Your Word and Sacrament. Let Your Kingdom come to others through our witness to Your truth. And finally, bring us all home to Your heavenly Kingdom, for Jesus’ sake: “For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.”