To be a witness for Jesus, one does not have to be a theologian, although a clear understanding of the Bible’s message is important. To be a witness for Jesus Christ, one does not have to be a bouncing extrovert, but it does help to love people. One thing is essential, however; that is to have strong prayer life. Our Lord makes this clear as He trains his disciples on how to be fishers of people.
Several portions of Scripture tell of Jesus being alone with His Father in prayer, where he found guidance and strength to move on with his mission. There is no better example of Jesus at prayer than the night when He and his disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The evening had been packed with emotion. Jesus described His feelings when he said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (v. 38). As we read on in this account, we see the turmoil in the Lord’s mind. Jesus had told Judas that he would betray Him (v. 21). He had told Peter he would deny Him three times (v. 34). His closest friends would leave Him when Jesus needed them the most. William Barclay described that evening in Gethsemane as “life at its grimmest and men at their worst.”
Beyond the emotional pain, Jesus was also very much aware of the physical pain he had to endure. Crucifixion is the most inhumane form of execution. Nails piercing His body and a crown of thorns on his head meant severe pain, and we must never forget Jesus was also human. The writer of the book of Hebrews presented our Lord well when he wrote, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way as we have – yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Through His example, Jesus taught His disciples how to handle their hours of trial. He took them to the Garden of Gethsemane where he prayed, “Abba Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).
Only Mark’s Gospel uses the word Abba in describing the Gethsemane experience. The word, Abba, describes how strong the relationship was between Jesus and His Father. This is the word children use when addressing their parents with a very personal request. It teaches us that the closer our relationship is with God, the more personal our prayers will be. It is unlikely that we would come to God with such personal questions (such as, how do I face tomorrow?) if He were only a “higher power.” In fact, if God were that impersonal, we probably would not come to Him at all.
We all have our Gethsemane experiences. I can tell you mine, and you can tell me yours. At Gethsemane Jesus reveals how He handles his hour of despair – on his knees before his Father. This is where followers of Jesus need to find themselves regularly.
How good that, in this time of sorrow, Jesus had His Father to comfort and strengthen him for the hours ahead. His closest friends loved him, but their words were empty, and the burdens of the day had overwhelmed them. They had fallen asleep. They were not adequate for the time.
Does this experience of Jesus in Gethsemane communicate a fact to us? It is not that people would not help us to bear life’s burdens. In fact, they want to help, and they do up to a point. But then they have no more answers that will be meaningful in helping us, nor do we have adequate answers for them.
Having spent time with His Father and receiving the strength and direction needed, Jesus tells his disciples it is time to go. His soul was refreshed, and God had given His Son strength to move on so that the mission for which He was sent could be completed.
The disciples witnessed the importance of a strong prayer life if they were to accomplish the mission that would soon be theirs. Wherever life took them in preaching the Gospel, we can be sure they too dropped to their knees many times and asked God for direction and strength to accomplish their mission. Should it not also be the same for Christ’s servants today? Satan would discourage us, but with God’s strength we move on to tell the Gospel, which a post-modern age needs to hear.
The hymn writer, Henry Lyte, must have experienced in his ministry some of what Jesus went through in Gethsemane, for he wrote:
“Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide.
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide!
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, Oh, abide with me!”
The scriptures are true: “The LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). However, we must come to Him daily and ask for his guidance. A strong prayer life is essential for all who desire to be powerful witnesses of Jesus Christ. Amen.