SERMON TITLE: “He Was Heard”
SERMON TEXT: Hebrews 4:14-5:10 (also read Mark 14:32-42)
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: March 18, 2018, at First UMC
A mother and father were aware that their 14-year old son was struggling with math, and they had been helping him with his homework as best they could. Being a religious family, the parents encouraged their son to pray for God’s help. On the night before an important exam, they overheard their teenage son saying a variation on a childhood prayer: “Now I lay me down to rest, and hope to pass tomorrow’s test. If I should die before I wake, that’s one less test I have to take.”
In a totally different context, some religious folks were debating the most effective way to pray.
“The proper way for [us] to pray,” said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,
“the only proper attitude is down upon [our] knees.”
“Nay, I should say, the way to pray,” said Revered Doctor Wise,
“is standing straight with outstretched arms with rapt and upturned eyes.”
“Oh, no, no, no,” said Elder Snow, “such posture is too proud.
A man should pray with eyes fast-closed and head contritely bowed.”
“It seems to me his hands should be austerely clasped in front,
with both thumbs pointing to the sky,” said Reverend Doctor Blunt.
“Last year I fell in Hodgkin’s well, headfirst,” said Cyril Brown.
“With both my heels a stickin’ up, my head a-pointin’ down;
and I done prayed right then and there; best prayer I ever said,
the prayin’est prayer I ever prayed, a-standin’ on my head.”1
No matter who we are, hardened sinner or righteous saint, we all pray more actively in times of crisis. When situations arise that cause pain or fear, we hurl up “panic-button prayers,” asking God to get us out of the mess in which we’ve landed. We want an escape plan, a divine rescue; we want a way out.
Jesus was no different. Hebrews 5:7 says that, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death.” The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell us that before Jesus’ crucifixion, he went out to a garden and prayed that God might take the cup of death away from him. Luke even says that Jesus prayed so hard that sweat fell off his head like drops of blood. Sensing that his crucifixion was near, Jesus was greatly troubled. If there was any way possible, he wanted God to rescue him.