Jesus prayed for us
Jesus prayed so we would be heard.
Samuel C. Degner
One of Jesus’ prayers in Scripture is utterly different from all the rest.
Blood drips. Soldiers mock. Enemies taunt. Passersby shake their heads. The sun stops shining. The Son of God hangs on a tree, dying. Suddenly he raises his voices and shouts.
“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”
The Holy Spirit saw to it that the gospel writers noted the very Aramaic words that came from Jesus’ parched tongue (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). The Holy Spirit wants us to pay close attention to this prayer. Truly there is no other like it in all of Scripture.
Well, actually, there is one exactly like it. The same Spirit inspired King David to put these words into the Messiah’s mouth one thousand years before they were spoken (Psalm 22:1). Yet only when Jesus gave voice to them from the cross could we truly plumb their depths.
It is the only recorded prayer Jesus addressed in a manner other than “Father.” In this case, more distance was required. The Son of God was speaking to his Father as God, the Almighty, the one who punishes and curses and condemns. He had to because, in that moment, he was suffering our punishment, he was under our curse, he was experiencing our condemnation. The only innocent One was being treated as the guiltiest of them all. He carried the guilt of all.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
These are the words of a man shouting at the back of a God who is turned away from him. They resound from the depths and reverberate off of a hardened heaven. It is a prayer without an answer because God is responding to Jesus as he ought to respond to anyone carrying guilt: with silence. It’s the chilling truth about sin: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). In this case, our sins separated Jesus from his God.
Thus, when he cries out from the cross, Jesus prays as our substitute, just as he always did. The rest of his prayers show him actively fulfilling the Father’s will in our place, praying and obeying perfectly as we ought. These excruciating words show our Savior suffering the depths of the punishment we deserve for all of our failures to pray and to live as God’s children. Jesus endured God’s wrath and satisfied God when we could not. These words assure us that Jesus has indeed suffered the Father’s full fury for every sin of every sinner. They prove that the ceiling of guilt has been shattered so that nothing can stop our prayers from rising to the ears of our Father in heaven.
In other words, this is one prayer of Jesus you will never have to speak! These words can be on our lips instead: My God, my God, I know you have forgiven me!
In our moments of anguish, when we cry out to God but can’t seem to hear an answer, we need not think for a moment that God has abandoned us. He cannot leave us, because we plead the merits of the One who was forsaken in our place. Because Jesus spent those agonizing hours apart from God, we will spend an eternity in his presence. And we can be sure that we will never find a deaf ear in heaven.
Contributing editor Samuel Degner is a pastor at Bethel, Menasha, Wisconsin.
This is the eighth article in a nine-part series on Jesus and his prayer life.
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Author: Samuel C. Degner
Volume 102, Number 6
Issue: June 2015
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