Gospel of John 12: 23-28 (NIV)
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.
27 “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”
In the presence of his disciples Jesus voiced two alternative prayers to the Father: “Father, save me from this hour” and “Father, glorify your name”. One he readily and audibly rejected; the other he immediately prayed. This may have been evidence of a profound internal battle. I prefer to think that he used it as a teaching opportunity for those close to him.
Jesus’ two alternative prayers can inform us about the nature of our own prayers. We can and often do pray for ourselves. Do we pray as often for God’s will to prevail to his enduring glory?
For those who, through Christ, trust God there is much God-given work to be done. We find some of God’s work to be challenging, taking us beyond our comfort levels and potentially placing us in the way of physical or emotional danger. One course of action is to avoid that which is unpleasant or to pray God’s protection from it, even our removal from the vicinity of such work. Could it be, however, God’s desire that we should reject avoidance and instead choose involvement? Are we being called to abandon concern for self and to trust him to work in us then through us?
I am reminded of a film released about ten years ago: End of the Spear. In 1956, five missionaries to Ecuador from the United States were brutally speared to death by members of an indigenous stone-age tribe. Two years later, the wife and the sister of two of the murdered missionaries walked into the jungle to live with the Waodani, the same people who had murdered the men they loved. Through selfless care for the people, the women gained their trust and eventually led them to reject their murderous customs and to follow Jesus Christ.
When those two women committed to live in an inhospitable Ecuadorean forest to minister to people who caused them to suffer such grief, they rejected “save me from this hour” and instead embraced “Father, glorify your name!”
As we reflect during “Holy Week” on our Lord’s passion and death, may we all commit to living each day to his glory. Perhaps the desire then to pray for our own protection will diminish as we are more conscious of living and working in accordance with his will.