To DOWNLOAD an MP3 of this message, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as". Older audio is removed to conserve server space, but is available by request.
Matthew 27:45-46 (ESV)
45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Prayer is simple thing. In catechism class we describe prayer as “a heart to heart talk with God”. A hymn writer once described prayer as, “the Christian’s vital breath” – meaning that frequent prayer shows faith to be alive, just as continual breathing shows the human body to be alive.
The ability to speak to our heavenly Father at any time, in any place, about any thing, and to know that we are heard and will be answered in the best way possible – that is precious.
When has prayer been most precious to you?
Perhaps you were in mortal danger, and it was impossible for anyone else to hear you. Perhaps someone you love was great danger, and it was impossible for you to do anything to resolve the situation. Or perhaps you have found prayer most precious over a long period of time. A time when you toiled under some ever-pressing burden, and only found relief by praying your anxieties to God and trusting His promise to answer.
During His earthly life, prayer was very important to Jesus. Before the Son of God became human, He had existed in eternity in a perfect relationship with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. When God the Son because human, He very naturally continued to communicate with His Heavenly Father.
When the Son of God became human, communication with the Father became more important than ever. Because now the Son of God was experiencing human life in a broken, sin-filled world. Now the sinless One was being tempted on a constant basis. And if He was going to offer His own soul to rescue sinners from Hell, then He needed to remain perfectly sinless.
And so during Jesus’ ministry, we often see Him sneaking away to pray to His Heavenly Father.
As Jesus drew closer to the cross, and to the climax of His earthly suffering, He continued to pray.
At the Last Supper Jesus prayed for His disciples, that they would be kept from temptation in the hours to come. That their faith in Him would remain, and the Devil would not triumph over them.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed with such deep tension in His soul over the coming battle, that blood forced its way into His sweat and fell in great drops on the dirt.
Prayer was Jesus’ instinctive reaction to everything. When the soldiers finally drove the nails home through His hands and feet, Jesus prayed for the soldiers saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
But prayer wasn’t just important for Jesus, He also instructed His followers to pray.
The same communication the Father that Jesus had, He wanted His followers to experience.
The Bible tells us that Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, even giving them a model prayer to use. We call it the Lord’s Prayer and still us it today.
Through the apostle Paul God instructs us to…
“pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
That is, to be just like Jesus, constantly speaking with God.
In Philippians 4, we are told that instead of worrying, we should unload our cares on God through prayer.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6 NASB).
Here we learn that our communication to God isn’t to be like so many childish prayers, merely asking for things that we want. As Christians, our prayers are to also express our thanks and praise to God for all the blessings that we have received from His gracious hand.
The unbelieving world around us sees prayer as a last resort, or as merely a psychological exercise that offers relief for some. But the Bible tells us that prayer is much more than “talking to an imaginary friend”. Through prayer we connect with our powerful Creator. Through prayer His power flows into our lives. In James 5, it says…
“…the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:15-16 NASB).
Jesus encouraged His followers to speak to God as their own Father, noting that if sinful human fathers know how to give good gifts to their earthly children, then our Heavenly Father will certainly give even better gifts to those who ask Him in faith. (Matthew 7:11)
But, the Bible reveals that there was a time when Jesus’ prayer fell on deaf ears. As Jesus hung on the cross of Calvary, the Father withdrew from the Son. And that precious line of communication that had existed from eternity – was severed.
As Jesus hung crucified in the supernatural darkness of the first Good Friday, at around three o’clock, He cried out in a loud voice, saying…
“…My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 ESV).
Jesus was quoting Psalm 22, an ancient Psalm which predicted how Christ would suffer on the cross. But Jesus wasn’t just quoting the Psalm, He was experiencing what it described. He was feeling what separation from the Father meant. He was literally suffering Hell in my place, and yours.
We know that Jesus wasn’t just being dramatic, because the Bible says that the full penalty for our sins against each other and against God, is separation from God and all His goodness. And the Bible also tells us that Jesus suffered the full penalty for our sins. And so even though we can’t comprehend how it could be, we know with certainty that the Son of God was truly cut off from His Father when He cried out these words.
This is something that we have never even come close to experiencing. No matter what pains we’ve felt, or what horrors have invaded our minds in our darkest hours, none of us have experienced a complete severing from God’s goodness from our lives.
But Jesus did.
The connection that the Son had enjoyed before the universe was made, the connection which had been so precious to Him in the garden of Gethsemane and through everything He had suffered to this point – that connection was now gone. He now felt the full weight of Mankind’s sins being heaped on His soul, with NO ONE to help Him bear it. No one.
When Jesus finished drinking the cup of our suffering down to the very bottom, He asked for a different drink. With the suffering of His soul complete, Jesus now asked for some meager draft of relief for His body. And with His mouth moistened, He said,
“It is finished” (John 19:30 NKJV).
With the work of salvation complete, He once again entered into communion with His Heavenly Father, and cried out in a loud voice what would be the final words of His earthly life,
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46 ESV).
And then He died.
And here is the point. Because Jesus suffered the complete punishment for our sins, our debt of sin has now been paid. All who trust in Christ’s promise of forgiveness are ushered into intimate communion with the Father. Like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, we can now talk to God as our own Father, knowing that He smiles down at us, not as sinners who deserve His wrath and anger, but as sinners declared saints through His Son’s cross.
And to help us grasp the significance of Jesus’ death, the Father gave a sign to the world that His sacrifice was accepted. In just a few days Jesus would be raised from the dead to show He had done His Father’s will and the debt of sinners was truly paid. But at the moment of Christ’s death the Father gave a lesser sign, a preview of things to come. God tore the Temple veil in two from top to bottom.
In the Jerusalem Temple, the veil was a huge curtain that separated the most Holy room of the Temple from the rest. That room, called the Holy of Holies, represented God’s presence with His people. All year long it would lay in darkness until the one day when the High Priest would enter it to offer a blood sacrifice for the people’s sins.
But now, that huge curtain was torn open. Now light flooded into that room showing that the way to God had been opened to all by Christ’s suffering and death.
No more High Priests would be needed, and no further blood sacrifices. It was finished.
As followers of Christ, we often close our prayers with the phrase, “in Jesus’ Name”. We pray this not because we’re praying FOR Jesus, but because we are enabled to pray BECAUSE of Jesus. We know that the Holy God doesn’t hear the prayers of faithless sinners. But through simple trust in Christ, sinners like you and I are declared cleansed and forgiven. Through faith in Jesus we are given the gift of open, unhindered communication with God.
Because Jesus was cut off, we are invited in. This is why we pray, “in Jesus’ Name”.
So pray, dear followers of Christ! Pray to the Lord constantly! Bringing your sins to Him each and every day, and know that you are forgiven because of Christ’s cross. And remember that the precious and powerful gift of prayer is ours, only through of Jesus.
Because Jesus was severed from the Father and was not heard, now we are forgiven and heard, when we pray in His Name.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.