Day 20: Agony and Fervency
We have seen that there is a context of athletic competition with the word translated agony. In fact, the place that the games took place was called Agwn, or the Place of Agony. We have also noted that there was a link between Jesus’ agony and His prayer. This correlation is not unusual in Scripture, as we see the Greek word for agony, also translated as strive, used a lot in a context of prayer, and in pursuit of righteousness. Jesus used the term when He said, “Strive to enter in at the straight gate.” He is urging us to make every effort—to make agonizing effort—to follow the path of righteousness in order to please God, as He did. Paul used the word when he wrote to the Corinthians, noting that those who strive (agonize) for mastery are “temperate in all things.”
As stated above, this agonizing is also often connected with prayer. Paul uses this word when asking the Romans to pray for him (Rom.15:3). He pleads to them, “strive together with me in your prayers.“ He is telling them literally to agonize with him. He describes this type of prayer embodied in the life of Epaphras, who was “always wresting in prayer for you that you stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (Col. 4:12). It is interesting that not only are prayer and agony linked here, but the will of God is, as well. It should be a clue to us that if we are to stand firm in the will of God, as Jesus did, we may very well need to agonize in prayer to do so!
Jonathan Edwards says “When we go before God in prayer with a cold, dull heart, and a lifeless and listless manner pray to Him for eternal blessings and those of infinite import to our souls, we should think of Christ’s earnest prayers that He poured out to God, with tears and bloody sweat. The consideration of it may well make us ashamed of our dull, lifeless prayers to God… [The example of Jacob in wrestling with God for the blessing should teach us earnestness in our prayers, but more especially, the example of Jesus Christ, wrestled with God in a bloody sweat..] If we are sensible as Christ was of the great importance of those benefits that are of eternal consequence, our prayers to God for such benefits would be after another manner than now they are. Our souls would also with earnest labor and strife be engaged in this duty.”
Jesus’ fervency was bound up in His desire to do the Father’s will. He agonized that He not fail. How do the theme and intensity of your prayers compare to that of Jesus’? How fervently do you pray to know God’s will, to do it—especially to overcome your areas of weakness?
• What is the general temperature of your prayer life? In what ways does Jesus’ example inspire you to step up your game and agonize in prayer?
While I can be fervent about having the cup removed, I too rarely plead with You—agonize—that I would fully obey and please You. How different my life would be, and that of those for whom I intercede, if I wrestled more! Teach me!
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries