Some days stand out. They are memorable. There are some days where it feels like lots happen. When many significant things happen. Around 2000 years ago this day in history – the day known as Maundy Thursday – was a day like that.
I’m leading some meditations each day this week in St Michael le Belfrey Church as we journey to the cross with Christ. We’re examining what happened on the day before Jesus died, because so much of importance took place on that day.
Last night we were thinking about the struggle Jesus went though in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46) – the garden where he went to pray before he was arrested. It was there that Jesus had to come to terms with the really tough things he was about to face: anguish, persecution, pain, beatings and a horrific death by crucifixion. We thought about what it’s like to be upset and full of sorrow, so much so that you feel like you might die. And we especially looked at the process Jesus went through: from sorrow to submission to surrender.
We also spent some time considering some examples of this in contemporary life, such as a woman about to give birth, someone struggling with a really tough decision and of course the prospect many people have of facing a drawn-out and painful death. But there was one application that stood out for me as I spoke that I think was particularly prophetic. It was to do with prayer. Sacrificial prayer.
I’ve felt for some time now that God is calling many of his disciples in the UK to pray like never before. It feels to me like there is a fresh call from God to us, and this was especially clarified for me this last weekend with the visit of KP Yohannan, who challenged UK church leaders to prioritise prayer and fasting.
So how does this link to Maundy Thursday? Well, I think it’s like this. God is calling some of us to a whole new level of prayer. Praying like we’ve never prayed before. And it will be tough and difficult. It will require great sacrifice. Much time on your knees. Many days in fasting. Many nights in prayer. And as you do this, like Jesus in Gethsemane, you’ll observe other disciples around you who are sleeping. They’re just not getting it. They’re not able to stay awake. But like Jesus, you will need to press on. And surrender to God’s will for you – as you die to yourself and live for him, as an intercessor in his kingdom.
For many in the UK, and especially in the North, there’s a fresh call to get on our knees and pray sacrificially. The cost is great but the rewards are high. This is about dying … to pray.