Photo credit to Brittany Cunningham.
“In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.” Luke 6:12
When was the last time I sat up the whole night to pray? That has been a long time and I think only once ever, and part of that time was spent focussing on God through songs as well and the words therein. But this word, dianuktereuo, means exactly that, to sit up the whole night. Lord, did you spend other nights in your life sitting up and praying all night long, or was this that only night? I mean, I know you prayed many nights. I’m sure you prayed every night and more than at night. I’m sure that you walked in constant prayerful thought. But this is the only time in Scripture that it is pointed out that you sat up the whole night in prayer.
But what we have in the Scripture is a sampling of you anyway. As John says, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” (John 21:25) But there was this time, at least, that you sat up all night in prayer. And since that was pointed out, I”m pretty sure that even if it was once, we ought to think about it.
Here I come to that word “ginomai” again. And it seems a “by chance” word, but I don’t think it is by chance. “And it came to pass” means, for Jesus, that it didn’t just come to be but it was caused to be. That night had a purpose. It was chosen by God. He didn’t just happen to pray all night long that day. It was by design. He didn’t just stumble on prayer that night and then 12 apostles just happened out of it. This is design by purpose. This is timing by purpose.
You chose this night specifically. You chose to commune with the Heavenly Father all night long because you had some important choices to make and you didn’t want them to just be your choice. You wanted this choice to be what your heavenly Father wanted. If you had chosen, according to the man side of you, you probably would have chosen differently. I mean, how hard was this? John tells us, “And [Jesus] needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” (John 2:25) So, how do you make a decision to choose 12 apostles to represent you, to represent the heart of God when they have the heart of men and you know what is in them?
But even though you were in the form of God, you humbled yourself as a servant, obeyed God as His son, and served with flawed men unto death. (Philippians 2) How hard is it to love us? I mean, some of us wanted to throw you off a cliff for telling the truth. And the majority of us wanted to put you in a box of what we wanted to believe. We still do. We want to pick and choose what parts of you we like to obey and throw away the difficult things. How hard is it to love us when we are like that because we are like that most of the time, aren’t we?
But you still love us, despite all that. You kept telling the scribes and Pharisees the truth. You kept telling the lost, the broken, and the acknowledged sinners the truth. And you sat up all night with God praying until you knew who your 12 apostles would be. These weren’t just disciples. These were apostles, something more, imparted with a little bit more of you, just enough to get the world looking and paying attention so we could see that you were more than a man, that you were different, that you were truly of God, the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, the Lord and Saviour of the world.
What does it even really mean to pray like that? What are the hints that you give us along the way? “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…” What if loving your enemies, blessing them that curse you, doing good to those that hate you, doesn’t happen unless we pray? What if prayer is the creator of a right heart in me and to skip prayer, real prayer is to refuse all these things because I can’t do them in my own strength? How can I love, bless, do good, and pray for those people? Why should I?
“That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more than others? Don’t the tax collectors do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48) Jesus was praying for the Father’s guidance in creating children of God after God’s own heart. This is the kind of love it entails. It takes some all night prayer. And all day prayer. And prayer here and there. And it takes a lot of investing of yourself, but always staying invested first and foremost in God.
Maybe you weren’t just picking out people who would be good at loving and living like this. Maybe you were picking out people who fit in these categories and yet you would love deeply anyways. You didn’t just pick your neighbours, did you? You picked 12 enemies actually. What? Well yeah, aren’t we all? I mean, that’s what Paul says we all were, which includes the 12 men Jesus chose that night. “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” (Romans 8:10) Jesus chose 12 men he could put his words to practice in. Jesus chose 12 men that he could apply God’s way towards.
Jesus took 12 enemies of God and turned them upside down for God and it all came to a head with staying up all night in prayer. There was Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (Alphaeus’ son), Simon (Zelotes), Judas, and Judas Iscariot. Yeah, we all know that Judas was an actual traitor to Jesus. But we all knew after the fact. But weren’t they all? Didn’t they all run from the garden that day? Who stood faithfully by and walked with Jesus when the soldiers came? Come on. Let’s be honest. All 12 fell short. All 12 denied Jesus in some way. What if the truth is that Jesus doesn’t pick us according to our potential for leadership? What if the truth is that Jesus chooses us because we need him?
What if the truth is that all these men would be lousy and terrible leaders without him? What about Nicodemus and Joseph of Aramathea? They were religious men and should have been great leaders right? Or Caiaphas, the high priest then? What kind of leaders were they without you changing their hearts to know God? Lousy leaders directing people to hell in the name of God. And the 12 chosen apostles were in the same boat as them without you, and so am I.
Jesus knew exactly who he was choosing. He wasn’t surprised about any man, let alone Judas Iscariot. But what better way to put his teaching to practice than to chose 12 enemies to love every day of his life and through his crucifixion and into his resurrection and into eternity? What better example?
So yeah, maybe that would take a whole night of struggling with the Father’s decision and surrendering. It wasn’t like Jesus never asked God to change His mind. I remember the night in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Then came Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and said unto the disciples, ‘Sit here while I go and pray there.’ And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then he said unto them, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: wait here, and watch with me.’ And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, ‘Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as You will.’ And he came unto the disciples, and found them asleep, and said unto Peter, ‘What, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that you don’t enter into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, ‘O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.’ And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to his disciples, and said to them, ‘Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that betrays me.’” (Matthew 26:36-46)
Hmm. It appears that Jesus spent at least another night in prayer. And it appears that things only got more difficult the more faithful you were to the Father. But I see that two things didn’t change: your love and faithfulness to your heavenly Father, and your love for us unfaithful people. Yeah, it’s hard to love people. We let you and others down all the time. We don’t get you because we’re too focussed on ourselves. We betray you. We can’t even stay awake when you need us praying for you. I know that I’m not any different than those 12 men. And if anyone else thinks they are better than them, they are mislead.
The truth is that you so loved the world not because we are gifted but because we need you so we can receive the gift of You. You chose twelve disciples as apostles so You could teach them what the love of the Father translates like into our lives and out towards others. So today is about prayer and about surrender to God and about loving our enemies. And today is about realising that apart from Jesus’ prayer and surrender to God and loving me, an enemy of God, I would be lost forever. But because of that day, praying for God’s direction, and choosing those 12, countless others have been chosen to follow ever since then, and I am one of them! Not because I deserve it but because I was an enemy of God and lost without Him. I needed Him. We all do.
And here’s the wonderful thing. You don’t just call us from enemy to disciple. You call us to be sons and daughters of Almighty God! (2 Corinthians 6:18) You don’t just call us from enemy to disciple. You call us friends, more than servants. We get to hear the Father’s heart and know it and do it. Oh, may I follow your example and love those who are as unloveable as me, just as you have chosen and love me!