Prayer Group


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    (Jesus said) “Behold, the hand of him who betrays Me is with Me on the table” (Luke 22:21). 
    Read Luke 22:21-23
    Jesus first mentioned a betrayal when He predicted His sufferings to His disciples. Now at the Last Supper He staggers His disciples with the words, “Behold, the hand of him who betrays Me is with Me on the table.” 

    Judas must have been dumbstruck. Jesus has just put the secret he has carefully hidden out on the table for all to see. The tables have completely turned, and Judas is at Jesus’ mercy. He has the power to betray Judas into the other disciples’ hands or, at the very least, He can foil any attempt Judas may make to try to betray Him.

    Now that He has Judas’ fearful attention, Jesus continues, “The Son of Man goes as it has been determined.” No one will force the Son of God to His sufferings-not Judas, not the Jewish leaders, not the Roman governor-but in order to fulfill His Father’s will and to save mankind He willingly goes to His death.

    But Jesus’ focus is not on Himself; it’s on Judas, “But woe to that man by whom He is betrayed.” Jesus wants it to sink in. Like so many of the sins we contemplate, Judas doesn’t understand the full magnitude of what he is about to do. Jesus wants him to understand, so he will confess his sin now and receive Jesus’ pardon and forgiveness-before it is too late.

    The disciples question among themselves who it is who would do this dastardly act. Jesus could do to Judas that which Judas agreed to do to Him. It is in His power to betray Judas to them. But He shields and protects him instead.

    THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You reached out to Judas with true love and concern, urging him to repent and believe. Destroy my love of worldly things that I may repent and trust in You alone. Amen.






    (Jesus said) “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat” (Luke 22:31).
    Read Luke 22:31-34
    Jesus predicted Judas’ betrayal. Now He turns to Peter, whose name means rock. But this time Jesus doesn’t call him “Peter”; instead, He repeats his name, “Simon, Simon,” to show His deep concern. 

    Jesus draws back the spiritual curtain to expose the devil, who stands behind all that Jesus will soon suffer: Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, the murderous vote of the Jewish leaders, the cowardice of the Roman governor, and the cruelty of the Roman soldiers. In Peter’s case, Satan demanded that God hand him over to be crushed and sifted. But where Satan demands, Jesus prays. He tells Peter “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”

    Peter’s faith will be sorely tried in the hours to come, but Jesus makes a bold and comforting prophesy, “When you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter’s pride and self-confidence will be crushed and sifted like wheat, but the Holy Spirit will safeguard his faith to keep it from failing.

    Jesus speaks of the future; Simon speaks of the present. He is proud and confident that he will not fail. He is ready to go with Jesus to prison or even to death. So Jesus explicitly predicts his coming denials: “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know Me.”

    The Son of God’s prophetic word trumps Peter’s confident self-assurance. But it will take the rooster’s crow and a telling look from Jesus to convince Peter of that fact-and to recall him to repentance, the first step to forgiveness and restoration.

    THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, like Peter, sometimes I’m confident in my strength and abilities. At other times I’m utterly defeated. Forgive my sins and fill me with Your Spirit, that I may walk in Your great strength. Amen.







    And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly … (Luke 22:44a). 
    Read Luke 22:39-46
    After the Last Supper we read, “He came out and went, as was His custom, to the Mount of Olives.” Judas knew that custom well. He knew where he could lead the temple police to arrest Jesus. By choosing this place and not a location unknown to Judas, Jesus is already surrendering Himself to His Father’s plan.

    Jesus instructs His disciples to pray. He then withdraws from them, kneels down and prays, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me.” This cup is God’s furious wrath at all our sins. Drinking down that punishment will be bitter and deadly. But Jesus submits Himself to His Father’s grand design: “Not My will, but Yours, be done.”

    The Father sends an angel to strengthen Jesus’ body. He did the same after Jesus fasted 40 days in the wilderness, being tempted by Satan. This angel strengthens and renews Jesus’ human mind and body to fully face the horror of the wrath of God coming upon Him.

    But the struggle is not yet over. Jesus still dreads the cup the Father holds out for Him. We see the intensity of Jesus’ struggle as Luke the physician writes, “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Tiny blood vessels under the skin can rupture under extreme stress, permitting blood to mingle with the sweat. The struggle lasts for hours before Jesus is finally at peace. He rises to His feet, ready to drink the cup down to its dregs.

    THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, Your bitter sufferings in the garden prepared You for the fiery trial to come. Give me grace and strength to pray to You in the darkest hours of my life, for my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak. Amen.







    But Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48). 
    Read Luke 22:47-48. 
    Jesus awakens His disciples. While He is telling them to stay awake and pray, Jewish temple guards come forward with Judas at the lead. They come in force to maintain control, as they take Jesus into custody. Their presence will be especially necessary if word should get out to the great crowd of Jewish pilgrims, hanging on Jesus’ words in the temple.

    The large number of temple guards is unnecessary. If Jesus didn’t want to be arrested, He could overpower them all with a word, or He could call on His Father to send an angel army 72,000 strong. Instead, He submits to His Father’s will. But He does not remain silent. He speaks one last time to Judas, trying to awaken his conscience. “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” The betrayer’s hypocrisy is striking, using something as familiar as a kiss and making it the instrument by which he would deliver Jesus over to His enemies.

    But Judas does not see his guilt or his shame. He kisses Jesus in order to distinguish Him from the other disciples. But even this is pointless. Jesus is already stepping forward to put Himself in their hands.

    This must have been one of the most painful things for Jesus. In this bitter betrayal, one that He loved now turned against Him with a simple kiss. But that was not all. Jesus knew Judas wouldn’t recognize the terrible thing he just did, and later he would rush off in despair and take his own life.

    THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, how sharp the pain You suffered as Judas, whom You loved, betrayed You with a kiss! Forgive me the times I thoughtlessly betray You. Amen.






    … “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” (Luke 22:49b). 
    Read Luke 22:35-38, 47-53
    While still in the upper room, Jesus had told His disciples, “Let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.” The disciples had answered, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” When Jesus said, “It is enough,” Peter took one of those swords along to the Mount of Olives. 

    Now, as they see Jesus surrounded by the temple guards, the disciples ask if He wants them to attack with the sword. But before Jesus can answer, Peter draws out his sword and strikes it against a guard standing nearby. Apparently, he was trying to split the man’s skull and missed, cutting off his right ear instead. It may seem strange for one lone man to attack a whole company of armed men, but Peter was going to do his part to set Jesus free.

    Knowing Peter’s attack could lead the guards to draw their swords and attack the disciples, Jesus steps forward and takes charge of the situation. He miraculously heals the servant’s ear and brings peace and order back to the garden. This will be Jesus’ last miracle before His death and resurrection. It is important to note He does it for one of the enemies who has come to arrest Him and lead Him to His death.

    Does Judas see this miracle? It is proof that Jesus is still concerned for His enemies. He is willing to forgive Judas and restore him – if only he will believe it in his hour of guilt and regret.

    THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You put Peter’s sword back into its sheath and showed kindness to a stricken enemy, as You went forward to save us by Your suffering and death. In all times, and especially in danger, help me entrust myself into Your mighty hands. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.






    Then they seized Him and led Him away, bringing Him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance (Luke 22:54). 
    Read Luke 22:54-62
    When Jesus is arrested, the disciples scatter in fear and go into hiding – all, that is except for Peter. He follows at a distance then slips into the courtyard, posing as one of the temple police. Though it seems bold and courageous, Jesus does not want him there. He wants him safe with the other disciples. There is no reason for Peter to put himself in jeopardy. Jesus has already spelled out exactly what will happen.

    In the cold night air, the guards light a fire and Peter sits down to warm himself. But the firelight betrays him. Carefully studying his face, a maid points him out to the other guards: “This man also was with Him.”

    Realizing the grave danger, Peter quickly answers, “Woman, I do not know Him.”

    A short time later someone else recognizes him and says, “You also are one of them.”

    Peter answers, “Man, I am not.” Luke’s narrative is kind to Peter; he only mentions the denials, not the oaths and curses he calls down on himself.

    An hour later still another challenges him, “Certainly, this man also was with Him, for he too is a Galilean.”

    Peter snaps back, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, he hears a rooster crowing and turns and looks straight into Jesus’ face – even as the words of his third denial are pouring from his lips.

    Remembering Jesus’ prediction, Peter goes out and weeps bitterly. In its own way, Peter’s denial was as painful for Jesus as was Judas’ betrayal. For Peter, the guilt and shame must have been dreadful.

    THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You looked in love on Peter in the midst of his sin. Look on me in my sins and turn me to sorrow and regret, so I may run to You for forgiveness and peace. Amen.






    When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. …( Luke 22:66a). 
    Read Luke 22:63-71
    While Peter is outside denying Jesus, the men holding Jesus in custody are mocking and beating Him. They blindfold Him, slap His face, and demand Him to tell them who had struck Him. Through all the abuse Jesus remains silent.

    When day comes, they lead Him before the Jewish high court. Then they challenge Him: “If You are the Christ, tell us.”

    Jesus knows they aren’t interested in the truth; they only want a charge to level against Him. Pointing out their stubborn indifference He says, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer.” Then He answers their question with power and majesty, “From now on, the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”

    Indeed, He is the Messiah, but He is not the earthly king they expect. He is the exalted Messiah of the Scriptures-the Son of God and Son of Man, who rules in power and glory from the Father’s right hand in heaven. He is the God who will be their Judge on the Last Day.

    To be clear, the court demands, “Are You the Son of God?”

    Jesus answers, “You say that I am.” His answer sounds evasive in our English, but not in Luke’s Greek. Jesus affirms the words they have just spoken are true: He is the Son of God.

    The Jewish high court condemns Jesus for claiming to be God’s Son. But time is running short. Soon the city will be awake, and the dreaded crowds will return. They need Jesus on the cross before that happens. So they rush Him off to the Roman governor.

    THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, despite their doubts and hostility, You fearlessly revealed the truth to the Jewish leaders. Give me faith to believe You are God’s Son, ruling at His right hand. Amen.






    Then the whole company of them arose and brought Him before Pilate (Luke 23:1). 
    Read Luke 23:1-4
    The Jewish high court and temple police arise as a large company and lead Jesus to Pilate. As they bring their charges against Him, they won’t even call Him by name, saying instead, “this fellow.” They level three charges against Jesus. First, they accuse Him of stirring up the nation against Rome. Next, they charge Him with hindering the payment of taxes to Caesar. And finally, they accuse Him of declaring Himself to be the Christ-a king who would be a definite threat to Caesar.

    Pilate directly asks Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

    Jesus answers the same way He answered the Jewish high court previously. “You have said so.” In Luke’s Greek, Jesus is really saying, “Yes, what you have said is true. I am King of the Jews.”

    In Pilate’s mind there was no doubt, Jesus definitely was claiming to be the King of the Jews. And yet Pilate recognized this Christ-King was no threat to Caesar.

    After this questioning Pilate went back out to the Jewish leaders and made his verdict known: “I find no guilt in this Man.” At this point the trial should be over. Pilate should order the Jewish crowd to disperse and free Jesus, with an armed escort, if necessary.

    But upmost in Pilate’s mind is maintaining peace and order during this festival, when so many Jews from across the Empire have streamed into Jerusalem. He could certainly use his troops to disperse the Jewish leaders and free Jesus, but he prefers a more peaceful resolution. He seeks consent for his ruling from the Jewish high court – his first fatal flaw of the day.

    THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, Pilate was convinced of Your innocence, yet He opened the door to injustice when he should have set You free. Thank You for being willing to suffer and die for me. Amen. 






    And when he (Pilate) learned that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time (Luke 23:7). 

    Read Luke 9:7-9; 23:5-12

    Pilate has cleared Jesus of all charges. But the Jewish leaders aren’t letting up. Jesus is simply too dangerous. He has stirred up the whole nation, beginning in Herod’s Galilee, all the way down here to Pilate’s Judea. But their words give Pilate a brilliant idea. Since Jesus came from Herod’s jurisdiction, he’ll shift the responsibility for this case and let Herod deal with it.


    Herod is Jesus’ judge, but he doesn’t ask a single judicial question, nor does he examine the charges against Jesus. Herod has long wanted to see Jesus. But he’s not interested in God’s truth; he wants to be entertained by a miracle, catch a good performance, perhaps. So Jesus remains silent.


    The Jewish high court strenuously presses its charges, hoping to get a more favorable reaction from Herod. But Herod absolutely refuses to hold a trial. His subjects already hate him for executing John the Baptist, and he isn’t about to touch this Jesus fellow.


    Since Jesus answers Herod’s questions and pleas with silence, Herod feels Jesus is treating him with contempt-so he returns the favor. Along with his soldiers Herod treats Jesus with scorn and disrespect, as if He was nothing. He dresses Jesus in splendid garments; then he sends him back to Pilate. The two governors agree: if Jesus is a king, He appears harmless.


    But this day does see one reconciliation. Previously, Pilate and Herod had been bitter enemies; now they become friends. Herod is grateful that Pilate sent Jesus’ case to him. Pilate is grateful that Herod recognized his authority and was courteous enough to return Jesus to Pilate’s jurisdiction.


    THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, the Jews falsely accused You; Pilate judged You innocent but wouldn’t free You, and Herod was looking to be entertained. Give me faith to worship You in truth and humility as my Savior, King and Lord. Amen.







    … Then, arraying Him in splendid clothing, he sent Him back to Pilate (Luke 23:11b). 
    Read Luke 23:13-25
    Pilate has examined Jesus and found no crime based on the charges made against Him. This was also the case with Herod or he would have condemned Him. Again, Jesus should be set free immediately. Instead, however, Pilate proposes a solution, “I will therefore punish and release Him.” 

    Perhaps Pilate thinks he is offering the Jewish leaders a way to save face before their people. They surely wouldn’t want him to release Jesus and publicly humiliate them, would they? But seeing Pilate back down from his verdict, the priests know they need to stand their ground, and Pilate will eventually surrender Jesus.

    Pilate’s punishment for Jesus was the brutal Roman scourging. It used whips with pieces of bone or lead fastened to the tips. After this horrific violence, Pilate honors a custom, giving the crowds their choice of two criminals. He offers them a severely abused Jesus or the most dangerous criminal in prison: Barabbas. Pilate may not realize it, but he has lowered Jesus to the status of a criminal, thus making it easier for the Jewish leaders and the crowds to call for His death. The Jewish leaders convince the Jews to demand Barabbas’ release and Jesus’ crucifixion.

    For a third time Pilate asks what terrible thing this Man has done? The judge is now pleading with the people; he has totally lost control of this trial. The crowds increasingly demand Jesus’ crucifixion. Their voices prevail over Pilate’s sense of justice. He orders Barabbas released, and Jesus is to be handed over to their will.

    Jesus’ prophecy about His passion has been accomplished: Judas handed Jesus over to His Jewish enemies; the Jews handed Jesus over to Pilate, and Pilate now hands Jesus over to the crowds that are demanding His crucifixion.

    THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, Pilate watched Your trial spiral out of control. Help me see that You were in complete control, winning my salvation by Your innocent suffering and death. Amen.






    And there followed Him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for Him (Luke 23:27). 
    Read Luke 23:26-31
    Jesus is carrying His cross to the place of execution. But the severe flogging and other mistreatment has sapped His strength so that He can no longer bear His cross. The Roman soldiers force a man named Simon, who was coming into Jerusalem from the country, to carry it for Him.

    A great crowd of people follow Jesus, including women from Jerusalem, weeping and wailing for Him. In the midst of His agony, sorrow and pain, Jesus turns and tells them to stop sobbing for Him. Like Peter, they need to weep for their sins and for the wrath of God, which those sins have stirred.

    Earlier Jesus had wept for Jerusalem, knowing that in 70 A.D. God’s wrath will fall on that city, as the legions of Rome surround it. Watching their children suffering and dying in the slow, grinding terror of that siege, Jewish women will wish something no Jew would have otherwise thought: they will wish they had been childless! At that dreadful time those living in Jerusalem will wish for a sudden, cataclysmic death, instead of the slow starvation they experienced, as the Roman legions slowly choke off Jerusalem and grind its people into the dust.

    What a vivid, horrible picture of hell, where people will long to be exterminated in one rapid moment. Instead, they will suffer the slow, burning terror of hell, knowing it will never, ever end. Today is the time for each of us to weep, mourning and seeking God’s forgiveness in Jesus, the Savior of the world.

    THE PRAYER: Almighty God, Your Son carried my guilt and sin, as He went out to die in my place. Fill my heart with sorrow and regret over my sins, so I may flee to Him for salvation. I pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.






    And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” … (Luke 23:34a). 
    Read Luke 23:32-34
    Jesus is not going to die alone. Pilate ordered two criminals to die with Him. When they finally reach the execution site we read that Jesus is crucified between the two. In that one word “crucified,” the Scriptures spare us the horrible details, and carry forward Jesus’ charge: “Do not weep for Me.”

    Now, as the climax of Jesus’ suffering is reached and incredible pain wracks His body, the soldiers are casting lots to divide His clothing. Jesus turns to His Father in prayer. But once again He is not praying for Himself, not seeking divine retribution on His foes, or even justice for Himself-He is pleading with His Father to forgive those who have put Him on this cross. They do not know what they are doing.

    But Jesus is not only praying for the Roman soldiers, Pontius Pilate, Herod Antipas, the Jewish leaders, the temple guard, Peter and Judas – He is praying for all the people whose sins He is carrying, including yours and mine. So often we commit our sins without giving a second thought to the wrath we are incurring, or the sufferings Jesus endured to save us from them. We don’t know what we are doing either.

    But God the Father can’t simply ignore His wrath at our sins. Nor can He pretend they never took place. His holiness demands that sinners be punished. For the Father to be able to forgive us, Jesus knows He must suffer the torment of hell in our place. He asks His Father to pour His fiery wrath on Him instead.

    THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, in our sin we don’t know what we are doing. Yet You willingly took on Yourself our guilt and Your Father’s punishment. Make us aware of our culpability that we may repent and trust You alone as our Savior. Amen.





    And he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom” (Luke 23:42). 
    Now we turn to the two criminals crucified with Jesus. The first asks, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” He wants Jesus to be the Christ, but this is only for his own sinful purposes. He wants to cheat justice and escape his suffering and death, but not to amend his sinful life.

    But the second criminal looks at Jesus and sees something no one else has been able to see. The Jewish leaders look at Jesus and see a man who can’t possibly be a Savior – He can’t even save Himself! The Roman soldiers see a powerless king. The other criminal sees a powerless Messiah, but this criminal looks through the crown of thorns, the blood, sweat and tears and sees God’s Messiah, the promised King. He asks Jesus to remember him on Judgment Day and not to bar him out of His kingdom because of his life of sin.

    As wonderful a confession as we see in the criminal’s rebuke and prayer, we see something even more wonderful in Jesus’ reply. Not only on the distant Day of Judgment will Jesus remember the dying thief, but this very day his sufferings will cease, and he will be with Christ in paradise forever.

    The repentant criminal asked Jesus to remember him. This night in Holy Communion Jesus asks us to remember Him, to remember the sacrifice He made – so we may live. He gives us His body, which He gave unto death for our sins. He gives us His blood poured out, so we might be forgiven and inherit the paradise He has opened to all who will believe in Him.

    THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You forgave a despised criminal and promised him eternal life. Forgive my sins and remember me when You come in glory. Amen.






    Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!” … (Luke 23:46a). 
    Read Luke 23:44-49
    Many supernatural events occur at Jesus’ death. The first is a darkness that covered the whole land from midday until three in the afternoon. This darkness indicates God’s judgment, as Jesus is punished for the sins of the whole world.

    At 3 p.m. a second miracle takes place in the temple. The thick curtain dividing the two rooms of the temple is torn in two from top to bottom. This curtain represents our separation from God on account of our sins. Throughout the Old Testament, only one person could pass through it – the high priest. But now God’s Son – our great High Priest – has torn down the dividing barrier, so all who believe in Jesus have direct access to God the Father forever.

    At this same moment, Jesus cries out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!” Jesus wants everyone to hear His intense satisfaction and joy, because peace with God has now been won for all. Now that He has finished the work for which He was born, Jesus commends His spirit into His Father’s hands.

    Then the third miracle takes place. Immediately after uttering this loud cry, Jesus dies. The Roman centurion knows crucified criminals don’t die this way. Their lungs slowly fill with fluid, and their last moments are desperate gasps for air. There is no way Jesus should be able to utter a loud cry the moment before He dies. Thinking of the unnatural darkness, the unnatural way Jesus died, and all the injustices Jesus suffered, he says, “Certainly this man was innocent.”

    THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, when You completed Your earthly course You committed Your spirit into Your Father’s keeping. Give me confidence that I am safe in Your hands now and forever. Amen.






    This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus (Luke 23:52). 
    Read Luke 23:50-56
    As Jesus was dying, He entrusted His spirit into His Father’s hands. But what would become of His lifeless body? The faithful believers and women stood at a distance to see what the soldiers would do. But unknown to them, God the Father was already making arrangements. He had chosen a man, Joseph, to be Jesus’ earthly father, to find a shelter and a manger at His birth. Now He provides another Joseph to arrange for Jesus’ proper burial. 

    Luke describes Joseph as a prominent member of the Jewish high court; he had not consented to its decision to destroy Jesus. Joseph trusted God’s promise to send His Son, and he had secretly come to believe Jesus was that Messiah. Now he boldly secures Pilate’s permission to take charge of Jesus’ lifeless body.

    He takes Jesus’ body down, wraps it in linen, and lays it in a tomb as yet untouched by death’s decay and corruption. Then Joseph rolls a large stone – a flat, circular, upright slab-down in a groove in front of the entrance to the tomb.

    Since the Sabbath is beginning, only the women follow Joseph to the tomb. They carefully note its location; they see how Jesus’ body was laid in it. In the few minutes left before the Sabbath, the women will buy spices and myrrh in preparation for the work they will do when the Sabbath is over. Early Sunday morning they will return to anoint His body for a proper burial.

    THE PRAYER: Almighty God, You raised up Joseph to care for Your Son’s dead body. Thank You that You take note of all my needs-especially my need for forgiveness through Jesus my Savior. Amen.
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