In the Gospel of Luke, you will find the seven last sayings of Jesus and three focused specially on prayer when He died on the cross. One prayer was a prayer of a dying thief who cried out, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). A second prayer was a prayer from Jesus which was the prayer of committal to His Father, “Father into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46) which Jesus uttered from His lips in His final moments. Finally, the third prayer was the prayer of forgiveness which Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Each of these three prayers, a prayer of remembrance, a prayer of committal and a the prayer of forgiveness were spoken during the last few moments of His crucifixion, but they yet are still helpful for you and me to endure our cross through prayer.
God has not forgotten you
Through prayer we can endure our cross by holding on to the truth that God has not forgotten us. When the word of God first mention the two criminals being crucified along side of Jesus, nothing is ever discussed about their lives in the three gospels prior to them being condemned to die as thieves. Both of the thieves, according to Matthew and Mark’s gospels, were mocking Jesus along with the scribes and elders saying “If you are the Christ, then save yourself and us also” (Matthew 27:44 and Mark 15:32).
According to Luke’s Gospel, we learn that at some point the second thief’s behavior and conversation began to change. His conversation was no longer consistent with those who were passing by “wagging their heads reviling Christ”. His conviction about who Jesus was had changed and was no longer the same as the thief who had no fear of God. The heart of thief being crucified to the right of Jesus had become repented and he wanted to be remembered by the Savior. But the heart of the second thief being crucified to the left of Jesus was harden and rejected the mercy of God that was extended to him.
You ask what caused the heart of the thief on the right to change toward Christ. I believe it was because he was willing to accept the consequences of his actions for his crimes. I also believe that he understood what it meant to have a fear of God. In verses 39 and 40 the thief on the right of Jesus rebuked the thief on the left for reviling or blaspheming Jesus. “Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, If You are the Christ save Yourself and us”. “But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?”. In verse 41 the thief on right of Jesus said “And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong”.
In these verses we see the hearts of both men during their crucifixion and the crucifixion of Jesus. The thief on the left was prideful and insulting toward Jesus, only wanting to be rescued from the judgment that he deserved. On the other hand, the thief on the right had a heart that was contrite before Jesus and was willing to except full responsibility for his sins that he had committed in his life against God. Today, what will help you and me to endure our cross? Through prayer we can have a heart that is contrite and repentant toward God for our sins, knowing that He has not forgotten us. If we have a heart like the thief on the left that was filled with pride and no fear of God, our lives will be just as the Prophet Isaiah spoke of the Children of Israel; “that is our iniquities and sins will keep us separated from our God” (Isaiah 59:2). The question I ask you, my brother or sister, is which thief represents your heart before God? Do you have an attitude that is prideful and arrogant toward Jesus or do you have a heart that is repentant and broken before the Lord? For us to endure our cross and to go through difficult challenges mean we need to have the fear of God in our lives, we need to walk in humility and hold onto the truth that God has not forgotten us.
Committing your life into the Father’s hands
A second way how the Father can help you and me to endure our cross is by placing our lives into His hands through prayer. In most crucifixions which were carried out by the Roman soldiers in Jesus time, the death of a person was very agonizing and slow. Besides the agony and the pain Jesus endured during the crucifixion, He would also be separated from the Father three hours as He took upon Himself the punishment for our sins. For in Isaiah 53:11, the Prophet Isaiah declared that “the Lord would see the travail of His Son soul, and He would be satisfied”. As a result of Jesus committing His life into the Father’s hands, “He would justify many by him bearing our iniquities upon Himself”.
When we are going through our difficult times, there is a temptation to stop trusting God and to take matters in our own hands. We may be standing on the promises of God but at the same time feel like we are stuck in between the sowing and the reaping with no harvest in sight. We might even find ourselves frustrated that our prayers are not being answered and the delay that we have tasted is the bitter fruit of denial. However, despite how things may appear at the moment around us and in us we must continue to trust in the Lord and not lean to our own limited understanding. In the midst of our pain, frustration and disappointment God still has our times in His hands and he will not allow the enemy to have the last word over us. For the Father provided His grace to His Son so that He could endure His cross with great joy set before Him. Now as then, we can all partake of God’s of gift of grace and salvation. Through prayer you can endure your cross today and the grace of God is available to you my brother and my sister.
Learning to forgive in trying times
Through Prayer the Father can help you and me to endure our cross of forgiving. The word of God tells us that during the beginning of Passion Week, that Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem all the people declared Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest. However, by the end of that week the religious leaders had encouraged the people to scream in one voice wanting Jesus Crucified. The chief priests and scribes had Jesus secretly arrested at night, having false witnesses to testify against Him and then having him brutally beaten when He had not committed any crime. He was whipped by Roman soldiers and being publicly disgraced. However, despite all of this that Jesus had to endure, nailed to His cross He still prayed “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. This was the ultimate act of forgiveness.
As Jesus was willing to forgive those who betrayed Him and crucified Him, God has also forgiven us our sins. As we receive His forgiveness in our lives we too must also forgive others who have hurt us, offended us and betrayed us. For no matter what race, color, or church denomination we belong to the forgiveness of God is available to us all. What helps us to endure our cross is prayer. When we choose to obey the word of God and forgive others who have transgressed against us we are following the example that Jesus set before us. To choose not to forgive a person who has been abusive and cruel to us can cause us to be robbed of our peace and joy in the Lord. Today is the day that we break the power of the enemy over our lives by enduring our cross through power of prayer.