Vol. 6, No. 6
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Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared (Hebrews 5:7, KJV).
Two of Webster's definitions of the verb "fear" are:
to feel a painful apprehension of some impending evil; to be afraid of; to dread. "I will fear no evil, for thou art with me" (Psalm 23:4).
to feel reverence for; to have a reverential awe of; to venerate.
Oh! The fervency of Jesus' prayer struggle: in the garden of Gethsemane, separating himself from his disciples, around midnight of Thursday, April 6, A.D.30, all alone, falling "on his face," in such "agony" that his "sweat" was like "great drops of blood," praying "with strong crying and tears, 'O My Father, if it be possible let this cup [of death] pass away from me,'" and "heard in that he feared." Certainly Jesus' fear that caused his prayer to be heard in heaven was not Webster's first definition (Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:44; Hebrews 5:7).
Only a few hours before, in another prayer, Jesus had spoken to his Father of "the glory which I had with you before the world was" (John 17:5), and that he was looking forward after the cross to regain that glory: "O Father, glorify thou me with the glory which I had with you before the world was."
God's law for everyone's prayer, written by Moses, was "Thou shalt fear (yara') Jehovah thy God" (Deuteronomy 6:13, ASV), and "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination" (Proverbs 28:9). Since the first definition of fear ("feel a painful apprehension of . . . some impending evil; to be afraid of; to dread") is unthinkable in Jesus' relationship with his Father, the second definition is called for ("feel reverence for; to have a reverential awe of; to venerate.")
Certainly Jesus in all of his life was in "a reverential awe of" his Father, and since worship includes doing "reverence to" God (BGD, 716), we are not surprised that Jesus used the word "worship" (proskuneo) as a correct translation of Moses' command to "fear" (yara') Jehovah (Deuteronomy 6:13; Matthew 4:10).
Thus the fear that caused Jesus' prayer to be heard was worship. As acceptable fear is a feeling ("feel reverence for"), so acceptable worship is a feeling of "reverential awe" toward the God of the universe, an adoration of the "I am because I am" who is "love" (Exodus 3:14, ASV, margin; 1 John 4:8).
The feeling of a "reverential awe" of God, godly fear, that was in Jesus the night his prayer was heard, was not supernatural. It is the same feeling in all ages in everybody whose prayers are heard. And the Bible gives us examples of human beings besides Jesus who were "devout, God-fearing" (eulabeis, BGD, 322) people who fit the description of those who worshiped God "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). Among these were Noah, Simeon, the three thousand baptized on the day of Pentecost, and the "devout" men who buried Stephen (Hebrews 11:7; Luke 2:25; Acts 2:5, 41; 8:2). The writer of the book of Hebrews said that Jesus' prayer was heard because of his eulabeia, his "fear" (Hebrews 5:7), and he used the same word to describe all Christians (Hebrews 12:28).
However, the fact remains that, though Jesus' prayer was heard, it was not answered! Though "more than twelve legions [full legion, 6,100] of angels" (Matthew 26:53) stood "at the ready" to answer Jesus' prayer that God spare him from death, God's love for all mankind forced him to say no to Jesus' prayer that night. Similarly, all reverential, God-fearing Christians offer prayers that are heard, but sometimes He who knows best has to say no.