This is my second installment of four on this study of earnest prayer—which are excerpts from my book Principles of Prayer.
Eklenesteron. This word has basically the same meaning as ektenos, except with this word the intensity of earnestness is greater. The word appears in the New Testament only in Luke 22:44, where it describes the way Jesus prayed just before His trial and crucifixion: “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
Here it seems that the reason why He prayed so earnestly was because He was so grieved and distressed over the thought of His crucifixion—where he would suffer and pay a horrible penalty for the sin of the whole world. But take note that His prayers were not weak as to feel sorry for Himself. No, His prayers were strong. As verse 43 indicates, “An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him. Thus, seeing His great need, His Father gave Him the strength He needed to pray—enough to overcome His great anguish of soul.
Here is a lesson of prayer. When you are in great distress, don’t give up as the disciples did (Lu. 22:45-46), for they chose to sleep their troubles away. Rather, ask God to give you the strength to pray for as long as you need to. Your prayers must be as strong and as intense as the greatness of your troubles. Therefore, if you have little troubles, pray a little. If you have normal troubles, pray a normal amount. But if you have BIG troubles, pray big and strong, even with loud cries and tears—as Jesus did (Heb. 5:7). Pray as long and as hard as you need to, to overcome all your pain. And He will surely come and help you.
No doubt, no one has ever prayed with as much earnestness as Jesus did; but there were some, such as Moses and Paul, whom I believe also prayed with eklenesteron. Both of these great intercessors were willing to give up their own souls for those they loved.”
Here is what Moses prayed: “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written” (Ex. 32:31-32).
Similarly, Paul describes His earnest desire for those that he loves: “I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren…” (Romans 9:2-3)
Harry E. Jessop, in his book, tries to describe Paul’s great heartbreak and earnest prayer. He writes,
This heartbreak was not for himself. Neither was it the result of worked up emotion, the hysteria born of overwrought nerves. The sin of others and their consequent danger, so weighed upon his soul that he was driven to earnest pleadings with strong crying and tears. He could hardly endure the thought of an eternity of bliss if their wandering souls were left to their awful doom, therefore he prayed, and prayed with a breaking heart.
In these words of Jessop’s I think we see the key to the reason for earnestness. It is for the love of others—to plead for their lost souls.