What Gethsemane Teaches Us About Prayer

This post comes from a section of Sunday’s sermon from Luke 22:39-46 entitled “Sleeping Sinners and Their Suffering Savior“.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives, Jesus faced the reality of the horror that awaited Him at the cross, the weight of the sins of all of God’s people and the truly awesome and terrible fury of God’s wrath against sin. This was the cup that Jesus pleads to have taken from Him, the cup of God’s wrath, but He drank it to the very last drop because of His great love for us.

As He agonizes over this reality. He offers up prayers and petitions to the Father with loud cries and tears, and in doing so, He provides a powerful example of how we should pray when we face trials. The reality of His fate brought Him to the point of death, but His faith remained stronger, stronger than ever in fact, and He prays the most honest and intimate prayer in the whole of Scripture. Graciously, that prayer is recorded for us in Luke 22:39-44 which says:

39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

There are at least 5 things that we can learn about prayer from this passage. There are countless more, I’m sure, but five jump out to me, so here they are.

1. Jesus Prays With Consistency

Verse 39 tells us that Jesus went to pray “as was His custom”. In other words, Jesus made a practice of private prayer. Time and time again throughout the Gospels, Jesus goes out to pray. Out of all the Gospel writers, Luke brings this to the attention of the readers the most. Luke 5:16, 6:12, 9:28, 11:1, and here in Luke 22:39 all describe Jesus going off to pray by Himself.

He did not resort to prayer only when times were tough, but at all times. He models Paul’s admonition to “pray without ceasing.” Praying only when times are tough actually displays a lack of faith. It shows that we are not faithful, but desperate for help from anywhere, and that God is our last hope. Faithful prayer says that when things are good, when our marriages are solid, our kids are healthy, our jobs are secure, our church is growing, we trust in the power and grace of God alone, and when times are bad, when we are at the brink of divorce and our kids are running from Christ and we get laid off and we get cancer and our church is fighting amongst itself, we trust in the power and grace of God alone. Faithful prayer says, “God I am desperate for you always.”

2. Jesus Prays With Intimacy

This constant communion with the Father leads us to the next thing we learn from Jesus’ garden prayer. Jesus addresses God as His Father. His prayer life is one of intimacy with the Father. There is no hint of anger toward God for the situation in which He finds Himself. He does not grumble. He does not accuse. He is not bitter. At His greatest moment of temptation and trial, Jesus holds fast to the relationship of love that He shares with His Father.

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus instructs His disciples to pray with this same level of intimacy. “Our Father who is in heaven…” Jesus knows that in His greatest moment of trial, He has a Father to whom He can turn, and He turns without delay. We must do the same, for no one is more reliable than our great Father of Lights who gives us every good gift from above.

3. Jesus Prays With Honesty

Jesus does not shy away from asking God for what He really wants. He asks for much because He knows that His Father can provide much. God is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or think, and Jesus models this better than anyone. Just think about what He is asking the Father to do when He says “remove this cup from me.” He is essentially saying:

“Father, if there is any way that you could change the way in which you bring about the salvation of Your people. If it could be that I don’t have to take Your wrath upon myself. If it could be that our communion might not be severed even for a moment. Let that be.”

I have heard it said, that our trouble is not that we ask too much of God, but too little. Jesus asks for much. And James reminds us in James 4:2 that we do not have because we do not ask. Ask much of God for He delights to give to His children that which He wills!

4. Jesus Prays Submissively

Twice in the context of His prayer asks for God’s will above His own. He says:

Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done

In Jesus’ darkest hour, He is most concerned about the gloriously perfect will of the Father. Remember that Jesus Himself said that He only does what the Father wills. As we ask for the grandest things our hearts can think, we must weigh them against the perfect will of God, and seek that which He wills above our own desires, for our desires are flawed, but His will is perfect.

This prayer for the Father’s will is explained in Hebrews 5:7, which says:

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.

Jesus’ reverent fear of God was greater even then His fear of God’s wrath and because of that perfect reverence, He was heard, and God’s will was carried out. This is why Jesus said not to fear the one who can destroy the body but only fear the One who can destroy the body and soul in hell. A proper fear of God will overpower our darkest moments with reminders of His goodness in offering Salvation through Christ, who bore that great punishment for us.

5. Jesus Prays Earnestly

In other words, He means what He prays. Jesus does not offer rote prayers to God. He does not string together phrases that He thinks God wants to hear. His prayers are strong and filled with faith. And, as we see, when His agony is greatest, He prays most earnestly. Our deepest moments of pain and fear should drive us ever under the loving arms of God. Earnest prayers are offered by those who actually trust that God can and will deliver those whom He loves.

THe results of this time of prayer are profoundly evident in the last hours of Jesus’ life. From here to the cross, Jesus does not display a hint of fear. He is resolved to go and will not falter in doing His Father’s will. He rises and finishes His prayer, strengthened and prepared to meet the cross. Jesus’ prayer does not result in deliverance from trials, but strength to face trials with resolve and rock-solid faith.

Jesus shows us that fear and faith are not mutually exclusive. And we should be greatly encouraged by this. His fear led to a deeper degree of faith and more intimate prayer. He turned to His Father for strength and We can as well. In fact, there is no one else to whom we can turn who will provide strength to face trials. Let us turn our eyes toward God and trust that He does indeed deliver from death those who seek salvation in His name.

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