Daily Devotionals / Prayer

3 Lessons from the Prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

In the gospel of Mark, we read about the night that Jesus was arrested and soon after crucified. Right before His betrayal and arrest, Jesus took His disciples to the garden of Gethsemane (John 1:18) to pray. Once there, He took Peter, and the two sons of Zebedee a little further. He asked them to “remain here, and watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38). Alone, Jesus went a little further.

“…He fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.”

Matthew 26:39-44

Lesson 1: Honesty in Prayer

Jesus, the son of God – a holy being in the form of a human – was nearing the end of His journey on Earth. Sanctuary practices had long foreshadowed what was to come for Jesus. An atonement for sin needed to be made, and that sacrifice would be Jesus, Himself. What a weight to carry and a burden to bear. In the garden, Jesus felt the pain of what was and what would be. And for that, He would give His life for us. Through His sacrifice, we would have a chance at true salvation and eternal life. Yet the cost was still high, and in an emotional moment, Jesus asked – if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.

I appreciate that Jesus understood the magnitude of what was about to take place and chose to meet the moment with honesty and vulnerability. His prayer served as an example of how we should pray – with sincerity and authenticity. When we talk to God, it isn’t about what we think He wants to hear, it’s about how we really feel. God wants us to tell Him our struggles, and our shortcomings. He wants to celebrate our successes and our feelings of gratitude along the way. He wants to know when we’re angry or if we’re disappointed. Through truthful dialogue, we build a relationship with Him that can stand the test of time, but that’s not enough. We have to be ready for however God chooses to respond.

Not as I will, but as You will (Lesson 2)

Jesus made a request, but He did not make a demand. And once He conveyed His request to God His father, Jesus then showed Himself as obedient by saying – Not as I will, but as You will. How hard is it for us to say that when we’re facing difficult situations? Nevertheless, we can look at the example of Jesus to understand what it looks like to surrender to God’s will, no matter the situation. Jesus not only surrendered with His words, but with His heart and soul. Such a decision is one of the most powerful choices we will ever make; We connect with God and learn to walk by faith in His righteousness.

We must be reminded however, that even if we make the choice on Monday to surrender to God’s will, the same decision must be exercised every other day of the week. As long as sin exists, Satan will be at war with the saints of God – trying to pull us away from God’s will. We’ll feel the external pressure to align to cultural norms, even when those standards go against what God has asked of us. Distractions will be everywhere, even in the places we least suspect. In our moments of weakness, we may conform, choose to stay silent, or give into temptation, but God has given us another option. We can pray. We can talk to God and share with Him the struggles on our hearts. We can ask for discernment and wisdom. In His compassion and love, He will give us the strength to prevail. No matter how difficult the path may get, or how cloudy our visions may become, God is still present, and always available in the time of need.

Lesson 3: Be Earnest in Our Requests

Jesus repeated that prayer three times in Matthew 26. He knew that in the darkest of moments, it’s critical that we keep talking to God. Our prayers, even when repeated, reaffirm our commitment to God, and His commitment to us. We strengthen our resolve as we choose to remain steadfast in our trust in Him. In return, God gives us exactly what we need to survive the moments, days, months, and even years that challenge us. Our paths may not change, but God always hears us, and He always responds.

And so after the third time, Jesus went to His disciples who were sleeping, and said: “Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (Matthew 26:46) Jesus prayed that night in the garden of Gethsemane, and God had responded. In turn, Jesus went forward to face His arrest and subsequent crucifixion. I’m thankful, however, that the story did not end there. On the third day after His crucifixion, Jesus rose from the dead. The atonement for our sins was made, and for those who believed, we now had the chance to be saved. What a mighty God we serve.

He gives us the chance to commune with Him through prayer. So be honest, be obedient, and be patient. In our supplications, God will always hear us, and He stands ready to help us in our time of need.  

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