Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” (New International Version)
The prayer of Jesus and the sleeping of his disciples presents a contrast of approach when severe stress is upon us.
The Prayer of Jesus
Christ’s prayer expresses the tension all devout persons face: expressing our own wishes while seeking to submit to the Father’s wishes.
However, what is not the same, between our own prayers and the prayers of Jesus, is that we too often believe that if we are intense, wordy, and insistent enough with God, that our prayers will be answered.
While only feigning a few words about God’s will, we put our real efforts into lawyer-like presentations of why the Lord should answer our prayers in the way we want them answered.
Thus, prayer can too easily become a willful imperative that God grant our demands based in a very limited understanding of the big picture.
There is a big difference between willfulness and willingness. We must embrace the latter and eschew the former.
Jesus clearly stated exactly what he wanted: to have this terrible suffering, especially the pain about to be experienced, taken from him. Yet, he asks this with a willingness to accept the Father’s will for his life. Although an angel comes to bring comfort and strength, Christ’s request was denied. And Jesus was good with that.
We can, following the example of Jesus, unashamedly express our anguish, while at the same time, accepting God’s will for us, no matter what it may be.
It was God’s will for Jesus to suffer. And Christ not only suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross; Jesus experienced the full range of human suffering throughout his life. He knew what it felt like to face continual adversity and hardship.
The suffering of Christ helps us make sense of our own suffering. We can only truly be free from our stubborn expectations by embracing that which makes us suffer.
Some suffer through the death of a loved one; some through cancer or a serious health issue; other believers right now throughout the world are suffering due to grinding poverty and la ack of food and clean water; many others suffer through violence done to them or their families.
Because of this reality, some of us may not even express our anguish to God in prayer. After all, what is a harshly worded e-mail, or trying to lose a few extra pounds, or an unexpected car repair, compared to starving children in the world?
It’s good to keep our life situations in proper perspective, but it is also not good to tell God what he should and shouldn’t care about in this world.
If the only things that matter and qualify as hardship and difficulty is human trafficking or the terrors of war, then you will soon find yourself plastering a smile on your face and nodding over-enthusiastically whenever someone asks you how you are doing…. Good grief…. I find chronically happy Christians to be insufferable (pun intended).
The sufferings of Christ qualified him to be a compassionate high priest, able to help us (Hebrews 2:5-18). A priest is one who stands in between the person and God, making things right with God. Christians possess a union with Jesus Christ because of his suffering, death, and resurrection. He is our champion. He stands with us in our suffering and temptations.
The Sleep of the Disciples
Even though their Lord told them to pray, the disciples nod-off in a stress-induced sleep. Jesus wanted them to remain awake, and he was talking of more than just physical alertness. The disciples needed to keep watch so that they didn’t fall into temptation.
Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus had been warning them that his cross will lead to their own cross to bear. They, too, will have times of trial, so intense that it will be emotionally and spiritually overwhelming. Christ desired the disciples to follow his own example of offering anguished prayer which is thoroughly submissive to God.
So, our great task is to get up and pray!
Get up and pray so that no temptation can overtake you! (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Get up and pray so that you can endure hardship! (Hebrews 12:7)
Get up and pray for the enemies who persecute you so that you may be children of your Father in heaven! (Matthew 5:44-45)
Get up and pray so that you can encourage others and build them up in the faith! (1 Thessalonians 5:10-11)
Get up and pray so that you can be joyful in hope and patient in affliction! (Romans 12:12)
Get up and pray so that you may have peace in this world of trouble! (John 16:33)
Get up and pray so that you can submit to God and resist the devil! (James 4:7)
Get up and pray so that you will not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good! (Romans 12:11)
Get up and pray so that you can submit to one another out of reverence for Christ! (Ephesians 5:21)
Get up and pray so that you can be the salt of the earth and the light of the world! (Matthew 5:13-16)
Get up and pray so that you can proclaim that the kingdom of God is near! (Matthew 10:7)
Get up and pray so that you can preach the Word with great patience and careful instruction! (2 Timothy 4:1-2)
Get up and pray so that you can have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. (Hebrews 13:17)
Get up and pray!…