In this year’s Easter readings, I was struck with something new as I read about Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane.
To set the stage, just before Jesus was arrested to be crucified, Jesus took with him Peter, James and John and “began to be sorrowful and troubled.” Jesus was visibly upset. He then said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” Going a little further, Jesus fell on his face and prayed. When he came back he found them sleeping. (Matthew 26:36-41)
The following cycle happened three times: leave disciples — go pray — return to disciples.
Watch the progression of what happens when I remove all but what Christ prayed to God and what Christ said to his disciples (Matthew 26:39-45):
First prayer to God: My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.
First return to disciples: And he said to Peter, “So you could 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.
Second prayer to God: My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.
Second return to disciples: And again he found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again…
Third prayer to God: My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.
Third return to disciples: Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.
It is here that Jesus faces a huge crowd filled with people carrying swords and clubs. But now He is ready.
Can you see what I see? Jesus was always going to do as God asked but His prayers shifted from asking that if at all possible He be spared, to surrender and resolve. With regard to the disciples he starts by expressing frustration over their inability to support Him, then not needing to wake them at all, to finally making a matter-of-fact statement that it was time to get up. Jesus needed their support increasingly less as His dependence on God increased.
And the shifts were made possible through prayer.
I have been so encouraged by this. I can’t get it off my mind. Prayer gives us the ability to face our trials by shifting our will to do His will and by shifting our dependence from people to God.
We are to keep going back until that shift occurs.
If, like Jesus, we have a heart of ultimate surrender, prayer is the avenue that finally allows the surrender to occur. We are to return about the same issue multiple times until the shift from our-will-to-His-will and the shift from people-to-God has occurred. I can’t be the only one that has quit praying about the same matter prematurely and then wondered why I didn’t have the strength to face the trial.
Let’s keep praying. We have people to love and hardships to face and things to obey.
Picture Explanation: Last Sunday our family celebrated my husband’s birthday, Easter Sunday and April Fool’s day all on the same day! We ate Easter and birthday food, gave Easter and birthday gifts, but the best part was the blog my husband wrote as a thank you gift to God on his birthday. If you missed it, you can read it HERE.
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