Going a little farther, [Jesus] fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we began to reflect upon the astounding prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. As Jesus prayed in agony, even to have his Father take “this cup” from him, he revealed his full humanity. Yes, he was still the divine Son of God, but he was fully human as well as fully divine. (Photo: A depiction of Jesus in the Garden found above the altar in the Church of All Nations, which lies immediately next to Gethsemane.)
The prayer of Jesus in the Garden not only reveals the mystery of the Incarnation, but also invites us to pray without limit, hesitation, or fear. Most of us have learned not to tell the Lord what is truly in our hearts, at least not when we’re desperate, sad, angry, or doubting. We might give God a hint about what we’re really thinking and feeling. But, usually we couch this in safe and well-rehearsed spiritual language. We hide behind a mask of piety because we believe that this is what God desires from us.
Now, to be sure there is a time to pray with integrity, “Not what I will, but what you will” (14:36). Yet, I would suggest that this comes only after we have prayed, “Take this cup from me” (14:36). Jesus, knowing that he was destined for the cross, nevertheless begged his Father for some other way. He asked for what he knew already was not the will of the Father. I know this sounds almost like heresy, or like a lack of respect for Jesus. But this is what the text of Mark says.
The prayer of Jesus in the Garden, therefore, offers us an exceptional invitation. It models for us the kind of honesty we can have in prayer. It shows us that God wants to hear what’s really in our hearts, rather than what we have whitewashed with religiosity. As we tell God the whole truth and nothing but the truth, we open the door for his work within us. By his grace, there may come a time when we are able to pray freely and honestly, “Not what I will, but what you will.” Yet our ability to trust God so utterly comes when we have opened our hearts so vulnerably.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Do you feel free to tell God whatever is in your heart?
Have you ever expressed disappointment with God in prayer? Anger? Frustration? Desperation?
What helps you to pray honestly and vulnerably?
Gracious Lord Jesus, how we thank you for allowing us to see you at prayer in the Garden. Though we can only begin to imagine what you experienced there, our hearts are deeply moved.
Today, we thank you for the invitation your example offers to us. If you, the very Son of God, were so free with the Father, then we can be as well. Help us, by your Spirit, to open our hearts all the way when we pray, holding nothing back.
How blessed we are, Lord, to know you, to follow you, to learn from you, and to be loved by you. Amen.