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Lessons From Jesus’ Prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane

In all four of the gospels, we see Jesus praying prior to his betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane. There are many prayers of Jesus chronicled in the Bible, and there are many lessons we can learn from those prayers and the way he taught us to pray. But perhaps no other account of Jesus’ prayer life that is detailed in scripture is as revealing or personal than when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.

What Jesus prays before his betrayal

In both Matthew 26:36-46 (NIV) and Mark 14:32-42 (NIV), we read similar accounts of this prayer. Jesus brings his disciples Peter, James, and John to the garden and asks them to stay and keep watch with him. We read that three times in a row Jesus leaves to pray, and his disciples aren’t able to stay awake. During these times, Jesus prays:

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will (Matthew 26:39b NIV).”

“My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done (Matthew 26:42b NIV).”

In Mark 14:36 (NIV), Jesus calls out “Abba, Father.” In Aramaic, “Abba” is like saying something more like “daddy” or “papa.” In saying this, Jesus is claiming his position as a son and raising his hands to his father for help. In Luke 22:39-46 (NIV), we see the same cry to God, but Luke focuses on two other details. In Luke 22:43-44 (NIV) he notes that:

“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.”

He needed strength. The toll of the stress and anxiety was weighing on Jesus to the point that he was sweating blood. This condition is called hematidrosis, and it can be caused by extreme distress or fear. In Luke’s account, we see even more how Jesus is feeling and the physical strain in this moment before he is betrayed, stands trial, and is nailed to the cross.

John’s account of Jesus praying focuses on a prayer prior to entering the Garden of Gethsemane. We read about Jesus praying in John 17:1-26 (NIV) for different groups of people. First, he acknowledges the “hour has come” for the Son of God to be glorified by “finishing the work” he has come to do. Second, he prays for his disciples to be protected as they take the truth into the world. Finally, he prays for those who will believe in him through the message delivered through his disciples. This prayer includes everyone who believes Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus prays for the unity of believers and that the world would know that God sent Jesus because of these believers.

Jesus prays for what’s to come

In all four gospels, Jesus is praying in preparation for what is to come. And in Matthew 26:38 (NIV), he says that his “soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Reading this almost feels like we’re reading about a part of Jesus that we aren’t supposed to know about. It’s a different side to him, one that reveals Jesus’ inner thoughts in the hours leading up to the events that would set in motion his journey to the cross.

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke show Jesus in despair but submitting to the will of God. John’s gospel shows Jesus looking ahead to the lives of his disciples after his sacrifice and how their message about him will impact the world.

3 lessons From Jesus’ prayer in the garden

So, what can we learn about our lives from Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane? Consider these 3 applications in your own prayer life.

1. We can pray in times of despair

God doesn’t require that we only come to him in prayer when we are calm, composed, and happy with how our lives are going. In fact, it is just the opposite. Jesus’ prayer brings to life Philippians 4:6 (NIV) when it says to present our requests to God “in every situation.” God wants to hear from us, no matter what we’re feeling. Jesus is feeling overwhelmed about his journey to the cross, and he brings that to God. In the same way, when we’re feeling overwhelmed, we can present our requests to God. He can handle our highs and lows.

2. We should submit to God’s will in our requests

It’s tempting to think of saying “amen” at the end of a prayer as pulling a slot machine and hoping the odds land in our favor. But how does Jesus present his request to God? He says, “Yet not as I will, but as you will,” and then he says, “May your will be done.” We should do the same. We know God hears our prayers. But if God doesn’t answer our prayer exactly as we want or expect, it can be easy to think that God is ignoring us or not giving us what we want. What we can learn from Jesus’ prayer is that we should present our requests to him, and then submit to his plan for our lives. It may not be in God’s will for the thing you want to happen. He may have another path. Jesus prayed that he could be spared of the cross, but God had a plan. He had a plan for Jesus to die, be buried in a tomb, and be raised back to life three days later.

3. Prayer is a relationship

When Jesus called out “Abba, Father,” he was showing his close, personal relationship with the Creator. If we use Jesus as our example, then we should strive to have that same relationship with the one who made us. When you pray, who does it sound like you’re talking to? Does it sound like you’re speaking to a ruler who you’re afraid of? Does it sound like you’re talking to someone you hardly know or ever speak to? Or does it sound like you’re talking to someone you trust to take care of you? There’s a difference. The Apostle Paul encourages us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16 NIV) so that we can build a relationship with the Lord where we know, trust, and connect with God all the more.

When Jesus goes into the Garden of Gethsemane, he is entering a garden on the Mount of Olives. As noted in Desiring God, “The name Gethsemane means “olive press.” In the midst of the orchard was a device used to squeeze the olives until they yielded the precious oil.” Jesus was pressed in the garden. He was tempted to turn the other way and run from what was in front of him. Instead, he chose the people of the world. He chose to die for you. He walked the path leading to the cross and ultimately triumphed over the grave so that you could do the same.

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:4-5 NIV).

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