The Second Prayer of the Cross: The Gethsemane Prayer

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August 2, 2018

Mark 14:32-38

32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

CONSIDER THIS

We come to the second prayer of THE CROSS. As we approach, let us remember we want to learn these prayers not from the outside looking in, but from the inside looking out. As we approach, let us remember we want to learn these prayers not from the outside looking in, but from the inside looking out. It is not enough that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. He must become our way and our truth and our life. If we are to “have the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus,” we will discover his mind on prayer through his prayers.

Today we turn to the second great prayer of the Cross, which we will call the Gethsemane Prayer. Gethsemane, as you know, is the place Jesus frequently visited with his disciples as a sanctuary place of prayer. It is located on the Mount of Olives just across the Kidron Valley from the walled city of Jerusalem. It was and is to this day a grove of ancient olive trees. It is often referred to as the Garden of Gethsemane.

The original fall into temptation and disobedience occurred in a garden. It is no coincidence that Jesus resisted the final temptation and demonstrated the ultimate obedience in another garden. It is fitting that the name Gethsemane means oil press. Jesus faced the unimaginable press of freely submitting to the gravest and most incomprehensible injustice the world has ever witnessed. We see it in the Prayer of Gethsemane.

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Note the way he begins, “Abba Father.” To speak this name is to enter the house of prayer. It is a term of endearment and intimacy. My children are getting older at 12, 14, 16 and 18. The younger three still frequently and affectionately call me DaDa. Something about that touches my heart at a depth beyond sentiment. Somewhere along the way we tend to stop using that kind of language that came naturally and even instinctively to us as young children. Most of us were never taught or discipled to draw on this kind of language and imagery when it came to our relationship with God. Jesus uses it consistently and because he wants for us to share his relationship with God, we would be well served to use this kind of language too.

Next he makes the declaration we see on the lips of saints throughout Scripture from Abraham to Jeremiah to Mary: “everything is possible for you.” It is one thing to claim this as an affirmation of faith, as in, “Nothing is impossible with God.” It goes to the next level when we make it a personal declaration to God in prayer. “everything is possible for you.” It is more common to hear people lift up their hopes in their prayers. Jesus begins by lifting up his faith.

Now watch where he goes next. “Take this cup from me.” He lifts up his hope to God. Jesus feels enormous anxiety, isolation and despair on this night. He knows what has been set in place. He understands his mission. He knows there will be resurrection on the other side of death. But still, he is a human being. He shows us, particularly in the facing of our little crosses, that it is ok to ask for a pass. It’s understandable we would want to opt out of suffering even when it is for a greater good. The fact that we would want to escape it makes an ultimate decision to endure it all the more powerful. Beware of the person who wants to suffer. Jesus hopes something can change. He prays his hope.

He starts with faith, shifts to hope and now you see where this is going. “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” B.I.N.G.O. LOVE. Jesus prays his love in an act of utter surrender and ultimate trust. Love is not resignation to a foregone conclusion. Love means a trusting surrender of one’s life to God, over and over and over and over. Though trust deepens, it never gets easier, because there always seems to be more at stake to lose. Jesus makes the conscious decision not to trust in his human hopes but in Divine love.

And let’s not miss the renunciation in the prayer. In the Disciples Prayer, we train our hearts to beat to the rhythm of the prayer, “Your Kingdom come. Your will be done.” Jesus takes it a step further here by renouncing his will.

“Yet not what I will[.]” 

Again, it is one thing to make the claim, “I want to do God’s will and not my own will. It is quite another to renounce one’s will speaking directly to God in prayer. “Yet not what I will[.]” Note also the difference between this and the tepid prayer of, “If it is your will to (fill in the blank), then please do (fill in the blank).”

This Gethsemane Prayer is a powerful prayer of THE CROSS. It will lead us in the way of Jesus every single time, beginning with faith, moving to hope and landing on love.

Once more from the top; and this time . . . . you know the drill:

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

THE PRAYER

Almighty Ascended Lord Jesus Christ, you are high and exalted yet nearer than our breath. Though you are God, you showed us what it looks like to be fully human in the face of unimaginable difficulty. Thank you for your bold faith, your vulnerable hope and your trusting love. Train my mind and heart in this way of your Cross. Right here, Jesus. Right now, Jesus. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. Does it make you uncomfortable to consider addressing God with a term of childlike endearment, like dada or Abba. I’ll admit, it makes me uncomfortable. What is it about you and me that makes us uncomfortable with this?
  2. How will you introduce or embolden your ways of beginning your prayers by praying your faith? What does or might this look like in your praying? Do other texts come to mind to lift up as prayers of faith?
  3. What about this movement of faith to hope to love in this prayer of Gethsemane? Am I imposing this onto the prayer or is it emanating like revelation from the prayer?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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