The Father’s Will
Prayer is __________.
Prayer is faith speaking. Discuss.
Previously, Jesus had shared the Passover meal with his disciples. At that table sat Judas who had already consented to betraying Jesus, being tempted by Satan to do so, and Simon Peter whom Jesus declared would be attacked by Satan and will betray Jesus before dawn. The time of pleasant ministry and small verbal attacks are over. It is time for Jesus to be betrayed and it will happen this very night. Despite Jesus’ warnings to the disciples and his teachings to them about the kingdom of God, they have been dull in their understanding.
Read Luke 22:39-46
39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
What did you see?
- The plan to pray (39-40)
- The crying Son (41-44)
- The exhausted disciples (45-46)
The Plan to Pray (39-40)
“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives…” See Luke 21:37. At the end of his day in Jerusalem, Jesus would retire to the same location at the Mount of Olives. This is the hillside he travelled along when he arrived at the city. See John 18:2.
“…and his disciples followed him.” The way this sentence is constructed shows Jesus knowing where he is going next while the disciples are simply following. That is, they are not a band of brothers, like-minded and driven together – but a party with one leader, the one with the plan and the mission and the twelve men who followed behind. The previous episode illustrated how their minds were on a different path to Jesus’.
“On reaching the place…” Matthew 26:36 and Mark 14:32 note that the exact place is Gethsemane.
“Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He tells them to use this time to pray and gives them the specific direction of praying to stand firm in the midst of temptation (not that temptation will be avoided but that they will not fall on account of it). Jesus had told them at the Lord’s Supper that Satan had asked to sift Simon and the others like wheat (22:31). Jesus told Simon that he was going to betray him that very night. They are instructed to pray to God to ‘deliver them from evil.’ This is the theme of this small passage. Praying to God to protect us and to surrender our wills to the will of the Father.
The Crying Son (41-44)
“He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them…” The withdrawing suggests an emotional ‘pulling away’ (see Acts 21:1 which uses the same Greek word for ‘tearing oneself away’). The distance of a stone’s throw adds to the emotion picture of the passage.
“…knelt down and prayed…” Jesus had instructed them to do the same and immediately proceeded to do it himself. If prayer was what was needed then pray is what he did. It’s hard to know what to make of the detail that he knelt rather than stood or even just to note that he prayed without describing his position. Common practice was apparently to stand while praying. I’m not sure about that. Perhaps it is best to stick to the narrative and have our minds picturing the scene of Jesus pulling himself away from his friends to spend time with his Father; to position himself a few metres away; and to kneel down in humility. The Son of God is on his own, in the quiet of the night, knelt down and ready to speak to the Father.
“Father, if you are willing…” The Lord’s prayer contained the your will be done element as well as the deliver us from evil. It is a grand prayer that, when meditated on, provides all the ingredients of a faithful mind and life – aligning our wills with the Father’s will. Jesus called the God whom he prayed to Father. We pick up our language of the Trinity from verses like this. Who did Jesus pray to? God of course! This God whom he prayed to, he called Father. Jesus is also in submission to the Father. He demonstrates through his prayer that the will of the Father is paramount. If the Father is willing… When we pray, we discuss what we desire and ask if the Father is willing to allow or fulfill our request. We also surrender our expectations in order to grow in our understanding of what He wills.
“…take this cup from me…” This is a profound prayer from Jesus! The Father and the Son had a plan for salvation from the beginning and the Son entered the world knowing what this plan was. He had described on a number of occasions to the disciples what the plan was (Luke 18:33; 24:6-7). He knew the Father’s will and yet spoke honestly to the Father about it. Now, what is the cup? The closest imagery to flesh this out is what Jesus demonstrated at the last supper only a few verses earlier. Luke 22:17-20. This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. Jeremiah 25:15-38 (esp. 15-29) uses the cup filled with wine as an image of God’s wrath that must be drunk. It is His wrath raged against the nations of the world, on all who live on the earth to receive punishment (see also Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17-22; . The two images of the cup of wrath and the poured out blood combine to provide for us a cup of mercy because the Son was willing to drink of it on our behalf. Note also that Jesus does not have a death wish as if this is going to be fun for him.
“…yet not my will but yours be done.” As alluded to before, what an amazing model of prayer for us. A rebellious heart may choose to run away from responsibility or consequences and hide until the storm dies down. A godly person will talk to God about what is weighing them down, ask for help and conclude to do what must be done. Tired of having not enough money? Talk to God about that but conclude that His will be done. Is there a health issue that you are facing. God can remove that for you but it may not be his will. Let His will be done. Is there a dilemma that you have – a decision that needs to be made – ask God for the answer! Know that His answer may be clear or it may be that you need to continue in prayer over the matter. Perhaps you already know what you need to do but just wish that there was another way? The examples of prayer can go on. The point though is that it is God’s will that is excellent and we ought to be growing toward loving it always.
“An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” Clearly the will of the Father was not to take the cup from him – but He was willing to send help to get Jesus through the night.
“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Note the relationship between his physical, spiritual and emotional being. We have noticed briefly the relationship between the Son and the Father – the Son being submissive to the Father. Now we note the physical realm that Jesus existed in during his ministry here on earth. He was in physical pain, not from the sword or something else, but through the torture of having to face the outcomes of tomorrow. This was obviously more than any human has ever had to face. More than facing the wrath of God – he knew it was coming! His response? To pray even more earnestly than before! The strength of his faith ensured that he would not give up on prayer the minute things got hard. Prayer is a powerful resource that we have to centre our minds on the things of God and to speak with him about them. Our weaknesses and our hurts are shared with God. Our struggle to walk the path is shared with him. We keep talking especially in the thick of temptation. Hebrews 5:7ff alludes to prayers such as this one of Jesus that helped him to stay the path for the sake of those who would trust in him.
“…and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke has used very few words in this entire passage to paint the picture of Jesus’ struggle. Here he uses a simile to describe the anguish (and anxiety?) that produced sweat for Jesus. It is remarkable enough that his prayer session produced sweat. We need not believe that the sweat was actually mixed with blood but had the weight and consistency of blood. Trust a physician to use an analogy like that (Colossians 4:14). Some manuscripts do not include verses 43 and 44, most likely because it is unique to Luke’s description of events and so scribes may have omitted this.
The Exhausted Disciples (45-46)
“When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples…” The passage has a clear focus on prayer as it begins and ends with Jesus speaking to the disciples on their need to pray and centres with Jesus’ prayer in the middle. Verse 45 is the reverse of Verse 41.
“…he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.” We are not told weather they prayed at all or not but that they did not have the endurance like Jesus – perhaps they did not last long at all! But we are told that their sleep was more than laziness, it was brought on by emotional fatigue! Was it sorrow brought on by their knowledge of temptation at hand (similar to Jesus) or was it brought on by distress of looking and watching Jesus in distress? Either way, the garden that night was filled with very intense emotion.
“Why are you sleeping?… Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” The story returns to where it began – the call to pray for protection from sin.
What did we learn?
Prayer is the right response to distress and sorrow. The weapon to overcome temptation is not will power, but prayer. It is an act of faith as we speak honestly about our desires and wants and bring them submissively before the Father who is able to do anything He wills. Jesus carried such anguish leading up to the cross which was exercised with prayer and was responded to with care from the Father. The disciples demonstrate humanities weakness.
Topic A: Bringing it all to the Father in prayer. It is rare to find a real prayer warrior. Someone whose instinct is to take things to God in prayer and to wrestle with him in the things that need talking about. Jesus demonstrated, in his perfect example of being human, that prayer is essential. He prayed regularly and he instructed his disciples here that when things are getting ugly, the best thing to do is to pray. Notice that when he found them exhausted, he didn’t say, “oh good on you for taking care of yourselves.” He said, “wake up and pray!” Prayer is the right and loving thing to do when joy is in our hearts. Prayer is the faithful response to stress and trouble. It is the greatest tool that we have in response to temptation.
Topic B: Making prayer a habit. Given Jesus’ own dependance on the Father active in praying, how can we foster a genuine habit of praying? It would be foolish to leave all of our praying up to spontaneity. It would be foolish to assume that making something a habit equates to making it a duty. If dependance on God is what we need, then we need a daily dose of conversing with him. The Lord’s prayer has a daily flavour to it. Prayer is not about tickling God’s ear but about expressing our faith in him through habitually meeting with Him. Discuss what has been some wins or failures with your group on trying to make prayer a daily love. Have lists helped? Has routine been good? Some people associate a time of day or an activity with prayer. Perhaps abstaining from something (like TV or Facebook) until time with God has occurred.
Topic C: The cup that we do not have to drink. Jesus was in anguish over the looming event of the cross. It has been the will of the Father and of the obedient Son to propitiate (expend God’s wrath) on Jesus. We can meditate on what the cup of God’s wrath may be like but we will never ever have to experience it ourselves if we put our trust in Christ and his blood poured out on our behalf. Of course, if we ignore this momentous gift of grace, then where else can we go to avoid drinking this cup ourselves? Perhaps as we consider the topic of prayer, we can equate a praying life with a faithful life lived in response to the price that has been paid for you and me. Not willing to drink the cup yourself? Let’s run to God in prayer of thankfulness and ask Him for all wisdom to live humble and faithful lives.