Learning to Pray with Jesus
In the sermon this past Sunday, we considered Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42). What a moving scene this is! Jesus is overcome with emotion and sorrow as he prays to his Father. He pleads for the cup of suffering to pass, but he also humbly submits himself to the Father’s will.
As we look at this scene from Jesus’ life, there is much we can learn from it. Like we said on Sunday, the most important point is that Jesus is the Strong Shepherd who leads us where we cannot lead ourselves. He stays awake and prays for when we fall asleep and fail to keep watch. Our ultimate hope is not in making ourselves better or more prayerful. It is in Christ.
With that being said, there are some things we learn about prayer from Jesus’ agonizing night in the Garden. Let’s consider two simple points:
First, prayer is marked by bold confidence in the power of God
Jesus begins his prayer by saying, “Abba Father, all things are possible for you.” He acknowledges the power of God. This is more than just a token statement. This is a deep-seated belief that God really can accomplish all things. We know Jesus really believes this to be true because of what he will go on to ask of the Father.
“Remove this cup from me.” What a request! Jesus asks that the cross might pass, that he might not endure the suffering and shame that come with crucifixion. Why is Jesus able to make this request? Because he knows that all things are possible for the Father. He believes in the power of God, and that enables him to make his bold request to the Father. Truth about God leads to confident prayer on Jesus’ part.
Do we pray with this same kind of bold confidence? I am surprised by how often my own prayers are marked by subtle doubt in the power of God. I say that I believe all things are possible for God, but I don’t always pray like that. I make my request known to God, but in my mind, I am already planning for how I will have to handle the situation once God doesn’t answer my prayer. Jesus’ prayer in the Garden reminds us that those who believe in the power of God to do all things will pray with bold confidence.
If we want to pray with the same kind of confidence that Jesus displayed in the God, that means we have to believe all things really are possible for the Father. It is truth about God that leads to bold prayer on our part.
Second, prayer is marked by the humble submission of our desires to the Father’s will
After Jesus makes his bold request to the Father, he goes on to pray, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Jesus humbly submits himself to the Father. His desires are second-place when compared with the Father’s purpose and plan.
This is how prayer should work. When our desires are put up against the Father’s will, it is our desire that must change. We must learn to submit what we want to what the Father has ordained and purposed. But this is where it gets difficult – searching our own hearts in order to know if we are submitting our desires to the Father’s will.
It is a good habit to pray like Jesus did – verbally expressing that you want to submit your desires to the Father’s will. That is good practice. It is also good to ask yourself, “When God’s will is different than my desire, do I respond with thankfulness or bitterness? Do I rejoice that God has made his will clear to me, or do I grumble about things not working out the way I wanted them to?”
In that sense, prayer is as much as about tuning our hearts to God as it is turning God’s heart toward us. Prayer shapes our desires so that over time, they line up more with the Father’s will.
Bold confidence in the power of God, and humble submission of our desires to the Father’s will. Those are the marks of prayer that we see from Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane. May our own prayers be marked by these truths, and may our hearts be comforted at the thought of the One who prays on our behalf.