The story of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane would have resonated deeply with the original recipients of Mark’s gospel. The Christians in Rome were suffering intense persecution and affliction due to their loyalty to Christ. How easy it would have been to feel abandoned and forsaken by God.
As His own passion commences, Jesus prays: “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). He is endeavoring to line up his will with His Father’s.
Interestingly, Jesus’ prayer of relinquishment has proven quite controversial among Christians. Some criticize such a prayer in the mouth of a Christian, saying it is a prayer that lacks faith and is a capitulation to unbelief. If such a prayer is a capitulation to unbelief, then Jesus was sinning at this crucial moment in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Aligning our wills with God’s is one of the key purposes of prayer. At this point in redemptive history, Jesus, the son of man, was surrendering his will, plan and desire to God. As Jesus promises to drink the cup of God’s undiluted wrath on sin, Jesus rests his soul in God’s sovereign plan.
To pray “not my will, but yours be done” is a prayer of great trust in the Lord. When we pray it, we are surrendering our desires to the one who knows what is best.
Here are two questions that I have been mulling over recently: Is the chief end of praying to get our prayers answered? Is the basic purpose of prayer to get things from God? Certainly, the Bible assures us that God hears us and in response, gives us what we need. But is that the basic reason why Jesus prayed?
George MacDonald offers this rationale for prayer. “What if God knows prayer to be the thing we need first and foremost? What if the main object in God’s idea of prayer is a supplying of our great and endless need — our need of Himself.” God wants us for himself.
Have you ever heard this succinct saying from C.S. Lewis in his book The Great Divorce: “There are only two kinds of people in the end. Those who say to God ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘Thy will be done.”
Have you ever prayed like our Lord? Ό God, please, everything is possible to you, if you will….” We pray for healing of a body ravaged by disease. Some of you have prayed for the Lord to restore the broken marriage of your parents. As we all face the unknown future, and seek to cope with all the uncertainties of life, we too pray, “God if you will . . . .” Every life eventually has its own Gethsemane. When yours does, count on your personal Gethsemane having its angel! The angels came and ministered to Jesus. The Lord will send from on high and minister to his afflicted people. You can count on that!