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.
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
I realize we are feeling a lot these days.
Fear over the virus and concern for our loved ones. Frustration at being stuck in our homes. Anger at the government response or political rhetoric. Anxiety over financial needs or rising stats that we see constantly increasing across the world. And so many other things; just this week I found my kids painting themselves with lip gloss! All of this is a recipe for feeling anxious, stressed, and irritable. We are barely halfway through this situation and could probably write a volume of books of things we never thought would happen.
We face quite the trial in front of us. On our doorstep is one of the most widely spread and broadly impacting viruses in modern history. And for better and for worse we are the most connected; that is, we hear it all, keep up on every detail, updates on the hour, or by the minute if we desire. I think Jesus knew a little about facing a great trial in front of him and going through the emotional roller coaster that comes with facing what looks incredibly daunting. He was so filled with anxiety that night he was sweating blood!
Each gospel records the scene in the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus goes to prepare himself for what is about to come. This happened on Good Friday, the Friday before Easter (that’s today!). A little less than 2,000 years ago today Jesus took his disciples to his favorite garden. In front of Jesus was the trial of all trials. He knew what was about to happen - betrayal, hatred, accusations, excruciating physical pain, and death.
How did Jesus respond?
Jesus spends the night talking with his Father. When emotions are running high and when all the world is about to come crashing down Jesus knows where to go, who to run to - his Father. His Father was with him every step of the way, was the one who guided him and led him through every step of his life. In the face of all that he was feeling, in the face of the greatest weight that anyone had carried and will ever carry, we can learn two important things from his prayer:
Jesus prayed honestly. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.” He prayed what he felt even though he knew his Father’s intention were different. He knew what needed to happen and why it needed to happen. But he prayed it anyway. He prayed it because it was on his heart and he was talking to his Father. Even though he knew it wasn’t an option he prayed it because he wanted and needed to connect with his Father.
He let go. “yet not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus may not have wanted to “drink the cup of suffering” that was put before him, but he submitted his own will to do what the Father desired. Jesus was more interested in accomplishing the Father’s will than satisfying his own. Jesus may have known the importance of what he needed to do but it doesn’t minimize the incomprehensible choice he had to make. He laid his own desires down so that the ultimate and perfect will of God could be accomplished.
Can you pray honestly? Authentically, from your heart? There is no secret formula to this kind of prayer. You just pray what is on your mind, what is on your heart. You tell God what you are thinking and feeling. He knows what you think and feel but God wants to hear it from your lips. He wants to connect with you.
Can you release your desire to “do your own thing” and invite him to accomplish whatever he desires? Romans 12:2 reminds us his will is good and perfect. It ultimately brings deep joy and lasting peace, shalom, to all who allow God to use them.
This semester our spiritual discipline is the Prayer of Relinquishment, which is precisely this passage; this simple little phrase, “yet not my will, but yours be done.” I hope that even in the face of being forced to not do many things that you wish to do, that you find freedom in inviting God to do his will; to have his way in your life in this shut-in Easter season. Whatever that may look like.