Prayer of distress
One of the interesting features of today’s passage is that it contains a later insertion
that heightens the drama of Jesus’ anguish in the garden on the night of his arrest.
The insertion is in brackets.
Jesus came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the
disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you
may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s
throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from
me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” [Then an angel from heaven appeared to
him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his
sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.] When he got
up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief,
and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not
come into the time of trial” (Luke 22:39-46).
The subject of prayer is woven throughout this story of Jesus and the disciples on
the Mount of Olives, where the garden of Gethsemane is located.
•At the beginning and end of the passage, Jesus urgently counsels the disciples to
pray that they may not come into the time of trial.
•In the center of the passage is a trial of Jesus himself, as he seeks to align his will
So many years later, Christians have become accustomed to the experience of Good
Friday’s bleakness always leading to the bright joy of Easter.
•But this was not so for Jesus, Peter, Mary, James, Joanna, and the rest.
•For them, each moment after they became clear that Jesus was headed to the cross
was a moment of anguish, trial, justified fear, and as we see in this scene, the desire
to escape, if only through sleep.
•For Jesus, these hours in the garden at night with his friends, with the moonlight
shining down through the branches of the trees, must have seemed both
excruciatingly long and excruciatingly short.
•Every breath in the open air must have seemed precious in his few last hours
before being arrested, bound, and imprisoned: “Father, if you are willing, remove this
cup from me….”
•We have no idea how much time passed between the plea above and its resolution:
“…yet, not my will but yours be done.”
•In prayer, Jesus slowly and completely aligns his will with God’s will, his trust
with God’s trust, his hope with God’s hope.
Questions for Reflection
•Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt called to do something that
you very much feared (whether a big thing or a small thing)? How did you bring
your will in alignment with God’s will?
•What has been your most anguished experience in life? Were you a person of
prayer at that time? What do you think would be Jesus’ words of comfort and
encouragement to someone going through a time of anguish?
God of my life, empower me to place all of my trust in you, as Jesus did in the
garden, and then use me as you will, to be an instrument in the healing of your
world. In Christ’s Name I pray. Amen.