Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing devotions based on the United Methodist membership vows, where we pledge to support the church with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. This week’s focus is prayer, as we look at the words and ways of Jesus and what his prayer life teaches us. Later in the summer, we will look at how Jesus taught through the Lord’s Prayer (August1-5). Today we are focusing on what Jesus shared through his grief in the garden.
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. He said to the disciples, “Stay here while I go and pray over there.” 37 When he took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, he began to feel sad and anxious. 38 Then he said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert with me.” 39 Then he went a short distance farther and fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”
40 He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you stay alert one hour with me? 41 Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.” 42 A second time he went away and prayed, “My Father, if it’s not possible that this cup be taken away unless I drink it, then let it be what you want.”
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus showed his grief, yet still took all his worries and decisions to the Father through prayer. What I find most fascinating is that Jesus showed the entire range of raw human emotion. This is a testament to honestly talking to God! He willingly gave over all his fears to God to seek support. Jesus sought solace through his connection to the Father. Of course Jesus could have changed the narrative, but he chose instead to live out God’s plan. He didn’t just throw up his hands angrily and say, “Whatever, God!” He didn’t just make the decision on his own without consulting the Father. Instead, Jesus gave over all his grief through prayer, then listened for God’s way, and declared, “…let it be what you want.”
Of course, Jesus’ grief in the garden is an incredible example of honesty and strength in wanting to follow God’s way. But that strength wasn’t just Jesus; it was strength gained through talking to the Father. There was God’s comfort and community there. Jesus’ strength came from telling God about his grief and then pausing in silent contemplation to know God’s will.
Whenever facing the hardest truths, can we say everything to God and then just listen? Jesus’ behavior shows that we can. We can talk, cry, yell, sing (or whatever!) and then just pause in prayer to listen.
by Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
I think Jesus’ teaching through his prayers in the garden is threefold:
- Take every hurt to God and then be silent and listen for God’s way. (This is contemplative prayer.)
- Whenever you can, go to a quiet, inspiring place to pray. (“…even the stones will cry out…” Luke 19:40 )
- Find strength in community (although the disciples weren’t all that supportive at the time). Jesus found comfort and community with God through prayer.
How do you say everything to God? How do you listen for God’s truth in your life? What messages do you see through Jesus’ prayers in the garden?
Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for always listening to me. Even when my hurts feel too hard to bear, your love encourages me. Help me to continually be honest as I grow in my relationship with you. Amen.