32 Jesus and his disciples came to a place called Gethsemane. Jesus said to them, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John along with him. He began to feel despair and was anxious. 34 He said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert.” 35 Then he went a short distance farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if possible, he might be spared the time of suffering. 36 He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible. Take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”
37 He came and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you stay alert for one hour? 38 Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.”
In this most human of moments, Jesus prays that he might avoid what he knows is coming next. He simultaneously makes two requests that really don’t seem to go together: “let this cup pass from me,” and “not what I want but what you want.”
When I think back on my own life and consider times I’ve anticipated something difficult or painful, I remember most of my prayers sounding more like the first request: “let this cup pass from me.” It’s the most human response imaginable – the desire to avoid pain, to avoid difficulty, to have things our own way. This is Jesus in his full humanity. We recognize it because we do the same thing.
What makes Jesus’ response in this moment different is that he actually gets to the second half of that prayer: “not what I want, but what you want.” This is Jesus at his most divine and surprising. Most of us never get here in our prayers, because most of us cannot imagine laying on the altar the thing that Jesus is offering here. He’s ready to bend his will to the will of God, even if it means his own destruction.
In our humanity, we make clear our wants and needs to God. It’s part of the deal between the creature and the Creator. The Creator cares for us. It’s the most natural thing in the world. We should tell God what we need.
But how often are we willing to put ourselves on the line for the sake of the things that God needs – in order to see God’s will done? That is the prayer we very seldom get down to praying. But if there is a prayer that puts us in the company of the divine – that aligns us most closely with Jesus – isn’t it that one?
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
How do you identify God’s will? What are some of the tools you use – scripture, silent prayer, conversation with other believers? Is there a decision you need to seek God’s will for today?
Prayer: Holy God, as difficult as it may be today, I pray that your will might be done in my life. Amen.