Luke 22: 39-40- Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” NKJV
There comes a time in all of our lives when a quick prayer just won’t do! A time when we have to fall on our faces before God and cry out with a loud voice because what we are experiencing or we are getting ready to experience is just too much. Such was the place where Jesus found Himself to be on the night that He was betrayed.
Jesus and His disciples had finished the seder meal, He has revealed the betrayer and they are on their way to Jesus’ favorite place of prayer. Judas left to go and report to the chief priests that he knew where Jesus was headed and there would be no crowd around Him. Jesus and His disciples walk over to the Garden of Gethsemane.
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”Matthew 26:36-38 NKJV
I know of no other place in the Scriptures where Jesus was so vulnerable to His disciples. We don’t have to guess how Jesus was feeling, He told us. As a matter of fact, it appears that He doesn’t want all of His disciples to see Him in this way, because He encourages some of them to wait for Him. Peter, James, and John go deeper into the garden with Him and He tells them,
“My soul is deeply grieved, so that I am almost dying of sorrow. Stay here and stay awake and keep watch with Me.”Matthew 26:38 AMP
Jesus went a little further and prayed for an hour. One of the things that we know He prayed about was the possibility of not having to face the upcoming events. We also know that He was hurting deeply. Surely, hearing this, His disciples would readily agree to watch with Him.
He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”Matthew 26:39 NKJV
The entire hour wasn’t spent saying these words over and again “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me”. He didn’t have a singsongy mantra of “Not as I will, but as You will.” However, we know that He was struggling in His flesh because He had already admitted that He felt grieved and heavy with sorrow.
Jesus knew that with God all things were truly possible, while at the same time understanding that there were some things that were not possible. It was not possible for salvation to be extended to humanity without the death of the Savior. It was not possible for the blood of goats and bulls to wash away our sins. It was not possible for redemption without full payment for sins. Therefore, it was not possible for the cup to pass from Him, that is why He surrendered His sorrow and His will to that of the Father.
When He went back to His disciples, they were asleep.
Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”Matthew 26:40 NKJV
I find it interesting that Matthew and Mark state that Jesus spoke to Peter. I’m sure you remember that Peter was told by Jesus that he would deny Jesus three times. I wonder if Peter spending time in prayer with Jesus would have given him the strength to say yes instead of no! Peter wasn’t the only one asleep, but he was the one who was told that before the morning arrived, he would deny Jesus!
Before we judge Peter, we should probably all stop and think about the time we faced temptation and weren’t victorious. If we are honest with ourselves, we could probably all admit that we hadn’t taken the opportunity to pray. Jesus tells us the key to avoiding temptation is watching and praying. Watching is simply being alert, and aware of what’s going on, and when we watch and pray, Jesus said that we will not enter into temptation!
Another point that Jesus makes is that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. If you have been in the kingdom for any length of time, you have probably heard this phrase used as an excuse by someone who had given in to temptation. As believers, we should not be using this as an excuse because we are to discipline our bodies and bring them into subjection (1 Corinthians 9:7) so that our spirit dominates our flesh!
Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.Matthew 26:42-43 NKJV
Can I be honest and tell you that I find it difficult to pray for a long period of time while sitting? Therefore, when I need to pray for extended periods of time, I pace. I walk back and forth in my bedroom, or in a sanctuary, or wherever because it keeps me engaged in praying and from getting sleepy. Especially when I attend an all-night prayer meeting after a full day of work! So, I get the challenge that the disciples had in staying awake. But, had they prayed with Jesus, He might have gotten His breakthrough faster!
In John 17, we see all the things that Jesus prayed about. He didn’t spend all of His time praying about the challenge of facing the crucifixion. He logically understood that He needed to get on that cross for us. He spiritually understood that without Him dying we would be forever lost! But the humanity in Him didn’t want to do it! Would you have wanted to? Thank God, Jesus pushed past what He felt like doing to what needed to be done!
That is the disciplining of the body that Paul addressed! Our flesh may never feel like doing the right thing. I can pretty much guarantee that it rarely will. But when we develop our spirit beings to control our flesh, and not allow our flesh to dominate our spirit, we will find it can be done! Jesus demonstrated that well!
So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?Matthew 26:44-45 NKJV
The third time Jesus went back to pray, He was still sorrowful. But this time something happened while He was praying! He was infused with the power to accomplish the impossible, yet again! He walked away from this time of prayer knowing that He had won in the Spirit what He would now win in the natural.
As I stated in the beginning, there are things that will come our way that a quick prayer won’t change. There are going to be times when we will have to labor in prayer until we have a certainty in our spirit that we win! I believe this is the difference between winning and losing in Christ. Prayer changes circumstances, and prayer changes us! That’s what Jesus’ time in the garden teaches me! You pray until you believe you have met with God, heard from Him, and have received what you needed from God. It’s time to pray like never before! Wonderful Jesus!