Praying Like Jesus: Mark 14:32-42

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Most of the time, when thinking about where to start reading on the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested, we begin when Jesus and His followers arrive in Gethsemane, and Jesus starts the night out in prayer. While we have just finished looking at a powerful prayer Jesus prayed from John’s gospel, Jesus wasn’t finished with His prayers this night.

Several of the gospel writers include Jesus praying in Gethsemane and for our time together in this episode, let’s focus in on Mark’s gospel, and maybe pull in a detail or two from another gospel if we have time. Our passage is found in the gospel of Mark, chapter 14, and we will be reading from the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 32, Mark tells us that:

32 They came to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him. Distress and anguish came over him, 34 and he said to them, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch.”

35 He went a little farther on, threw himself on the ground, and prayed that, if possible, he might not have to go through that time of suffering. 36 “Father,” he prayed, “my Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet not what I want, but what you want.”

37 Then he returned and found the three disciples asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Weren’t you able to stay awake for even one hour?” 38 And he said to them, “Keep watch, and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

39 He went away once more and prayed, saying the same words. 40 Then he came back to the disciples and found them asleep; they could not keep their eyes open. And they did not know what to say to him.

41 When he came back the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come! Look, the Son of Man is now being handed over to the power of sinners. 42 Get up, let us go. Look, here is the man who is betraying me!”

In this passage, we discover that Jesus prayed three similar, if not identical, prayers. In these prayers, we discover some amazing ideas, both about Jesus and about God the Father. While it would be nice to know more of Jesus’ prayer here than what is included, it is likely that only God and the angels know, since these three closest disciples could not keep their eyes and ears open. While it’s possible that the other, larger group of disciples did stay awake, they were outside of earshot of Jesus’ prayer, and possibly talking amongst themselves.

Our passage includes the simple, profound opening to Jesus’ prayer and in this prayer, we see Jesus’ humanity, His humility, and His heart. Jesus opening to His prayer is basically, “Father, All things are possible for you. Take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet not what I want, but what you want.

In these four phrases, we see an amazing progression. First, Jesus starts out by acknowledging God as His Father. Jesus describes God the way He teaches us to describe God, simply as our Father.

Next, Jesus acknowledges that anything and everything is possible for God. If God wanted to, He could do anything. Jesus describes the all-powerful, or omnipotent, nature of God.

Then, after laying the foundation of God’s ability to do anything, Jesus makes the request. Jesus asks for the cup of suffering to be taken away from Him. While there were many layers of suffering that Jesus went through that night, we cannot even begin to know or understand what Jesus was going through. Some scholars say that here in Gethsemane, Jesus was receiving the weight of the sins of the human race on His shoulders, and it nearly crushed Him. In this request, we see Jesus’ humanity and a request for help.

If Jesus’ prayer had ended here, it’s possible that God would have come down and rescued Jesus, abandoning the human race to sin. God had placed the cross within Jesus’ power to face or not face, as we saw looking back at how John’s gospel introduces us to the Last Supper, and if there hadn’t been an additional line, we might not have a crucifixion to look back to.

Instead, Jesus follows His request with a bold statement of submission: “Yet not what I want, but what you want.” In this statement, Jesus basically lets God know His request, but He leaves it up to God whether this request is in the best interest for God’s plan. While the cross was Jesus’ decision to make, Jesus’ prayer tells us that He doesn’t make the decision alone.

In this prayer, and how Jesus ends it, we discover a powerful truth about God the Father. If God the Father did not love the human race, Jesus would not have faced the cross. Jesus asks the Father to take the cup of suffering away from Him, but He leaves it up to God.

Jesus’ prayer, and God’s response, or lack thereof, shows us the truth of the most famous passage in the entire Bible: John, chapter 3, verse 16. This passage John included early on in His gospel tells us that “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.” God the Father loved us enough to let Jesus face the cross to save each of us, and this is powerful to know.

God does answer Jesus’ prayer in a way that is helpful but not one that sacrificed the mission. Luke’s gospel described what happened. Luke, chapter 22, verses 43 and 44 tell us that after Jesus prayed this prayer: “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. In great anguish he prayed even more fervently; his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke tells us that an angel appears to encourage Jesus and He prays even more passionately after this. Luke describes Jesus’ sweat appearing like drops of blood, and whether this was because Jesus had actual blood mixed with His sweat, which is possible, or whether Jesus’ sweat was dripping off His body like blood would if He were cut and the wound hadn’t closed up yet, we see how emotionally intense this night and prayer was to Jesus.

While it would be nice to know more of Jesus’ prayer following this, what we have in Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane is another powerful model we can use when praying to God. When praying using Jesus’ model, we begin by acknowledging God as our Father, and we acknowledge His ability to answer our request. Nothing is impossible for God to accomplish.

We then make our request like Jesus did, before finishing by asking God for His will to be done with our request, and not our own.

After praying in this way, we should move forward in life trusting that God has answered our prayer, and if our request isn’t granted the way we prayed, then we can know that our request isn’t beneficial for God’s kingdom like we might have thought it would have been. I doubt God will answer any prayer we pray that would result in us being excluded from heaven. God looks at life through the lens of eternity, and His ultimate goal is saving as many people as possible for eternity.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

If your prayers to God have been more self-serving lately, the challenge I have for you is to frame your requests the same way Jesus framed His request. I don’t believe God is annoyed when we ask for things, but when we ask God for help or things, we should acknowledge that His will should be done. In this way, we clearly remind ourselves that God is first in our lives and we submit to His direction and leading.

Also, as I always challenge you to do, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow your personal relationship with God. While pastors, authors, speakers, or even a podcaster can give you ideas to think about, never put anyone between you and God. God wants a personal relationship with you, and He doesn’t want to filter His truth to you through other people.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, chicken out of, or drift away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of the Cross – Episode 33: While in Gethsemane on the night He was betrayed and arrested, Jesus prays a passionate prayer to God about the cup of suffering He is facing. In this prayer, we can discover how to pray like Jesus prayed, even when it appears like our requests are not being answered.

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