A Classic Example of Seeking God in Prayer
Text: Matthew 26 : 31 - 56
Jesus had taught His disciples many invaluable lessons. His expositions from the Scriptures were unsurpassed. His knowledge of people was exquisite. His comprehension of circumstances was flawless. His skill of teaching was inimitable! No one could have asked for a better Mentor!
Above everything else, Jesus taught His disciples by example! There were certain things that could not be taught in a better way than through life’s example. Prayer was that special subject. Jesus was that supreme example of what it means to seek God in prayer. If ever we wish to improve our prayer life, we could do no better than to devote time to study how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
“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.’ ”
DEEP AND PROFOUND LESSONS
Let us take time to ponder over the deep and profound lessons that Jesus exemplified in the Garden of Gethsemane.
1. Prayer in solitude
Jesus learned this lesson about prayer early in life. It is great to have prayer partners, but there really is no substitute for praying on your own. Matthew records for us the fact that Jesus spent forty days and nights in the wilderness seeking His Father in prayer (Cf. Matthew 4:1-11).
There will be occasions when one must seek God in great personal depth! Praying with others will not be the best substitute at all. Prayer in solitude as a personal discipline must be cultivated well before it can be put to good use.
2. Humble spirit in prayer
The spirit of prayer will be manifested soon enough. Jesus’ example is truly classic. It was well expressed in the phrase, “and fell on His face”. No matter who Jesus was, no matter what privileged position He enjoyed, He never failed to express the deepest sense of humility in prayer! He even prostrated Himself before His Father as He entered into prayer! How we must bestir ourselves to check and correct our spirit and our manner of prayer!
3. Relationship with God as Father
Jesus always spoke to God as “Father”. What a delicate balance He maintained. On the one hand, there was abject humility as a petitioner, and on the other hand, there was that deep relationship of love and trust in God as Father! Often one or the other suffers lack. We are either too afraid to pray, or too familiar to pray properly!
4. Submission to God’s will
One extremely important lesson to learn about prayer is “total submission to God’s will”. It is insufficient to learn all other lessons of prayer and miss out on this most critical one.
a) The existence of the personal human will
Jesus recognized that there was such a thing as a personal human will. He had one. We have one too, though ours is extremely flawed, tainted as it were by sin.
b) Submission to God’s perfect will
Jesus knew and practised obedience to His Father’s perfect will. He had always taught His disciples that He willingly submitted to His Father’s will. That will was to be discovered in the study of the Scriptures! Through a deep knowledge of the Lord’s Word, Jesus knew the wisdom of total and willing submission to His Father’s will.
c) Surrender of the personal will to God in prayer
Jesus disclosed that the process to full submission to His Father’s will was through surrendering of His own personal will to God in prayer. That Jesus did this may be found in the phrase, “Not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39).
5. Dealing with the emotional aspect of life
Jesus had taught His disciples that He would be betrayed, and that He would suffer terribly at the hands of His enemies. He also told them that He would be crucified and be put to death! He was as mentally prepared as anyone could prepare himself for an ordeal of suffering.
How needful it is to be so mentally prepared. Yet, one must also allow for human emotions full play. The prospect of suffering is never easy to accept at any time, no matter how mentally prepared one may be. Emotional and even psychological preparedness must not be easily dismissed.
Human emotions are powerful. They are not wrong in themselves, but they can cause a person to feel “sorrowful and deeply distressed” (Matthew 26:37). The best way to deal with emotional distress is to bring that to God in prayer as Jesus did.
AN IMPORTANT COMMENTARY
We have an important commentary in the Book of Hebrews concerning how Jesus would often seek His Father in prayer. This commentary helps us appreciate how He must have prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. The text is self-explanatory. It also confirms our observations as to how Jesus prayed.
“Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers
and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him
who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because
of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience
by the things which He suffered.”