I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer recently so I thought that I’d share my reflections here. Maybe you have something to contribute to the conversation.
Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”
Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.
So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”
My three thoughts:
1) Prayer is about God, not about us.
What I mean is that when you pray you are coming before a mighty, powerful, holy God. Get some perspective and realise how awesome communication with him should be. Sometimes we approach prayer as an informal, thoughtless act; where as it really should be a supreme encounter.
2) God wants to hear it all.
Part of the wonder of prayer is that this wonderful God wants to hear it all. Not just the big stuff, not just the problems that are out of our control, but all of it. He wants to be with us on every step of life’s journey, including trips to the shop, conversation about last night’s TV, the emails you have to reply to or the next thing you’ll post on Facebook. God wants to be in all of our lives.
3) We need to allow God space in the conversation.
If our prayers are to become a conversation with God we need to allow him the space to speak to us. Sometimes we pray with our lists, our things, all the stuff of life and all the people we want to pray for. And, in his graciousness, God hears it all. But, if prayer really is like a relationship we need to stop for long enough to listen to God.
And in conclusion
What does this have to do with this passage in Matthew?
The back story is this is Jesus praying before he is arrested and taken off to be crucified. He’s not praying alone, he’s taken some of the disciples with him. He pleads with God, who he recognises as the ultimate authority over the developing situation, to be released from the duty of being a sacrifice for all humankind. Jesus wants out. But, still says, “I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Jesus submits to God’s authority in everything.
There are some prayers I pray in which God doesn’t seem to act, at least not in the way I’d like. But, whose will is the priority. Is my will greater than Gods?
One of the few details we have from this prayer is Jesus pointing a finger at the disciples and saying, ‘What, couldn’t you watch over me for just one hour?’. I wonder whether Jesus was praying out loud for that hour, or whether he was quiet and still, listening to what God had to say to him.
Just like any relationship is better, when there’s two sides involved in the conversation, I reckon my prayer life would be better if I left more space for God to talk to me.