Have you ever faced this dilemma? You know what God wants you to do. You know the right thing to do, but it will cost, and it will hurt. By doing this you will probably be misunderstood, rejected, and feel as if those closest to you and even God himself has abandoned you. Have you ever faced something like that? Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane.
Gethsemane Moment Defined
Today, we are going to take a deep look at what I call your Gethsemane moment. A Gethsemane moment is a time when you are tempted to avoid doing what God wants you to do because you know that doing it will cost you dearly and hurt you deeply. You are not going to want to do it, but you know God wants you to do it. You know it’s the right thing to do, but it will come at great sacrifice on your part. Your Gethsemane involves a battle between your willing spirit to do what is right and your weaknesses to do what is easy.
Let me set the stage. Jesus took His disciples to an olive grove called Gethsemane. Most of His disciples were told to wait at the entrance of Gethsemane. However, Jesus took three of them (Peter, James, and John) deeper into the grove. Jesus becomes deeply troubled and distressed. He told the three that His soul was “crushed with grief to the point of death.” He then says, “Stay here and keep watch with me.” Then Jesus walks about 50 feet away and fell to the ground. “He prayed that if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by.” After about an hour, Jesus returns to the disciples and finds them sleeping. Jesus says to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? 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” (see Mark 14:32-38). We have already looked at all that in detail. This brings us to verse 39.
Then Jesus left them again and prayed the same prayer as before. 40 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. And they didn’t know what to say. 41 When he returned to them the third time, he said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!” (Mark 14:39-42, NLT)
At first glance there doesn’t seem to be much there other than historical information to move the story along. However, there are several nuggets of truth there worth spending the time to mine and dig out.
The principles we are going to be learning are truths that help you to understand your Gethsemane moment. Those times when you know God’s will, but you don’t want to do it. We will be looking at only one of those truths today.
Your prayer of faith will sometimes be answered with a “No”
The first lesson: in your Gethsemane moment, your prayer of faith will sometimes be answered with a no. Just because you pray in faith for something does not obligate God to give it to you. In verse 39 we are told, Then Jesus left them again and prayed the same prayer as before.
Think through this very carefully, when Jesus left them a second time he went and prayed the same prayer as before. When Matthew tells us about this, he adds that when Jesus comes back to check on them, he finds them asleep again and Matthew says Jesus “went to pray a third time, saying the same things again” (Matt. 26:44, NLT). When this garden scene is over, we discover that Jesus prayed about the same thing three different times during the night.
What was Jesus praying about? He was praying about what was about to happen to Him and He wanted it to pass Him by (Mark 14:35). Mark summarizes His prayer for us in verse 36 where we see Jesus pray, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine” (NLT). Here’s what’s happening.
Jesus asks for the suffering that is about to happen to Him, to be taken away from Him. We can assume that the Heavenly Father tells Jesus no or at the least doesn’t give Jesus an immediate response to His request.
Jesus goes and checks on the disciples and finds them asleep. He goes to pray a second time. Jesus asks for the suffering that is about to come to be taken away from Him. The Heavenly Father tells Jesus no again.
He goes and checks on the disciples again and goes back to pray a third time. Jesus asks for the suffering that is about to come to be taken away from him. The Heavenly Father tells Jesus no again.
Jesus then accepts and fully commits to His Father’s will of taking upon Himself the sins of the world and the wrath of His Heavenly Father against those sins. Then Jesus goes and wakes up the disciples one final time.
Jesus prays about the same thing three times. He repeats His prayer request. There are some who will tell you that it is unspiritual and a lack of faith to ask God over and over for the same thing. They will tell you that if you have faith, you will ask God one time for what you are believing for and God will honor your faith and give you what you what you ask for. They will tell you that all you have to do is “name it and claim it” one time by faith and it is as good as yours. If that is the case, then we have a serious problem here.
Prayer of faith & Jesus
Jesus has perfect faith. Perfect faith Jesus went to His Heavenly Father and ask for something not only once, not twice, but three times. Jesus who has perfect faith demonstrated that faith when He said to His Heavenly Father, “everything is possible for you.” Jesus who knows how to believe perfectly and pray perfectly did not receive what He was asking for. This tells me it is more important to trust God’s answer and will, than it is your desire and will.
- Just because you have faith does not mean there will be no pain.
- Just because you have faith that can move mountains, raise the dead, walk on water, and give sight to the blind does not mean you can avoid sacrifice, suffering, and trouble.
- Just because you pray in faith and ask God for Him to do something in faith does not guarantee God to answer your prayer the way you want.
Prayer is not about making life easy, but making your will line up with God’s will. Prayer is not about walking away from pain but trusting God while walking through the pain. Jesus demonstrates all this for us. Sometimes your prayer of faith will be answered “no.”
Prayer of faith & Paul
Let’s fast forward to Paul. Paul was miraculously saved by God. He was used by God to start many churches across the land. He led numerous people to Jesus. Eventually God used Him to write nearly half the New Testament. He was a godly man. He was all in when it came to Jesus. He eventually died for Jesus. Paul was writing to some believers in 2 Corinthians 12, and he says this,
“So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. 8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:7-10, NLT).
Paul, a man of faith, who trusted God at a high level, prayed by faith and asked and begged the Lord to take away what he called a “thorn in my flesh” and “a messenger from Satan” that tormented him… Paul asked the Lord to deliver him from this torment, but each time God said no. Sometimes your prayer of faith will be answered with a no. Your prayer of faith is not about getting what you want, but getting your heart where God wants it.
Jesus and Paul are teaching us that at some point when it comes to asking God to remove suffering and He says no, you need to quit praying about it and accept it.
Prayer of faith & God’s will
There are some believers who hold to the idea that if they have enough faith that God is obligated to give to them whatever it is they are believing for. However, that is not true. God is only obligated to give you what you ask for as long as it is according to His will. Now, listen carefully to 1 John 5:14, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (vs. 14-15, NASB). Again, praying in faith is not about getting what you want, but getting your heart where God wants it. Getting your will lined up with His will.
Prayer of faith & God’s blessings
God wants you to ask Him to do things for you. There are some things that God is waiting for you to ask for before He gives them to you or does it for you, but you must ask Him for it. This is why God’s Word says, “You don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it” (James 4:2, NLT). God is not saying that He will give you everything you ask for, but He is saying that there are some things you don’t have because you haven’t asked. Go ahead and ask and if it’s His will He will give it to you, and if it’s not His will then He will tell you no. But He is waiting for you to ask in faith. What this means is, there are some blessing with your name on it and God is simply waiting for you to ask for it. I’m convinced that we rob ourselves of many blessings because we don’t ask God for them.
Back to your Gethsemane moment. Not only will there be times you ask by faith and receive, but there will also be times you will ask by faith and not receive. You have to be okay with that, especially when it involves suffering and pain.
Before we wrap up our time together. There are a couple of more observations about prayer we need to address while we are here in Gethsemane.
Persevering prayer and repetitious prayer
There are times you will need to pray about the same thing more than once, like Jesus and like Paul. Your prayers may even sound exactly alike from one time to another. Repetition is good. God wants you to pray and not give up (1 Thess. 5:16-18; Col. 4:2; Luke 18:1). He wants you to keep asking (Matt. 7:7). However, there is a difference between praying with perseverance and praying with vain repetition. Let me show you what I mean. One day Jesus was teaching about prayer, and He said, “And when you are praying, do not use thoughtless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard because of their many words” (Matt. 6:7, NASB). “Thoughtless repetition” in prayer can take many forms.
- For example, the person who recites the Lord’s Prayer without any thought of its meaning can be thoughtless repetition.
- The person who says the exact same prayer night after night without any consideration of what they are actually praying can be thoughtless repetition.
- The person who prays in tongues repeating the same word or phrase over and over again without any mental engagement could be thoughtless repetition.
- The person who prays on and on about the same thing but rewords a little differently as if their many words and long prayers will somehow nag God into getting what they want.
One translation refers to all this as someone who “babbles on and on.”
However, there will be those times when you have the same conversation with God over and over, but your mind and heart and soul are deeply engaged in the prayer. There will be those times when you are praying for someone or about something and you find yourself repeating your request, but you are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually involved in the prayer. This is praying with perseverance, but once you get an answer you will need to accept it and move on.
Your prayers don’t need to be original
Another interesting thought on prayer while we are here. Your prayers don’t always have to be original, creative, unique, or inventive. You don’t always need to try to find new ways to express your heart or to say what you want to say to God. It’s okay to repeat your prayers, just be careful that they are still fresh to you and they are not becoming “thoughtless repetition.” You don’t want your prayers to become mechanical, routine, and dead. Even though Jesus went and prayed the same thing three times, there was no deadness or thoughtlessness in His prayers. He was praying with the mind and with His spirit. He was fully engaged in what He was praying about all three times. Each time the onslaught was as fresh and as fierce as before, and the Lord’s agony was just as intense. New words would not have helped. The same words sufficed.
When you are in a Gethsemane moment you will be tempted to avoid doing what God wants you to do because you know that obeying God in this matter will cost you dearly and hurt you deeply. This is something you should talk to God about. It’s okay to talk to God about some other way, why you, and why now. Go ahead and pray in faith, trusting God, but if He gives you an answer that you don’t like, obey in faith. When you are praying in faith it should move you to obey in faith.