They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” …Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:32-38)
The troubled heart of Christ: We can only begin to imagine the thoughts that were swelling up in the heart of Christ on the night of his arrest. We know that he prayed as the Son of Man to the Father asking, “if it were possible” that the cup be passed from him. It was not possible.
God found it impossible not to allow the cross to happen. His holiness demanded a sacrifice for the sins of the world and only two possibilities existed: Christ or humanity. As the representative of the race Adam had led us into sin (Rom. 5:12). And as the “second Adam,” or as the second representative of the human race, Christ would take the punishment and payment for sin upon himself. His love demanded that Christ bear the sacrifice, that he carry the burden of our sins. It was impossible for it to turn out any other way.”For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19).
The reasons Christ’s soul was overwhelmed were many – from the pain of human rejection, to the pending suffering of the cross, to the weakness of the faith of his disciples. Christ was not overwhelmed merely by the thought of the sacrifice he would make; he was also overwhelmed by the love he was about to fully express. “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). The last phrase in John 13:1, “he loved them to the end,” shows the faithfulness of the love of Christ and its greatness. God does not forget those whom he has called, saved, and nurtured.
Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. (Isaiah 49:15-16, KJV)
We are engraved on the hands of Christ by the nail scars of the crucifixion. Christ is seen in heaven eternally as the Lamb slain for the sins of the world.
So with these two extreme thoughts of love and the cost of love stirring in the heart of Christ he sought time with God in prayer, and led the inner group of his disciples to join him.
The release of prayer: There is much we need to learn and experience in life that we will only experience in prayer – there is no substitute for the experience of prayer. The Lord never intended that we should carry our burdens alone, but that we should learn how to lean upon him and derive strength, direction, and peace from him. The prayer of Jesus to ask if this cup could pass from him was entirely right for him to pray. Only a fool would venture into any spiritual conflict that God had not called him to fight. Christ was no fool. He came to do the will of God fully, but in his humanity, perfect as it was, he still walked by faith and not by sight. He needed to check one last time before the final hours would come.
We all have emotions, questions, joys, fears, worries, concerns, and burdens. These are what we are to take to God. “Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8, NASB). Prayer is a pouring out or an emptying out of our heart before God. He is the one Person of the universe with whom we can be entirely honest – sharing our fears, and even our accusations against him. God can take it all, and if it is in our heart he already knows about it. We are better off to be honest with him until he soothes the storm in our inner soul.
The potential of prayer for us: Only one was prepared for what would transpire – only Jesus. When we are faced with great challenges – and I suppose every day we are in some way or another – we need to spend time in prayer. Prayer is not just uttering sweet thoughts to God, not only repeating eternal attributes of God in praise – prayer contains these elements but it does not and cannot end there.
Prayer is letting our soul be touched by God, our path directed, our thoughts and values engineered. There is so much pride in us, so much anger, so much fear, and prayer is given us as the divine means of inner purification. If you are angry with someone, pray through the matter until the Spirit of God enables you to forgive and to embrace complete humility toward the individual.
Miles Stanford in his classic work The Principles of Spiritual Growth, lists the discoveries of those who under grace
The Proper Attitude of Man Under Grace:
To believe, and to consent to be loved while unworthy, is the great secret.
To refuse to make ‘resolutions’ and ‘vows’; for that is to trust in the flesh.
To expect to be blessed, though realizing more and more lack of worth…
To rely on God’s chastening [child training] hand as a mark of His kindness…
Things Which Gracious Souls Discover:
To ‘hope to be better’ [hence acceptable] is to fail to see yourself in Christ only.
To be disappointed with yourself, is to have believed in yourself.
To be discouraged is unbelief,-as to God’s purpose and plan of blessing for you.
To be proud, is to be blind! For we have no standing before God, in ourselves.
The lack of Divine blessing, therefore, comes from unbelief, and not from failure of devotion…
In concentrated prayer we discover the will of God, the mind and ways of God, the peace of God, and we uncover the old sinful nature, what must die, so that Christ may reign in our lives.