When hardship looms
On the night he was betrayed, Jesus had spent the previous day with his disciples. Together, they celebrated Israel’s most important feast, Passover. Together, they recalled how God had mightily rescued Israel from her Egyptian enemies. During the meal, Jesus gave them instructions of how they were to perform communion going forward.
Throughout the entire evening, Jesus knew what the night would bring. The Scriptures containing the prophecies about the Messiah’s death were going to be fulfilled. Jesus knew that his death would be on a cross, one of the most horrific and painful methods of execution ever invented by man. He dreaded what was about to happen, what He would have to endure.
The last thing Jesus did before He was betrayed was pray.
Mark 14:32-35 Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and He told His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be deeply distressed and horrified. Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow – to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake.” Then He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and began to pray…
The gospels of Matthew and Luke also describe Jesus’ praying in the Garden, and both explicitly state that He prayed separately from his disciples.
On the eve of the most difficult and painful day of His life, Christ desired comfort and strength from God the Father…and no one else. Jesus knew that what He needed to fulfill His mission would not be found among the people closest to Him.
Is that our typical course of action?
Usually, our first reaction to an impending hard situation is to call the prayer chain, ask our small group to pray for us, or get together with others for a prayer meeting. All of these things are the body of Christ supporting one another…and that’s a good thing. However, Christ’s example in the garden of Gethsemane raises questions about our motivations for calling on other believers to “pray for me”. I wonder if we take the comfort we receive from knowing that others are performing the act of prayer as a substitute for the comfort that we should be seeking from God.
True comfort and strength are not found in praying, rather they are found in the One we are praying to.
Even if 1,000 people are praying that I find strength and courage in God, and I do not choose to seek God for strength and courage, then I cannot expect God to make me stronger simply because others have asked him. We must pursue God in prayer on an individual basis, others cannot fulfill that relationship for us.
Jesus knew this…and it was because he spent time alone in the garden seeking the Father that He was ready for the cross.