And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” — Luke 22:39–46
This is how cool God is. This is the passage that was in my reading plan for the day that I am writing this devotional. And what a beautiful model of Jesus submitting to the will of the Father in prayer. He lays out exactly how we should pray as well.
Just a couple of things to point out from this text:
First, Jesus calls his disciples to prayer (verse 40). As disciples of Christ, we are also called to pray to the Father, looking to the way Jesus prays for help. One of the truths we are trying to teach our son is that God wants to talk with him. As people who should be desiring to draw nearer to the throne of grace, we should realize that the most biblically sound way to do this is through prayer and the reading of the Scriptures.
Secondly, Jesus withdraws from his disciples to pray (verse 41). He is still within a stone’s throw and probably still within earshot but Jesus is illustrating that prayer is a time to enter into intimacy with God and while corporate prayer is sometimes encouraged, we ourselves should withdraw from distraction to sit and just be with God in prayer. Jesus has this to say in his Sermon on the Mount about prayer:
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. — Matthew 6:5–8
God desires a humble heart in prayer. He’s not looking for big words or insincere praise. If I’m not feeling sincere in my praise, the beautiful thing I’ve discovered is that I can ask (in prayer!) that my praise to God be sincere, and he is faithful to reorient my heart and grant that request.
Next, in Luke 22:42, we see that in Jesus’ perfect submission to the Father’s will that he consciously, voluntarily, and obediently “endured the cross, despising the shame.” (Hebrews 12:2). What a life-altering great piece of news this is for believers. Even in the suffering that he knew was coming, he did not despise the cross and endured it so that we may have access to the Father and to the fulfilling life that is found in him alone.
One last observation: notice that Jesus calls his disciples to pray in the beginning of the text. Jesus then withdraws to pray and when he comes back, he finds that his disciples have fallen asleep. He gently rebukes them for this. We must be careful to realize that Jesus is going before us as an advocate on our behalf to the Father. We must not neglect our opportunity to meet with the God of the universe in prayer. He wants to talk to you!
One last practical note: if you have never opened up your Bible to read any of the prophetical books in the Old Testament (Isaiah is an example), give it a shot. There is something so incredible about being able to open a book and hear directly from the mouth of the creator of the universe. If that seems too daunting, try Haggai. It’s short and speaks to what our priority and perspective should be as Christians. God’s Word is such a sweet gift, to be more desired than gold and sweet honey (Psalm 19:10).