When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was at the hardest point of his earthly life. In anguish, pain, and desperation we see God the Son pray to God the Father asking that God would take away the suffering he was about to experience, and ended his prayer with an essential phrase that every Christian must understand‚ “not my will, but yours, be done.” We can pray and ask our Father for the things we desire, but at the end of the day we must understand that his will is what’s best for our joy and his glory. Click here for additional notes.
36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.
You’re listening to Pray Like Jesus, where Pastor Mark Driscoll teaches us how we can use the prayer life of Jesus as a template for our own. For more audio and video content please visit MarsHillChurch.org.
Howdy Mars Hill. If you’re new, my name is Mark, one of the pastors here at the church. One quick announcement, before we get to work in Matthew 26, if you’ve got a Bible you can go to Matthew 26. And the announcement is this. Our budget year goes from July through June, and so we just finished sort of our budget year here at Mars Hill Church. And one of the great pleasures of my role here at the church is getting to see what God is doing across all seven campuses, 17 services, all kinds of wonderful things that God is doing. And your lead pastor, Pastor Jamie Munson, wanted to give you a snapshot of what we get to see throughout all of Mars Hill. So he put together the Mars Hill Church annual report. You should have obtained one on the way in. If not, please do make sure to grab one on your way out. It really is a great piece, and he and some of the deacons did an amazing job putting it all together. And Pastor Tim Beltz has got all the charts and graphs kind of letting you know where we’re at financially and all of that. But the majority of what’s in here is just stories of what God did this year. Photos to give you some idea of what God has been up to.
And in all sincerity I could say it’s been an amazing year. The church continues to grow by God’s grace. As far as I remember, more people have become Christians this year than any year in the history of the church. And overall we are very, very, very encouraged. My kids sat down and read this yesterday and said, “It’s awesome.” So there is a ringing endorsement from the Driscoll kids. So I would encourage you to go ahead and read it for yourself. If you’re new, it’ll give you really good insights on our church. If you’ve been here for a while, it’ll give you insights as to how gracious God has been and ways to be in prayer proceeding forward.
That being said, today we continue in our series, Pray Like Jesus. And we’re gonna look at Jesus’ Gethsemane prayer in Matthew 26. If you’ve got a Bible, please do turn there. And I’ll tell you by way of preface, this one will be difficult. This is a very, very, very important moment is Jesus’ earthly life. Very painful. Very dark. Very brutal. Very honest. Very raw. Very real. And very helpful. And so I want you to hang in there with me, but it will feel like running in water up to your neck for a few miles. This is gonna be some work.
And so Father God we come to you in prayer as the Lord Jesus did, asking that your will would be our will. Asking Lord God that through the power of the Holy Spirit you would teach us to pray like Jesus. Lord Jesus I thank you. That you felt it necessary to teach on your Gethsemane prayer so that we, thousands of years later, could have insight into your most dark, painful, lonely moment. And we could learn form it. We’re grateful that you are a God who identifies with us and who teaches us. So we’re asking you, Holy Spirit, to come and teach us to pray like Jesus in whose name we pray, amen.
We’ll set up the story of Matthew 26. It falls near the end Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. In the preceding chapters Jesus begins communicating to others his impending death. He begins saying things like, “I will be arrested. I will be handed over. I will be betrayed. I will be crucified. I will be put to death.” The cross is on the horizon. Jesus is fast approaching his execution and he speaks of it openly. With great passion and sort of a final outpouring he begins preaching on sin and judgment and heaven and hell and the kingdom of God.
The Bible also records that in this season Judas Iscariot agreed to betray Jesus Christ. Judas was a friend of Jesus. A pretend friend. A man who had been with Jesus for three years. Jesus loved him, fed him, taught him, encouraged him, disciple him. Judas is like so many who know something about the Lord but don’t have any love for the Lord. He agreed to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, the exact sum that was prophesied by Zechariah 500 years prior. In Zechariah 11:12-13.
Everything was then set up, established for the betrayal and the execution of Jesus. In preparation Jesus went to a home for a party and there a sinful woman who was repentant and wanted her life to change, she’s a great example for all of us. She came to Jesus and she anointed him with essentially perfume. A rich lavish gift. What I find curious is that that would have meant Jesus would have smelled this woman’s repentance and gift through the Last Supper, through his false trials, through his beatings, through his floggings and ultimately through his crucifixion.
A little while later the story will reveal that Jesus Christ on the cross breathed his last. And that breath likely included the scent of the anointing of the gift of a repentant but sinful woman. I wonder if it wasn’t one of the ways that Jesus was encouraged to proceed forward in his suffering, knowing that it was for the forgiveness of sin, including the sin of that woman.
The time of the Gethsemane prayer is around the season of Passover. Very important Jewish holiday. Passover had been celebrated by God’s people since the days of the exodus. There they were in tyranny and slavery and bondage to a false god and a cruel task master named Pharaoh in a nation called Egypt. God was going to liberate his people to be free to worship him. And he did that by pouring out his wrath on the homes of those who were unrepentant of sin. Those who were repentant of sin and trusting in God were spared his wrath and given his love and their deliverance. And it was all typified with a sacrifice preparing people for the coming of Jesus who would shed his own blood for their sin. And then that blood was taken and the doorposts of the homes were covered so that God’s wrath literally passed over those homes. Those homes who did not offer a sacrifice in faith, acknowledging that their sin had separated them from God and that they rightly deserved God’s wrath, death came to their home. For everyone else God’s wrath passed over them. From that point forward God’s people every year celebrated the Feast of Passover. Remembering that it is through the substitutionary sacrifice of another that God’s wrath is removed from us. All of this leading up to Jesus who 1 Corinthians 5:7 describes as our Passover lamb who is slain.
And so in sitting down to celebrate Passover Jesus is showing that the very lengthy number of years that Passover had been celebrated from Moses to his day was being culminated and fulfilled in his impending execution. We also know this as the Last Supper. And at that last supper Jesus revealed to his disciples that one of them would betray him. One of the other gospels records that Satan filled Judas’ heart. That you can be an arm’s length away from Jesus and still love Satan and be committed to evil. And that was Judas. The disciples began discussing which one of them might betray Jesus. They were all concerned. Peter ended up saying, “God, I will never – Lord for I will never forsake you. I’ll never deny. You can count on me. I’m the leader of the 12. You can count on me.” Before long, Peter betrays, abandons, denies Jesus.
What we see in the Gethsemane prayer is Jesus very lonely, betrayed, abandoned, facing death, suffering, hurting, the moment is dark. It’s actually night which is absolutely fitting. This is the most painful arduous moment in Jesus’ life. With the cross on the horizon he knows that very soon he will be put to death. That the wrath of God will be poured out on him as a substitute in the place of sinners. Some of you know what it’s like to see that devastating moment and it’s right in front of you. The day when you will be betrayed. The day when you will be abandoned. The day when you will suffer. You will hurt. You will bleed. You will weep. You will die.
And what Jesus does in this moment he doesn’t distrust God. He doesn’t doubt God. He doesn’t deny God. He doesn’t disregard God. He doesn’t disrespect God. He prays. He talks to the Father about his impending execution. We pick up the story in Matthew 26:36. “Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane.” Right, this is an olive grove in the middle of which is a garden. It seems most likely that Jesus is in the garden in the middle of the olive grove. And he is there to pray. In this way it echoes the day of Adam our first father, who was in a garden and rather than obeying he disobeyed. Rather than believing he disbelieved. And rather than living he died. Because he sinned and partnered with Satan. He succumbed to temptation.
Here Jesus, 1 Corinthians 15, I think it’s verse 45, calls him the last or the second Adam. Says the same thing in Romans 5:12-21. Jesus here takes the place of Adam. And he is in a garden. And his faith is tested. And unlike the first Adam, the last Adam preserves and prevails.
They’re in the Garden of Gethsemane. “And he said to his disciples, sit here while I go over there and pray.” And what I want to show you is this. That even Jesus needed to pray. Now Jesus is God become a man. When you are sick, when are you lonely, when you are hurting, when you are suffering, when you are dying, when life gets dark, and it does, you and I need to talk to God. We need to get some time with God. That’s what Jesus is doing here. He’s going to talk to the Father. And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee – that’s Peter, James and John. These are Jesus’ three senior leaders. Here we call them executive elders. Jesus had his 12 disciples and there were three who were taken with him on special occasions. They’re usually listed first because they hold leadership positions over the other disciples. They’re there at the raising of Jairus’ daughter. They’re there with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. And they are invited to be with him here in the Garden of Gethsemane. Within leadership there are always leaders of leaders, leaders within leaders. We structure our church in that way and Jesus did as well. He takes Peter, James and John with him.
And Jesus is asking his friends, “Please pray for me while I go pray.” He’s going to separate himself. And he’s going to pray for a bit, but he’s asking his friends to intercede for him. “He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch with me.’” How is Jesus feeling? Sorrowful. Troubled. To his depths. To his death. Luke 22:44 gives us an additional bit of insight. It says that Jesus was filled with such anguish that he was literally sweating blood. Alright this is an extreme medical condition that is only possible for those who are experiencing the most devastating distress humanly possible. Very few people ever, ever get to that point. No matter how hard life gets, no matter how dark, how painful, very few of us will ever arrive at the place that Jesus was when he uttered his Gethsemane prayer.
Now let me give you permission to be sad, to be concerned, to be fearful, to be devastated. Christianity is filled with stupid theology. And some of that stupid theology is if you just trust God everything will be fine. If you really have faith in God, you’ll be a winner not a loser. You’ll be happy not sad. Think positive thoughts. Look at the bright side. Have a good attitude. Don’t be so negative. That’s stupid. It’s like saying if you have enough faith in Jesus you don’t have to be like him. You don’t need to be poor you could be rich. You don’t need to suffer, you can win. You don’t need to die, you can live. You don’t need to be sad, you can be happy. If you have enough faith in Jesus you don’t need to be like him. That’s stupid.
Jesus is devastated. It’s okay to be devastated. Jesus is sad. It’s okay to be sad. Jesus is concerned. It’s okay to be concerned. Jesus is experiencing anxiety. Not all anxiety is sin. The question is what do you do in those moments. You may sin. Or like Jesus, my hope and my great longing would be that you would talk to God honestly. Respectfully but honestly. God, this is dark. I am devastated. This is incredibly hard. What you don’t need to do on the day when your spouse says, “I’m leaving.” Your doctor says, “It’s cancer.” The nurse says, “You’ve miscarried.” Your sibling calls and says, “Dad died and he didn’t know Jesus.” What you don’t need to do on those days is pretend. Pretend that life is easy. That life is good. It’s okay to say that life is complicated and sometimes painful.
Jesus has sorrow, is deeply troubled to the point of death. Those are the words of the Bible. Sweating blood. It is so sad that for most people their theology does not work when they need it the most. If your theology is that Christians are winners, what happens when you lose? That Christians are healthy, what happens when you’re sick? That Christians are rich, what happens when you’re poor? That Christians are victorious, what happens when you’re defeated? I love the brutal honesty of the scriptures. God becomes a man and he goes where we go. And he goes to a depth of sorrow that few of us will ever taste. And he goes to the cross and that path is paved with betrayal and abandonment and loneliness and grief.
He prays three times. The first is in verse 39. “And going a little farther” – so he separates himself from Peter, James and John – “he fell on his face and he prayed saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will but as you will.’” Tells Peter, James and John, “You guys are my friends. You’re my community group. Pray for me. I know it’s late. But I’m devastated. I’m gonna go over here a little ways alone. I’m gonna talk to the Father about my future.” And here’s what he says, “Father, it is my humble request that you would take this cup away from me.” There’s a debate among commentators over the cup. I think based upon its Old Testament use it probably means the wrath of God. Just as liquid is poured out of a cup, so the wrath of God is poured out on sinners.
And Jesus here is not fearing physical death, I believe, as much as spiritual death. That God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit, one God in three persons, the Trinity, they have been in perfect union and communion for ever. Eternity past to eternity future. And Jesus knows that in going to the cross he will become our sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21. “God made him who knew no sin to become sin.” And that he would stand condemned in our place. And that he would suffer and die as our substitute. And that the wrath of God would be poured out on him. And that he would be separated from the Father. And that, that was what he was requesting, “Father, if your wrath can be taken from me. If my relationship with you can continue unbroken that would be my will.” And I love what he says, “But” – read this – “not as I will, but as you will.”
This is the difference between Pagan prayer and Christian prayer. Pagan prayer is that you can make God do what you want. That’s pagan prayer. Most Christian teaching on prayer is pagan. I’ve read much of the books. I’ve listened to much of the teachers. The vast majority of popularized Christian prayer teaching is just repackaged paganism. Paganism is I can make God do what I tell him to do. I can pray this prayer a number of times. I could say it like I mean it. I can claim promises. I can speak in faith. No. Prayer that is Christian has two aspects. It speaks honestly to God. Respectfully, but honestly. “God I’m struggling. I’m confused. I’m hurting. I’m sick. I’m dying. I’m lonely. I’m betrayed. It hurts. It hurts like crazy. And I’m devastated. And life has gotten very dark. And I don’t know where you’re at. And I don’t know what you’re doing. And what I do see that is before me I don’t think I can bare it. But your will be done.” It’s both.
Pagan prayer is only, “God I tell you to do this. Heal me. Change them. Save him. Fix her. Pay the bills. Cure the cancer.” That’s paganism. If that’s all you pray, it’s paganism. “I’m God. You need to obey.” That’s not Christian prayer. We then write foolish books about being disappointed with God and frustrated with God and how angry we are at God because God doesn’t do what he’s told. Which is another way of saying I don’t get to be God.
I love you very much. These words are gonna destroy ya. And I believe that hard words produce soft people and soft words produce hard people. And what I really want is not just to make you into great pagans. But to help you to pray through the valleys of darkness. Friends you’re gonna hurt. You’re gonna be betrayed. You’re gonna be abandoned. You’re gonna be lonely. You’re gonna get sick. You’re not gonna be able to pay your bills. One day you’re gonna die. And what are you gonna do? What are you gonna do? My hope would be that you would tell God how you’re feeling and what your desires are. And that you would then say, “Not my will but as you will.” Prayer that is Christian is about aligning our will with God’s will. It’s about coming to agree with God. That’s what it is. It’s not me telling God what to do. It’s me accepting what God would call me to do. It’s not me changing God. It’s about God changing me. It’s about me developing a willingness to accept that God is both sovereign and good.
And let me tell you the great struggle for most when very dark, painful, hard, arduous moments in seasons of life envelop us like fog and we can’t see through it and it’s weighty. Most people fall into one of two errors. God is sovereign. He’s in charge. He’s in control. But he’s not loving. He’s not good. He’s not kind. He’s hurting me. He’s cruel. The other is, God is loving and God is kind and God doesn’t do evil, but he’s not sovereign. He’s trying his best, but he can’t help me. The Bible says that God is sovereign. He is in control and he’s good. Right? When Jesus prays to him as Father that’s what he’s intimating. A father is in charge and good.
When you pray for the Father’s will you are in faith saying, “You are in charge, not I. And you are good, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Even if I don’t see it.” See we don’t always know, we, in fact, never know exactly what’s going on. All we see is our life and the few details that are in front of us. We don’t see all that God is doing. When the Bible asks the rhetorical question, “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” God is expecting no one to raise their hand and answer the question. The answer is we don’t know what Dad is up to. We know he’s in charge. We know he’s good. We know that he loves us. We know that we can tell him what we think. And we need to then pray, “Not my will, your will be done. Dad I trust ya. I don’t know what’s going on, but I trust you.” That’s Jesus’ first prayer.
Verse 40, “Then he came to his disciples” – found them – what? Sleeping. Don’t judge them. Identify with them. Alright. If Jesus showed up in your life, would he see you doing what you’re supposed to be doing? Or doing something else? See they’re not doing anything evil. No, sleeping is not evil. But they’re supposed to be praying. There are times when we’re not doing anything necessarily inherently evil, we’re just not doing what we’re supposed to be doing and that’s the sin.
And he said to Peter, because he is the leader, “So you could not watch with me one hour?” How long has Jesus been in prayer? He’s gonna pray three times. First time, how long is he in prayer? An hour. Sometimes prayer takes a while. I told you in previous sermons that short prayers are fine. Sometimes it’s long prayers. Some of you know God’s will and maybe you’re married and you’re waiting for your spouse to come to agree. Give them some time. Let them pray. Right? The doctor comes to you and says, “You have cancer or some other illness. And you’re gonna die.” It’s gonna take you some time to talk that through with God. Your spouse commits adultery on you. And you’re not sure whether to keep working at it or throw your hands in the air and walk away. You’re gonna need to talk to God about that for a lot of hours. You and I, in the seasons of our life where we are devastated, we need to ensure that we take the time that it takes to talk it through with Dad until our heart and our mind and our will are in agreement and we’re able to proceed in faith. Not that everything will be fine. But that we won’t be alone.
Jesus had to pray for an hour. And he’s not done. He’s still gonna pray two more times. Let me give you permission to be devastated. Let me give you permission to talk to God about it for a long time. “Watch and pray that you will not enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak.” Jesus looks at his friends and says, “I think in your heart you really want to pray for me, but you guys are tired and you’re undisciplined and you need to get your body under control.” Jesus’ friends are like your friends. Jesus’ community group is like your community group. Amen? Some of you get very disappointed with God because he doesn’t do what you tell him to do. And you get disappointed with your friends because they don’t do what you tell them to do either. If your friends don’t pray for you, if your friends forget to pray for you, if your friends don’t pursue you, if your friends aren’t there for you when you need them most, you just have Biblical friendships. Okay? You just do.
If anybody should have had a trustworthy friend you think it would be Jesus. You can’t look at Jesus and say, “Well maybe he wasn’t a good friend. Maybe that’s why they weren’t good friends.” Probably not. He probably was a good friend since he was without sin and God. I’m assuming he was a good friend. Well maybe he wasn’t there for his friends when they needed him so they’re not – no. He was there. If you join a community group in Mars Hill thinking that you will find the most faithful in the history of world and never again will you be alone, that when you need to be pursued they will be right behind you and when you need to be prayed for their hands will be on your shoulder and their other hand will be raised in intercession to God, you’re gonna be really disappointed. You’re gonna join a community group with people just like you. And you’re gonna fail them and they’re gonna fail you. And by God’s grace you’ll learn to take care of each other.
Peter, James and John are gonna learn how to take care for people but only after they fail to take care of Jesus. Later on they become amazing leaders and pastors and shepherds. But I tell ya, early on they are really not very good at care and mercy and friendship. You, and your friends and your community group, is gonna start like that. And it’s through painful failure that you learn to care well for people.
Again, verse 42, “For the second time he went away and prayed, ‘My Father if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’”
I’m gonna sit down for a long time. I’m getting old. My feet hurt. Here’s how it’s gonna go. We’re gonna talk about this. Little chat with Pastor Mark.
What’s Jesus say? Second time. You say, “Why does he say it a second time?” Well it’s not cause the first time God the Father didn’t hear him. I think Jesus keeps praying, “As you will. Your will be done.” This is burrowing it deep into his will. You know some things you can’t just pray once. If God is using prayer to change you it may take praying it a few thousand times before you actually embrace it, accept it. Your will be done.
The truth is I don’t think any of us really wants to pray that. I don’t think we really do. I think deep down we believe we know what we want and need. And we’re not wanting God to disagree with us. Deep down I think we really doubt whether or not God is good. And if we tell him that we think it’s okay if he does whatever he wants, he’ll fail us. He’ll hurt us. He won’t take care of us. Being a pastor gives you a front row seat to the most devastated moments of people’s lives. And they always want you to pray. What do you pray? Well I told you it’s two things. You pray your desires and your will be done. It’s devastating. Sin is real. Death is real. Evil is real. Injustice is real. Pain is real. Abandonment and betrayal. Suffering. All real. Christianity is not a religion that necessarily gets you around it. It’s a relationship with God that gets you through it.
I can still remember one of my first pastoral calls. When I started Mars Hill I was in my – I think I was 25. Almost 26. Every hospital visit I’d done to this point was a baby who was born healthy. Those are easy hospital visits. Hey, can I hold him? Chubby, cute. Praise God. Let’s pray. Amen. Easy. Those are great. Guy calls me late at night. “My mom is not a Christian. Poured herself in gasoline. Set herself on fire. Her body is destroyed. They’re keeping her alive on a machine. They want me to pull the plug and let her die. I don’t think she knows Jesus. I think if we pull the plug she’s going to hell. But she’s in a coma. I can’t talk to her. Her body is destroyed. The machine is keeping her alive. What do I do?”
I go to the hospital late at night. He looks at me. Says, “Will you pray?” “Yeah.” What do we pray? Well I pray that God would heal the woman. Or at least she would come out of her catatonic comatose state. That we could share the gospel with her and that her son would know that she did know Jesus. That she would either live knowing Jesus or die knowing Jesus. And I prayed that either way he would know. And your will be done. And she died.
I can still remember a friend of mine, his wife gave birth to twins. Went to the hospital to see the twins. They were born prematurely. One was healthy, one was sick. One was strong, one was weak. The mother, godly woman, sweet gal asked, “Pastor Mark, could you pray? Could you pray?” Yes. What do I pray? God heal that child. Let that child live. Don’t let that child die. And your will be done. And the child died. I preached that baby’s funeral. The coffin was about this big. I’m a daddy with five kids. My wife had a miscarriage. I didn’t even know they made coffins that small.
Are you willing to go there with God? Are you willing to live there with God? It’s okay to pray, “God, I’m single. I’d like to be married.” If you also pray, what? Your will be done. You may not get married. It’s okay if you’re married to pray for a child. They’re a blessing. If you also pray, “Your will be done.” Because you may be infertile. Like a friend of mine you might have 17 miscarriages. It’s okay to pray, “God please allow us to be faithful to one another in our covenant of marriage.” And when your spouse tells you they’ve committed adultery you should pray for a change of heart, repentance, the ability to reconcile and your will be done. I know you don’t want to get sick. What if you do? Should you pray for healing? You should. Jesus says in everything by prayer and supplication let your request be known to God. God, I ask that you would heal me. But your will be done.
There are times I didn’t even know what to pray in this job. I still remember a buddy of mine. Hardworking guy. Loved his wife. Loved his kids. Loved Jesus. Got up every day. Went to work. Worked really hard to feed his family so that his wife could stay home with the kids. This guy read the Bible with his family. Sang to Jesus with his family. Loved his family. He got off work early one day, rarely happened. He came home to see another vehicle in the driveway. A truck. Walked in to see his wife in bed with another man while his children were playing in the basement. He discovered that she had multiple men over the course of many years. And the whole time he’s at work paying for the mortgage on the house where she’s sleeping with other men. He had doubts as to whether or not all the children were actually his as he did the timeline.
He came to me and he said, “Pastor Mark, what am I supposed to pray?” Pray for repentance from your wife. Pray that she meets the God of the Bible. It doesn’t look like she’s ever met him. She may be like Judas, hanging out with God’s people but not one of them. Prayer for the sake of the children that she is transformed and that you would forgive her. And pray your will be done. Your will be done.
See I know that many of you come to God so that you don’t have to be in the kinds of places that Jesus is. And there are even whole theologies which teach you, if you have enough faith in Jesus you don’t need to be like him. You don’t need to be sick. You don’t need to be poor. You don’t need to be lonely. You don’t need to be betrayed or abandoned. You don’t need to hurt, weep, sweat blood or die. God’ll make it all better. That’s a lie. That’s a lie. God can and does answer prayer. And sometimes he gets you out of it, but most of the time he’s just going to get you through it. Your will be done.
Most of you right now have at least one person or thing in your life that you want gone or changed. Have you prayed, “Your will be done”? That prayer is not just to get God to do what we want. I’m gonna keep reemphasizing this point. It’s that our heart would change and that we would trust God and accept whatever our life is. You live in a stupid culture that tells you everyone’s a winner. You’re told as a kid growing up, “Everybody’s gonna be president.” We’re not all gonna be president. “You can do anything you want.” You can’t do anything you want. Just because you write a script doesn’t mean that the rest of your life is just reading the lines. And coming to Jesus doesn’t mean that you hand him the script and he makes sure that you get to read all the lines. It’s accepting the life that God has given you and becoming the person that God intends for you to be through the most devastating seasons of your life.
At this point I’m supposed to lie to you and tell you that there’s a secret. If you do this, if you say this, if you give this, if you mean this, if you pray in faith, if you raise your voice then you’ll get your way. I’m supposed to tell you that, write a book about it, make a ton of money, keep passing the plate until somebody figures it out and then I’m out of a job. That’s how it’s supposed to go. I refuse to lie to you. Life with Jesus is not easier. It’s just not lonely. That’s all. That’s the truth.
Here’s God. Betrayed by Judas, his friend. Abandoned by Peter, James and John, his senior leaders. Praying three times for more than hour in such sorrow and distress that he is sweating blood. That’s the Christian life. That’s Christ’s life. And when Jesus says that to be a Christian is to deny yourself pick up your cross and follow him, what he did not mean is that God is a piñata and that prayer is a stick. And as long as you pray hard goodies fall out of the sky and life is without hardship. That’s paganism. That’s – we’re not pagans. We’re Christians. We don’t worship demons; we worship the God of the Bible. And we don’t pray like those who worship demons. We pray like the God of the Bible. His name is Jesus.
I need you to learn to pray your heartfelt request and not my will, your will be done. Nothing in this culture. Nothing in this world apart from the Bible will teach you that. Everything in this world is that it’s about you. That you are sovereign. That you are king. That you are lord. That you are god. That you know good and evil. That you know right and wrong. That you are the author and perfector of your life. And it’s a lie. It’s a lie. And people have been buying it since Genesis 3. It’s the first lie that Satan told our parents. Jesus prays, “Your will be done.” It’s brutal. Do you feel it? It’s right and you know it. It’s brutal when you feel it but it’s right and you know it. If you believe that God is good, you pray that. If you believe that God is better than you, you’ll pray that. If you believe that God’s will is better than your will, you will pray that. And if you don’t, you’re just a pagan. You’re yet another spiritual, religious, blind, bossy, self-righteous, demon-chasing pagan. I don’t want that for you Mars Hill. I don’t want that for you. Because it won’t work when you need it most.
Verse 43, “And again he came and found them” – what? “Sleeping. For their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again he went away” – verse 44 – “and prayed for the third time.” You say, “Jesus had to pray about this three times?” Yes. Sometimes you got to pray for a while. Saying the same words again. You say, “Why does Jesus keep saying the same thing?” Because he’s working it out. Father, I have cancer. Father, my spouse betrayed me. Father, I am wracked with chronic pain. Father, my children have walked away from you. Father, I can’t pay my bills. Father, I am totally discouraged and I just want to go to heaven and be done. Your will be done. Your will be done. Your will be done.
“So leaving them again he went away and prayed a third time saying the same words again. Then came the disciples and he said – then he came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Sleep and take your rest later on.’” You boys can get a nap later. “See the hour is at hand and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See my betrayer is at hand.” From this moment Jesus’ disposition changes. Prayer doesn’t change things. It changes us. You say, “Well God answers prayer. It can change things, Mark.” I understand. Sometimes prayer changes things. Most of the time prayer changes us. Jesus is still going to suffer. Judas comes. Betrays him with a kiss. A pretend friend. Some of you have been betrayed by those you’ve entrusted yourself to. Jesus understands. That’s what happened to him. This man saw Jesus perform miracles, raise the dead, walk on water and betrayed him for a handful of change. Peter denies him. Jesus’ disciples abandon him. Jesus is arrested, falsely accused, falsely tried, falsely condemned. He is beaten. His beard is plucked out in dishonor. He is flogged and the flesh is ripped from his body. He carries his own cross bar. He is spit upon. He is cursed at. He is despised. He is nailed to a Roman cross and he is crucified. And prayer didn’t get Jesus around any of it. It got him through it.
That hour plus in Gethsemane connected his will and the Father’s will so deeply that he endured it. That’s the word that Hebrew uses. He endured it. If you’re a pagan, you’re gonna tell God to get you around it and if he doesn’t, you’re going to become disappointed with him. And if you’re a Christian, you can pray from your heart, ask for his will to be done and stick close to God. He’ll get you through it. He may not get you around it, he will get you through it. Again, I won’t – I won’t have blood on my hands and get up and tell you a lie. Give your life to Jesus and it’ll be great. Here’s the truth. Give your life to Jesus, it’ll hurt like hell and you’ll be with him and you’ll be like him and you’ll have joy. That’s the truth. That’s the truth.
On the cross Jesus became our sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who knew no sin to become our sin.” At that moment he was condemned. The wrath of God was poured out on Jesus. He was our substitute. Though he was without sin he took upon himself the penalty for sin. Death. Wrath. Jesus’ anguish was not primarily about his physical death. It was about the wrath of the Father being poured out on him that he would be separated from God. That that eternal Trinitarian community would be broken and devastated as sin was laid upon Jesus. And that’s what Jesus says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And the Father turned his back on the Son on the cross and Jesus became our sin. Salvation was secured. Had Jesus not endured that we would all go to hell, no chance of salvation. No forgiveness of sin.
Jesus laid down what was easiest for him and did what was best for the Father and us all. Sometimes that’s what prayer is all about. It’s not about me. It’s about God and others and God using me for greater good and glory. Jesus then reconciled back to the Father, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” His body was taken off the cross. He breathed his last and died. He was entombed for three days and then he rose, appearing to crowds upwards of 500 over the course of 40 days. And he taught. And do you know what he taught? He taught the Gethsemane prayer. How do I know that? No one was there. He was all by himself. And the three who were close by were all asleep. The only way we receive the Gethsemane prayer in scripture is that following his resurrection Jesus taught it to us. This was so important that even though there were no witnesses Jesus wanted us to know what he was feeling, what he was saying, how he was suffering, what he was doing. Cause he loves us. Because he loves us. And he wants us to know as Hebrews 4:15 says that we not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with us. We don’t have a distant God who doesn’t relate. John Stott says it well, he says, “In a world filled with pain and suffering, I could not fathom worshipping a God who did not experience it.” “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with us in our weakness, for he has been tested, he’s been tried, he’s been devastated, he’s been sorrowful in every way as we are yet without sin.” That’s what the Bible says.
I really love you. I really love this church. I want you to pray but I don’t want you to pray like a pagan. I want you to pray like Jesus. And I want you to pray like Jesus when it hurts the most. When it hurts the most. I had a good buddy of mine, he’s a grandpa. It was Christmastime. He was excited cause one of his son’s wives was pregnant. So his daughter-in-law was giving birth to their first child at Christmas. Christian family. Baby was healthy. Developing. Somehow in the womb, in the days leading up to the birth the cord got wrapped around the neck and somehow the baby was born dead. Healthy, full term, fully functional, perfect baby, choked to death. I asked him, I said, “What did you do?” He said, “I held the baby. And I cried. And I prayed, ‘God, heal the baby. God you raised Lazarus from death. You raised Jesus from death. Raise this baby from death. Give this baby life and a testimony.’ And I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. And then I prayed, ‘Your will be done.’ And I kissed the baby. And then we had a funeral.”
Sin is real. Suffering is real. Death is real. God is real. God is good. God is sovereign. I want you to pray like Jesus prayed when you need it the most. I’m gonna close with 11 questions. I want you to talk about them with your friends, family, community group. First, do you pray to get from God or to get God? In Jesus’ Gethsemane prayer he’s not worried about losing his life. He’s worried about losing his intimacy with the Father. That’s what troubles him to the point of sorrow. See Jesus doesn’t have a wife. He doesn’t have kids. He doesn’t have a house. He doesn’t have a job. He doesn’t have any possessions. He has the Father’s affection. That’s what he treasures the most. What he was fearful of is not losing anything. He didn’t have anything. What he was not fearful of is losing his life as much as losing God. Intimacy with God. See some people just use God to get stuff. “God, I will worship you if you make me healthy, you give me money, you give me a spouse, you give me good family, you give me kids, you give me long life, you cure my cancer, you make me happy, you fill all my needs. God, as long as you live up to my job description for the deity I am seeking to attain, then I’m all yours.” Do you pray to get from God? Do you pray to get God? As your treasure, your joy, your life.
Number two. Do you pray to move God or for God to move you? “God, do this. Heal me. Change them. Fix it. Make it all better. Take it all away.” Or, “God, change my heart. Change my attitude. Let me love my enemies. Let me persevere through hardship. Don’t get me around it. Get me through it.” Maybe God has you in the circumstance you’re in to change you. To sanctify you. To make you more like Jesus. In fact, I’m sure that he does. Rather than getting disappointed with God, angry with God, embittered against God, seeking to pray to God or starting to pray prayers of disappointment, it’s probably good to pray prayers of introspection. “God, what am I supposed to learn? How am I supposed to grow? What do you call me to do?”
Number three. Do you pray to get out of pain or through it? Every Christian I’ve ever met prays to get around pain. I’m not saying that you pray for pain. I’m saying that when it comes you can ask God, “take it away, but your will be done. God, if it’s not your will to heal me, to take away chronic pain, to mend my broken heart immediately, to fix everything, to make it all better, God, I’m praying like Jesus, get me through it. Get me through it. So that I don’t deny you. So that I don’t disown you. So that I don’t disobey you. So that I don’t distrust you.”
Number four. Do you courageously punctuate your prayers with your will be done? And if you do, don’t do it like religious people. Your will be done. Don’t be flippant. Don’t be smug. Don’t be trite. Don’t be quick. Pray it slow. Pray it slow. Your will be done. Your will be done. And you may need to pray it a lot. I got a buddy of mine that wakes up every day with chronic back pain. He says, “What do I do?” “Get up every day and pray, ‘Your will be done.’” That’s the only way to pray.
Number five. Do you pray out of a holy or an unholy depression? Unholy depression is, my idols are gone. My dreams are destroyed. My hopes are vanquished. My script is not being played out. God’s not reading the lines that I wrote for him. My spouse, my family, my friends, my boss, my kids. They’re not reading – I wrote the lines. I put together the script. I told them just to read their part. They deviated. I’m really sad about that. I felt like a sovereign lord who gave his decree and I don’t have very faithful subjects. Are you sad because you didn’t get what you wanted or are you sad cause you didn’t get your way? That’s an unholy despair.
A holy despair is like Jesus had. Sorrowful. In anguish. Troubled. Sweating blood. Not all depression is sin. I’ve heard really bad theology on this. Sometimes, sometimes depression is sin. And sometimes life just hurts. It did for Jesus. Isaiah says that he is a man of sorrows. You are not necessarily in sin if you’re depressed. The question is why. The question is why. Are you despairing because of sin and its effects? Or are you despairing because you didn’t get your way? Jesus is despairing because of sin and its effects. Not because he didn’t get his way. I don’t think all depression is sin. I just think a lot of depression is sin. And there are some people who are hurting desperately and they’re not in sin. They’re just hurting.
The majority of the Psalms are lament. Those are people who are hurting, devastated, weeping, dying, worshiping through it. Very rarely does anyone write a psalm or a song of lament anymore. I double dare you to listen to Christian radio and say, “Hmm, are the majority of these songs songs of lament? About our failures and not our wins? About our struggles and not our victories? About our poverties and not our wealth? About our anxieties and not our certainties? About our needs and not our accomplishments? About our devastation and not our resurrection?”
Number six. Do you pray in faith knowing that God is not the author of sin but is the author over sin? Let me explain this. Judas did evil. He betrayed Jesus. The courts wrongly tried him. They wrongly condemned him. The crowd wrongly cried out, “Crucify him.” The executioner wrongly nailed him. Wrongly flogged him. It was all sin. God’s not the author of sin. But God is the author over sin. Romans 8, God works out all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Genesis 50:20, “Looking at his brothers Joseph says, ‘What you intended for evil God used for good and the saving of many lives.’” Evil happens. And God always gets the last word. That’s wonderful. In his ultimate sovereign redemptive good. See not everything that happens is what God wants. That’s why he’s angry and grievous and sad and floods the earth and kills people. He’s not happy with what they’re doing. But God always gets the last word. They murdered Jesus and he atoned for the sin of the world. That’s how God always gets the last word.
I know two pastors whose moms were raped. You say, “Well does God cause men to rape women?” No, God doesn’t make people rape people. God’s good. Two women are raped. Both of them have sons who become pastors. They know who their mom is. Neither knows their dad. Never met him because he was a rapist. Say, “How does that work?” Well God is not the author of sin, but he’s the author over sin. So when we pray, we pray through sin even when we’re hurting, when people are sinning against us, when we feel like we’re victims. We pray, “God get the last word.”
Number seven. Do you ask your friends to pray for you even if you know they will fail to do so? Some of you say, “I don’t pray for my friends. I know they’re not gonna pray for me. I know they’re not gonna do anything. I know they’re not gonna be there.” Pray for them. And maybe eventually they’ll fail enough that one day they get it. Jesus asked his friends to pray three times. Could you guys pray? No. Could you pray? No. Could you pray? No. You know what? Later in the book they pray better. It takes a lot of failure. And failure comes at your expense out of love for your friends. Maybe God is gonna teach them.
Number eight. Last few. Do you pray to both hear and accept God’s will for your life? Do you always pray, “God, I need you to do this”? Or do you pray, “God, what do you want me to do?” Do you hear God’s will and do you accept it? “God, I want to be married.” “Not right now. I’m working on your character.” “Okay.” “God, we want to have children. We’re infertile.” “I think children are an idol for you and until we deal with that I’m worried if I give you children you’ll love them more than me.” “Oh.” “God, I just want to be healthy.” “I think you worship health more than me. And I can’t give you your idol right now. We got to deal with your heart.”
Number nine. Do you accept that God will answer your prayers, yes, no or later? Jesus came to the Father. Said, “Could you take this cup from me?” What was the answer? No. Did Jesus pray a bad prayer? No, he spoke from his heart. And he punctuated it with, your will be done. So ultimately his prayer was answered. God’s will was done. You need to accept God’ll say yes, God’ll say no, God’ll say later, but he always answers every prayer.
Last two. Do you know that knowing God’s will is easier than walking in it? Hebrews 5:7 and 8. Reflecting on the Gethsemane prayer says that Jesus prayed and suffered and he learned obedience through what he suffered. You can know you have cancer, but until you’re really sick you don’t really know what it’s really like. You can read a book about what it’s like to bury one’s spouse, but until your spouse dies you really don’t know what you’re talking about. There are huge portions of life that we have principles, but without experience we don’t have any real insight.
Jesus knew he was gonna die on the cross. He kept saying he was gonna die on the cross. In the Gethsemane he’s sweating blood. And some would say that’s perplexing, because if he knows it’s gonna happen why is so stressed out? Just because you know something’s gonna happen doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s still hard. That’s why we need to have compassion, patience and mercy with people.
Number 11. Do you know a godly wife who lives like Jesus prayed? This will make no sense at all. This is my closing point. This comes out of nowhere, just so you know. You’re like, “What are we talking about?” As I was meditating on this text I started talking about it to my wife. And as we talked about it I think that a good wife knows more about the Gethsemane prayer than anyone. 1 Corinthians 11:3 says it this way that, “The head of the woman is the husband. The head of the wife is the husband as similarly” – corollary – “the head of Jesus is God the Father.” Now the Father and the Son are equal as the husband and wife are equal. They’re one as the husband and wife are one. But there is a functional, we’ll call it a functional subordinationism. Big word. Theological term. It means that ultimately there is authority. The Jesus in Gethsemane is submitting to God the Father in a way that is similar to the way that a godly wife submits to her godly husband. What does that mean? I’ve had many women over the course of the year say, “I love Jesus. I know I’m a Christian. But how can I relate to him? He was a man. I’m a woman. It’s hard for me to relate to him.” Let me submit to you that the Gethsemane prayer is one place where a godly submissive holy wife understands what Jesus is feeling and saying and doing better than anyone. Submission wrongly taught in the marriage context is the man’s the king and the woman is the servant. She is to shut up and do what she is told. That is chauvinism. It is disgusting. It is sin.
What we see in Gethsemane is a model of true submission. Jesus has his own opinion. He has his own feelings. He has his own desires. He has his own concerns. And what does he do? He talks to the Father about it. What does the Father do? He listens. And they talk it over for a long time. And in love and in relationship and in prayerful conversation they come to the place where they are in full agreement. And Jesus then goes to the cross, very strong, never a Gethsemane moment again. He is certain that he is doing exactly what is the will of the Father. And he’s doing it with that also being his own will so they are aligned as one. A good wife is like that. She knows Genesis 2. That she is to be a helper. And unlike God the Father, her husband is not perfect and needs help. She knows as Proverbs says that a prudent wife is from the Lord. A wife with insight. A wife with wisdom. A wife with discernment is oh so helpful. And so she speaks to her husband from her heart. She could be emotional. She could cry. She could feel. She could speak freely. She could talk to him. She could reason with him. She could tell him, “These are my concerns. These are my fears. This is where I am struggling. And we need to be together on this so love me enough to bring me into agreement. And hear me out. And consider what I have to say.” And then Jesus prays. I trust you. Father, make the decision. Jesus is in that submissive position in Gethsemane.
My wife, Gracie, you can’t call her that. I call her Beauty. You can’t call her that either. Her name’s Grace. I call her Beauty. I don’t understand the Gethsemane prayer well. And as I’ve talked to her this week and seen how she responds to me as a strong, encouraging, helpful, insightful, prudent, wise, passionate, conversant, open wife, it’s starting to make more sense. So my closing word is this, if this doesn’t make any sense to you, the Gethsemane prayer, observe the life of a godly wife and she will show you what it looks like, likely better than anyone else.
I’ll pray for you cause I love you. What we’re going to allow you to then do is pray for each other and then Pastor Bubba will transition our service. This is a long sermon. This is an exhausting sermon. This is a hard sermon. This is an important sermon. And I appreciate you guys letting me be your pastor.
So Father God, we come like Jesus did praying to you. Asking that you would give us the freedom to respectfully speak to you as he did, and punctuate all of our prayers courageously with not my will, but your will be done. Lord God, we confess that we struggle to believe that you are both sovereign and good. Please give us the Holy Spirit to enable us to simultaneously believe both. Lord God for those who are in devastation and pain and anguish and sorry and the words of Jesus make perfect sense, God I pray that they would learn to pray by your spirit, your will be done. And not pray that prayer with their teeth grinding and their will resisting and their neck straining. But trusting that God is their dad. That he is good. And that he works out all things for the good of those who love him and are called for his purposes. We ask for the ability to pray like Jesus as we pray this in his good name. Amen.
What we’re gonna do before we transition I’m gonna ask you to stand up. If you are here today and you would like someone to pray for you, what I am going to encourage you to do is raise your hand and ask for prayer? Okay. It makes no sense to study this and not pray for you. You raise your hand. Those who are Christians around you will lay hands and pray over you. And then Pastor Bubba, your campus pastor, will transition us to give tithes and offerings and to take communion.