My sermon notes always have a section called “Trim the Fat.” This is the section where I put a bunch of stuff that I learn throughout my study, but they never make the final cut. They get cut out because while they may be interesting details, they have the potential of distracting from the main idea of the sermon. (And fear that by adding it, I may put more people to sleep than I currently do)
For example, here’s a nugget from this week. On Sunday, we looked at Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. While we looked at His suffering, we didn’t talk much about His prayer. This is the first time in our series that we’re hearing Jesus pray. We heard Him teach on prayer, but hadn’t yet listened to Him pray.
So some thoughts on what we learn from Jesus as He prays in the Garden.
It is honest. The part that strikes me the most about Jesus’ prayer is that He is honest with God. You see this throughout the Psalms too. I’m learning that prayer is not putting on a front for God. He sees through it anyway. It’s voicing your heart in honesty. It’s pleading to God, “Please let this cup pass from me.” Jesus came to drink this cup. That’s why He was born. Yet, in the agony of this hour, He asks His Father, “All things are are possible for You. Is there any other way than for me to drink this cup?”
It is good and right and okay to pray what is on your heart.
It is submitted. The heart of Jesus is not to bend the Father’s will to His but to bend His will to the Father’s. Prayer is not getting God to do what you want, but getting you to do what God wants. Jesus prays three times in the passage. Each time, it seems like His heart is growing in resolve to do the Father’s will. His prayer starts pleading for the cup to pass. But it progresses to saying, “If this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
It is good and right and okay to pray “Your will be done.”
It trusts in God who is both sovereign and good. In the face of sickness and disease, it’s okay to pray, “Father please heal; we know you can. But, Lord, let your will be done.” That’s praying in a way that is both honest and submitted. People sometimes think saying “your will be done” are words born out of a lack of faith or a cop-out of some kind. I don’t think so. It’s faith. Faith not in a miracle or your will being done, but in His; faith in both the goodness and sovereignty of God.
One pastor commented on Jesus’ prayer in this passage saying He holds firmly to both God’s goodness and God’s sovereignty while we tend to swing to one or the other. Some of us are convinced that God is sovereign but deep down we wonder if He’s really good. Or we are convinced that God is good but deep down we wonder if He’s sovereign. We need to hold both.
It is of no comfort to believe in a God who is completely in control but you’re not sure if He’s really good and is just messing with you for kicks. Doubting the goodness of God produces a monster who sends cancer, allows rape, permits murder for His glory but with little thought for your good. No. All things work together according to God’s purposes for God’s glory and our good.
Likewise, it is of no comfort to believe in a God who is completely good but you’re not sure if He’s really sovereign or if He’s as helpless in suffering as you are. Doubting the sovereignty of God produces a weakling who weeps at cancer, rape, and murder but stands powerless to do anything about it. He wishes He could stop it, but bad things just keep happening. No. All things work together according to God’s purposes for God’s glory and our good.
The mystery to embrace is that God stands both behind our suffering and with us in our suffering. Nothing happens to us that He does not permit. But truly, He is working all things together for His glory and our good.
In the Garden, Jesus gives us a look at prayer. It’s honest. And it’s submitted because it holds tightly to both God’s goodness & God’s sovereignty.