Mark 14:32-42: Dark night of the soul.
“32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’ 35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’ 37 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? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ 39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. 41 Returning the third time, he said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’ ” NIV UK
We have previously noted, and sought to learn from, Jesus singing in the shadow of the Cross (22, 23 and 26). We surely also have much to learn from Him praying in the place of pain. Jesus sets an example in prayer – both in doing it, and inviting others to join him. The Baptist pastor, William Still, gave a piece of advice to any young pastors taking on new charges. He said, when you go to a church, start a prayer meeting to pray for the ministry, and invite people to it. Announce that you and your wife will be there at that time, come what may, and just see what happens! See what God does with that.
Here are some lessons from Jesus:
Pray with faith, believing that ‘’everything is possible’’ for God (36a). Jesus was no coward. We do not believe it was pain or death that He shrank back from. It was the overwhelming reality of drinking the ‘’cup’’ of God’s wrath; of bearing the weight of His anger against sin.
Pray with submission to God’s will (36b). Yes, God can do anything. We must believe this. He regularly gives what we ask for in prayer. But not always. So we must want His will more than anything else.
Pray with others. Encourage others to pray. Sadly, the church is still regularly sleepy about prayer. May God forgive us. Many years later Peter, in his first letter, warned Christians that Satan was like a ‘’roaring lion’’ looking for someone to devour; therefore they must remain ‘’self-controlled and alert’’ (1 Peter 5:8). In the garden of Gethsemane Peter dozed off and soon after fell prey to Satan. ‘How often we are spiritually asleep, even though our bodies are awake! How many times each day do we pray? How often do we think of Jesus? In order to overcome Satan, we must watch and pray…Even Peter, James, and John -fishermen who had passed many sleepless nights on the Sea of Galilee – could not stay awake with Jesus.’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied New Testament Commentary’, p.276.
PRAYER: Lord, we are weak, you are strong. Help us to stay alert; to be wide awake in your service.