Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
These words of Jesus from Luke have been in my thoughts and prayers for several weeks now: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). I ask myself if I have the courage to pray this prayer in my own life. Jesus was aware that the “cup” he is speaking of, would be his suffering on the cross. Jesus knew that the way of the cross would be filled with intense suffering and anguish. He was praying to God, asking for another way, but still willing to take the “cup” that was before him. “Yet not my will, but yours be done.”
The Gospel writer Matthew tells us that the mother of two disciples of Jesus, asks him for her sons to sit at the right and left of Jesus in the eternal kingdom. James and John were two of Jesus’ closest disciples and their mother intercedes on their behalf asking for what appears to be special treatment. Jesus said to the three of them: “You don’t know what you are asking.” “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” James and John answered, “We can” (Matthew 20:22). Jesus tells them that they will indeed share in his suffering but what they are asking is not in God’s will.
How often do we ask for things that don’t agree with God’s will for our lives? We tend to ask for things that comfort us or make our lives easier. Most of us want to avoid any challenging situations, especially those that stretch us and make us uncomfortable. Like James and John, we want to be recognized, to be seated at places of honor. That is our prideful and stubborn human will at work. Over time however, we discover that God’s will for our life is usually something completely different than we imagined. We often must experience “suffering” in order to develop into the kind of person that God is calling us to be.
Think about your own life for just a moment. What situations in life cause you to grow and develop into a better person? Does such growth occur during difficult times of testing or does it happen in less challenging times? For me, and I suspect for you as well, we are transformed more often during those difficult and trying moments of life. The road to the cross for Jesus was not easy. As followers of Christ, our road to eternal life must also not be easy. We must embrace the growth and transformation that occurs during those difficult and challenging moments of life.
Two weeks ago, I decided to let go of my preconceived notions and desires. I told God that I was giving up my free will, as it pertained to my ministry, and I was going to allow God’s will to be in control of my life. That was a very unsettling prayer to pray but also an extremely liberating one. Too often, I have put up roadblocks in my walk with God and they have led to many dead ends. God’s way is better than mine and I am learning to allow God to take over and lead me to where He would have me to go. I am both excited, and to be honest, somewhat afraid.
Jesus said, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” Do you have the courage to pray this prayer in your own life?
Proverbs 3:5-6(NIV): Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.