On the night of His betrayal, after observing the Passover with the twelve, the Lord began to feel the anguish of the sacrifice He would make the next day for the sins of the world. He took the disciples, minus Judas, into the Garden of Gethsemane where He spent perhaps as much as three hours in prayer to His Father in heaven. The burden of His impending death was so great that Luke says, “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (Lk. 22:44).
Matthew gives us the most complete account of the Lord’s prayers on that occasion in Mt. 26:36-46. A key feature of those prayers is the statement found in v. 39. Here the Lord said, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” We correctly exalt the Lord for being willing to do the Father’s will in this circumstance, even though He truly wished there were another way to accomplish it. We also correctly draw from His example that our prayers should likewise express the wish that God’s will be done.
We most often express this attitude when praying for the sick. We lay before the Father our desire that the sick person will recover, and then we add, “if it is Your will,” or words to that effect. When we do so, what do we mean by it? Do we say this simply because we have been taught that we should do so, in the same way that we add “in Jesus’ name” at the end of our prayers? Do we say this as a hedge against the sick person not recovering, so that if he does not recover we can say it was not God’s will for him to recover? Only the person saying these words can answer these questions, but perhaps we would do a better job with our prayers if we considered what the Lord meant by this statement.
We tend to view the Lord’s statement as something of a concession, as though He finally gave up and agreed to do it the Father’s way. This seems to be the way we use this statement in our prayers. We tend to say, “Lord, this is what we want, but if we can’t have what we want, we’ll settle for what You want.” A better way to look at this statement, however, would be to view it as an extension of what the Lord taught in the model prayer.
In Mt. 6:10 the Lord taught His disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In other words, we should pray that God’s will would always be done on the earth in every circumstance of life. With this as the foundation, the Lord’s statement in the Garden of Gethsemane becomes an affirmation of the Father as the sovereign God of the universe. It is a statement of submission and obedience that exalts God, instead of being a concession to Him. Our Lord was saying, “Father, let Your will be accomplished in this matter, in spite of my feelings about it.”
This view of the Lord’s statement exalts Jesus in a far greater way. It shows that He was consistent in His attitude toward God’s divine purpose and will. He not only taught His disciples to pray that the Father’s will be accomplished on earth, but He also modeled it before them in His final prayer before His crucifixion. Even in the face of His impending death the Lord prayed for the Father’s will to be done.
If our Lord prayed in this manner, how much more so ought we to do so? Think of how empowering it is to pray for God’s will to be done in every aspect of life. When we pray with this attitude we are affirming the greatness and majesty of the Father in heaven, and we are acknowledging our submission to Him in a positive manner, rather than as a concession. In everything, therefore, let us pray, “Father, Your will be done!”