By Charles D. Earl
Former Director of Missions, Holston Valley Baptist Assoc., Rogersville

Sunday School Lessons explore the bibleFocal Passage: Matthew 26:36-46

Lesson 10 of this quarter has to do with the last hours Jesus spends with His disciples before His crucifixion. The place is known as the Garden of Gethsemane, a place that seemed to be a very, very special place for Jesus’ prayertime. But this short text, covering only 11 verses, has a number of great lessons for us! The other 11 disciples, with Judas being conspicuously absent, have made their way with Jesus to the garden.

When the disciples and Jesus reach Gethsemane, Jesus tells eight of His disciples to sit and wait for Him. Then He took the “inner circle,” Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John (who were called the sons of Thunder), to go with Him to pray. The four of them then go a bit farther and then He says in Matthew 26:38b, “Stay here and watch with me.”  Then Jesus went a bit still farther to pray.

We wish, of course, we had a fuller account of the Master’s prayer. Only 22 words of the first prayer and 19 words of the second prayer are recorded for us in Matthew. We know His full prayer was much longer and intense because other translations contain a few more words. Mark says He was grieved “even to the point of death.” He comes back and finds the three disciples asleep. He wakes them and chides them somewhat severely for going to sleep. He goes the second time and prays in verse 42, “O my Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, your will be done.” He comes back and finds His disciples asleep again! He just leaves them alone and returns for a third time of prayer. When He comes back again He finds the disciples asleep a third time! How disappointed He must have been to find them asleep again! In verse 46, Matthew records, “Rise, let us be going.  See my betrayer is at hand.”

As we close our study of this lesson what should we take from these verses? First, each of us ought and should have a place, a “closet,” in which to pray. Jesus decided “to go yonder” to pray. We should all have a place to “go yonder” and pray.

Second, we need to frequent that place we have dedicated as our place of prayer often. We want to have fellowship with the Father daily to make our prayers of thanksgiving, praise, and petitions daily.

Third, I believe we can learn from Jesus to keep our prayers simple. The record doesn’t tell us many of the exact words He prays, but I have a feeling Jesus didn’t use many of the “religious” phrases in His prayers as we sometimes do.  In fact, we are told that He prayed simply, “My Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me, yet, not as I will, but as you will.” My, what a simple, direct, to the point prayer that Jesus gave us as a great pattern on how to pray.

Fourth, as always, Jesus teaches us to pray “not as I will, but as the Father wills.” Sometimes we pray and God says yes; sometimes He says no; sometimes God says let’s wait awhile on that; and sometimes we pray and God says He will give us even more than we are asking!  Let us follow the example of Jesus and pray often, fervently, and with much faith.