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Jesus went to a place called Gethsemane. The events in the garden occurred in the evening hours after the Passover meal. There, Jesus fiercely travailed. He prayed three times that God’s will be done, wrought with sorrow. So much was His anguish that an angel from heaven strengthened Him during prayer at one point, yet Jesus continued praying more earnestly with his sweat like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:43-44). Here, Jesus instructed His disciples to watch and pray to avoid temptation. It was at this very place that Judas Iscariot later would betray Jesus, the Son of man, to the hands of sinners (Matt 26:45).  We suffer for the cause of the Gospel, yet must yield to God’s will. We can find strength in our trials by keeping watch in prayer. Can you watch and pray in Gethsemane?

Jan Paron/February 13, 2013

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Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane presented a significant juncture in His ministry as it occurred just prior to His arrest and crucifixion. After separating Himself from His disciples, with the exception of Peter, James and John (Matt. 26: 37; Mark 14:33), Jesus went to pray. He told James and John that His soul was exceedingly sorrowful (Matt 26:38). A little later, with that same emotion, He fell on His face in prayer (Matt 26:39). Jews generally prayed standing up and looking up to heaven. To fall with His face to the ground was an uncommon posture, because it indicated distress or God’s presence.[1]

This prayer distinguishes itself from Jesus’ other prayers by His sorrow and distress in the face of suffering, as well as His petition for God’s will with a strengthening. He prayed three times that God’s will be done amid His distress (Matt. 26:39, 42, 44). Although He asked His disciples to watch in prayer with Him so they would not fall into temptation (Luke 22:46), they fell asleep, exhausted from sorrow (Matt 26:40; Luke 22:45). Despite that they failed in watchfulness and prayer, Jesus tarried. Luke 22:43 tells that an angel strengthened Him while in prayer, after which He continued more earnestly (10:44).

The word watch appears three times each in the Matthew and Mark accounts of Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane (Matt 26:38, 40-41; Mark 14:34, 37-38).  Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament shows the word watch (Greek: grēgoreō, γρηγορέω) in this context means to stay awake “lest one be lead to forsake Christ”[2] Jesus uses the word watch and pray together in a powerful pairing. Jesus says, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38 KJV). He qualifies the actions of watching and praying as critical to fighting temptation – that no thoughts come into your mind that distract you with sin or outward circumstances.[3] Jesus requested His disciples to watch and pray three times. He prayed three times during an undisclosed period. Until the end, Jesus instructed His disciples for the journey ahead. Jesus modeled pursuing God in the most difficult of trials — prostrating Himself in prayer and petitioning God’s will be done three times over. He reinforced the disciples’ vigilance with joint actions of watching and praying so that sin and challenges would not overtake their minds and separate them from God.

Can you watch and pray in Gethsemane? These same lessons for the disciples apply to believers today.  We walk in His presence. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever…for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17b).  God’s Spirit abides and dwells in believers through New Birth.  The Christian disciplines of watching and praying provide spiritual weapons of warfare through God, from the blood Jesus shed at Calvary, to the pulling down of  strongholds, “casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). We must be vigilant and pray earnestly.

Can you watch and pray in Gethsemane? You can find Gethsemane anywhere. I have prayed in many gardens, petitioning to stand in God’s will: face down in my bedroom, under a tallit in my living room or prostrate at the altar either alone or communally.  In any and every location, I seek watchfulness and prayer. Without it, I fall victim to fleshly doubts and temptations. Just as Jesus did not pray at an hour typical to temple service, I pray at different times. My part is to follow His will and seek His strength in confronting suffering and temptation. ”And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:20b).

Can you watch and pray in Gethsemane?

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Endnotes:
[1] Craig Evans, Matthew (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
[2] Joseph H. Thayer, 2009, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers), 122.

[3] Blue Letter Bible, 2013, Various Words in Mark 14:38. n.p. [cited 6 February 2013]. Online: http://www.blueletterbible.org

References

  • Blue Letter Bible. “Various Words in BLB Lexicon from Mark 14:38.” n.p. [Cited 13 February 2013]. Online: http://www.blueletterbible.org
  • Deffinbaugh, Bob. “The Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46).” Bible.org. n.p. [Cited 13  February 2013]. Online: http://bible.org/seriespage/garden-gethsemane-luke-2239-46
  • Paron, Jan. (2013). Indiana Wesleyan University. Marion: Wesley Seminary.
  • Thayer, Joseph. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009.
  • Wikipedia. “Jewish Prayer.” n.p. [Cited: 12 February 2013]. Online: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_prayer_services
  • Witherington, Ben. The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001.

Photo Credit: wikipaintings.org