We all face times of crisis in this life. How do we face those times without being overwhelmed? Some hold onto a belief that God will keep the crisis at bay or remove it or take us out of it. And sometimes I believe that is exactly what God does. But does he always? There are many people who make their way to our borders. We can debate all day long about the appropriate response. But can we see people in the midst of a crisis? A crisis that may not get better. How can they keep the crisis from washing them away like a crazed tsunami? Does crying out to God assure them of a better outcome? Will God magically let them into this country? Will he send them back to their own country to discover the situation has improved? Will he let people act and react with free will; for good or ill? It’s time for Crisis Prayer.
In Luke 22:39-46 we have Luke’s account of the prayer of Jesus on the Mount of Olives. And this prayer is a Crisis Prayer. Jesus comes out of Jerusalem and journeys to the Mount of Olives, west of the city. We are told that this was his custom. This links back to 21:37, and it explains how Judas knew exactly where to go. The disciples follow. I’m guessing this was a subdued walk to the garden place. The word John uses to speak of it implies a walled garden. When they arrive at the place – the place of custom and familiarity; the place of easy betrayal – Jesus tells them to pray that they may not enter into temptation. One source argues convincingly that the phrase “enter into temptation” means “be overwhelmed by trials; by crisis.” Another source states that this is no mere trial, but temptation. Well, thanks for muddying those waters. But can we dismiss trials as if they were “mere”; trivial and non-consequential? Whether Jesus is encouraging them to pray that they not enter into trials or temptations, I think he is asking them to pray a Crisis Prayer. The crisis they are facing is both trial and temptation. How do they pray in the midst of the coming tsunami?
Jesus then withdraws from them about a stone’s throw distance and kneels to pray. In Luke, kneeling usually represents intensity in prayer. That fits. One source believes we should see this as Jesus wanting them to pray while he is praying. Maybe. But what if he tells them to pray in crisis mode and then goes off to give them an example of Crisis Prayer? That seems likely to me. And it smacks of Jesus, doesn’t it? Let me show you what I mean boys. Because Jesus is also facing a crisis. And his crisis and their crisis are enmeshed.
And then Jesus prays this beautiful and short prayer. Maybe its simplicity is what makes it beautiful. “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” One source finds it difficult to account for Jesus’ statement “if you are willing,” since Jesus knows the will of God. But the cry is not a seeking for God’s will. It is a plea for God to be willing for another outcome; an outcome that doesn’t involve the cross. In the Old Testament, drinking the cup of God often refers to drinking his judgment. That fits. Jesus is being asked to drink down our judgment; our cup. “Find another way!” is the plea. And then you have complete submission to the will of God. How do we ride out a crisis? It is not demanding that God bend the universe around us. It is a cry for help followed by submission. It is saying “I want this, but I’ll trust in you no matter what happens.”
The early manuscripts do not contain verses 43 and 44. I don’t know if they were originally penned by Luke or not. There is nothing in these verses that is out of place. Did an angel show up and strengthen Jesus? Did his sweat become like drops of blood? Those two things are the only new information found in these verses. We know that he was in anguish; extreme anxiety. We know the coming crisis was cresting. There is no reason to doubt the validity of these two things. After this battle; this determination to face the crisis in the will of God, Jesus rises up and finds the disciples sleeping, worn out by their own anxiety. Jesus tells them again to pray that they may not enter into trial or temptation.
I am sorry to inform you that in this life you will face crisis. Some will have to stare down bigger waves to be sure, but nobody walks away unscathed. In those moments say a Crisis Prayer; a prayer that cries out to God to remove the crisis and yet submits to him no matter what happens. This is faith. Faith is not about demanding God do what you want him to. Faith is trusting in God regardless of your comfort; your health; your safety. His will be done. It is my prayer that you will ride out the crisis on your knees.