Jesus’ unanswered prayer?

Did Jesus have unanswered prayer?

I’m talking about Gethsemane, where Jesus knows He’s about to be betrayed. And ‘in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood’ (Luke 22:44 ESVUK).

The Bible is full of God hearing prayers. But Jesus’ own gut-wrenching prayer seems to be declined. The Son asks the Father for release - ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me’ (Matthew 26:39 ESVUK) - and yet He faces the cross anyway. Then when He hangs on that cross, people taunt Him about it: ‘“He can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him!”’ (Matthew 27:42 NLT). 

What on earth can we take from this?

Well, the full prayer in Matthew 26:39 continues: ‘nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will’ (ESVUK). Jesus doesn’t want the cross. That’s fairly clear. But Jesus wants to take that path, to ‘drink the cup’ that saves us, even if it hurts Him so, so much.

Is Jesus’ prayer rejected? I don’t think so. Jesus really wants to avoid that suffering, but He really wants God’s will to be done, too. And I don’t even think that the ‘oh, but of course, Your will be done, Lord’ is a technicality, the sort of lip-service bolt-on we might put onto our own prayers sometimes. I think Jesus means it. He’s praying for two different things at once: to be set free from suffering, and to be used for God’s greater plan even if it means suffering. 

Should we pray, then, when we expect suffering? Definitely. What Jesus teaches us here is that along with our prayers for God’s help, we can add a prayer for His plan to win. Even on those few occasions when it really will cost us for that to happen. 

To really mean ‘Your will be done’ takes a self-sacrifice that all at once knows how greatly He values us, and how desperately He wants to work through us. It might take us our whole lives to learn. But that’s the challenge for us: ‘God, here are my needs; nevertheless, let me serve yours.’

Written by Jim Cronin