Gethsemane, what a school room for a lesson on prayer. Gethsemane, the crossroads between the will of the Father and the will of the Son. Those two wills meet in this prayer. They unite in this prayer. They harmonize to create enormous power. Does this place also teach us how to say to God "I will not?"
This is a review of With Christ In The School Of Prayer by Andrew Murray with plenty of exercises along the way. Feel free to study along and improve your prayer life. As Murray said, “Power with God is the highest attainment of the life of full abiding.” I invite you to leave any questions or comments in the comments section below to enrich our learning. To go to the start of this series click here.
28: Christ the Sacrifice
And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me; nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. – Mark 14:36
What a contrast within the space of a few hours! What a transition from the quiet elevation of when He lifted His eyes to heaven and said, Father, I will, to falling on the ground and crying in agony, Abba, Father, not what I will. In the one, we see the High Priest within the veil in His all-prevailing intercession; in the other, the sacrifice on the altar opening the way through the rent veil. The high-priestly Father, I will precedes the sacrificial Father, not what I will, but this was only to show what the intercession would be when once the sacrifice was brought. In reality, it was that prayer at the altar, Father, not what I will, in which the prayer before the throne, Father, I will, had its origin and its power. It is from the entire surrender of His will in Gethsemane that the High Priest on the throne has the power to ask what He will and the right to allow His people to share in that power and ask what they will.
For all who learn to pray in the school of Jesus, this Gethsemane lesson is one of the most sacred and precious. To a superficial scholar, it may appear to take away the courage to pray in faith. If even the earnest supplication of the Son was not heard, and the Beloved had to say, Not what I will, how much more do we need to speak in the same manner. And thus, it appears impossible that the promises which the Lord had given only a few hours previously, Whatsoever ye ask, Whatever ye shall ask, could have been meant literally. A deeper insight into the meaning of Gethsemane would teach us that we have here the basis and the open way to the assurance of an answer to our prayer. Let us draw near in reverent and adoring wonder to gaze on this great sight – God’s Son thus offering up prayer and supplications with strong crying and tears and not obtaining what He asks. He is our Teacher who will open up to us the mystery of His holy sacrifice as revealed in this wondrous prayer.
To understand the prayer, let’s note the infinite difference between what our Lord had prayed earlier as a royal High Priest and what He seeks here in His weakness. As High Priest, it was for the glorifying of the Father that He prayed and the glorifying of Himself and His people as the fulfillment of distinct promises that had been given Him. He asked what He knew to be according to the word and the will of the Father; He could boldly say, Father, I will.
In Gethsemane, He prays for something in regard to what the Father’s will was but that had not yet been made clear to Him. As far as He knows, it is the Father’s will that He should drink the cup. He had told His disciples of the cup He had to drink. A little later He would again say, The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it? It was for this He had come to this earth.
But when, in the unutterable agony of soul that burst upon Him as the power of darkness came upon Him, He began to taste the first drops of death as the wrath of God against sin, His human nature shuddered in the presence of the awful reality of being made a curse, and He cried in anguish that He might be spared the awful cup if God’s purpose could be accomplished without it: Let this cup pass from me (Matthew 26:39).
That desire was the evidence of the intense reality of His humanity. The not as I will kept that desire from being sinful, as He pleadingly cries, All things are possible unto thee, and returns again to still more earnest prayer that the cup may be removed. Three times He repeated, Not what I will, which constitutes the very essence and worth of His sacrifice. He had asked for something that He could not say: I know it is Thy will. He had pleaded God’s power and love and then withdrew it in His final Thy will be done. The prayer that the cup should pass away could not be answered; the prayer of submission that God’s will be done was heard and gloriously answered in His victory over the fear and then over the power of death.
In this denial of His will, this complete surrender of His will to the will of the Father, is Christ’s obedience at its highest perfection. It is from the sacrifice of the will in Gethsemane that the sacrifice of the life on Calvary derives its value. Scripture says that He learned obedience and became the Author of everlasting salvation to all who obey Him. Because He became obedient unto death in that prayer, even the death on the cross, God has highly exalted Him and given Him the power to ask what He will. It was in that Father, not what I will that He obtained the power for that Father, I will. It was by Christ’s submission in Gethsemane to not have His will done that He secured for His people the right to say to them, Whatsoever ye shall ask.
Let’s look again at the deep mysteries that Gethsemane offers to our view. There is the first: The Father offers His Well-Beloved the cup – the cup of wrath. The second: The Son, always so obedient, yet implores that He may not have to drink it. The third: The Father does not grant the Son His request but still gives the cup. And then the last: The Son yields His will, is content that His will is not done, and goes out to Calvary to drink the cup. Oh Gethsemane, in you I see how my Lord could give me such unlimited assurance of an answer to my prayers. As my guarantee, He won it for me by His consent to have His petition unanswered.
This is in harmony with the whole scheme of redemption. Our Lord always wins for us the opposite of what He suffered. He was bound that we might go free. He was made sin that we might become the righteousness of God. For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21). He died that we might live. Who [Jesus] died for us, that whether we watch or sleep, we should live together with him (1 Thessalonians 5:10). He bore God’s curse that God’s blessing might be ours. He endured the not answering of His prayer, so that our prayers might find an answer. Yes, He said, Not as I will, that He might say to us, If ye abide in me . . . ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Yes, the words If ye abide in me in Gethsemane acquire new force and depth. Christ is our Head, who as our guarantee stands in our place and bears what we would have forever borne. We deserved for God to turn a deaf ear to us and never listen to our cry. Christ came and suffered this for us: He suffered what we deserved; He suffered for our sins beneath the burden of that unanswered prayer. But now His suffering benefits me. What He has borne is taken away from me; His merit has won for me the answer to every prayer if I abide in Him.
Yes, in Him, as He bowed in Gethsemane, I must abide. As my Head, He not only suffered once for me but He also forever lives in me. He breathes and works His own disposition in me too. The eternal Spirit, through whom He offered Himself unto God, is the Spirit that dwells in me too and makes me a partaker of the very same obedience and the same sacrifice of the will unto God. That Spirit teaches me to yield my will entirely to the will of the Father, to give it up even unto death, and in Christ to be dead to it.
Whatever is my own mind, thought, and will, even though it is not directly sinful, He teaches me to fear and flee. He opens my ear to wait in great gentleness and teachableness of soul for what the Father has day by day to speak and to teach. He reveals to me how union with God’s will in His love is union with God Himself – how entire surrender to God’s will is the Father’s claim, the Son’s example, and the true blessedness of the soul. He leads my will into the fellowship of Christ’s death and resurrection; my will dies in Him to be made alive again. He breathes into it as a renewed and quickened will and a holy insight into God’s perfect will. It is a holy joy in yielding itself to be an instrument of that will and a holy liberty and power to lay hold of God’s will to answer prayer. With my whole will, I learn to live for the interests of God and His kingdom, to exercise the power of that will – crucified but risen again – in nature and in prayer, on earth and in heaven, with men and with God. The more deeply I enter into the Father, not what I will of Gethsemane and into Him who spoke those words and abide in Him, the fuller my spiritual access will be into the power of His Father, I will. The soul experiences that it is the will, which has become nothing that God’s will may be all, that now becomes inspired with a divine strength to will what God wills, and to claim what has been promised in the name of Christ.
Oh, let us listen to Christ in Gethsemane as He calls, If ye abide in me and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
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Blessed Lord Jesus, Gethsemane was Your school where You learned to pray and to obey. It is still Your school where You lead all Your disciples who would gladly learn to obey and to pray even as You. Lord, teach me to pray in the faith whereby You have atoned for and conquered our self-will and have given us grace to pray like You.
Oh, Lamb of God, I would follow You to Gethsemane to become one with You and to abide in You as You yield Your will unto the Father even unto death. With You, through You, and in You, I do yield my will in absolute and entire surrender to the will of the Father. Conscious of my own weakness and the secret power with which self-will would assert itself and take its place on the throne, I claim in faith the power of Your victory. You triumphed over it and delivered me from it. In Your death I would live daily; in Your life I would die daily. Abiding in You, let my will, through the power of Your eternal Spirit, be the tuned instrument which yields to every touch of the will of my God. With my whole soul do I say with You and in You, Father, not as I will, but as thou wilt.
And then, blessed Lord, open my heart and the hearts of all Your people to take in the glory of the truth that a will given up to God is a will accepted by God to be used in His service – to desire, purpose, determine, and will what is according to God’s will. It is a will that in the power of the Holy Spirit, the indwelling God, is to exercise its royal prerogative in prayer, to loose and to bind in heaven and upon earth, to ask whatsoever it will, and to say it shall be done.
Oh, Lord Jesus, teach me to pray. Amen.
Questions & Notes
- Why does Christ now have the power to ask His Father for whatever He will? ↑
- What is the “Gethsemane lesson” of prayer? ↑
- What was Christ’s “prayer of submission”? ↑
- How did Jesus completely surrender His will to the Father? ↑
- How did Jesus learn to become obedient unto death? ↑
- What are four deep mysteries that Gethsemane reveals to us? ↑
- What has Christ won for us that are opposites of what He suffered for us? ↑
- What lessons from the Gethsemane prayer will you apply to your life?
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