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When you need to do, what is hard to do, what you must do, is...PRAY!

3.12.23



Growing up in the Triller house, one of our unofficial mottos was “We can talk about hard things.” As in, we’ll try and be honest about when we’re struggling or need help and we’ll try not to shy away from difficult, yet necessary conversations.


Overall, that was a really great quality for our family to have and yet I must admit, I think my mom sometimes took it a bit too far, where she’d save some of the toughest, most uncomfortable conversations for when we were driving, on a freeway, going 70, with nowhere to hide. My brother and I were stuck, our faces glued to the passenger windows. It was absolute torture and absolutely brilliant. And my apologies to any parents if I’ve blown your cover or if your students are now hesitant to get in the car with you.


“We can talk about hard things” was an unofficial motto in my family growing up and I’d like to think it can be an unofficial motto for our church family as well. We as a church family can talk about hard things because the bible talks about hard things, because Jesus himself faced hard things, and ultimately because Jesus brings good things out of hard things.


Over the last few weeks as we make our way to Easter Sunday we as a church have been looking at some of the key moments in Jesus’s final days leading up to his death and resurrection. It’s a difficult and painful season for Jesus, especially those last few hours. Powerful people are trying to trap Jesus and get him into trouble, others are making fun of him, and as we’ll see in our scripture today, even his closest friends will let him down and abandon him before it’s all said and done.


And the scripture that Paige just read is about a very difficult moment in Jesus’s life. It’s the night before Jesus’s death, where he’ll die a very painful death, where he’ll be crucified on a cross. And Jesus is beginning to really feel the gravity of the moment, the heaviness of what’s about to take place. He’s known it all along, but now the time has finally come for Jesus to die. And so he invites his disciples to come with him to a quiet place and pray. And so it says,


And Jesus himself, knelt down and prayed this prayer. It’s a prayer that so perfectly captured all that he was feeling and experiencing in that moment, saying,


42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”


It is a brutally honest and beautifully honest prayer from Jesus. And it’s admittedly a little strange in a sense too, the wording, that is.


“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me


Take this cup from me? Like, what does that even mean?


Well, in one sense, think back to our story from last week. Jesus introduced the Lord’s Supper to his disciples. Taking the bread he said, “This is my body, broken for you” and taking the cup he said “this is my blood, poured out for you.” The bread represents his body, the cup represents his blood and together they represent his sacrificial death.


And so this prayer “take this cup from me,” this symbol that represents his death, is in one sense, “Father, if you are willing, may I not face death like this.” “Take this death away from me.”


And yet there’s more. Throughout the Old Testament, this same cup imagery alluded to God’s anger for the sins of his people. To drink from this cup, was to bear God’s judgment and be separated from God. And even more than his physical death, this is what was probably weighing on Jesus the heaviest. The judgment of God, separation from his Heavenly Father, which he had never experienced before.


Jesus is brutally and beautifully honest, asking God if there’s any other way, if there are any other options here, saying …


Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.”


And yet notice what he says next, saying, “yet not my will, but yours be done.”


In other words, “God, not what I want, but what you want. Not my will, but yours.” If that part of Jesus’s prayer sounds familiar, well, it maybe should. It’s an echo of what you and I say every Sunday during the Lord’s Prayer, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”


Put all together, we have this brutally and beautifully honest prayer, that in so many ways captures the heart of prayer itself.


42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Like Jesus, we say, “God, here are my hopes, here are my dreams, here are my fears, yet not what I want, but what you want, God”


Or, “God, here’s what I’m feeling, here’s what I’m experiencing, here’s what I’m praying for, but no matter what, I’m following you, I’m trusting in you.”


“God, here’s where I’m at, and I choose you.”


This is the heart of prayer. Honesty and humility, transparency and trust, sincerity and submission rolled into one.


And that’s Jesus’s prayer here, late on a Thursday night, on the night before he dies.


Now, to all of this, you might be thinking, “Okay, I understand that that was how Jesus prayed, but what about me? Should I pray like Jesus?”


Well, yeah, to pray to God “not my will, but your will be done” ought to be a lifelong prayer of ours.


And yet, let’s back up even further than that. Consider the context again. In one of Jesus’s most difficult moments in his life, Jesus himself not long for this earth, he prayed to his Heavenly Father. Three times in this passage Luke references Jesus praying. And twice Jesus tells his disciples to pray.


And so what might we conclude? Well, it’s this, and this gets to our big takeaway for today:

“When you need to do, what is hard to do, what you must do, is pray.”


“When you need to do (right), what is hard to do (left), what you must do (balcony), is pray.” (all)

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Daniel, that sounds like a lot of doo doo.” I know, I know. You thought it, not me.


The point is this: Jesus knew what he needed to do, knew it was hard for him to do, and so what did he do? He prayed. And so, what should we do in a similar situation? We should pray.


Kids, students, maybe you’re in class and the teacher passes out a test for that day. To pray for a good grade when you haven’t studied, well, it’s probably too late for that prayer, but maybe you pray, “God, help me to not worry, help me to trust in you and take what you’ve helped me to learn and put it on paper. Not my will, but yours be done.”


Or adults, maybe you’ve got a difficult conversation ahead, maybe it’s with your spouse, you feel like your marriage is stuck in neutral, maybe it’s with a coworker who you clash with, maybe it’s with an aging parent who is refusing to receive greater care, maybe you pray, “God, with the help of your Holy Spirit, give me the words to say, show me when to say it, and help me in how to say it. Not my will, but yours be done.”


“When you need to do, what is hard to do, what you must do, is pray.”


Those might be a couple prayers, and yet, consider a couple more. In this story today, Jesus didn’t simply tell the disciples to pray, but “to pray that they will not fall into temptation.”


For the disciples, maybe the biggest temptation ahead of them would be to abandon Jesus, to distance themselves from him and to tell the people that they did not know him so as to not be put to death like Jesus would be.


Maybe sometimes we’re tempted to hold back with what we really believe, or to distance ourselves from Jesus himself, maybe with our friends or family, co-workers or classmates, maybe we think we have to hide what we truly believe in order to be liked. Maybe we fear that people will think less of us or differently of us if they know we are Christians. And so maybe we pray, “God, help us to not be ashamed of what we believe, help us to be humble and confident, courageous and compassionate with those who don’t know you.”


Friends, pray that you will not fall into temptation.”


Because … “When you need to do, what is hard to do, what you must do, is pray.”


And we’ll finish with this … I told you earlier that we as a church family can talk about hard things because the bible talks about hard things, because Jesus himself faced hard things, and ultimately because Jesus brings good things out of hard things.


Right here in this story, Jesus is doing something very, very good.


Luke tells us that this story takes place at the Mount of Olives, Matthew and Luke tell us it takes place at Garden of Gethsemane, two names to refer to the same place, it’s led some people to conclude that here we find the original Olive Garden. How’s that for a bad dad joke?


Anyway, the reason that I tell you that is not simply to share my bad dad jokes with you, but rather to highlight something of far greater importance.


Where once upon a time, the first humans Adam and Eve found themselves in a garden, the Garden of Eden, a place of absolute paradise. And yet, tragically, they gave into temptation, where when they took and ate from the forbidden fruit, they were saying to God, “my will be done.”


And yet, fast forward years later to today’s scripture, from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane, where a new human is on the scene, who although he was tempted, was without sin, saying to his Heavenly Father, “thy will be done.”


Though you and I too often say, “My will be done,” Jesus himself, obedient to death, even death on a cross, says these powerful words, “thy will be done.”


May those be our words too.


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