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The Garden of Prayer

[h1heading]Time to Communicate with God in Prayer[/h1heading]

Our outer journey must be supported and undergirded by our inner journey. To illustrate, let's view one of the most stressful and stretching experiences our Lord ever experienced on this earth. (It was also a test for the disciples.) It took place in the Garden of Gethsemane.

[h1heading]The Primer For Prayer in Stretching Times—Matt. 26:36-45[/h1heading]

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."

He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.

So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

We are viewing the most far-reaching prayer ever prayed while on earth. Why is this prayer so important?

The garden of prayer prepared our Lord for what was ahead.

He asked some (his small group—what should that say to us?) to stay near Him—v. 36. The Lord was sorrowful and troubled; were His emotion and sorrow because of a lack of faith? Of course not.

Jesus asked His small group to keep watch with Him—v. 38b. What does it do just to have someone near us in a crisis or when we need an answer to our prayer? Most spiritual disciplines fail because they are private! Jesus tool initiative and asked for help in crises.

He prayed portions of the Lord’s/His Prayer.

The Lord's Prayer The Garden Prayer
Our FatherMy Father
Your will be doneIf it be possible, may the cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.

Notice how similar these prayers are! (The Lord's prayer is a pattern prayer.)

Why did Jesus need this period of time to pray? He prayed until His body and spirit were submitted to the will of the Father. Three times He prayed about the same thing—vv. 39, 42, 44. (See Lk. 22:43-44)

  • What was He reacting to? He who had no sin was asked to be sin for us.
  • What’s our garden of testing? We who are sinful are asked to be holy— 2 Cor. 5:21.

Here are the lessons from the garden: The body is strengthened; resolve is enabled by prayer. That’s why it is often true that the battle of testing is won before the fact on our knees. Remember, when God stirs us to pray, He knows what is ahead.

To illustrate, let's look closely at why.

The garden of prayer should have prepared the disciples—vv. 40-41.

What were they doing instead? They were sleeping instead of watching and praying—v. 40. The lesson her is that when there is fierce resolve and determination, the enemy doesn’t threaten us with demons; he tempts us with sleep—e.g., Matt. 26:31. That’s why Peter was asked a key question and given an important insight—vv. 40-41.

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."

They were asked to keep watch and pray for one hour. It was minimal, given the conditions and the relationship He and Peter had. There is no mandate here, but it is a helpful example. There is insight here not only for Peter, but for us. Why did Jesus ask them to watch/pray one hour? "…so that you will not fall into temptation." (see also vv 69-75).

The spirit is willing, but the body is weak—v. 41; 26:33-35, 40, 43, 45. If Peter had prayed, he would have been strong.

Let’s apply with three principles.

Principle #1: Strength is what prayer provides for the believer. Jesus prayed when His body quivered. Peter slept when he was bold and confident. Likewise, we sleep when we should pray. The biggest deterrent to prayer is an undisciplined schedule and sleep habits. We are strengthened through prayer.

Principle #2: Human confidence is weakest in the hour of testing. Our testimony of resolve, therefore is not impressive. Our dependency on God through prayer is impressive. "I’m scared; I don’t think I can do this, Lord. I want to run from the test, but I want Your will more than mine."

Principle #3: Praying and watching the Lord’s way will prepare us for whatever lies ahead. The prayer time should be sufficient for, or equal to, the need/crisis.

[h1heading]Preliminary Principles of Prayer—Matt. 6:6[/h1heading]

It’s perpetual

"When you pray..."—vv. 5-7. The assumption is you will pray and it will be a lifestyle, not just a one-time shot.

It’s private

"...go into your room, close the door and pray...." Prayer should be done in secret, so find a place out of the limelight. The word "closet" or "room" means a storeroom where treasures might be kept. Do you have a secret place, a private place for prayer? Be creative, change the place, e.g., indoors and outdoors. Lessen distractions; if possible, have items you need.

Prayer should also be secure - "…close the door…" Prayers are not to be subtle attempts to impress. Private prayer instead purifies our motives.

It’s personal

"...pray to your Father..."

When we shut out the eyes of men, we are shut in with God. A relationship is to be built with our Father. When we pray to our Father, honesty is possible. Let God hear your heart; unburden your heart. Admit to God what you are like: e.g., proud. Admit to Him how you feel: e.g., sad, angry.

Then notice what prayer does for us:

It’s preparation

v. 6—"…close the door…Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret." Public prayer and Christlike action is the result of private and meaningful talk with our Father; for example, Jesus was in the garden before He faced the crowds who crucified Him. Prayer prepares us for public action. Public life is to be preceded by communion with an invisible God—" ...who is unseen..." Private practice should precede public profession (see Lk. l8:9-l4).

It presents us with rewards—v. 6.

The hypocrite’s reward is the fleeting attention of men, and goods that will deteriorate or be stolen—v. 19. The disciple’s reward, on the other hand, is the eternal attention of God. v. 6—"Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

It prompts a thoughtful/genuine approach to God and others—Matt. 6:7-8

The hypocrite thinks he will be heard and honored by men and God because of his many words—v. 7; Luke 20:46-47—but the Lord’s not interested in long, religious prayers. He is concerned with correcting the hypocrite’s prayer.

What does that say to us?

  1. God is not impressed with many words/prayers, or if we can somehow get many people to pray with us.
  2. Therefore, don’t make your prayer longer than your attention span, or what's in your heart.
  3. Also, watch and pray—be cognizant of what is going on around you in your culture; your life; the life of others (e.g., the disciples with Jesus).

The content of the disciple’s prayer is different—v. 8. Disciples can be confident their Father knows their needs. That brings up some questions:

Why should we pray if God already knows what we need?

Is it to inform God? Obviously not.
Is it to convince God? No, He’s not moved by human wisdom or pressure.

The answer to why we pray is:

  1. So we can receive—James 4:2. God won’t force His blessings, solutions, miracles or provisions on us.
  2. To adjust ourselves to God’s will and character, e.g., Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane—Matt. 26:36-45; James 4:3-10; 5:15b-16; 2 Cor. 12:7-9; 1 Kings 19:4-18.
  3. To intercede for another who can’t or won’t pray —1 Tim. 2:l.
  4. To confess our sin and receive His forgiveness —1 John l:9.
  5. To praise and thank Him for His goodness.
  6. Other reasons—Matthew 6:9-13,33; Hebrews 4:16; James 5:13,14-18; 1 Timothy 2:1-2, etc. Matthew 6:9-13

This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. [Or from evil;] for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen."


  1. What is before us now that is stretching our faith? (We should pray and ask others to pray with us.)
  2. What might be ahead that will test our faith? (God will often encourage us to pray before the test. Don't miss the nudges.)
  3. If we face stretching moments, we should not fear them. God will keep watch with us and will, in time, bring great blessing out of the test—I Pet. 5:10-11.
  4. If we, like Peter, are tempted beyond our resolve, we must remember prayer will strengthen us. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak"—v. 41.
  5. If we are faced with a massive test, we may need to sweat it out in our prayer. If it took Jesus three separate times in prayer (while sweating great drops of blood) to be prepared for His greatest test, how much more should we earnestly and repeatedly pray about the big issues and circumstances in our lives?