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Prayer in the Hour of Despair

Description

Before the victory, there was death and isolation and seeming ruin. Before resurrection, there is a long stretch where it seems hope has dissipated, where one wonders whether Love is not, in the end, lost.

Matthew 26:36-46

Jesus’ suffering did not commence with His flogging or with His slow, agonizing march to Calvary. Scripture tells us that the Lord suffered during His dark hours in Gethsemane, the place where He “began to be grieved and distressed” (Matt. 26:37). Knowing He would soon give Himself to the great horror of the cross, Jesus embraced the suffocating weight of all that was to come. The words He spoke to Peter, James, and John reveal His acute pain: “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death” (v. 38). The fact still stuns us: Jesus, the very Son of God, knew profound despair—He knew every human dread, every anxiety. There is no human temptation or fear that Jesus has not experienced. 

John’s gospel takes care to note that Gethsemane was a garden (18:1), and the narrative abounds with creation imagery from the opening sentences to the resurrection scenes. The writer, it seems, wants us to connect Gethsemane with another garden, one where a serpent confronted Adam and Eve. John wants to be certain we understand that even though they succumbed to temptation, Jesus would not. Where the first man and woman failed, the Son of Man would not. Though we buckle under the burden of fear, self-preservation, or sin’s allure, Jesus triumphs. 

But before the victory, there was death and isolation and seeming ruin. Before resurrection, there is a long stretch where it seems hope has dissipated, where one wonders whether Love is not, in the end, lost.

In the garden, as the evil hours neared, Jesus’ heart spilled out to God. Our Lord, in His despair, did the one thing His soul knew to do: Jesus prayed. “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me... .” Jesus did not merely practice His spiritual discipline or provide us an example to emulate. Rather, His soul had been laid bare, and He went to the only One who can meet us in such depths. Jesus went to the Father.

At times we tend to think of prayer only as calm, meditative devotion. But praying is often born out of sheer necessity. We face ruin and have nowhere to turn. We stand at the brink, and the cry simply erupts: “Help!”

–Winn Collier

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