Sunday 10 April 2022

Remove this cup from me

Agony in the Garden by Andrea Mantegna, 1458-60

Reflection on Christ's prayer in the Garden, given at St Mary's, Nenagh and Killodiernan on Palm Sunday, 10th April 2022

That was a long reading (Luke 22:14-23:56), wasn’t it! But I am certain it is good for us to hear the whole story of Christ’s Passion from beginning to end at least once a year, to better appreciate the enormity of those events.

You will be glad to know that I’m not going to preach an equally long sermon too! Instead, I ask you to reflect with me for just a moment on Jesus’s prayer before his arrest: ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done’

Jesus is distressed and agitated. In his anguish, he is certain that what he is doing is the will of God, his loving Father. He knows what is likely to happen next – his execution as a dangerous agitator, perhaps even the agonising death of crucifixion. And he does not want to die – he is a man in the full strength and vigour of his early 30s, he loves life, he loves his friends, and he loves his ministry to those who need healing and forgiveness. So he prays to his loving Father for himself, that his death may be averted – ‘remove this cup from me’.

But that is only half his prayer. Even more important for Jesus than his own distress at the prospect of death is that his loving Father’s will should be done. So he finishes his prayer with ‘yet, not my will but yours be done’.

This prayer of Jesus should be a model for our own prayers when we pray for something we want. When I desperately wish for something, it is right and proper for me to pray to God for it. If I cannot ask God for it, who can I ask? But I must never forget how much more important it is for God’s will to be done, than for my wish to be granted. So I should always finish a prayer for myself with Jesus’s words, ‘yet, not my will but yours be done’.

In the end, like Jesus, we must trust that our loving Father knows what is best for us.

The purpose of Christian prayer is not to badger God into doing what we wish for, but to align our wishes with God’s will.


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