Matthew 26:36-46 occurs after the institution of the Lord’s Supper and before Jesus is betrayed by Judas. There we learn a powerful lesson on prayer: we should pray before the test.
The text effectively highlights the emotions of the moment. Jesus is grieved and distressed. He does not suppress or deny his emotions; Jesus acknowledges, owns, and communicates His feelings. When we face challenging moments, we often try to act as if they don’t bother us. It is better to communicate our emotions than to try to hide them.
In acknowledging our feelings, we do so while exhibiting self-control. Jesus did not use his feelings to justify bad behavior. Instead, He focused His feelings through prayer. Prayer was His response to feelings of distress and grief. Although He asked His disciples to keep watch with Him, Jesus prayed for Himself. His example shows us that even though we can ask others to pray for us, we should always pray for ourselves too.
Sometimes friends will have the best intentions, but will be unable to give you the attention that you need. They may be wrestling with their own emotions, caught up in their own drama, and unaware of their own weaknesses.
Jesus prayed 3 times. Why would He pray 3 times? In part to teach us a lesson: if at first you don’t succeed, pray, pray again. Our problem is that when we are experiencing life’s emotions and feeling some type of way about a situation, we don’t P.U.S.H. Don’t give up. Pray Until Something Happens!
Each time you pray, your spirit becomes more willing, your resolve is strengthened, and your courage is renewed. After the third prayer, Jesus was strengthened. It is as if He was saying to His disciples, “Get up! Let’s go! Let’s do this! I’ve got a cross to carry. I have some pain to endure. I’ve got a world to save!” The victory of Calvary was won that night in the garden of Gethsemane.
Knowing that the test was coming, Jesus prayed. For those temptations of life we can see approaching from the distance, the victory should be won before the temptation really reaches us. When you see a crisis coming, that’s the time to start praying because the victory often comes before the crisis shows up.