Our Lord had suffered a terrible ordeal in His initial phase of trial in the Garden of Olives. He had, some thirty-three years earlier, taken on the burden of human nature. Now in this fateful garden, Christ took on the awful burden of man’s sins, and He rightfully looked to His closest friends to share His burden in return, if only by compassion. They failed Him. They slept. Oh how the words of the prophet were fulfilled: “I looked for one that would grieve together with me, and there was none; for on that would comfort me, and I found none.” (Ps. 68:21)
Note that Our Lord goes back a second time to pray. This time He is even more alone than before. He prays to His Father, and His heavenly Father turns a deaf ear to His petition. His disciples are sleeping again, and yet He prays on alone. He is now in a state of supreme desolation and yet He prays. He is in a state of complete dereliction but He prays on. Learn from this lesson to pray even under the most adverse circumstances.
Consider the fact that Christ persevered in His prayer. Already He had prayed to His Father saying: “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me.” (Mt. 26:39) That prayer was unanswered.
The second prayer of our Lord was a repetition of the first, for He said: “My Father, if this cup cannot pass away unless I drink it, thy will be done.” (Mt. 26:42)
The third prayer was couched in the same words – a prayer more fervent, more earnest than any uttered by any man who ever lived on this earth – yet His Father, it seemed, did not listen to His petition. Christ did not grow impatient, He calmly and resignedly adds: “Not my will but thine be done.” (Lk. 22:42)
What a great lesson in this for all of us! If the Son of God must plead three times for the fulfillment of His prayer, and does so without a trace of bitterness, why are we so depressed when our prayers are not immediately answered? St. Monica prayed for eighteen years for her son Augustine’s conversion, but how richly her perseverance was rewarded. “We wait a whole year,” says St. Francis de Sales, “before the seed we sow in the ground bears fruit; and are we more impatient in regard to the fruits of our prayers?”
There is great consolation for all of us in the refusal of the Father to hear the petition of His adorable son. God the Father refused the most perfect, the most precious prayer uttered on this earth – but He did so to prove His love for sinful man. For the sake of sinful man He will not answer the prayer of His own Son, because, had God acted otherwise, we would all have been lost. See the reason behind God’s refusal to answer our prayers – He always has the greater good in view:
From now on, never complain if your prayers are unanswered. Just keep right on praying. Say your rosary today for the great grace of perseverance.
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*From Reflections on the Passion, by Father Charles Hugo Doyle, S.J., The Bruce Publishing Company, 1957, p. 19-21