Our consideration of the triple prayer of our Blessed Lord in the Garden of Olives should have convinced us of the merit and necessity of continued prayer when we are afraid, downcast, depressed, tempted, or forsaken.
There were numerous other occasions when Christ addressed petitions to His eternal Father and the response was immediate. The raising of Lazarus is a case in point. In the Garden of Olives, however, the Master prayed three times and His prayer was unanswered. We have seen that had God the Father answered Christ’s prayer and “let the cup pass away” from Him, the world might not yet be redeemed. When God does not answer prayer it is for a greater good.
In the Old Testament we read that the prophet Elias, when he asked God to confound the pagan prophets of Baal by a miracle, hardly had spoken his prayer when a miraculous fire came down from heaven and consumed a holocaust set on the altar, and even burned water in the trench. When the same prophet Elias prayed for rain for God’s people, he had to repeat his prayer not once, twice, or three times, but seven times. (3 Kings 18:44)
When God refuses to answer prayer it is for a greater good. When He delays the answer it is to put the endurance of the suppliant to a severe test.
The Jews in Bethulia prayed all night, desiring the help of the God of Israel when Holofernes besieged their city, but the more they prayed, the more desperate the situation appeared. Yet they persevered, and God sent them a delivery in Judith.
Another important lesson which we can learn from Our Lord’s prayer in Gethsemani is this, that all our petitions to God should close in acquiescence to the divine will. Hear our Lord say in the depths of His agony – “Not my will but thine be done.” (Lk. 22:42)
It is right for us to plead earnestly for what we want – earnestly, perseveringly, but never insubmissively. We should recognize that God will not give us what will do more harm than good. Many of us have lived long enough to thank God that He did not give us what we asked in prayer in every instance.
The best thing possible for us is always what God wills for us. Sometimes it may be pain, worldly loss, or some bereavement; yet His will is always love, and in simple acquiescence to God’s will, we shall always find our highest good. No prayer, therefore, is pleasing to God which does not end with the refrain of Gethsemani: “Not my will but Thine be done.”
This is the way to peace, for as we yield with love and joy, and merge our will with God’s His peace will flow like a river into our souls.
Resolve that each time today you hear a clock strike the hour, you will say reverently, “Not my will but Thine be done.”
Subscribe to receive these Lenten reflections each day via email. Read more about how here.
*From Reflections on the Passion, p. 21-23