How Jesus Prayed When He Was Overwhelmed

Awaiting His fate in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus shows us seven ways to pray when it feels all but impossible.

Posted in , Mar 16, 2021

Garden of Gethsemane

Life can be overwhelming. There are so many things to remember, choices to make, challenges to overcome. Sometimes it’s as if we’re just one phone call or email away from complete disaster. It’s a horrible way to feel and an unsustainable way to live. When we’re on emotional overload, it can be hard to pray—though at such times we need to more than ever. 

How do we do it? How do we pray when we’re overwhelmed? For the answer, we might look to Jesus when He was overwhelmed with His coming path to Calvary and found strength in the Garden of Gethsemane. In fact, His example might show us seven ways to pray when it feels impossible:

1)  Get Away to Rest and Focus
After His last meal with His closest friends in the upper room, the Gospel account tells us, “Then Jesus went with His disciples to a place called Gethsemane” (Matthew 26:36 NIV). 

Even when we have only a few moments to spare, it can be helpful to get away for a time of rest, focus, solitude—even a temporary collapse! 

2)  Enlist Prayer Support
On entering the place called Gethsemane, Jesus “took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with Him, and He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me’” (Matthew 26:37-38 NIV). 

Jesus didn’t have to share His feelings with His followers; He chose to invite their support. Sometimes sharing our feelings of being “overwhelmed with sorrow” relieves some of the burden, and asking others for prayer can make a difference.  

3)  Tell God What You Want
If anyone could’ve expected the Father to know His thoughts and understand His needs, Jesus could; He and the Father were one (see John 10:30). But He expressed Himself to His Father, falling with His face to the ground and praying, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me” (Matthew 26:39a NIV). 

That’s a good example to follow. Yes, God knows what you need, but the very act of praying and your Father’s readiness to answer can ease your pain and lighten your load.

4)  Find a Place of Surrender
Though Jesus made His desires known to the Father, He also managed to make the Garden of Gethsemane a place of surrender, saying, “Yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39b NIV). 

Often the heaviest burdens we carry are the result of insisting on having things our way; when we find a place of surrender, we may experience a new sense of freedom in the awareness that we are in God’s wise and loving will. 

5)  Stay in Touch with Your Prayer Partners
After His first prayer session in Gethsemane, Jesus returned to Peter, James and John, though He found them sleeping (Matthew 26:40-41 NIV). 

Still, He checked in with them and renewed His plea for prayer. It’s a good practice—and often of great encouragement both to you and your friends—to keep them informed after asking them to pray and offering whatever updates or revisions are warranted. 

6)  Renew Your Prayers Often
Jesus’ prayers weren’t just a “one-and-done” situation. “He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done.’ When He came back, He again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So He left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing” (Matthew 26:42-44 NIV). 

Jesus’ example reminds us not to stop praying, whether we see results from our prayers or not. Renew your prayers as often as you can.

7)  Put One Foot in Front of the Other
The Gethsemane account concludes, “Then He returned to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes My betrayer!’” (Matthew 26:45 NIV). 

Apparently, the Father didn’t take the cup from Jesus, but Jesus’ resolute words to His followers suggest a fresh supply of strength and courage to keep going—a resource that sustained Him the rest of the way. So it may be with us if we pray like Jesus. We may know deliverance from the things that overwhelm us. But even if we don’t, we can find the strength and courage to put one foot in front of the other and persevere until a change comes in our outward circumstances.

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