Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, the gospels say. He brought them up a mountain–a traditional place to draw close to God. There he taught them the prayer we call the “Our Father” or the “Lord’s Prayer”, a prayer deeply rooted in the Jewish prayer tradition. (Matthew 6, 9-13)
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray “in a certain place”, on the plain, in the course of his ministry. (Luke 11, 2-4) He prayed daily on the journey. The prayer he taught them is more basic than the prayer found in Matthew’s Gospel..
“When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” (Luke 11,2-4)
Mark, Matthew, Luke recall Jesus praying in the garden before his Passion and the lesson he taught there. His disciples do not join him, but fall asleep.
They’re sleeping because the flesh is weak, Mark says.
They’re sleeping because they can’t keep their eyes open, Matthew says.
They’re sleeping because of grief, Luke says.
Stay awake and pray, Jesus tells them. Prayer brings you through times of testing and temptation.
Facing the weakness of the flesh, death by crucifixion, Jesus doesn’t wave it away in stoic resignation or look to his own power. “Not my will, but your will be done,” he says. Facing the consequences of his mission, the limits of human power, the “form of a slave,” he depends on his Father for the strength he needs.
In the garden Jesus teaches his disciples how to face trials that come. He kneels on the ground and humbly looks beyond himself to his Father, “Abba”, who hears him. He falls to the ground, trusting his Father’s strength and not his own. Troubled and distressed, for an hour’s time he pleads for help. .
“He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.” Luke says. Then, an angel comes to strengthen him. The cup of suffering isn’t taken away; he will drink from it, but it will not crush him. God will raise him up.
He teaches us pray as he did and promises to pray with us in our trials.
The Feast of Jesus Praying in the Garden is another feast St. Paul of the Cross recommended to begin the lenten season. We will know the mystery of his cross through carrying it ourselves and entering the garden to pray there with him.