“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
As Jesus kneels in the Garden of Gethsemane, he begins his prayer to his heavenly Father with the unusual phrase, “if you are willing.” This raises interesting questions about why Jesus prayed this way and whether we should imitate him in our own prayers.
Jesus did not pray this way elsewhere, as far as we know from the Gospels. Nor did he teach his followers to say “if you are willing” in their prayers. In Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, however, Jesus did say, “May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
Thus, we are to seek God’s will when we pray, even to ask that God’s will be done. Surely, there is a mystery here. How amazing that God somehow takes seriously our prayers for that which he wills!
In a sense, every prayer we pray could begin with the phrase “if you are willing.” We are free in Christ to ask the Lord for whatever we wish. But our desire should be for that which God desires, for his will. Saying “if you are willing” or “if it be your will” reminds us that we are not in charge of the universe. God is. Nevertheless, he cares about what we want and pays attention to our prayers.
When Jesus says in Gethsemane, “if you are willing,” this suggests his inner struggle. He has already clearly predicted his own suffering and death. He believes this is what his Father has ordained. As the time draws near, Jesus still wrestles with God’s will. Is this what the Father really wants? Is another way possible? Yet, as much as Jesus seeks the possibility of another option, he assumes the sovereignty and even the goodness of the Father’s will. That is what he wants most of all.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you ever say in prayer something like “if you are willing” or “if it be your will”? When? Why? What happens in you and your prayers when you say this? Do you pray with greater boldness? humility? openness? or...?
PRAYER: Father, if it be your will, may I always seek your will above all else.
If it be your will, may I know your will so that I might pray for that which you desire.
If it be your will, may I grow in my understanding of the mystery of prayer.
And since I know it is your will, today, may I offer to you my body as a living sacrifice, serving you in all that I do. Amen.