I sometimes would like following Jesus to be like performing magic, but it isn’t. It isn’t about finding the right formula of words to pray or actions to complete so I can get what I want. Jesus’s focus isn’t giving a boost to my existing life projects, no matter how good I think those life projects are.
So it can be faith-shaking when I pray for good things—not things that I think would be selfish or oriented around my comfort—and they don’t happen. I have prayed for things I didn’t just want but thought God wanted, and was disappointed. Everyone who follows Jesus has to wrestle with this eventually, whether praying for physical healing, repairing a broken relationship, or in some other situation where we want God to intervene, but it seems He doesn’t.
On the Mount of Olives the night before His death, Jesus asked His Father if what was about to happen to Him might pass, if it could be within the scope of His Father’s will. But instead of a change in circumstances, He received strength from an angel (Luke 22:43). The answer was that there was no other way. By the time He got up, He knew what would happen and was ready to face it. Even when He was arrested, He was in complete control.
While Jesus appeared in quick succession before the high priest (v.54), the Jewish Sanhedrin (v.66), the Roman procurator Pilate (Luke 23:1), and the tetrarch Herod Antipas (v.7), the trial He faced in the garden was His only significant trial. It was there that it was determined that He would go to the cross, even though Pilate would find no grounds for charging Him. The only charge that could be brought was written on a sign above His head on the cross: “The king of the Jews.”
The trials we face in our lives never approach the stakes of Jesus’s trial in the garden, but we do have the same recourse that He did when faced with trials: prayer. In Luke 22:40, Jesus tells His disciples to “pray that [they] may not fall into temptation (the same word the CSB translates “trials” in Luke 22:28). They failed to do this the first time, but their failure doesn’t have to be permanent; He urges them to do it again in verse 46.
When we face trials, Jesus urges us to keep praying. It may be that we will not get the outcome we desire, but we can learn from Jesus to be open with God about our innermost thoughts, boldly asking Him for what we want, while at the same time recognizing that He loves us and is able to strengthen us even in the midst of trials.