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A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., Pastor Emeritus
and given by Jack Ngann,, Pastor
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Afternoon, March 17, 2024

“Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation” (Luke 22:46; p. 1108 Scofield).

The verses Luke 22:39-46 are very important. They give Luke’s account of our Lord Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. We should read this passage reverently. We should treat them like Moses did – when God told him, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5).

After they had eaten the Passover meal, and had taken the Lord’s Supper – Jesus led them out of the room into the darkness of midnight. He took them as usual to the place where He often prayed, in the Garden of Gethsemane. When they reached the place, Jesus said to them, “Pray that ye enter not into temptation.” He withdrew from them about as far as you can throw a rock – and He began to pray,

“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42; p. 1108).

I am adapting this sermon from a message by Bishop J. C. Ryle (1816-1900). John Charles Ryle was born into a wealthy family. They sent him to Oxford to earn his degree. He was a happy rich boy. He was also an athlete, winning honors in rowing and cricket. He planned to go into politics, which was then made possible by family wealth. Then his father’s business went bankrupt and he had to go into the ministry of the Church of England. Long afterwards he wrote, “I have not the least doubt, it was for the best. If I had not been ruined [financially], I should never have been a clergyman, never preached a sermon, or written a tract or book.” In 1880 he became the bishop of Liverpool. He built churches and evangelistic halls to win the lost of that city. He was one of the greatest evangelists of the 19th century. The man who succeeded him in Liverpool said, “He was a man of granite with the heart of a child.” I was so blessed in reading his comments on Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane that I decided to share his thoughts with you in this sermon. Jesus prayed,

“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

I. First, we see Christ’s example of what we ought to do in times of trouble.

Jesus gives us the example of what to do. When He entered the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He was crucified, He “kneeled down, and prayed” (Luke 22:41).

Jesus was in trouble. The weight of the sins of all mankind was beginning to crush him. He was in a deep agony. So He prayed. The whole Bible gives prayer as the remedy for us in troublous times. Psalm 50:15 says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee.” The Apostle James said, “Is any...afflicted? let him pray” (James 5:13). Prayer is the remedy which Job used when his property and his children were taken from him. Prayer is the remedy which Hezekiah used when Sennacherib’s threatening letter arrived. And prayer is the remedy which the Son of God Himself was not ashamed to use in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the hour of His agony He prayed.

Let us be careful to use Christ’s remedy if we want comfort in times of trouble.

In seasons of distress and grief,
     My soul has often found relief,
And oft escaped the Tempter’s snare,
     By thy return, sweet hour of prayer.
(“Sweet Hour of Prayer” by William W. Walford, 1772-1850).

The first person we should turn to is God. The first message we should send ought to be to Him. No depression of our hearts should prevent us. No crushing weight of sorrow should stop our prayers. The Devil will give you false reasons for not praying. Let us beware of the temptation to sulk over our troubles. If you can say nothing else, you can say, “Father, help me” (Luke 22:42).

II. Second, we see what kind of prayers we should pray to God in times of trouble.

Once more the Lord Jesus Christ gives us an example. He said, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup [of sorrow] from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

The words of Jesus show exactly how we should pray when we are troubled. Like Jesus, we should tell our desires to our heavenly Father. But like Jesus, we should pray with submission of our wills to the will of God. We should never forget that God may have wise and good reasons for allowing us to go through these times of trouble. We should carefully say, when we pray for God to remove our troubles, “If thou be willing.” We should end such prayers with “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Submission of our wills is one of the loveliest graces of a Christian’s character. It is an attitude which a child of God should seek, if he desires to be like Jesus. But submission of our wills is even more needed in a day of sorrow. Those who can say, “Not my will, but thine, be done” have reached a high position in the school of God.

III. Third, we should see in these verses the awfulness of sin.

We should learn this in Christ’s agony and bloody sweat – and all the distress of body and mind that He went through. The cause of Christ’s agony and bloody sweat was man’s sin. Christ was bearing our sins in Gethsemane. Isaiah said,

“The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all”
     (Isaiah 53:6; p. 760).

We must believe the old doctrine that Christ was bearing our sins.

Would we see the sinfulness of sin? Would we learn to hate sin with godly hatred? Would we know something about the intense misery of souls in Hell? Would we understand something of the unspeakable love of Christ? Would we understand Christ’s ability to sympathize with those who are in trouble? Then let the agony of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane be in our minds often. The depth of Christ’s agony may give us some idea of our debt to Him. Then we will see that we owe Him everything we have – our lives, our wills, our hearts, our loves, our hopes, our dreams, and our futures.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
     The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away –
     ‘Tis all that I can do.
(“Alas! And Did My Saviour Bleed?” by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).

IV. Fourth, we see an example of the weakness of the best of saints.

We are told that while our Lord was in agony, His Disciples fell asleep. Even though Christ had told them to pray, with a warning against temptation, they slept. While Christ was sweating great drops of blood, His Disciples slept!

“He found them sleeping for sorrow” (Luke 22:45).

These words are given to teach us to be humble. The Christian who thinks he can stand should take heed lest he fall. The sleep of the Disciples is given to make us look forward to death – to make us long for that wonderful resurrected body we will have when Christ returns. Not until then will we be able to worship God and pray to Him without becoming weary – and to serve Him day and night in Heavenly places.

Now Jesus says to His sleeping Disciples, “Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation” (Luke 22:46). Bengel says that standing up when we pray is the best way to overcome sleepiness. We must remember that our Christian lives only start at conversion. We have a long way to go, and the Devil is always active to lull us to sleep. We must always pray for Christ to keep us strong. Without His grace, we will stumble. Even the best of us will fall short without Jesus at our side and in our thoughts.

Brothers and sisters, we cannot succeed in winning lost souls to Christ without a great deal of prayer. Start the day with a prayer. Pray before you have a meal. Pray before you go to sleep. Pray the “Lord’s Prayer” as you wait in bed for sleep to come. Every time you pray, intercede for the leaders of our church. Pray for the people whose names you get on evangelism. Pray for the new ones who come to church. Pray for the sick. Pray for those who are already converted to stand strong. Pray for me, that I will be able to finish my course and leave the church strong. Pray for those who are still lost in our congregation.

And if you are one of those who is still not saved, we have already prayed often for you to trust Christ. As always, I must remind you that Jesus suffered to save you from sin and judgment. He took your sins upon Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane. He bore your sins in His body on the Cross, to pay the full penalty for them. He shed His precious Blood on the Cross to cleanse you from all sin. He rose physically from the dead to give you life. He is praying for you in Heaven right now. We pray that you will trust Him, believe on Him, entrust your life to Him – and He will save you now, and keep you saved for all eternity. Amen.