“. . . take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Jesus prayed honest, “Take this cup.” But now, in the same breath, in the same sentence, he prays another prayer, seemingly the opposite of the one he just spoke. Side two of Jesus’s prayer coin.
Three other words express perhaps the most chilling moment of relinquishment ever endured: Not My Will.
Translated: Not what I want.
A prayer of abandon.
Abandon. To give up completely. To give up with the intent of never claiming a right or interest in. To give oneself over without restraint.
Wow! That’s pretty non-negotiable . . . yet compelling. Yes. Abandon. Yielding my way—and doing so without condition. Abandoned in request and in emotion. Abandoned abandon. Powerful!
Turning over from the honest side of his prayer coin, Jesus now says, “Not my will”—and we feel the impression of honest still with him. Mirrored in his two-sided garden prayer, Jesus’s honest reflects back to him—and he measures a gap between human and divine.
Abandon Comes from Choice
Unless we pause with Jesus in this moment, we might miss the point altogether. We expect Jesus to engage the autopilot of abandon to the divine. After all, his God-ness would teeter him over to this side, right?
We’re actually a bit surprised that there’s any gap—Jesus being God and all. It’s been new information to consider a Jesus torn in this way. But we do pause, because the honest Take This Cup side of Jesus has created disequilibrium in our beings. We’re eager to tip him back over into the “Good Jesus” abandon. But what we’ve just come to learn about him has made Jesus even more dear to us—more raw, more real—and therefore more essential and connected. We want all of Jesus. The honest and the abandon.
Take this cup. Honest. We dip ourselves into this territory, trusting God will hear and handle and that he will somehow use honest to make us better.
Take this cup. What I want. We linger with Jesus there.
Then it happens: the flip. Jesus turns abandon. Not my will. What God wants. A solid relinquishment of Jesus’s choice in favor of the Father’s choice. An alignment of his destiny with the divine desire.
Ponder the mind-set of Jesus from Philippians 2. Jesus, “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (verses 6–8).
Consider each element: (1) Jesus didn’t consider equality with God something to be used to his advantage. (2) Jesus made himself nothing. (3) Jesus took the very nature of a servant. (4) Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to death.
These were Jesus’s voluntary actions. God the Father did not force them upon the Son. Jesus underlines this idea in John 10:18: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”
Abandon, then, comes from choice. But remember, Jesus’s lifestyle of abandon didn’t prevent him from struggling with temptation.
And Jesus chose abandon. “He did not sin,” as Hebrews 4:15 says. Or, as the apostle Paul writes, “Christ did not please himself” (Romans 15:3).
Abandon Comes from Love
Such a sacrificial choice to abandon comes from love. Jesus’s abandon wasn’t a matter of God compelling his Son, but rather of the Son willingly and intimately embracing and embodying his Abba’s self-giving love.
Jesus’ abandon in the garden—side two of his prayer coin—expresses the abandon of love he exhibited throughout his life on earth, the ongoing denial and relinquishment of his will for the will of the Father.
Jesus wrestled mightily with the enemy while surrendering his will to the Father’s. As he told his disciples, “the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (John 14:30–31).
Jesus chose aabandon, and he chose it out of love.
Utter abandon is an exorbitant action—one that was necessary for the work of the cross to be completed.
Even after praying the prayer coin, as Jesus rose to face his betrayer, the guards, the religious and Roman authorities, and the crowds, he continued choosing abandon: “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
Abandon Grows from Obedience
This two-sided prayer shapes us. It teaches us. It changes us. Perhaps this was the point of the biblical writer who indicated that Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).
No one would or could drink the cup of suffering apart from the sovereign design and omnipotent strength flowing from divine love. Jesus’s motivation was love responding to Love. As Jesus uttered his two-sided prayer of honest abandon, God provided what he needed to choose the outcome—the strengthening presence of an angel helped Jesus follow the path of obedience and die on the cross for us. Abandon is a choice, coming from love that grows from obedience.
Jesus tossed the prayer coin up in the air, honest first, then flipping to abandon. The coin spun between the two as Jesus’s desires met the Father’s will, until they settled to the ground in union.
Thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.
Study: Consider this statement: Abandon is a choice. Read Philippians 2:1-8. How does this passage from the apostle Paul explain how Jesus was able to pray in abandon, “Not My Will”?
Reflect: Was it easier for Jesus to pray in abandon than it might be for us to pray in this way? Pause and think deeply about your response.
Practice: Do you ever feel tempted to slip into an “auto-abandon” response when praying “Not My Will”? How might this disengage you from the power of abandon?