What might we make of Jesus’ prayer to his heavenly Father, as we just heard it?

Now my soul is troubled.
What shall I say: Father, save me from this hour?
But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour.
Father, glorify your name!

This is John’s version of the prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prays this prayer just prior to the Last Supper, leading directly into his passion. It is deeply heartfelt, revealing the very human fear of what is coming, yet it also shows he is confident of his Father’s care and committed to the task ahead. As the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews put it, ‘Christ offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard.’

Note those few words, ‘to save him out of death’. It is not saving from death. Jesus would, in humble obedience, walk the path to Calvary. He would do what was needed so that we might be saved, for he had nothing other than his body to give. His broken body, given for the healing of our broken lives.

This is a powerful prayer from Jesus—powerful for what it would mean for him, in obedience and trust. The grain that was to die prays for the harvest we are looking for. ‘When I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself.’ Jesus, in his prayer, looked for a way for us, with nothing other than the life he had to give, trusting that his Father would make of it something greater than all that had ever been done. It is a powerful prayer.

But perhaps this prayer is a painful one for us to hear? At least it is for me. That someone—Jesus, the only one—would need to offer such a prayer for me, and for us, is hard to hear. It is a reminder of just what Jesus did for us, without our input, our commitment. Jesus prays that there will not be an end to the road for us, by taking the road to its end for us. As he said from the cross, with his last breath, ‘it is accomplished.’ He did for me and you what I and we could not do for ourselves.

St Patrick, the patron of our Cathedral and of our Archdiocese, knew of the significance of Jesus’ most heart-wrenching prayer, and witnessed to it in his life. (Today would normally be St Patrick’s Day, but it transferred to tomorrow as it falls this year on a Sunday in Lent.) Patrick knew that, with his own life, God had called him to take the path of discipleship in Jesus, to enable the Celtic peoples to come into the light of Christ. He made Jesus’ prayer his own, and sacrificed his life for others. The love of God for him had been written deeply into his heart, and he lived this in a way that others saw and were attracted to.

Like Patrick, we can make the prayer of Jesus our own—a prayer that saves us ‘out of death’ and into God’s glory. It is a prayer—and a commitment—where we can see the resurrection from the brokenness of our own lives. Father, glorify your name in me, in us!