The Agony In The Garden

We all have had our moment of agony in the garden, perhaps not as intense as Jesus agony, but we’ve all had a taste of it. When we are feeling anxious, or something disturbs us, we are less likely to pray.

You’ve just had an argument with someone, or for no reason at all suddenly feel depressed, anxious and exhausted. With these feelings it can be hard to pray and so you naturally shy away from prayer until that moment when you feel like you’re in the appropriate mental disposition to do so.

It is precisely in these times that we should pray. We should never break our routine not for any mood whether good or bad, angry or sad. We should always pray through it even if we feel like the prayer is of no use. We must forget our feelings and just pray.

Reading about the agony in the garden it says about Christ that, “in his anguish he prayed even more earnestly,” (Luke:22:44). Instead of running away at the slightest bit of anxiety and trouble in his prayer, Jesus actually prays more intensely.

I’ve often had moments in my life where the attacks of the Devil was too much and I stopped my prayer because I felt I did not have the grace of God to do that kind of battle. I threw in the towel because I’m weak, but you know, Christ here teaches me not to submit so easily. During times of hardship in prayer, the response is to pray even more earnestly than before.

We are so used to praying when in a good mood, that we forget the actual purpose of prayer. Prayer is not about just peace, it is a battle. There are moments of peace and we hold onto them, but there are even greater moments of struggle. And it is in these times of struggle the Lord holds back his light a little to see what we will do. Will we succumb to the temptation and the anguish we feel, or will we fight?

When we pray, it’s the same as taking up a great big broad sword and going into battle. We are going to experience more knocks and set backs than we will victories. But when, with Gods grace we are victorious that is when the angel of consolation comes.

I told my spiritual father the other day that when I woke up that morning I was attacked. In fact, in the morning I am most attacked. Why? I explained that when we awake it is the worst because it’s as if we have been hit over the head with a stick and are dizzy. It makes it easier for our adversaries to stand around us and have their way with us. It is much more difficult to fight in this sleepy drunk sort of state.

I fought and fought and eventually I reached for my sword, that I call the Jesus prayer rope. I call it the sword because that’s what I heard an Orthodox nun call it once. She called it the sword of the Holy Spirit. Take, take up thy sword of the Holy Spirit and smite thou enemy”. I did, I reached for it and it was a 300 knot one. I prayed and prayed and it felt no good at all. But half way through I felt a warmth in my breast and then I felt good again.

What was that warmth? I don’t dare to presume but I’d like to think of it as the angel of consolation. It was God sending me some consolation having seen that instead of giving into my own sinfulness and falling under pressure from the Devils taunts, he’d give me a helping hand.

This is what happened to Jesus, he didn’t give up and afterwards the angels came and consoled him. Elsewhere in the Bible we read that the Kingdom of heaven is taken by violence and by violence people are getting in. So I say, in times of great anxiety, get violent. Take up your weapon of choice and get violent with yourself. Make your body obey you and pray even more earnestly than before.

I do believe that greater graces are to be received when we least feel like praying and yet still pray through all the agony and dryness of soul. Embrace the agony, it’s good for you.

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