‘It is far from being certain that Christ prayed to be delivered from crucifixion.
John xii. 23: “And Jesus answered them, saying, the hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. 24. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit. 25. He that loveth his life, shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal. 26. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be; if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. 27. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour; but for this cause came I unto this hour. 28. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
Here Christ plainly intimates, that he did not pray to escape the death to which he was appointed, and for which he had come to that hour. But it may be asked, against what did Jesus pray in the garden? I reply, against being overcome by the agony of his soul, and crushed to death before he came to the cross. The following passages may throw some light upon this question: John xiv. 30: “Hereafter I will not talk much with you; for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.”
Here he informs his disciples, that he must soon break off the conversation with them, for he was just entering into a severe conflict with Satan. Matthew records the conflict through which the Saviour passed, and of which he advised his disciples.
Matt. xxvi. 37: “And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. 38. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. 39. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. 40. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What! could ye not watch with me one hour? 41. Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. 42. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. 43. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. 44. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.”
Here it appears, that Christ had his last and great conflict with Satan. Satan set on him, as it appears, to kill him outright with anguish.
Luke, in recording this transaction, says, xxii. 39: “And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the Mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. 40. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. 41. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, 42. Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done. 43. And there appeared an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44. And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45. And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, 16. And said to them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.”
It is, I think, plain, that this struggle in the garden was a sore and overwhelming temptation, and that an angel was sent to assist him, by resisting and putting away Satan; that is, it was by sending an angel, that his Father answered his prayer. This prayer appears to have been heard and answered for from this time his mind remained calm. There is a passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that I think evidently refers to this scene.
Heb. v. 7: “Who, in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.”
To what does this refer, if not to the death he feared in the garden? He said on that occasion, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death.” He then offered up prayer with strong crying and tears, and was heard, &c. To my mind all these circumstances taken together make it very evident, that Christ did not pray against the cross, in the petition under consideration, but that, on the contrary, he prayed to be delivered from temptation, and was heard and answered.’
Source: Charles G. Finney, Finney’s lectures on Systematic Theology (1851 edition), Lecture 80: Perseverance Proved, p. 615-616.