Christian pilgrims in and around Jerusalem visit many meaningful and memorable places. One can hardly turn a corner or take a step without encountering something of historical, biblical and of spiritual significance.
It is possible to walk the probable route of Jesus’ Palm Sunday parade and triumphal entry into the city. Visitors can climb the steps of the Temple, where we know Jesus sat to teach his followers while crowds listened. And, of course, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre surrounds the likely site where Jesus died and was buried.
But one of the most meaningful–and prayer-provoking–spots in the Holy Land is the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives.
There, in a walled garden, grow olive trees whose ancestors witnessed the travail of Jesus on the night before His crucifixion.
There, too, The Church of All Nations, next to the garden, encompasses a rock outcropping where tradition says Jesus collapsed in agony, anticipating His coming arrest, trial, torture and execution. The stone has been rubbed smooth by the fingers of millions of prayerful pilgrims who, like their Master, kneel in Gethsemane to pray.
You may not be able to travel to Jerusalem. You may never see those ancient olive trees or touch that shiny stone. But you can still kneel in Gethsemane. You can still ponder in prayer the great love that compelled the greatest of souls to the greatest sacrifice.
Some churches in your area may offer Maundy Thursday services (“Maundy Thursday”–or Holy Thursday–is the traditional term for the Thursday before Easter, the day when Jesus would have prayed in Gethsemane). If none are available in your community, you can still kneel in Gethsemane by doing any of the following:
- In your personal prayer time on that day, spend some time on your knees–or even prostrate, face down on the floor–to identify with Jesus’ desperate praying in the Garden.
- If you know the chorus to the hymn, “Lead Me to Calvary,” sing it prayerfully sometime that day:
Lest I forget Gethsemane,
Lest I forget Thine agony;
Lest I forget Thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.
- If you eat dinner with your family, instead of sitting as you say grace, why not kneel, as a way of reminding everyone of Jesus’ agony in the Garden?
- Take a walk where there are plenty of trees, and pause by one to stand or kneel in prayer.
- If you are unable to kneel, try simply touching your knees and praying something like this:
“Lord Jesus, thank you for enduring such agony as you suffered in the Garden and throughout your trial and on the cross for my sake and the sake of others like me. Thank you for praying, ‘Not my will but Thine be done.’ Thank you for rising to meet your betrayer. Thank you for the obedience and love that drove you all the way to the cross to win salvation for souls like mine. Amen.”