Kingdom Submission

A Contemplative Service of Gethsemane

The following service was part of a Passion Week emphasis in Trinity Western University’s thirty-minute campus chapels in the spring of 2010. Our intent was to “watch and pray” with Jesus: to listen to the prayers of his heart at this most crucial time in his passion, and thus, as the disciples longed to do, be taught to pray. To do this, we interwove Luke’s record of the Gethsemane prayer with the High Priestly prayer in John 17. The overall spirit of the service was contemplative, with lots of room for silence. Except for songs with multiple verses, all contemplative songs were repeated four to six times. The service is especially powerful if readers recite the Scriptures from memory.

The room (in our case, a gymnasium) was shrouded in darkness, save dim lighting on a cross. The cross was set slightly off-center to signify that the crucifixion, though it has not yet occurred, is foremost in Jesus’ mind. A dark red cloth was placed like a path leading to the cross, with large candles placed about twelve inches apart on either side of the path. The worship team stood out of sight between the bleachers so that all focus could be on the words and on the cross. A small amount of burning incense was subtly placed behind the cross to invoke a deeper sense of prayerfulness as well. Scripture readings were displayed on understated slides.

We began the service with an instrumental song of preparation to help bring conversations to a close. The order of service follows.

This next half hour is a time of meditation. You are invited to quiet your heart so that you can dwell in intimate communion with Christ this morning.

At one time in his ministry, Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them how to pray. At the root of their request must have been the fact that they had observed a unique and compelling practice of prayer in Jesus’ own life. In the gospels we are told that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray and to spend time with his Father. Jesus’ agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane reveals a much more intimate glimpse into Jesus’ prayer life. Through this recorded prayer, we can sit beside Jesus in his solitude and listen to the things that are on his heart when he prays for us. As we listen to Jesus praying for us this morning, allow your heart to be softened. Be prepared to experience the full weight of Jesus’ love and sacrifice for you as we remember his death this Easter Week.

The songs are all simple prayer songs that you will be able to learn and enter into with little effort. Allow the songs to lead you into quietness. Whether you sing along or just soak them in as they are sung over you, we invite you to rest in the presence of our praying Lord.

Opening Scripture Reading
(reader speaking in front of or among congregation)

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. (Heb. 5:7)

Song of Meditation
“Now That Evening Falls” (Iona Abbey Music Book, Wild Goose Resource Group, words and music by John Bell)

Narrative Scripture Reading
(reader speaking in front of or among congregation)

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:39-42)

Song of Meditation
“O Lord, Hear My Prayer” SNC 203, WR 484

Scripture: Jesus Prays for Glory
(reader kneels on pathway before the cross, with back to congregation)
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. (John 17:1-5)

Time of Silence

Song of Meditation
“Come to My Help, O God” (© 2008 Omega Project Publishing; Prayer of John Cassian, music by Rob Des Cotes. Music available for free at

Narrative Scripture Reading
(reader speaking in front of or among congregation)

An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:43-44)

Song of Meditation
“Wait for the Lord” SNC 96, WR 166

Scripture: Jesus Prays for Truth
(reader kneels on pathway before the cross, with back to congregation)

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. . . . I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17:11, 14-19)

Song of Meditation
“An Undivided Heart” (© 2004 Things Above Music, Tim McCarthy. Based on Psalm 86:11. Contact the author for permission to use this song.)

Time of Silence

Scripture: Jesus Prays for Unity
(reader kneels on pathway before the cross, with back to congregation)
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” (John 17:20-24)

Litany of Submission
(by worship team member or other participant)
Jesus Christ, our Intercessor, thank you for praying for us. We are truly amazed that you, on the edge of your deepest agony, were praying, not only for yourself, but for us. We are humbled by your reverent submission to the will of your Father. With awe and reverence we observe in these moments that though you were in very nature God, you did not cling to that position, but submitted yourself to servanthood, and obeyed your Father even unto death. Help us, Lord Jesus, to pray as you prayed, and to live as you lived: for the glory of God, made holy by the truth, in perfect intimacy with your Father. Give us the courage to die to ourselves, just as you died to yourself, and to live for the sake of others. As we journey with you toward the cross, pierce our hearts with your love and glory and deepen our confidence in you.

Closing Scripture Reading
(reader speaking in front of or among congregation)

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then can condemn? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Rom. 8:31-34)

Song of Adoration (choose one)
“All for Love” (Mia Fields, Hillsongs)
“My Savior’s Love” WR 166, WR 77
“’Tis Midnight and on Olive’s Brow” TH 249
“Go to Dark Gethsemane” PH 97, PsH 381, WR 272

Therefore [Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Heb. 7:25)

Exit in silence.

Tim C. McCarthy ( is associate director of student ministries for chapel programs at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia.

Reformed Worship 98 © December 2010, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.