There is quite a difference between corporate or public prayer and private prayer. Yesterday's reading was Jesus' priestly prayer with his disciples in the upper room.
Today's reading is the lonely agony of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knew what was in store for His earthly flesh. He knew that He would feel every stroke of the lash, every taunt and disrespectful pull at his beard, every thorn of that crown.
Here we see the human form of Jesus as nowhere else in scripture. There even seems to be a dichotomy between the flesh and the spirit. When He tells the disciples that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, I'm not sure He was referring only to them and their sleeping at post.
Corporate prayer is said aloud, not only for the ears of God, but also for the ears of the people around. Corporate prayer sometimes edifies or brings home a point that may not be obvious. It isn't preaching, but it is a form of directed prayer that leads the hearer to a deeper truth.
Private prayer is a tete-a-tete with God. Sometimes it resembles Jacob's wrestling match, and other times it is simply a quiet spirit waiting for instruction. But those alone times hold the greatest power to change our lives.
When the entire world is crashing down around our ears, those alone times give us the sensitive ear to hear the voice of God amidst the chaos. When an ocean of sorrow swells over us to drown us, that closeness with God buoys us above the raging waves. When we are besieged and beset upon by the world, we gain strength to stand under any assault from our times alone with God.
The powerful Christian, the strong Christian, has made time to be alone with God. He has made God the center of the universe and the remainder of his life revolves around that basic core.
We have been strengthened by the assurances of Jesus' prayer in the upper room. Now we must wait and watch in Gethsemane. This private prayer time is as essential as breath to a Christian life.
Help us to lean upon Your assurances of Your love for us at all times. Draw us closer to You in Gethsemane. Grant that we may hear clearly and obey swiftly when You speak.
In Jesus' most precious name.