Jesus knew full-well the necessity of His approaching death on the cross. However, the humanity of Jesus was afraid of the pain, shame and separation from God that He would face on Golgotha. He prayed for “this cup” to be taken away from Him if possible … but unlike most humans Jesus added, “nevertheless, Your will be done” Thankfully, for us, God’s will was done.
I think that in saying that, Jesus gave us an example to follow. Even if we don’t get our prayers answered the way that we want in the most dire of situations, we have to understand that if we submit to God’s will then the outcome will be in our best interest. There might be a greater blessing is store for us that could only be realized through that illness, death or difficulty. There might be someone nearby who needs to learn how to care for others in need. The limitations place on us by physical disability might teach us to depend more on God’s provision. God can see the big picture.
History shows us that because of the condition of this fallen world,(except for Enoch and Elijah) we all will face hardship, illness and eventually death (short of the Rapture) regardless of our faith and our prayers.
The so-called unanswered prayer was “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt. 26:39)
Some use this prayer to demonstrate that God doesn’t answer all prayers, even those that came from His own Son. Some even go so far as to teach that since God refused to comfort His son in His time of need but left Him to fend for Himself, we should ignore our children when they’re in distress to teach them the ability to “self-sooth.” Shame on them!
The real point of the prayer, and the reason Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him to hear it was to confirm that there was no other way for mankind to be redeemed but by His shed blood. If there was any other way, then God let His son suffer and die unnecessarily. And it’s not like Jesus didn’t know this. He Himself had been predicting it from the beginning of His ministry, and had inspired David to describe the pain and humiliation of public crucifixion 1,000 years earlier in Psalm 22, long before it had become the preferred method of execution. In that Psalm, by the way, the Lord had David declare that His prayer was heard, proving that there was no other way. You’ll find that in the alternative translation of verse 21included as a foot note in many study Bibles.
Again, using this passage to demonstrate the validity of unanswered prayer is to miss the point of the prayer.