Jesus knew he would be lifted up for the salvation of all people. He spoke of rising from the dead, even if he first passed through terrible suffering. Nevertheless, he still asked God the Father if there may be another way forward, if he could let the coming terrible hours pass.
As Jesus affirmed God's power to do everything, he still yielded himself to the Father's plan. Mark recounts this scene as follows:
"Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,' he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will'" (Mark 14:35-36).
In a sense, our salvation is directly linked to a prayer request that God never granted.
For all that Jesus knew, he still asked God if he could avoid the coming ordeal. He probably knew the answer to this prayer, and still he asked. The one who encouraged his disciples to ask and they shall receive, asked God for something that he had to consider a long shot.
What makes everything work is the complete reliance of Jesus upon the will of God the Father. He made his preference known, but ultimately realized the final decision came from the Father, laying down his life in the midst of dread for the coming day. In this place of surrender Jesus is able to step forward into the dark night where his enemies lurked.
No one said that obeying the Father is easy or that we will always have our prayers answered in just the way we expect. Jesus knew that his death would bring a harvest of new life, much like a seed sown into the ground that sprouts with lush leaves and fruit. However his approach to prayer when his own life and our salvation stood on the line teaches us that prayer is a mix of being honest with God, while remaining completely yielded to God.
Sometimes I think that faith always requires unflinching confidence that God will act in a certain way, but Jesus shows us that faith often requires yielding and trusting God on the precipice of the unknown. At times we can be certain of our hope in God and his plan, and we may even think we know how God will act, but at the center of prayer and the faith behind our prayers is an attitude of complete surrender to God.
When we find our strength in God and place our trust in the Father's plan for our lives, we can arise in the face of great adversity and take the first step forward. It all begins with the simple statement, "Yet not what I will, but what you will."