Lesson Prep

Background Scripture (read 2-3 times during the week)

Matthew 26:14-16,31-56,69-75; Mark 14:32-50; Luke 22:39-53; John 18:1-11

Story Summary

Jesus praying in Gethsemane is another story within the Holy Week stories that occurs in all 4 gospel accounts. We chose to use the Matthew version as the basis of the story, but we strongly encourage you to read all four versions to get a complete picture.

This story happens right after the Last Supper and Jesus washing the disciples feet. Matthew 26:30 provides the transition point to this story: "Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives." The Mount of Olives is a place that has a rich Bible history. Going all the way back to the time of David in the Old Testament, when it was known as Mount Olivet (see 2 Samuel 15:30-32), to the New Testament - a lot happened at the Mount of Olives.

The Garden of Gethsemane is an olive garden at the base of the hill. For more information about the Mount of Olives, see BibleWalks.com. The olive trees in Garden of Gethsemane are among some of the oldest on earth (nearly 1,000 years old!)

Several important things happened at the Garden of Gethsemane that night.

  1. Jesus prayed. We see Jesus' humanity and a glimpse inside the trinity in this prayer. Being God, he knew what he was getting ready to go through. But he prays to the Father and asks him to not let him go through the suffering if possible. And then he utters the famous words that are a model of our submission to God: "Yet not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:39)
  2. Jesus asked Peter, James and John to keep watch. His disciples knew something was up. Jesus had been predicting his death for some time, and just before they left the upper room where they had dinner, he predicted that Judas was going to be betray him. Then Judas gets up and leaves the room! 
  3. The disciples couldn't stay awake. Three times Jesus came back from praying by himself and found the disciples sleeping. Sometimes we think the disciples were super-human. And with the power of the Holy Spirit they did some pretty amazing things in the early days of the church. But they were also regular guys. Guys who got tired and fell asleep on one of the most important nights in human history.
  4. Judas betrayed Jesus. Judas came back to join them, but this time with a gang of men and a crowd in riot mode. Judas had agreed to hand over Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. And then he arranged a signal with them. The man he walked up and kissed would be the man they should arrest. 
  5. Peter cut off one of the soldier's ears and Jesus healed him. As the men were arresting Jesus, Peter (always the impulsive one!) drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the soldiers. Matthew, Mark, and Luke don't name the disciple that did this, but we learn it was Peter in the book of John. Just a couple hours before this, Jesus predicted that Peter was going to deny him, and Peter said, "No way!". He was ready for a fight! But Jesus rebuked him and healed the man's ear. Jesus told them that what was getting ready to happen must happen to fulfill God's will. 
  6. Peter denied Jesus. Shortly after praying with Jesus (or attempting to at least!) and trying to cut off the ear of a soldier trying arrest Jesus, Peter denied that he knew Jesus 3 times. We don't know exactly why Peter denies Jesus, but it was surely a low point for him. Perhaps he was scared he would be arrested too. 

After this happened, the men drug Jesus away to stand trial and the events that led to his death were beginning to unfold.

To put this story in context, see this visualization of the chronology of Holy Week.

What You Will Need

Video Option

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

From Saddleback Kids

Resource Sheet

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane Coloring Sheet

This coloring sheet depicts Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane while his disciples slept.


1. Warm Up get your kids talking and engaged

For younger kids: What is the latest you have ever stayed awake? Did you find it hard to stay awake and not go to sleep? Or have you ever tried really hard to stay up late for something, but you just couldn't stay awake? Today, we're going to learn about a time when Jesus was praying in a garden, but disciples couldn't stay awake!

For older kids: Has someone ever accused you of doing something you didn't do? How did it make you feel? How did you respond? Today, we're going to learn about a time when Jesus was arrested even though he had done nothing wrong, and we will see how he responded.

2. Teach the Story teach a holistic story

Read story from a Children's storybook Bible for younger children.

For older children, read the story from an age-appropriate Children's storybook Bible or read directly from the Bible.

3. Bible Mastery give them basic Bible skills

Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud Matthew 26:36-40, 47-54

4. Comprehension Questions make sure they understand the story

First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?

  • What happened right before Jesus and the disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane?
  • The Last Supper
  • What was the name of the mountain the Garden of Gethsemane is on?
  • The Mount of Olives
  • Which disciples did Jesus take with him?
  • Peter, James and John
  • Why did Jesus take his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane?
  • To pray
  • What did the disciples do while Jesus was praying?
  • They were sleeping
  • Which disciple brought the Jewish leaders and soldiers to arrest Jesus?
  • Judas
  • What did the Jewish leaders give Judas as payment to turn Jesus over to them?
  • 30 pieces of silver
  • How did Judas signal to the soldiers which man to arrest?
  • He kissed Jesus
  • What did Peter do when they were arresting Jesus?
  • He cut off one of the soldier's ears with a sword
  • What did Jesus do in response?
  • He told Peter to put away his sword and he healed the man's ear

5. Faith Questions open up a conversation about faith and the gospel; close with prayer

  • As Jesus was praying that night, he told his Father that even though he knew what he was getting ready to go through would be painful, he would do it if it was his will.
  • Are you willing to do what God asks of you? Can you say, "Not my will but yours be done God"?

6. Memory Verse hide God's Word in their heart

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31 ESV)

Reinforcement Activities

Setting up the Scene-Olive trees

Scripture Jesus and his disciples went to a place called Gethsemane. Jesus said to them, "Sit here while I pray." Mark 14:32
Supplies Olives, olive pits, or a small olive tree
  • Gethsemane is a grove of olive trees at the base of the Mount of Olives, just a short distance from Jerusalem.
  • Its name literally means "olive press".
  • Olive trees grow to be about 315-30 feet high, depending on the variety.
  • The trunks become more gnarled, the older they get.
  • There are olive trees know to be 1,000-2,000 years old.
  • Jesus and his disciples used to go there regularly to pray.

Plant an Olive Tree

Heads up! You might was to do this ahead of time and allow the pits to germinate, so the students can transplant them.
Scripture Jesus and his disciples went to a place called Gethsemane. Jesus said to them, "Sit here while I pray." Mark 14:32
Supplies olive pits, compost, bowl, (later you will need a pot with sandy soil)
  • Follow simple instructions to begin growing an olive tree.

ACTS Prayer

Scripture Then he went a short distance away from them. There he got down on his knees and prayed. Luke 22:41
  • Teach students to pray by the ACTS Method.
  • Adoration- Tell God how much you love him.
  • Confession-Confess your sins and ask for forgiveness
  • Thanksgiving-Thank God for what he has given you.
  • Supplication-Pray for needs for others and yourself.
  • Make bookmarks with the letters ACTS to remind students.
  • A simpler way to teach children how to pray is using a handprint.
  • Allow students to trace and cut out their own hands.
  • Write Praise God, Confess, Thank God, Pray for others, Pray for yourself on the fingers.

Act out the Story

Scripture Matthew 26:36-56
Supplies foam swords, fake plastic ear (if possible), ribbon or string (to arrest Jesus with)
  • Have the students act out the events of the story.
  • Characters:
    • Jesus
    • 3 Disciples (Peter, James and John)
    • Judas
    • Soldiers

Sequence of Events

Heads up! This would be a good activity to follow Dominoes
Supplies Coloring sheets from Jesus is anointed with perfume, Entry into Jerusalem, Jesus clears the temple, a widow's gift, the Lord's Supper, Washing the disciples feet, and Gethsemane
  • Work as a class or in groups to place the coloring sheets in order.
  • The sheets can be laid out on the floor or table or clipped to a string with clothespins.

Puzzle Piece Activity

Scripture He went a little farther. Then he fell with his face to the ground. He prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. But let what you want be done, not what I want." Matthew 14:39
Supplies puzzles pieces
  • Provide each student with a puzzle piece.
  • Ask them to draw a picture around the puzzle piece, trying to determine what the rest of the picture looks like.
  • Reveal the puzzles and see how well they guessed the larger picture.
  • The disciples could only see a small piece of what was happening, so they were worn out and confused with the events.
  • Jesus knew the bigger picture. He knew what was about to happen and why it was necessary. He took his sadness to God in prayer.


Scripture "But this is all happening to fulfill the words of the prophets as recorded in the Scriptures." At that point, all the disciples deserted him and fled. Matthew 26:56
Supplies Dominoes
  • Let the kids play with dominoes, during free time or as a group activity.
  • You could have the kids take turns making domino chains and see who can make the best domino chain.
  • The object lesson here is that this was a critical part of the chain of events that led to Jesus dying and then rising again.
  • Challenge them to tell parts of the story of Passion Week and put them in order.
  • Here are the stories we've covered so far and the stories after this lesson:
    • Jesus is Anointed with Perfume
    • Entry into Jerusalem
    • Jesus Clears the Temple
    • A Widow's Gift
    • The Last Supper
    • Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet
    • Gethsemane
    • Crucifixion
    • Jesus is Alive!
    • Jesus Appears to His Disciples
    • Jesus Ascends to Heaven