How often has this scene played out in our lives?…
With the very best intentions, we pull out our prayer list and start to pray. Long before finishing our list, we wake up to find our prayer list crumpled under our face and the pages in our Bible creased or wet from our slobbering, untimely nap. We plead to God for forgiveness, stretch, bug out our eyes, and try to continue praying down the list only to repeat the napping again…
Well, apparently, we are not much different than the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. We see one of the accounts in Matthew 26:36-46. Jesus, knowing that the time of His betrayal was near, told the disciples to watch and pray while He went alone to pray. Three times He did this. All three times they fell asleep. There are lessons to be learned as we see four contrasts between the actions of the ones who slept and the One who watched and prayed. I give fair warning that you may need to have tissues close by.
1. The disciples’ self-assurance and sorrow lulled them to sleep. Jesus remained on high alert.
- Matthew 26:36-40: “…‘Sit here while I go and pray over there.’ And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.’ He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’ Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘What! Could you not watch with Me one hour?’” This is tear-jerker for me.
- Then came the warning in verse 41, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus knew that though the disciples may have good intentions, without being on alert and bathed in prayer, they would succumb to the flesh and the temptations from the devil. And, they did just that! Good intentions are never enough to go into battle with the enemy of our souls.
- Peter, of all the disciples, should have been on high alert because while in the Upper Room — just prior to going to the Garden of Gethsemane — Jesus had told Peter he would deny Him three times. Peter and all the disciples boldly declared they would not deny Him! This would have been a good time to have taken Jesus at His Word.
- Likely, Jesus was also physically tired and, undoubtedly, He was in great anguish, but He knew the greater need was to pray and commune with the Father for strengthening. False security and reliance upon self will keep us from watching and praying to the One Who is Omnipotent.
2. The disciples were lost and without purpose. Jesus remained focused on His purpose.
- Matthew 26:42, 43: “Again, a second time, He went away and prayed saying, ‘O My Father; if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.’ And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.”
- After the arrest of Jesus, the disciples hid and fled in fear. Jesus faced His accusers with strength and a resolution to stay the course for which He came to the world. This was gained through fervent, focused, and persistent prayer.
3. The disciples met flesh with flesh. Jesus maintained control and submission to the Father.
- Matt 26:44-45: “So He … prayed the third time… Then He came to His disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.’”
- Shortly after this third prayer, Judas came with the great multitude and betrayed Jesus. When they laid hands on Jesus, Peter cut off the ear of a high priest’s servant, Malchus (Matthew 26:51; John 18:10). Jesus reattached the man’s ear, rebuking Peter, “…Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”(John 18:11).
4. The disciples abandoned Jesus after Jesus was bound ( Matthew 26:56). Jesus protected them.
- Peter denied Him three times later that night just as Jesus had told him (Matthew 26:69-75).
- Jesus did not shy away but boldly faced His captors and even sought protection for His friends, so that none would be lost. John 18:8-9: “Jesus answered, ‘I have told you that I am He. Therefore if you seek Me, let these go their way. That the saying might be fulfilled which he spoke, ‘Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.’”
Lessons to be Learned
- DO NOT SLEEP WHILE PRAYING. Don’t make provisions for our weak flesh (Romans 13:14). Avoid praying in the bed when tired. Consider some exercise before praying. Memories are faulty; have a prayer list.
- The enemy has invaded our “garden”; therefore, watch and pray as Jesus commanded. Stay alert and be on guard. We can’t take a break. (1 Thessalonians 5:17; John 14:21).
- When we have a heavy heart, pray more, not less. Pray fervently (James 5:16).
- Make it a priority to pray with other “disciples” at church and elsewhere (Hebrews 10:25; Matthew 18:19, 20).
- If we pray poorly one day, thank God for another chance to do better. Learn from Peter.
- What is your personal lesson learned from these contrasts in the Garden?…