Could you not watch with Me for one hour?
taken from Matthew 26:40
Can you hear the disappointment in Jesus’ voice as He asked His disciples this question?
We will begin with an overview of the complete passage found in Matthew 26:36-46. These verses record what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane before Jesus’ arrest.
Jesus knew what was ahead. He needed to pray and desired the prayers of the disciples. He took His disciples to His favorite place of prayer. Some disciples stayed at one location. (verse 32) Peter, James and John went a little further. (verse 34) Jesus continued even further. (verse 35) I suggest that these garden spots not only refer to physical locations but also to spiritual depth. Symbolically, Jesus went the furthermost into the garden and was the closest to God in prayer.
Although it was late in the evening, Jesus was wide awake! He prayed. “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (verse 39) Then He prayed some more. “My Father, if this cup cannot pass unless I drink it, may Your will be done.” (verse 42). Three times He returned to Peter, James and John. Each time they were asleep. Oops! Finally, Jesus said in verse 45, “Are you still sleeping and resting?” Jesus desired His disciples’ prayer support, but they failed Him.
In The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson writes, “The disciples let Jesus down when He needed them most. It didn’t just hurt Jesus; Jesus knew it would hurt them as well.” Soon Peter denied Jesus three times. Batterson adds, “I wounder if Peter would have denied Jesus if he had been praying instead of sleeping? Maybe he failed the test three times because he hadn’t done his prayer homework. We see those three denials as three temptations, but maybe they were three opportunities to get it right. While I can’t prove it, I think Peter would have passed the test if he had prayed through. But he didn’t.”
In verse 41, Jesus gave Peter a warning, “Watch and pray so that you will not enter into temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Peter did not follow Jesus’ advice. Today, we should hear these words spoken to us. Do we fulfill Jesus’ command? Do we pray? Do we listen more to our spirit or our flesh?
Have you ever fallen asleep while praying? I have to admit this happens to me. Going to sleep at night talking with Jesus is not bad. Falling asleep when interceding for a specific need is bad.
For me, talking with Jesus about my day is a relaxing way to fall asleep. I do not mean it as an insult. I do not fall asleep because I am bored talking with Him. I fall asleep praying because I leave my concerns and problems with Him. I rest in His presence.
I consider it a privilege when people ask me to pray for them. I take their requests seriously. Praying for their needs is not a time to fall asleep. This is intercession time. This is spiritual warfare. This is a serious sacred responsibility.
The disciples failed to stay wide awake and pray. I have failed to stay awake while praying. Does that mean that the disciples and I are failures?
Certainly not! It is true that Peter had trouble praying with Jesus on the night of His arrest. However, Jesus seized the opportunity to teach Peter the importance of prayer. Jesus still had plans for him. In John 21, Jesus tells Peter to feed His sheep. Acts 2 records Peter’s anointed sermon at Pentecost. Peter needed to know the power of prayer. And, he needed to know how and when to pray.
Jesus has plans for us. We must be wide awake pray-ers to accomplish these plans. Staying awake to pray can have an additional meaning. We are to stay awake to the things that require prayer in today’s world. We must be alert to who and what we are to pray for. Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
In Romans 12:12, we are told to be faithful in prayer. I Thessalonians 5:17 says we are to pray without ceasing.
In Colossians 4:2, we are exhorted to devote ourselves to prayer. The prayer of the upright pleases God according to Proverbs 15:8. We would be wise to remember the words of James 5:16, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
I like the Message translation of I Peter 4:7, “Stay wide awake in prayer.”
I do not want to hear Jesus ask me, “Could you not watch with Me for one hour? I do not want to disappoint Him. How about you?