Regarding watching and praying
Now let’s focus on the matter of the disciples falling asleep while sitting, remaining, keeping watch or praying. I am sure you know why I have written it that way. The reason is the each gospel records the matter with slight differences. In Matthew and Mark Jesus tells the disciples to “sit” while He “goes over there to pray”. In fact in Mark they are told to sit until He has prayed. He then takes Peter, James and John and tells them to remain and keep watch, while He goes to pray. Coming back again and finding them sleeping He tells Peter “Couldn’t you watch for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you don’t give in to temptation.” After the third session of praying He found them sleeping again and according to Matthew, Jesus gave them permission to go to sleep again.”
According to Luke Jesus started off by telling them all, they need to pray so that they would not enter into temptation. When Jesus came back to them again (according to Luke) He is absent for a period of time and then comes back and finds them sleeping. Jesus then asks them why they are sleeping? The reason they are sleeping according to Luke is because of sorrow. After which He tells them to get up and pray again that they may not enter into temptation. It is a consistent message in Luke. Jesus begins and ends by telling them to pray and keep on praying so that they will not enter into temptation. He has spelled it out for the last few chapters what is coming upon them. Yes Jesus is about to face an incredible trial but the same is also true of Peter and it is true of all of the disciples. Because of that they need to be aware to pray for themselves that they will not enter into the temptation, or succumb to the test about to come upon them.
I don’t believe there is a difference between the gospel accounts in the sense of what they were to do. It is not that in Matthew they were to sit only and the some time later were to remain in that place and keep watch. Only later praying that they would not enter into temptation. Luke makes it clear that the call to [watch and] pray was given at the beginning. Luke singles this out and repeats the call to pray that they would not enter into temptation. Luke ensured that the challenge to Peter of his coming denial and the fact that he must face it and pray and then when he has repented to strengthen his brothers was at the very centre of this whole process for all the disciples. It is not just Peter who needs to this. It is all of the disciples. They were all in danger here.
It is worth us looking at the word “keep watch” found in Matt 26:38 and Mark 14:34. What exactly does this word mean? Is the idea that the disciples keep an eye out for the betrayer. “Keep watching guys to see that no one comes into the garden because we are in danger. Keep a look out! ” Is that the idea of this word? No, the original word is the word grēgoreuō [γρηγορεύω] which means to keep awake, that is, watch, be vigilant, stay awake, be watchful. The sense appears to be more spiritual than physical although the idea of staying awake is a part of the meaning. We need to stay awake spiritually as well. Be on the alert and aware of the kinds of things that can trip us up. Don’t allow yourself or the devil to lull you into a false sense of security. It is very easy for us to think that we are doing fine and we don’t need to be alert. Nothing could be further from the truth. The moment you slacken your vigilance is the moment the enemy strikes. Sit here, remain here and stay watchful and vigilant and awake, spiritually and naturally.
Interesting isn’t it that Jesus has warned them a number of times and STILL THEY FALL ASLEEP. Matthew and Mark have the disciples sleeping each time He comes back. Jesus comment was a rebuke to the disciples. After having been warned a number of times, still they succumb to fatigue, because of sorrow. Sorrow over what? Nothing has really happened yet on the larger stage. This is still the preliminary activity. But bear in mind it is probably in the middle of the night and they have again been told some pretty shocking news of what is going to happen to their leader. It has been a long day and they are likely troubled by Jesus comments yet again of His pending death and departure from them. The enormity of this and the eminent betrayal is too much for them. They succumb to the sorrow and fall asleep at the very time they need to awake and praying for Jesus, for Peter and for themselves.
Interesting isn’t it that so often when we most need to be praying, we fall asleep. It is uncanny how that happens. Don’t worry if it happens to you, it happens to the best of us and to them. And Jesus comments about it all – “Go ahead and sleep and have your rest.” Matt 26:45. Why? I think we need to go back a few verses to Luke 22:32 where Jesus tells Peter, “but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” He specifically tells Peter that He will pray for Him but do you think that does not include the others as well. Yes Peter had to strengthen his brothers when he returns and pray for them. Even if Peter hasn’t learnt to pray for his fellow disciples, Jesus is still there to intercede, just as He does for us. But so too do we need to pray for ourselves and for one another.
But even though they were aware that the hour was critical they still went to sleep. Isn’t that the same with us? The very thing we know we need to do is the very thing we end up not doing. Jesus tells us the answer to our problem in this section, through the words of Matthew and Mark, “For the spirit is willing but the flesh or the body is weak.” Most often we realise what we have to do. If the problem is motivation then we need to gain perspective at the higher level. It is interesting that the disciples had been told by Jesus what they are going to face but seemingly that wasn’t enough to motivate them. They knew what they needed to do, it was a case of putting it into practice. That is where they failed it seems. We know what we need to do. We leave our “upper room” making claims like Peter made: no that won’t happen to me Lord. I won’t fail you. I won’t slip and fall into temptation. I won’t go to sleep on the job. But we do. Peter too fell asleep despite all his grand claims. Perhaps your problem is not a “spirit” problem. Maybe, just maybe, it is a “flesh” problem. Either your desires and will is stronger or more in focus which means what God’s desires slips out of focus. If that is the case you need to analyse your motivation and the reasons why you want to do His will. Jesus prayed “not my will but Yours be done”. If this sums up your problem, then in essence it IS a spirit problem.
If however, you really really want to do the will of God. You really do want to pray in focus and not fall asleep. You really do want to develop consistency in the spiritual disciplines in your life. Only you can truly answer the question as to whether the “real desire” is present or not. Examine your heart first. If you conclude it is there, then your problem is a “flesh” problem. In the Jesus words, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. If that is the case you have to analyze where your weaknesses lie. That is why Jesus told Peter and the others to pray that they would not enter into temptation. Learn to deal with your flesh in order to advance your spiritual growth.
All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.
So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.
I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.1 Cor 9:25-27
All of us have shortcomings or areas where we are susceptible and open to temptation. Even if that temptation is just the suggestion or urge to give in to it and to give up “for the moment”. Oh I am not giving up the war, just succumbing in this battle. But don’t you realize the battle is a part of the war. Resist the urge to give in and keep pressing forward. When we become more self aware and recognize the classic areas where we personally are likely to give in, we can plan accordingly. A personal note here. I know me and I know there would be times when my flesh would get the best of me if I didn’t have a motivation factor outside of myself. When I decided to start Gems it was primarily for me. I decided I wanted to move consistently through Scripture applying all the things I knew to do verse by verse, book by book for my own good. But I also knew that if I did that there would times when I would be tempted to take it easy and slack off. So I decided when the suggestion came for me to join twitter and “tweet spiritual things” that I would develop the Gems because having you out there waiting would also provide the motivation for me to overcome the slack times. I believe you understand what I am saying.
But did you also catch the significance of Jesus’ comment as recorded in Matthew’s gospel in verse 45, “Go ahead and sleep.” There are times when the body gets worn out and we do indeed need to take rest. When those times comes, that is not a “spirit problem”, it is a “body problem”. It’s not even a “flesh problem”, but a “body problem”. Notice how Matthew has changed “flesh” to “body” and how Jesus has given permission to sleep. I believe it is highly significant. Mark on the other hand uses the word “flesh” but in his account he doesn’t include Jesus’ permission to sleep. Rather Mark writes, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough; the hour has come”. This is what is needed if the issue is a “flesh problem”. As Paul says you need to discipline your body, beat it to make it your slave to do your bidding. But if your body is just weak and tired then give it some rest and come back to the issue tomorrow.
Be wise in the way you approach your weaknesses and learn to discern what your problem actual is. If you can do that you can work out, with the help of the Holy Spirit what to do about it.
I am not sure if what I have shared today is enough or more is needed. I think I have told you enough for you to get the message. I am sure you are intelligent enough to work it out. But I am also going to add the links to the Gems I wrote on 1 Cor 9:27. They might be helpful too.
I also noticed two quotes with Gems 394 that I thought would be good to add for today. I added them at the bottom of the list below.
The differences between can, should, will, and DID are as vast as the distance between stars!Rick Godwin
To live outside the will of God puts us in danger. To live in His will makes us Dangerous!Anon
God is not so concerned about whether we fall. . .but whether we get up again.Letiicia Seviraneta
What God does in us while we wait is as important as what it is we’re waiting for!Anon
The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none.Thomas Carlyle
Your character is not defined by your occasional slip-ups or moments of heroism but by what you are day in and day out.David Gill