Are we praying or sleeping?
I love the story of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane. On the cross He was stretched out physically, but here we see Him stretched mentally and emotionally as He faces and accepts the path set out for Him. Jesus agonises over the prospect of what He is about to face. And in His agony, what does He do? He prays. He prays so intensely that his sweat is mingled with blood – a known medical condition that indicates huge mental stress. And in that stress He cries out to His Father in prayer.
Contrast Peter and the other disciples. Instead of praying, they fall asleep. And yet Jesus has warned them that trouble and temptation are coming. He spelled out to them that they would fall away that very night. He warned Peter individually that Satan was going to sift him like wheat. But still Peter did not pray. What a contrast! Jesus, who was strong, cried out to God in agonised prayer. The disciples, who were weak, ignored the warnings and gave in to sleep. What was the difference that led one to pray urgently and another to ignore the call to prayer?
I believe that the difference lay in their understanding of the situation. Jesus understood what was at stake. He knew that the challenge He was about to face would stretch Him to the ultimate degree. He was about to face the loneliness of the cross, where He would be separated even from His Father because of the sin of the world placed upon Him. The stakes were high, because victory would mean nothing less than the salvation of the world. Peter had no inkling of how high the stakes were. His speak-first-and-think-later approach had worked for him to date, more or less: he would brave this one out too. He relied upon his own instinct and wits and completely underestimated both his own weakness and the temptation that was to come. And he came crashing down. I wonder if we at Grace have been guilty of the same sort of complacency. The stakes are high. We are weak and vulnerable and yet at the same time God wants to do a mighty work through us, He wants to impact our communities with His love. Once by God’s grace we grasp these truths prayer will become more important to us than comfort or relaxation or even sleep.
Yours in Christ,
Ian Thompson (Acting pastor)