On the eve of Christ’s crucifixion, the Savior gathered the eleven disciples in the quiet Garden of Gethsemane to watch and pray:
“And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’ And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘So you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:39-41)
As the story unfolds, we find the disciples continuing to doze off, “Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. . . . Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?” (v. 43, 45)
This motley crew was obviously worn out from the day.
These true-to-life details in the Bible always make me smile. Not only do we discover the disciples were just regular humans like you and I, but also that they received gracious prompting and guidance from the loving Messiah… in the midst of their tiredness and ignorance.
So, conversely, these details prick my heart. I know I’m just as prone to doze off, wander from the path, and be rather ho-hum about watching and praying. And the words of the Savior ring in my ears. Am I still sleeping and resting? Am I drowsy at the wheel?
As the velocity of immorality continues to pick up speed in our culture, as the bitterness of rage, envy, and racism soaks across our country, and as the allure of materialism, entertainment, and greed pull at us from all directions, we must watch and pray. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
A torrent of anger and violence is splintering our society. The shrapnel of hate is exploding into the air and lodging into hearts young and old. A vortex of sexual deception is dragging in dozens by the minute.
And are we still sleeping?
Today, we are not watching for the moment of Christ’s death but for Christ’s return. And how we view the future will change how we live in the present. The apostle Paul pivots on this truth with another call to be awake:
“Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed [the final step of salvation, i.e. glorification at the return of Christ]. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Romans 13:11-14)
Let’s not hurry over those inspired words. Take a moment to read over that passage again, perhaps a little more slowly this time. Christ’s return is imminent, which means He may come back at any moment.
And yet we know the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. But again, how we view the future changes how we live in the present. Therefore, we must watch and pray with full vigor and fervency. The temptations, distractions, and challenges are wearying, tiring.
So we must…
…Watch with eyes wide open.
…Pray with a heart that is broken (see Psalm 51:17).
Will you join with me in prayer for one hour today? From 7-8pm tonight we will gather at North Park Baptist Church to watch and pray. I hope you can join us. If you are unable to do so or are a part of another church or geographical location, perhaps you might also watch and pray this evening wherever you may be from 7-8pm, in collaboration with God’s people here on the sunset-side of Michigan.
- Here’s a truth-saturated, richly beautiful song of watching and waiting from our friends Dave and Licia, The Gray Havens – Shadows of the Dawn:
(P.S. I love the build at 3:00min)