Asleep on a Watch
Text: Matthew 26 : 31 - 56
Jesus had asked His three disciples to watch with Him as He entered into deep prayer (Cf. Matthew 26:38). These were specially chosen because they were closest to Jesus and also because they probably were the more spiritual of the two groups. These disciples had also voiced aloud their determination to die with Him if needs be (Cf. Matthew 26:35).
After the first season of prayer, Jesus took a break, and went to check on His disciples. How had they fared on their watch in prayer.
“Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping,
and said to Peter, ‘What? Could you not watch with Me one hour?
Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed
is willing, but the flesh is weak.'”
DIFFICULTIES IN PRAYER
As we study how the disciples failed miserably in their attempt to watch and pray, we appreciate in a fresh new way how Jesus mastered the different elements of prayer.
1. Understanding of Prayer as “A Watch”
The idea of a “watch” must be compared to the work of a watchman. We are reminded of two prophets who understood their ministry as watchmen. Ezekiel was told specifically that he was to be a watchman for the Lord. Habakkuk saw himself as a man who watched in prayer.
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for
the house of Israel.”
“I will stand my watch
And set myself on the rampart,
And watch to see what He will say to me,
And what I will answer when I am corrected.”
a) Prayer involved intercession.
b) Prayer also involved an expectation that God would give a reply.
c) Prayer was highly interactive.
Obviously, the disciples had not mastered these lessons yet. They failed in their task as watchmen.
2. Spiritual Stamina
As much as there is physical stamina, so there must be spiritual stamina. In a man, the physical and spiritual are inter-related, for the human being is after all both flesh and spirit. Let us ponder the following thoughts as to how we may develop spiritual stamina.
a) The flesh is weak
That may be obvious, but it had to be stated nonetheless! Just how weak the flesh is could not be more clearly illustrated when one falls asleep on a watch in prayer. Just an hour of watching in prayer and the disciples had already succumbed to the needs of the flesh.
Let us recognize the fact that the flesh, the natural part of us, is not inclined to prayer. Because of our sinfulness we tend to be far less prayerful than we should be. We give in too easily to the flesh and its demands.
b) The spirit is willing
It is of great importance to cultivate the strength of the spirit. If anyone had reason to be physically tired, Jesus would be that Person. He was the One who worked the hardest, slept the least, and yet His strong spirit triumphed!
Prayer must involve the spirit! Many have difficulty understanding how this principle works in life, let alone in the realm of prayer. We tend to be so earth-bound that we are not conscious of how our spirit works.
We are at last alerted to the fact that there is a spirit within us that will give battle to the flesh. If we keep seeking to battle the flesh we will understand better how the spirit works. If we keep seeking to develop our prayer life, fashioning the way after that of Jesus, then we will better understand how the spirit works.
3. Prayer and testings of life
Jesus wanted His disciples to learn how to pray very much better – for their own sakes. He knew that in life there would always be “tests” or “temptations”.
a) Tests may come from God Himself
The principle of “testing” was well established in the writings of Moses. God spoke to Moses about how He would test Israel to see if the people would obey Him (Exodus 16:4).
b) Tests may come from the devil
This knowledge is well attested in the temptations of Jesus Himself (Matthew 4:1-11). If the devil dared to test even Jesus, why would he not challenge and test our faith in God?
c) Prayer helps a person to overcome any and every test
Jesus urged His disciples to bestir their spirits to watch and pray. If they were not prayerful people, they would surely succumb when times of testing came!
We must heed these words of warning! Let us cultivate a strong spirit of prayer.