He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you stay alert one hour with me? 41 Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.” 42 A second time he went away and prayed, “My Father, if it’s not possible that this cup is taken away unless I drink it, then let it be what you want” (Matthew 26:40-42, Common English Bible).
Imagine it is Thanksgiving Day. You have just finished the stereotypical huge family meal. There is the turkey, green bean casserole, fluffy pink salad, rice dressing (you can have the cornbread dressing), cranberry sauce, rolls, and whatever else is part of your family’s traditional Thanksgiving meal. Then it is all followed up with a big slice of pecan pie (OK, if you really want it you can have pumpkin pie but I don’t understand why when there is pecan pie there!). Now, settle into the couch or a recliner and start watching a Thanksgiving Day football game. Go ahead! Stay awake! I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU!
To stay awake it is going to have to be a really, really, really good football game. Even then, for most of us, staying awake after that huge Thanksgiving meal is just not possible. I have tried going out and walking. It just delays the inevitable. I am going to have a nap after my Thanksgiving meal. I can’t help it. It is going to happen.Wait! What am I saying?
Wait! What am I saying? It happens just about every Sunday afternoon. Football may or may not be what is on television. And, I can usually find a way to stay awake through the Texans game but either before or after, a nap is something that will almost always happen.
We are often critical of the disciples for falling asleep when Jesus wanted them to pray. I feel pretty certain they had really good intentions. I don’t think they went out there with him thinking, “I have in mind to really disappoint Jesus. When he asks me to pray, instead of doing as he asked, I think I will just curl up and have a nap.”
Here is a good question for you. Have you ever fallen asleep while praying? Come on. Be honest now. Besides, you aren’t lying to me, you are lying to yourself.
I have a tendency to think that if you truly haven’t the most likely explanation is, you don’t pray when you go to bed at night. At the very least you don’t allow yourself to get comfortable while you are praying.
As I think about the disciples that night, they had the perfect storm of falling asleep going. They had just finished a big meal. They had been out on a walk. They began a quiet, usually sedentary activity in prayer. The result became disciples who faded fast, fast asleep.
If we can’t manage to stay awake on Thanksgiving afternoon, why do we expect the disciples to be so much different than us? Jesus did have the same big meal, the same walk, and the same sedentary activity. But, Jesus was in a high-stress situation. As for the disciples, they didn’t realize enough of what was happening and about to happen to be in a state of stress.
I think the real key is, if we are to stay awake in prayer, we need to pick times when we are less tired. Additionally, maybe we really need to seek a posture of prayer where we aren’t quite so comfortable.
Maybe then, we will manage to stay awake and pray with Jesus.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Thankfulness,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved