Watch and Pray

March 31, 2017

How important is prayer? How important is watchfulness – for ourselves and for one another?

Travel with me to Gethsemane, the night our Lord will be betrayed. He is sorrowful and troubled. He asks His closest friends, Peter, James, and John, to come to the garden with Him, and to sit while He prays. He is in deep need. He wants their presence, their prayers. Yet after a while, He returns and finds them sleeping. He asks:

“Could you not watch one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:37b-38)

The hour has come. The betrayer is at hand. Both Jesus and His disciples are about to undergo severe trials. And yet Peter, James, and John neglect to watch and pray.

Jesus knows they want to stay awake, to remain with Him, to intercede for Him: “The spirit is willing.”

Their flesh, however, is weak. They are exhausted. They lack focus. Rather than spur each other on to watchfulness, they become silent; their eyelids droop; and they sleep.

In noting that their flesh is weak, Jesus is not providing them with an excuse. Quite the opposite. Because their flesh is weak, they must call upon God to help them fight temptation. They must help one another to remain watchful.

What about us? Our flesh is weak, just like the disciples. And we have the same enemy assaulting us, tempting us, lying to us, deceiving us. Furthermore, just like the disciples, we must have more than a willing spirit; our statement, “Yes, Jesus, I will follow You!” is not sufficient for us to truly follow Him, to avoid temptation, and to live to God’s glory.

Given our weak flesh, given the power of our enemy, what must we do?

We must do what Peter, James, and John did not do that momentous night: We must keep alert; we must rouse one another; we must be aware of our weaknesses and Satan’s wiles.

And that means we must pray. The road set before is challenging and dangerous. We cannot travel it individually by our power. Indeed, we cannot travel it together by our human power. Yet just as Jesus instructs His disciples, all Scripture instructs us: Pray without ceasing. Depend on God. Call out to Him in the day of trouble – for yourself and for your brother and sisters. He is the God of all comfort; He is the God of all might; He is the Father of mercies. So pray for watchfulness and strength; pray for eyes to see reality as it is; pray for one another in this battle; pray for God’s Kingdom to come, His will to be done; pray against the schemes and power of the devil.

A Bible scholar of the last century wrote, “The essence of the road of the righteous is this: it is a road too difficult to walk without the companionship and friendship of God.” This God stands ready to strengthen and confort you, to enable you to build up and comfort others, to cause you to watch and pray effectively. Know that your flesh is weak. So don’t be content with a spirit which is merely willing. Cry out for the resources only God can give you to be able to watch and pray and encourage and persevere.