I’m currently in the middle of a life application of the Bible’s teaching on persevering in prayer.
I tell you this, because I want you to know I’m learning as I go…I have NOT arrived, by any means, I am simply processing here what the Lord is laying on my heart as I read His word. For sure, my attempt to walk out the instructions He’s given looks more like a crippled limp at best, and a slow crawl at worst.
You should know, I fall often in this area of watching and praying.
I give up easily.
I even purposely ignore it sometimes.
As embarrassing as that is to admit, I feel you should be aware, for the sake of your own conscience. The warning here is, don’t do as I do. And if you have mastered this, I’m open to learning from you, how do you do it? How do you “watch and pray” without falling asleep, or finding your mind has wandered off mid session? How do you stay focused and intent in your conversations with the Father? And, if you are like me, what do you do when war breaks out between your spirit and your flesh? Or when the enemy comes in like a flood, and overwhelms your inner sanctuary with cares of the day, news about a sick family member or death of a friend, financial stress, ugly family dynamics, or regret, condemnation and shame? When you’ve done all you can to push through those distractions and assaults, there’s still no answer, and it feels like your prayers are hitting the ceiling, and the tire’s flat, or the internet goes out for no reason…how do you put all that aside and continue to persevere in prayer.
My study of John 17, took me back to chapters 13-16 to set the context of Jesus’ prayer for us, as well as to the other gospel accounts of Jesus praying. In fact, both accounts are recorded just prior to Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. Remember when He was at Gethsemane, and brought along His disciples? He told them of his soul’s sorrow and asked them to watch and pray with him. Three times he returned to find them sleeping, and three times He asked the Father to let this cup pass, ultimately putting God’s will above His own. Matthew’s and Mark’s account of this prayer, falls between some of the same events that the book of John has surrounding the prayer of Jesus for His disciples.
Mark 14:41 And he came the third time, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come; the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Matthew 26:45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Compare these two passages with Jesus’ words in John 17, where He engages in a prayer meeting for His disciples:
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee,
Again, I’m no scholar, but I love to think that at the same point that Jesus was praying for Himself, and for God’s will, He was also praying for the disciples, who were sleeping through their watch.
I like to believe He still does.
Jesus perseveres in prayer, interceding for me to the Father, even when I am weak, or tired, or sleepy, or even apathetic…it doesn’t change His focus of prayer for me. His prayer for me is the same as it was for His first followers, that I would bring glory to Him, that I would have His joy complete in me, that I would be one with His body, and that I would be protected from evil.
I’ve never considered this before today, but what if the sweating drops of blood at Gethsemane was not for the grief that He knew He was about to bear, but for the heaviness of His heart for His own followers. What if the agony in the garden was not about His pain, but the weight of my sin on Him at the time. What if He knew that “this cup” was necessary to bring answer to His prayer for my sanctification, my joy, and my own oneness with Him. “This cup” was the way for me to remain in Him, and He in me, as He is one with the Father in heaven.
What if, in the garden, it really was all about me?