"The sleep of the disciples"
by Alexandre Bida
TO CHEW ON: "'Stay here and watch with Me....What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation...'" Matthew 26:38, 40-41
In Bible passages that precede Matthew 26 we see, Jesus had given the disciples plenty of warning that something big was up. He had interpreted the fragrance Mary of Bethany poured on His head as "'for My burial'" (Matthew 26:12). He had said plainly that one of them would betray Him (Matthew 26:21). He had charged them to eat and drink parts of the Passover meal as if they were His body and blood (Matthew 26:26-29).
Surely they sensed it wasn't business as usual. They didn't know what was about to happen (even though Jesus tried to tell them), but they could have brought their puzzlement to God. Especially when Jesus alerted them specifically to "watch," they could have been on the lookout for what all these things meant − to Jesus and to them.
The word watch has within it the meaning of close observation with a view to warning if trouble is coming, as a guard or sentinel. In the Old Testament watchmen guarded walled cities. It was their responsibility to warn the inhabitants of approaching enemies.
Jack Taylor says of this kind of praying: "Watching in prayer and supplication bespeaks having spiritual insight to discern the wiles of Satan and to discover the latter's ends and means" - Jack Taylor, quoted by Dick Eastman in The Hour that Changes the World, p. 64.
But instead of watching, the disciples slept.
I ask myself, am I much different? In the last little while the earth has been plagued with disruptions all over — refugees flooding Europe, worldwide threats of terrorism, wonderment over Earth's rising temperature, disasters of floods, earthquakes, and wildfires, diseases for which there is no antibiotic or cure. I do pray for peace generally and for the inhabitants of these natural-disaster-ravished places along with the people trying to help them. But am I also watchful for what these things might mean in the realm of the spirit? Am I alert and praying into that? What about events in my own community and family?
Jesus' words: "'Watch and pray'" echo down to us across the centuries. Are we engaged in watching prayer, or are we, as the disciples were, thick, drowsy, and becoming riper every day for temptation's picking?
PRAYER: Dear God, I confess my frequent preoccupation with "other things" and my short-sightedness when it comes to prayer. Help me to be more spiritually alert and watchful especially over Satan's designs towards me, my family, and the world. Amen
MORE: Watchful Praying
Dick Eastman concludes his chapter on watching prayer, in the book The Hour that Changes the World, with four practical things we can do to become watchful prayers:
1. Take a few moments during prayer to become spiritually alert. Watch for the methods Satan may try to use to hinder your Christian walk that day. Prayerfully claim power to defeat Satan in each of these areas.
2. Read denominational or missionary-evangelism magazines to help become alert to specific needs in God's work around the world.*
3. Prayerfully recall various international news developments that deserve special prayer.
4. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal further spiritual facts about these needs. This will aid you in praying more intelligently for these needs."
- Dick Eastman in The Hour that Changes the World, p. 73.
*These days one could add to magazines, websites of mission organizations and individual missionaries.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.