“They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” – Mark 14:32-34
When I was in the U.S. Army, I was frequently tasked with the responsibility to stay in a location and be on watch. Sometimes that was as a “fireguard” in a building, an observer in a forward listening post or as part of a perimeter security. In each of those situations, I was called to stay and keep watch.
That task reminds me of Jesus’ directive to Peter, James and John in the Garden of Gethsemane. Before going off to pray, he asked them to “Stay here and keep watch.” [Mark 14:34b]
For years, I read about this interaction and the disciples’ subsequent inability to stay awake; and I quietly condemned them for their lack of discipline and focus.
I don’t know all the reasons why they couldn’t stay awake, but the Bible tells us that their “eyes were heavy.” But come on…it did not happen just once. They end up falling asleep 3 times! Perhaps they were bored, distracted or even uncommitted to the task. Whatever the reasons, I am no longer as quick to criticize them because I have come to realize that we can all do the same thing.
We have been tasked with staying alert and being ready. Colossians 4:2 directs us to “Devote [ourselves] to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” We need to remain faithful to that tasking. However, we can lose our focus and fall asleep. We can ease off and fail to earnestly pray for the myriad number of things that are before us. We can even stop being thankful.
As Jesus pointed out, the spirit is willing, but the body is weak; but we must pray. We must stay “awake”.
I long for Jesus to find us praying and watchful when he returns…not asleep. I don’t want us to look at him through bleary eyes with nothing to say. [ref. Mark 14:40]
The reality is the disciples could not see what was coming next, but Jesus could and he understood the need to pray. We may not know all the details about the future, but we know who does…and He is coming again.
Stay and keep watch!
We have experienced significant blessing as a church over the years, and it is tempting to ease off of our prayer time…or even fall “asleep.” But don’t! We need to pray! We need to stay and keep watch. Don’t fall asleep.
Keep pressing on.
“Stay here and keep watch.” – Jesus, Mark 14:34b