Yesterday, I wrote about Jesus’ prayer in the garden just before His arrest. I focused on the sorrow that he felt and His courageous confrontation of it, even asking God to remove a responsibility that Jesus knew could not be removed. But this morning, I was struck by something else, a lesson I’ve needed to learn and re-learn.
He brought His closest friends with Him with a specific instruction: “watch”.
The word is used before He prays and during His scolding of Peter for sleeping. The original word doesn’t mean what we mean sometimes in English. It isn’t “hey, watch this” or “look at this TikTok video.” It means to be vigilant, to carefully scan the environment so that we are ready to act.
It is the kind of watching that a guard might do, or a police officer at an event, or an air traffic controller, or a baggage screener at the airport. It is watching with the expectation that there could be trouble, that at any moment circumstances could align to create a situation that must be managed. Jesus tells Peter to “watch” so that he doesn’t “fall”, but how do we do this? Peter was clearly tired – does vigilance mean we cannot rest?
The human sensory system can stay vigilant for only so long. Research shows that constant vigilance of a stimulus (a scene, a radar screen, etc.) can be maintained successfully for 60-90 minutes before performance drops off (that is, before things we should have seen are missed), even less for “non-expert” watchers. We are not machines that can detect things 24/7/365 without rest. And as Jesus demonstrated, when we just can’t watch anymore, that is the moment for prayer.
Prayer is our rest. Prayer is that moment when we sit before God, conversing, discussing, sharing, crying, doubting, and feeling every other emotion we suppressed while we watched. We ask for things we are sure we can’t have. We tell God how we would do this while accepting our weakness and ignorance. And in the praying, we reset, recharge, and prepare to once again take our post, vigilant against those things that would harm us, NO MATTER WHAT THE CIRCUMSTANCE.
Don’t ever forget – in our modern skeptical perspective on prayer, we would conclude that Jesus’ prayer FAILED. It did nothing of the sort.
So many well-meaning people have been taught so wrongly about this part of our faith. Prayer has been a constant target of the enemy, because if that enemy can break the connection between us and God, we cannot recharge. We cannot reset. We cannot rest. And then we are easy prey.
As believers, we must redefine what we do with prayer. We must remove all the distortions of its purpose that have emerged in the modern era, and stop measuring its worth as a function of whether it was “answered.” That makes prayer an instrument of OUR will and desires, not God’s, something it was never intended to be. We all have our “cups” to bear in this life, and God never promised to remove them. He didn’t even do that for His own Son.
Thanks for reading.