Jesus, the Disciples and Prayer
Mark 14:32 ¶ They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”
Mark 14:33 He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated.
Mark 14:34 And said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.”
Mark 14:35 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.
Mark 14:37 He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour?
Mark 14:38 Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Mark 14:39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words.
Mark 14:40 And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him.
Interestingly yesterday's reading in Mark included the encouragement to stay awake and alert, because we never know when Christ will return. Today's scripture also tells us to be awake, but this time for another reason, for now it has to do with prayer.
I have noticed a pattern in the New Testament. Often we read that Jesus is going somewhere to pray, possibly for the entire night. The disciples would be asked to come along. However, it becomes questionable as to whether the disciples actually join him in prayer, or whether they simply come along for the journey.
This final night in Gethsemane is an example. Jesus is, very specifically, going to the garden to spend time in prayer. He asks the disciples to come with him and to keep watch. The problem is, they do not pray, but rather, they simply fall asleep. And this pattern is repeated, three times.
It seems that the disciples were constantly learning about prayer from Jesus. They began their prayer lives in very simple ways. They watched Jesus pray and finally one day had the nerve to ask Jesus to teach them to pray. That's when we receive the Lord's prayer. It appears, however, that until Jesus leaves them, that they really do not develop much of a prayer life. After he's gone, they become hungry for the fellowship which they had experienced with Christ. The entire group of disciples is willing to go to the upper room and spend ten days in prayer, waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The reality is that as their relationship with Jesus grew, their prayer lives grew. This is the same for us today. We may start small. We may begin by falling asleep when trying to pray, but we must press on. We must make time to fellowship with the Lord in prayer. We may begin with the Lord's prayer, but it will expand beyond that framework as we begin to touch the heart of God.
As a result of their prayer lives the disciples were transformed by the Holy Spirit. The same is true for all of us today. We too, can be transformed, but we must be willing to spend time in prayer. For Jesus, it was a priority. He knew that he could do nothing without having spent time talking and having fellowship with the Father. Why do we think that we can manage our daily lives without him? We may just be beginning our life of prayer, or we may be like Jesus, where we need to spend the night talking with the Father. Jesus was an example for the disciples in prayer, and he is for us today as well.
Lord, please help my prayer life to continue to grow in you. Amen.