Rise and Pray

“and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Luke 22:46.

This is Jesus speaking to the disciples during those agonizing hours of prayer in Gethsemane. These hours were leading up to events that he had already prepared them for (Matthew 16:21-23):

He would be betrayed and arrested.

The disciples would scatter and leave him.

Peter would deny knowing Him at all. Three times.

He would be delivered up to be crucified.

But then: He would rise again on the third day.

Before their walk to Gethsemane, Jesus personally addressed Peter:

“Simon, behold Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fall.”  (Luke 22:31-32)

Peter’s Response: “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33)

Peter continued with the boastful claim that he would remain by Jesus’ side even if all the others failed to do so. This is not the first conversation between Peter and Christ that ended with him denying what Jesus had revealed (Matthew 16:21-23). Peter had an affinity for such bold claims.

Our Lord had a response to this sentiment: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41). Paul echoed this to the Corinthian church: “Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it” (2 Cor 8:11, emphasis mine). Enthusiasm is not everything, and definitely will not ensure that we will pass the tests ahead of us. Jesus knew this, so he instructed Peter, and the others, to pray.

And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:40)

He gave them every reason to be on their knees. Fervent prayers for strength, endurance, and hope were needed, but instead they slept. Jesus even woke them to remind them how important those prayers of preparation would be, and to rebuke their lack of stamina (Matthew 26:40). They slept on. When the time of betrayal came, the disciples weren’t equipped to respond. They had missed the prayer meeting.

They forgot prior warnings of his arrest, and His promise to resurrect.

They were stunned.

They fled.

Peter cut a man’s ear off!

Peter had told the Lord that he was willing to die for Him (John 13:37), but his timing was off. Christ had specifically told Peter that he would indeed die for Him—but not that day (John 13:36). He was not in sync with God’s timing. Those extra hours of sleep did not prepare the disciples to face these trials. Neither will the extra sleep prepare us.

When we are faced with the choice of getting up to pray and sleeping in a few minutes longer- which one wins out more often? Although God created rest, and it is a necessity; it alone will not prepare us for what the day holds. Paul speaks of the importance of prayer as a weapon against the enemy:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” - Ephesians 6:10-11,18

I am convinced that the Bible tells us what to do, and prayer tells us when. It keeps us in step with the plan God has in store for us that day. Joshua had to stay in step with the Lord on his military conquests in order to be successful. When he stepped out without inquiring of the Lord at the battle of Ai, he lost 36 warriors (Joshua 7:1-5).

When we “inquire of the Lord,” we poise ourselves to receive his instruction. While we are praying, confession reminds us that we need His instruction. Praise reminds us that He is the source of it. Thankfulness reminds us of the times that He has done it. James tells us that God gives wisdom generously to those who ask without doubting (James 1). Later in the chapter, James writes that we are blessed when we remain steadfast under trials and testing, instead of being enticed by our own weaknesses. Our enemy knows our weaknesses, and wants to prey on them (1 Peter 5:8) But God also knows our weaknesses, and His strength is made perfect through them (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Each day as we prepare to “fight the good fight of faith” (2 Tim 4:7), I want to be armed with more than just enthusiasm and a good night’s sleep. The verse I began this post with sits by my bedside as my “call to arms” each morning at 6AM. Paired with it is the angel’s command to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:7: “arise and eat, the journey is too great for you.” I cannot make it one day’s journey without help from my Lord. Just as we need physical nourishment from food daily, so we need spiritual nourishment from God’s Word and prayer daily. This time with God will prepare us for what He is calling us to do, calling us to endure, and calling us to resist.

“My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you.” - Isaiah 26:9