Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives
39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.[c]
45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
Jesus wants his disciples to pray, in fact he really wants his closest mates to be praying for him as he approaches the toughest challenge of his life, and yet they are caught napping. When the need is greatest, the disciples are caught napping.
“being ready” is a major theme of Jesus’ teaching, describing his return like a thief in the night, telling parables of the careless bridesmaids who run out of oil (Oil -a symbol of the Holy Spirit) and aren’t around when the Bridegroom returns (Bridegroom -an image for Jesus), or the parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard. John the Baptist’s message was to get ready “prepare the way… for the Kingdom of heaven is close at hand”.
Sadly, this can feel a bit like a picture of the modern day Church caught napping.
Yet could Christ say to us and our Churches “why are you sleeping” and would he challenge us to “get up and pray”.
When I arrived in Kingswood in the parish they had a million and one music groups, flower festivals, concerts and socials but not a single prayer meeting in either Church.
Yet sadly prayer is seen as an optional extra, something just for the keenest. Yet could Christ say to us and our Churches “why are you sleeping” and would he challenge us to “get up and pray”.
Mark Rich says when he goes to a Church the first thing he does is look at the notice sheet and counts the weekly prayer meets as a barometer of the health of the Church.
Unless we have a supernatural element to who we are, we engage with God in prayer we are simply “A Rotary Club with a Pointy roof” to quote Archbishop Justin.
Churches really aren’t measured by their activity or grandeur of the building but in the depth of their relationship with God.
Archbishop Justin continues “without prayer there will be no renewal of the Church, and without a renewal of the Church, there is very little Hope for the world”.
A Church will never be a praying Church unless its component parts -its members- are praying, and I mean really pray, not politely going through the motions dutifully, but seeking God with all of our hearts, souls, mind and strength. A great quote from Pete Greig is our prayers need to be “more Fight Club and less Golf Club!”.
If you want your Church to be a praying Church, then the best advice I can give you is to pray.
Bring it into conversation, let’s pray about this, I’ll be praying for… I was praying… and let’s be Churches of testimony -when God answers our prayers, let’s share it with the Church to encourage and raise the faith of those around us.
And rather than just being a praying Church, let’s join with other Christians in our local area and pray with them and for them, as ultimately, we want to see the body of Christ in this area built up, encouraged and equipped.
As I wrote this I’m reminded of the image of the Roman Soldiers that stood together interlocked with their shields, the idea of needing one another, and fighting together, remembering the adage “united we stand and divided we fall” -so true in the context of prayer, particularly from this passage.
In seeking to encourage Church to go deeper, and become more prayerful, I have experienced some nastiness, opposition and resistance, and maybe you might too? In many ways we are being revolutionaries, our prayers re-write the spiritual DNA of our areas, our prayers are powerful and dangerous so of course Satan will try to keep us asleep rather than being awake and at prayer.
One quote from Mark Rich is “Satan laughs at our schemes, sneers at our plans, but he trembles when we pray”.
I want us to be a Church that makes Satan tremble, don’t you?
Let’s ask ourselves are we as Churches (and as individuals) filling our lives with things that cause us to spiritually fall asleep and distract us from prayer and our relationship with God.
Should we keep doing them?
If the answer is yes, what can we do to keep us awake, alert to the spirit and prayerful?
Let’s pray for a new wave of prayerfulness to sweep across this area and across our nation, let us be part of a new awakening in the Church of God at this time…
Let us wake up and get on our knees.