On the road to Easter - part 2
It's easy to be distracted these days.
There's so much to take our attention from what is really important. There's always a screen with something interesting on it. There's always something shiny to buy. There's always work to be done.
As Jesus is about to be arrested, we find him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Reminiscent of the Garden of Eden, here is where a close relationship with God is interrupted by a violent outbreak of sin. In the Garden of Eden, it was the choice for Adam and Eve to be "like God". In Gethsemane, it was the opportunity of men to arrest and kill the Son of God.
Jesus leaves his disciples to pray. To pray what? That they will not fall into temptation. And Jesus sits alone, praying:
41He 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.”43An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
I don't think we can imagine the pain for Jesus at this point. Knowing what he was about to face, he asks for another way, demonstrating his humanity. Yet he puts his trust in his Father for the plans ahead. How difficult is that to do for us, even with the small everyday things. How hard it is to pray when we face challenges ahead "Please take me on another path, but if this is your will, then I will follow".
Meanwhile, as Jesus' sweat is like blood, the disciples have fallen asleep.
45When 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.
Such a contrast. But why are they asleep?
They are exhausted from sorrow.
It seems it is dawning on the disciples what is happening. Perhaps they are beginning to understand that the end is approaching. But you would think "All the more need to pray!" This is a challenge for us, isn't it? When we are downcast, depressed, facing anxiety and deep sadness, this is when we need prayer more, but when we also often feel unable to pray. Thankfully, we have a Lord and Saviour who does not fall asleep when he prays and intercedes to the Father on our behalf. Thankfully, we also have a family of brothers and sisters who can uphold us in prayer when we are unable. Yet still, in our sorrow, when we do find ourselves struggling to pray, Jesus says this:
... “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
He understands when we find it hard to pray. But he still calls us to pray. Even a little. Even for a moment. Because prayer is how we keep our lines of communication open with our heavenly Father. Prayer is how we show him that we trust him and that we need him.
Have you prayed today?
And is there someone else who might be struggling with sorrow, for whom you could also pray today?
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of prayer. We often find it difficult to take the time to come to you in prayer. Sometimes we are too busy, too distracted, or just too sad. Please help us to return to you in prayer each day, even if it is for a moment.
And most of all, we thank you that in recognising our shortcomings, we can also recognise the work of Jesus is giving himself over to your plans, even knowing what was ahead for him. Help us in our prayers to surrender to your will, rather than tell you what our will is. May we listen obediently, follow faithfully, and live joyfully under your hand. Amen.