Watching and Praying

Matthew 26:40-43 ESV

40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. (read the whole chapter)

We just passed through a small ordeal that has demanded a great deal of attention in our home lately. The town that Julie works in just voted to keep her school open. It has been hard for the past months to hear the debate. The tension and uncertainty took a silent toll in many ways. I know that it has been weighing on Julie.

And so last night we were waiting for the vote results to be phoned in to us from the school’s principal. I don’t think Julie was too stressed. She would be able to find work for sure. That’s one of the benefits of special education. The high turnover rate means there are always openings. . . But I noticed that I was not so much focused on her situation as on my own ideas, problems, etc. While waiting for this very important phone call, I found that I was not watching with her. I was thinking about myself.

I quickly refocused on her, began praying silently and just tried to be more “present” for her. But what gives? You would have thought with all of this anticipation, Julie and her school would have been at the forefront of my mind.

Since I cannot read minds, I find it very hard to really figure out what’s going on in someone else’s head. It requires attentiveness, inquiry, and a certain amount of dedication. I don’t think the disciples in the above passage were really working hard to find out what was going on inside of Jesus’ mind. They had some vague notions of his worries, but not a clear enough picture to stay awake at the most important moment. I would think that if all of the apostles had a clearer idea of what was about to happen, they all would have either brought a weapon or not gone to the garden in the first place.

Relationally speaking, they had been neglecting Jesus. When the real trial came, they were not aware and could not help him.

For myself, it seems that the daily grind of life and my own selfishness keeps me from being more attentive and caring. It wasn’t just that I was selfish at the moment of Julie’s important phone call, it was more in the days immediately leading up to it. I didn’t know what exactly was going on in her mind, and therefore could not stand with her very well. Our present actions flow from the course we have chosen in life. We are already oriented toward selfishness or service. Our choices are not an accident. They are the continuation of a pattern that we have been creating all along.

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