“Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, could you not keep watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:40-41, MEV).
Suppose we respond yes to Christ’s call to wake up and pray with Him. What if, like the prophet Isaiah, we moved beyond prayer and worship and said yes to the Father’s call, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Is. 6:8). A short blog does not allow for exploring all the parallels with Isaiah’s predicament. He was obviously not too thrilled with hearing how the people would respond. Their hearts will be calloused, their ears dull and their eyes closed. We might as well admit it—we are tempted to ask the prophet’s question about our nation: “How long, LORD?”
We may not like God’s answer to the “how long” question either, but try reading it while watching the evening news of fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, houses are without people, and the land is utterly desolate” (Is. 6:11). The people in Isaiah’s time experienced the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions and captivity. The New Testament Jews experienced the Roman invasion, destruction of the temple, and the diaspora after 70 A.D. What could be on the horizon for us if we do not repent and turn back to the Lord?
The good news is God’s people are never left without hope! The promise to Isaiah continues to bring us assurance from the Lord today: “And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land” (Is. 6:13). Yes, Cyrus later allowed a remnant to return and repopulate the nation in 583 B.C. Following the Roman occupation, another remnant reestablished the nation of Israel in 1948.
We know the Holy Seed, who was prophesied to bruise the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). We are His body—the body of Christ—in the world today. We may feel like we are only a remnant, but we have this assurance that still echoes from the lips of Jesus:
“Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18–20).
“Look, I give you authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. And nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19).
What lies ahead for us? Only the Father knows! How important is Jesus’ appeal, “Could you not stay awake and pray with me one hour?” What are some of the assignments we’ve been given?
“Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord will come” (Matt. 24:42).
Take heed, watch and pray. For you do not know when the time will come (Mark 13:33).
“Pray in the Spirit always with all kinds of prayer and supplication. To that end be alert with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18).
“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thess. 5:16–18).
The setting was not ideal in Isaiah’s time nor was it appealing in the disciples’ day. It isn’t perfect now. The Garden of Gethsemane assignment is still the same. “Pray with me!”
The Greek word used in both Matthew and Luke’s narrative (proseuchomai) embraces all that is included in the idea of prayer—thanks, asking, requesting, special things. The verb form basically means we are doing the action. It is not optional but an imperative command, and it involves continuous or repeated action. You keep praying and praying and praying! You keep asking and asking and asking! You keep knocking and knocking and if need be shoving open some doors at the Lord’s directive and through the power of His Holy Spirit!
Our spirits are willing. Our flesh is weak. Our hearts’ desire is to be obedient. We still question how long.
As His inner circle of friends and intercessors, we must not despair. The body of Christ is in one of its most vulnerable and difficult times. His nearest ones cannot afford to be asleep when His heart is grieved by the weight of the sins and rejection of the world.
We have one significant difference in our Gethsemane or pressing times. Jesus told His disciples to “sit here while I go and pray yonder,” and He went deeper into the garden to wrestle with the enemy one final time before the cross. That victory is won! The enemy has been defeated. The powers and principalities of darkness have been put to an open shame. He has triumphed over death, hell and the grave. Jesus still tells us to stay here and pray while He goes yonder, but that yonder place is at the right hand of the throne of God where our risen and ascended Lord is ever interceding for us!
Kay Horner is the executive director for the Awakening America Alliance.