Matthew 26:36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. 38 Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.”39 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 41 Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial;[e] the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Years ago, when I was new to church – not long a Christian, our church put on a musical about Easter. It was pretty awful mostly. They had an old guy sing mournfully a hymn solo over and over… ‘Could you not watch one hour?’’
Over and over…
I’d invited someone to come with and I did pray a bit, mostly thanking God that they hadn’t come…
But I also felt so bad… about prayer.
I felt so GUILTY about prayer! I was always so rubbish at it. Anyone else?
Maybe it was working shifts in the Police? No! It happened a lot at theological college too – maybe it was Taize chants or something, but I would regularly know just how Peter and the guys felt with those heavy eyes and often fall asleep in the prayer times in church. Head on pew in front. Trying to focus. Daydreaming away as we all just really prayed Lord for all the really lovely children Lord in the really lovely world Lord… on more than one occasion waking to see a pool of slobber below me…
Could you not watch one hour??
I was struggling to break through to five minutes.
I got a book called ‘The Hour That Changes The World,’ to help me pray an hour a day. Here’s how that says you get the breakthrough –
Personal training for prayer! He shows you how to man up and push through an hour, splitting it up 5 minutes at a time.
‘GIMME 5!! GIMME ANOTHER 5! Do me an Hour! Could you not do that?’
Well isn’t half an hour okay? No! What kind of a Christian are you?
‘Could you not watch, one hour with me..’
But I’m busy! I have all these other things going on. How do I get 25 hours in a day? I’m rubbish at praying!
So I got more and more books about prayer, all guaranteed to help me feel worse about my struggling prayer life.
Now some of you, this is your thing. You don’t understand why every Christian doesn’t find it easy to spend hours and hours in intercession.
You need to know – nobody likes you. You make us feel bad!! You make me feel guilty.
Then over the years as I’ve gone into church ministry somehow I picked up that preparing for sermons doesn’t count as praying, that’s work, not proper praying at all… (what?!)
So I had to do a lot extra… how?
Well get up an hour earlier! All the mighty men of God do this… get up really early, apparently.
‘Could you not watch one hour…’
It felt fine, once or twice… but then I started to get grumpy. With my family, With myself. Even with God if I’m honest for bothering me at that time…
‘Could you not watch…’ NO! I want to sleep Lord! I want to snuggle up..
(This is the first part of my notes for my talk tomorrow at Ivy MCR. I’ll put the rest up in the week).