36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. He said to the disciples, “Stay here while I go and pray over there.” 37 When he took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, he began to feel sad and anxious. 38 Then he said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert with me.” 39 Then he went a short distance farther and fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”
40 He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you stay alert one hour with me? 41 Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.” 42 A second time he went away and prayed, “My Father, if it’s not possible that this cup be taken away unless I drink it, then let it be what you want.”
43 Again he came and found them sleeping. Their eyes were heavy with sleep. 44 But he left them and again went and prayed the same words for the third time. 45 Then he came to his disciples and said to them, “Will you sleep and rest all night? Look, the time has come for the Human One to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up. Let’s go. Look, here comes my betrayer.”
When life gets difficult, many of us have a tendency to deal with things by not dealing with them. We ignore the feeling. We avoid the conversation. We don’t challenge a behavior because we’re afraid of causing a conflict. We turn to distractions, diversions and substances to deaden the pain. We pretend stuff is ok, when clearly it’s not.
Jesus is literally praying for his life. It can’t be lost on his closest friends that he is upset – in anguish, even. And yet, they cannot bear to sit up and pray with him and for him. They seem to be not simply sleepy, but rather willfully ignorant of what their friend is going through.
The disciples’ sleep becomes a metaphor for our own lives. We may prefer to sleep through all the difficult things. But we’re asked to stay awake and pray through the moments that hurt us. We’re asked to stay awake to empathy for the pain of friends and family. We’re asked to stay awake and not turn away from difficult decisions or hard conversations.
Even when things are tough, even when the tears flow freely – it’s better to stay awake. Stay awake and pray!
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Just for today, think about what it would look like to not sleep through your life. What conversations would you need to have? What hurts would you want to help heal? What would you want to do differently?
Prayer: Holy God, remind us that even your Son was not immune to pain. He suffered every hurt we experience and faced it all with courage and strength. When we are tempted to sleep through our difficulties, remind us that we don’t have to be afraid, because you are with us in every circumstance of our lives. Amen.