“And when [Jesus] rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping?'” (Luke 22:45,46)
I can see myself in that group of sleeping disciples. I doze off watching TV at night. I’ve struggled to stay awake during conference presentations. And conference worship sermons. My eyelids get heavy every afternoon about 1:30. A nice big meal with a few glasses of wine (the Passover meal) must have made it difficult to stay awake for an evening prayer meeting.
Now sometimes, Jesus stayed up all night praying (Luke 6:12). He had met with Nicodemus after dark. Just a few years ago, the disciples’ routine was staying out all night, casting their nets from the fishing boats.
But this night was different. At the meal, Jesus told the disciples it would be his body broken and his blood poured out. Then he dropped the betrayal and denial bombs. On top of that, they would soon need moneybags, knapsacks and swords. I think they were emotionally drained. Exhausted. They found it impossible to stay awake.
As I shared with the congregation in a sermon just a few days ago, it’s hard to pray for an hour. I remember trying to fill a one-hour slot in a twenty-four hour prayer vigil. When I glanced at my watch after a long list of petitions, I saw I had only fifty-three more minutes to go. It’s a lot harder than it sounds.
At least it is when you feel like you have to do all the talking. But if prayer is actually a conversation, you can listen, too. Jesus can pray for an hour or all night. Let him do the heavy lifting. Listen to his voice. Read the word aloud. The red letters. Lots of psalms. Take some notes. Write down a few questions. Draw some pictures. Nowhere in the bible does it say you have to fold your hands, bow your head, and close your eyes to pray. I don’t even know who came up with that posture. In the bible, don’t people lift their heads, raise their hands, and shout to the Lord?
I know you’ve read about folks who get up early to pray for two or three hours each day. I’m not one of them. As I mentioned above, I’m lucky if I last seven minutes. Long texts on my phone. Sorry, I zone out after one screen. A more-than-one-page Christmas letter? I scan the pictures. If you ask me to pray before a meal, don’t worry. Your food will still be hot. I max out at 30 seconds. I get to the point.
Lord, I’m awake. But I might drift off any minute. Thanks for hearing my prayer. Amen.