Matthew 26:31-46 Stay alert and pray!
We started our New Year with hope and expectation. We even made New Year’s resolutions. I shared with you last Sunday the top ten New Year’s resolutions. The first one was “To spend more time with family” and the second one was “To lose weight”! So, let me ask you now. How are you doing?
The reason why we fail so many times is found in today’s Bible passage. When we try to do everything alone, we will fail. When we work with God, we will succeed. When we pursue our own will, we will lose. When we follow God’s will, we will win.
In the Bible, Jesus said in advance that the disciples would run away from him and disown him. However, Peter and other disciples said that they would rather die with Jesus than to disown him. Here we can see their genuine willingness. The problem lies not in their willingness. Jesus said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
We want to do God’s work. We want to live out God’s will through our daily lives. We are genuinely willing to die for the Lord. However, our flesh is weak. That is the problem! How can we overcome this weakness of our flesh?
Jesus suggested one solution. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” When we pray, we are not alone. God works with us. What is prayer? Prayer is our time with God to know God’s will. Prayer is a process through which we surrender our will to follow God’s will. At the end of our prayer, therefore, we would say, “Not my will but Thy will be done!”
Prayer works this way. First, we say to God what we want. “Lord, I want such and such.” If our request pleases God, God will say “YES!” to our request and it will be granted either instantly or in God’s time (in that case, God will say “Wait!”). For example, you pray, saying, “Lord, I want to bring Mr. A to our church!” and talk to Mr. A. To your surprise, he would say yes to your request!
If our request does not fit to the will of God, God would say “NO!” NO is also God’s answer to our prayer! Sometimes NO means “Not Now.” In that case, the answer is actually “Wait!” For example, we have prayed for and invited Mrs. B for three years. So far she has not come yet. However, we keep praying for her because we know that we have to wait for God’s time! Sometimes NO means “NO!” Apostle Paul pleaded God to take a thorn away from him three times but God said no (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). Paul accepted God’s answer and realized that it was better for him actually. A thorn actually made him humble all the time.
We can carry out God’s mission through prayer. Without prayer, we cannot achieve God’s dream. Prayer is essential part of our faith journey. We need to set aside some time for prayer as well as constant prayer. Even when you constantly think about your spouse, you still have special time with your spouse to keep the couple relationship. Without that special time, we cannot keep our relationship.
Even though prayer is so important in our spiritual life, sometimes we cannot pray. For example, the disciples of Jesus could not pray because they fell asleep. Sometimes, we are so occupied with other things we cannot pray. Then what happens? Jesus was praying at the Garden of Gethsemane while all the disciples were sleeping. When we all fail, God is still working for us! God’s faithfulness never fails.
We have to pray to be faithful. Ultimately, however, God’s faithfulness is the foundation of our hope. We fail many times but it is God who saves us time and again. The Bible says, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15).
Pray hard! However, remember that when you cannot pray, there is someone who prays for us! Romans 8:26 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
If God is praying for us and finally achieve God’s will on earth, why does God command us to pray? Because God wants us to participate in God’s joy, to share God’s excitement, to be a part of God’s work, God commands us to pray. When I buy my house, I and my wife paid almost all the down payment but we asked our children to pay 10 dollars each. Because they paid their “shares” now they are co-owners of our house. It was not the amount but their consent that mattered. God can do everything alone but God wants to give us the joy of being God’s partner.
- Without prayer, we cannot bear spiritual fruits.
- Through prayer, we can discern God’s will.
- Through prayer, we can bear spiritual fruits.
- Sometimes, however, we cannot pray because of our weaknesses.
- When we cannot pray, God will pray for us and in us.
- Finally, God’s will be done no matter what.
- God still wants us to pray because God wants us to share the joy of the final victory!
Questions for Reflections
- When do you have time to pray in your busy daily schedule?
- What are the fruits that you have had through prayer?