“And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Then He came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, “What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”Matthew 26:37-46
I don’t like to admit it but, I can totally identify with this portion of Scripture; maybe not with sleepiness, although certainly many times that too, but rather with prayerlessness in a time of great need. As I try to imagine what must have been going through the disciple’s heads, I recognize there were probably some similarities that we all experience today; such as boredom or maybe they struggled with not knowing how to pray or insecurity about what to pray for.
They may have questioned why nothing happened when they prayed or experienced disappointment when their prayers weren’t even answered the first or even second time.
I imagine there were times when, “I’m sleepy Jesus, I’ll pray in the morning” came to mind. Perhaps they figured Jesus had it covered, after all, He’s God and they were not…so night, night Jesus. Unfortunately, they weren’t there at the moment of Jesus’ great need and when they awoke, His betrayer was at hand.
Waking Up From Slumber
We had a situation recently that woke me up from my spiritual slumber and has called me to prayer with renewed vigor. I got a phone call from my daughter Ashley. She was on the way to the hospital; her fiancée Scott had cut his wrist with a chain saw. Immediately I sent out a text asking for prayer. Miraculously, he only needed stitches. No surgery. No need to repair tendons or worse – no reattaching his hand!
Here is what amazed me and what woke me up spiritually to a new place of prayer. Later that day, I looked at my email and saw that a pastor’s wife, who I rarely hear from, had emailed me. The letter was really just a sentence letting me know she was praying for us.
What is important to note is that she was praying at the same time the chain saw was heading for Scott’s wrist. I talked to her the next morning to get the details. She didn’t have a word of knowledge like, “Scott is about to cut his wrist off with a chain saw!” However, what she did know was simply to PRAY FOR TIFFANY AND HER FAMILY NOW!!
Beloved, there is great need every day and the Lord is calling us to pray. O’ that we might not be found asleep in those moments. Romans 8:26-28 has a lot of solutions for the times when we are puzzled about prayer and would prefer to just go to sleep:
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
“I’m Bored of Praying”
Haven’t you thought this at some point? We all have been here – it’s true! The good news is that the Holy Spirit can help us in our weakness. In Greek the word translated as “helps” is: sunantilambanomai (Strong’s #4878) and means: to lay hold alone with, to strive to obtain with others, to help in obtaining, and to take hold with another. Please notice that we need to be praying for the Lord to join us in prayer.
If it is your desire to pray but you are struggling with any weakness that prevents it, all we have to do is ask Him to help us.
Philippians 2:13 teaches us that God is working in us to desire to do His will, which, in this case, is to pray.
Another practical solution is to turn songs into your prayers. Allow the melody to bring expression to what is in your heart. The Hymn: Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus is a staple song/prayer of mine. I replace the pronouns and make it personal:
I turn my eyes upon You Lord
As I look full into Your wonderful face
I pray that the things of this world would grow strangely dim
In the light of Your glory and grace
There are times that I repeat it all day depending on the circumstance I am facing. Each time I sing the song, I press into the wonderful Cross and another truth revealed in Romans 8 – that nothing can separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus (verses 39).
“I Don’t Know How to Pray”
Don’t let that stop you. The Holy Spirit does know how to pray and He is here to help us. The whole point of Romans 8 is to let us know that in times of great distress, the Holy Spirit is there to help us and to give us hope. We must remember that God is for us, not against us (Romans 8:31). He’s not sitting up in Heaven, rolling His eyes at our prayers, wishing we could just sound more grown-up or educated. In fact, Scripture reveals that He takes great pleasure when we come to Him with childlike faith and dependence.
“Nothing Happens When I Pray”
Our disappointment is one of the primary vices the devil uses for us to give up on prayer and just go to sleep. We all have experienced times that what we pray for slips through our hands. In moments like this, when our heart is broken in a million pieces on the floor, our adversary, the devil, would like us to give up on prayer and ultimately just give up on God.
The solution to this is also found in Romans, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Somehow, some way, God will work it out. All that comes into our life God uses for His glory. It may not be in the way we hoped for but He will give us the grace to get through whatever circumstance we face.
“You’re God and I’m Not”
I know this topic is a very tender topic. The sovereignty of God is not something that will be grasped fully this side of eternity; nevertheless, it is my prayer that we find comfort in it. In context of Romans 8, Paul has been writing about the suffering that is experienced, all due to the fall. Yet his purpose in writing is to give us hope.
As we groan in our heartache, the Holy Spirit groans too. He cries out in our heart reminding us that we are the children of God (though in a fallen world) and He is our Abba, our Daddy (verses 15-17), and that we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (verse 37).
Beloved, one day we will be glorified with Christ and every tear will be wiped away. Until then, may we arise to this great privilege of prayer that God has given us.
“I sleep, but my heart is awake; It is the voice of my beloved! He knocks, saying, “Open for me, my sister, my love, My dove, my perfect one; For my head is covered with dew, My locks with the drops of the night.” Song of Solomon 5:2
Help us, Holy Spirit. Amen and Amen.
Tiffany Ann Lewis
Dancing With the Flame of the Lord Ministries
Tiffany Ann Lewis is a prophetic worship leader and Bible teacher with a unique focus on Biblical Hebrew, and whose heart has been passionately awakened by a God who sees us in our shortcomings, loves us in spite of it all, and calls out to us so we can live (Ezekiel 16). Her vision is to create an atmosphere in worship where we can meet with God face to face, where the Spirit of God moves freely, releasing emotional, spiritual and physical healing, and igniting a passion for our Heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus. Tiffany Ann has been ministering for over 10 years in prophetic worship throughout the Body of Christ. She worships with her family at Northway Church in Malta, New York, where she serves on the worship team.