In a moment of great need and danger, he took his closest friends to their hideout-a quiet garden! He had shared his deepest secrets with them, thus he expected they would be there for him as the reality of the looming danger over his life became clearer. He wasn’t asking for swords to defend him, knowing that security over anyone’s life depends not entirely on the absence of danger, but on God’s presence and divine intervention. All he wanted was their spiritual support, their corporate prayers and intersection, coupled with emotional support. It was the most critical 60 minutes of his life that would change the course of human history, and having been together with him for 3 years, he expected nothing less.
But Peter, James and John -his most intimate of friends- slumbered and snored away for those 60 minutes. They may have valid and plausible reasons for reclining to catch some nap. They may’ve had their hope and faith deflated by the seeming vulnerability of their Master, Jesus Christ, who had displayed awesome power over sickness and death. Their once-fearless and all-powerful role model now displayed his humanness and need for help. The same man who challenged the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees now had become afraid of the same people that were struck by his awe-inspiring display of wisdom and might!
While his three disciples slumbered and slept, Jesus’ prayer and cry of despondence echoed in the Garden and reached heaven: “.Lord, take this cup away”; ”.Not my will but yours father.!” After each session of prayer, he would come around to check his buddies, and finding them deep asleep, he nudged, cajoled and begged them, “.Can you not pray with me for just an hour?” To be fair, that wasn’t too much of a demand from the 3 guys he truly called his closest friends, but somehow, when they needed to prove their commitment as friends, they instead let him down. The prayer indeed wasn’t so much to help Jesus, but to help them stand with him through the foreboding trials ahead. But they slumbered away!
Like a scene in a well-scripted thriller movie, Judas Iscariot (another close friend of Jesus Christ) burst into their hide-out with a detachment of soldiers and right-wing religious leaders that Jesus had confronted and upbraided openly in the past. In a flash, they grabbed and nabbed Jesus, while Peter, James and John helplessly watched the unfolding melodrama. Peter in trying to redeem what was left of his true commitment to Jesus pulled his sword and went on a rampage, but the strongest enemy he could attack was the defenseless servant of one the leaders. But Jesus cautioned and stopped Peter in his track. Peter, James and John were speechless and helpless, and watched despairingly as Jesus was taken away to be judged, condemned and killed!
Peter wouldn’t give up on his dearest friend, Jesus, so while James and John sulked away in dejection, Peter steeled himself and followed the mad crowd from a distance. In the course of time, he saw his commitment to Jesus overtaken by the damning denial of the friend he had treasured, respected, pursued and loved passionately since Jesus transformed him from an uncouthly fisherman to a companion and disciple of the world’s most respected rabbi! The pain was so unbearable that he withdrew from the crowd to wail and lament when he saw the pain in the eyes of Jesus after the triple public denial by his dear friend. Peter, the strong and fearless man now lacked the staying power and thus caved in, for his strength had failed in the day of adversity!
He thus realized why Jesus had begged them to pray together with him at the Garden earlier. He had become helpless and unprepared for the consequences of his prayerlessness and those of his buddies, James and John. Though Peter had sworn and promised to stake his life for Jesus till the end, he lacked the moral courage to stick with his vow at the threat of danger. His denial glared and winked at him, and the pain of failure and helplessness gnawed at his heart.and he wished he had prayed with Jesus for just that one hour. But that was irredeemable anyway, for what history recorded in their account was that “They slumbered while Jesus prayed.!”
Had they prayed, they may not have been able to physically fight and overpower the soldiers, who had superior fire-power and also outnumbered Peter and his buddies in great degree. But the prayer would have helped them to stay true to their commitment to Christ, who didn’t give in to the tempting offer of freedom by the political and religious leaders of freedom, if he would willingly denounce his claim as the Son of God. But Jesus stayed strong even when his emotional strength failed till he breathed his last. His spiritual strength didn’t fail him in the day of adversity. He had discovered the secret of prayer and constant communion with the Heavenly Father in the course of his ministry. And at his very hour of need before then, he had kept touch with and depended on heaven for help. Little wonder, ‘angels from heaven came to strengthen him.’
Had he depended on his own strength as a man, he would have caved in and forsaken his mission to save humanity. He would have fallen like the first man, and millions of other men who had traversed the face of the earth before him; patriarchs, prophets and priests alike! And shortly after his resurrection, Jesus would inform them publicly that the devil had wanted to make a mince meat of Peter, but for the prayers that Jesus had offered on Peter’s behalf!
Peter had learned a great lesson in the most painful way and when Jesus after his resurrection instructed the disciples to ‘tarry in Jerusalem until they are endued with power…” he took it seriously. Failure is not a crime, for it is human to make mistakes and falter. It is invigorating to sleep and slumber when there is no danger to one’s life or threat to the fulfillment of our destiny in God. But when our life is in danger, sleep or the pleasures of a slumber becomes the real threat and not the physical danger itself. Peter, James and John would not repeat the same mistake that made them break their commitment to Jesus Christ.
Against all odds, and with Jesus no longer around to pray for them, Peter mustered the courage to lead the other disciples in prayers and intersections at the upper room. His past experience of prayerlessness had become a source of insight and inspiration that they all needed. So when the time came for the replacement of Judas Iscariot, the bible recorded that: “Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.”(Acts 1:23-26).
They continued their prayer sessions in the Upper Room until the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit’s power was unleashed on them, and they broke free from their place of fear and weakness, and did amazing things in God’s name. The more they worked miracles, the more their courage increased. When danger of persecution and threats to their lives loomed, they would resort to prayer and thanksgiving to God. When the cry of social neglect and prejudice was raised by the Grecian Jews over their treatment by the Hebraic Jews, Peter and the other 11 Apostles wouldn’t let anything derail their spiritual life.””It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”(Acts 6:1-4)
If the success of the early Apostles was hinged on their ”attention to prayer and the ministry of the word”, should we expect anything less than failure when we wake up each day of our lives, and step out to ‘conquer the world’ without due attention to prayer and the study of God’s word? Little wonder so many of us (born again Christians) in our present generation are seemingly clueless as
to why we lack so much power to be true witnesses for Christ. While dressed in our latest designer suits and dresses, our spirits cry, s sulk and wail due to chronic neglect and malnutrition.
Like Peter, we and our Christian peers slumber and sleep when we should pray and interceded, and fill our hearts with God’s Word. And what would anyone expect of a life bereft of prayer and the word? Weak expressions of our faith and lack of moral strength are signs and symptoms of this syndrome called ‘Prayerlessness and Wordlessness” that has plagued many a believer in this 21st century. We’ve become so alienated from the simple spiritual discipline of prayer and the study of the Word that was handed down to us by saints of old.
With the Bible now digitalized and portable, we can stick now stick our ipods into our ears to listen to God’s Word at any time, but one area we’ve not done too well is in the area of persistent prayer. Someone can teach and lead us in the study of the Bible since we need not exert any efforts to keep our ears open, but to pray requires the active use of our minds, hearts and mouths.
If we truly are honest with ourselves, we’d acknowledge that as Christians, we are not praying enough as individuals and as a Church in general. Prayer is a proof of our dependence on God for our daily sustenance. It is a sign of our faith and commitment to God, and parallaxes the example that Jesus left behind, which the Apostles eventually copied after their initial failures. It should be the earnest desire of every Christian to grow in the grace of prayer and supplication, for a ‘Prayerless Christian’, someone rightly said, is a ‘Powerless Christian’.
Prayer is one aspect of my Christian experience that has been inconsistent and has received the worst attention over time. It is my story and the stories of countless Christians across the world, yet we wonder why we are not making the impact that Jesus had promised. Sadly, there really is no other substitute to prayer for any Christian who wants to grow in his experience and intimacy with God. Because we’ve lived in the valley of prayerlessness for too long, we have lost sight of the glory at the mountain tops where the power of prayer is unleashed.
Prayer is hard work indeed, but the laborer is worthy of his eternal wage.
– He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself.For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. (1 Cor. 14:1, 14, 15).
– For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 4:14-19)
– But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.(Jude 1: 20)