“Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’” (Matthew 26: 40-41).
The disciples’ drowsiness is singularly parallel with the sleep of the same three at the transfiguration—an event that presents the opposite pole of our Lord’s experiences and yields so many opposing parallels to Gethsemane. No doubt the tension of emotion that had lasted for many hours had worn them out; but if weariness had weighed down their eyelids, love should have kept them open. Such sleep resulted in the Savior’s gentle surprise and the pain of disappointed love. All that Jesus received in answer to yearning for sympathy was that those who loved Him most lay curled in deep slumber within earshot of His prayers. If ever a soul tasted the desolation of utter loneliness, that suppliant beneath the olives tasted it.
Watchfulness and prayer are inseparable. The one discerns dangers; the other arms against them. Watchfulness keeps us prayerful, and prayerfulness keeps us watchful. To watch without praying is presumption; to pray without watching is hypocrisy. The eye that sees clearly the facts of life will turn upward from its scanning of the snares and traps and will not look in vain. The outward trial will still be danger or sorrow, but we shall pass through it as a sunbeam through foul air, untainted, and keeping heaven’s radiance.
Adapted from In His Presence