Then He returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour?” Matthew 26:40 (NLT)
In the simplest of terms, prayer is spending time with God. “With” is the operative word here. As Jesus agonized in prayer “with” His Father, the night before He died, He invited Peter and His disciples to watch and pray “with” Him. The Greek word for with is also translated other places in the New Testament as “together,” “accompany” and “companion.” The picture we have then of this invitation to prayer by Jesus is His desire for us to spend time together and to accompany Him as a companion on a journey into the heart of the Father.
Unfortunately we all too easily lose sight of this picture and understanding of prayer. When we do, prayer becomes more a duty than a delight. However, the “be with” factor perspective on prayer transforms it from something we “have to do” into something we “get to do.” Time with God is like eating or sleeping, it is not an option but a necessity of life, and a very enjoyable one at that. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to sitting down for a meal or finally laying my head on the pillow at the end of a long day, I am glad I get to do it and wouldn’t think of passing it up!
When it comes to the enjoyable necessities of life, it is not about finding the time or making the time. It is about taking the time! Can you see the difference? We take time for the things that are important to us and the things we enjoy. We make time for the things that are optional. There is no legitimate excuse for people not taking time to eat or sleep. Why? Because anyone who fails to take the time to eat or sleep is not only endangering their health but will eventually die.
It is the same spiritually. There is no excuse for people not taking time to be with God. If Jesus said “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” – and He did. (John 6:35 NIV) And if He quoted the Old Testament precept “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” And He did. (Matthew 4:4 NIV) Then taking time to be with Him in prayer is even more important and more necessary for sustaining life than eating and sleeping! That realization can revolutionize a our spiritual life.
Now in the same breath that Jesus invited His disciples to watch and pray with Him, He also acknowledged this: “The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41 & Mark 14:38 ESV) He knew, because He was a full partaker of our humanity, that the pull of the world, the flesh and devil is very strong. Because we are flesh and blood, bound in these natural bodies; spiritual pursuits including prayer with Jesus, as inviting and as empowering as they may sound, can nonetheless be a battle!
That is why most people will readily acknowledge that their prayer life could be much better than it is. In fact, everyone, if they are honest, has to admit that at one time or other they have struggled to maintain a consistent, focused, effective prayer time. Distractions, busyness, time pressures, and weaknesses including tiredness, abound. I have battled all the above myself.
What can help a person conquer the weakness of the flesh and yield more readily to the willingness of the spirit? From personal experience, I believe that empowerment for such change generally comes through a personal encounter with God and an accompanying impartation of His grace.
I have had a number of such encounters over the years. The most recent was a year ago. It released to me an impartation of His grace that gave me a significant breakthrough in prayer. I awoke at 4 AM the morning of March 2, 2013, with the words “Code Blue” reverberating in my mind. Code Blue is an emergency term used in hospitals to alert staff that someone is experiencing a cardiac arrest. It is an alert that life or death hangs in the balance and something must immediately be done about it. I instantly began praying for whoever was experiencing a heart attack at that moment, asking for their resuscitation and God’s healing power to make them whole. I sensed the Lord giving me the first name of a man I did not know and I prayed earnestly for an extended period of time for him and his loved ones.
When the burden lifted the Holy Spirit whispered “could you not watch one hour with me? With those words came a sense as never before of the import of the watchman call. I was impressed that life and death matters that hang in the balance are often determined by the diligence and responsiveness of a watchman’s prayers.
And with that realization the words “one hour” began to pulsate in my mind. It was as if I was hearing Jesus say to me personally, “Will you commit to a one hour watch with Me?” The very thought of Jesus extending a personal invitation to me, began to melt my heart and sweep away all my excuses. “Why of course Jesus, I can watch one hour with you!” “Will you do it every day?” came His reply. “Yes, it would be a great honor to daily spend an hour in prayer with you!” I affirmed. As a natural outflow of that exchange I purposed to try to keep a daily watch with Jesus. Since that time, almost to my surprise, I began to discover a great delight in spending an hour (or more) in prayer with Him on a consistent daily basis. I knew that it was a gift of God’s grace.
In the process I have learned that there are several things a person can and must do to make such a commitment sustainable. They are simple practices, empowered by the Holy Spirit, that will enable anyone who so desires, to spend a vibrant daily hour of prayer with Jesus. If you have not already done so you might want to check out a recent blog post entitled “Lessons from the Prayer Life of David” which outline the practices I have been following.
What encouragements have you found to strengthen your prayer life?
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