Mar 19, 2008

Keep Watch and Pray

While I was doing my quiet time reading today, I came across a passage I have read a hundred times but I never saw this before. Matthew 26:36-45 is the passage that describes Jesus praying in Gethsemane. He takes with Him Peter, James, and John and asks them to "Keep watch" with Him while He prays.

Why does Jesus ask the disciples to "Keep watch"? Why didn't Jesus ask them to join with Him in prayer? What is the relationship between keeping watch and praying? Who or what are they supposed to be watching for?

I have checked several commentaries and I haven't come up with a good explanation for the relationship of keeping watch and praying.

I would love to hear your thoughts on what this means.

Here's my quick reflections on this - this is just off the cuff, and I acknowledge that I can be wrong about this, but here's my take.

First, Jesus wanted to teach His disciples how to handle trials and tribulations. They were to keep their eyes on Jesus and learn from Him how to pray in times of difficulty. The disciples would face their own times of hardship and this was a way for Jesus to prepare them for that.

Second, keeping watch is synonymous with prayer. It means to seek God's perspective and guidance over the issues being prayed for. It implies one's humility in acknowledging that we do not know and that only God knows. It shows our faith and trust in a God who knows better than we do. To keep watch means to pray and being open and willing to see everything through God's eyes.

Prayer is not just a bundle of words that expresses our wish list. Prayer is keeping watch over what God has put before us and seeking God's perspective through prayer.

Again, I would love your thoughts about this.

What do you think?

2 comments:

Discipleship said...

Some intersting verses to consider on watching:

Deuteronomy 4:9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

This kind of watching you spoke about, the kind of watching in order to learn.

Matthew 24:4 Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you.

Matthew 24:42 "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

Matthew 25:13 "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

These verses preceeding the passage you mentioned speak of the ever watchfulness Christ followers should always have. That they preceeded Jesus' command adds weight to the failure of the disciples. Add to that the notion of being on guard, when they were earlier told of the betrayal to come, and the failure is severe.

Matthew 26:40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter.

This is interesting because it has the notion of keeping watch together. This could be the idea of praying together or keeping watch for Satan or Judas.

Interesting question, what was the watch they were to keep?

David said...

I think this is a low point for Jesus; he knows what is to come. I interpret the text to mean he is aware of his humanity when he says, "...Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me...." For this episode, Jesus takes his favorite apostles with him. I think he just wants company. This is a real "raw" moment. Remember, this is the scene in Luke where Jesus is sweating as if it "... were great drops of blood..."

So who do you want to share your most difficult moments with? Your best friends. I think if we look at "watching" as synonymous with prayer, Jesus is asking Peter, James, and John, to stay with him during this difficult hour - for the company, the companionship. But like us, Peter, James, and John are not able - for like us, "the spirit is willing, but the body is weak."