When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.” Matthew 26:40-41 The Message
As I write this I am at our parish’s Gethsemane prayer watch. You may think it inappropriate for me to write this when I should be praying. For me this is praying, as for some it is painting, or singing, or walking, or knitting, or even silence.
I am moved to write tonight because I can relate to the disciples on this night. They are tired. It’s been a busy week. Jesus has kept them busy. He has been stirring up trouble wherever he goes. Why can’t he just keep quiet? First the temple is cleared out. Then he confronts the religious leaders and royally pisses them off. Next he allows himself to be anointed for death. Doesn’t he know that’s not part of the plan? Now today has been hectic with meal preparations, eating the Passover, and now he wants them to pray. Jesus can’t you see their beat?
I can totally relate to this. Holy Week is a marathon if you work in the church. Add to this the 30 something day preclude to it, which we jam pack with extra liturgies and programming, and you get one tired priest.
Another reason I can relate is my Lenten Prayer Journey. I have experienced firsthand my weakness when it comes to prayer. Praying, let alone six times a day, is hard. So when Jesus says, “There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire,” I feel as though he is speaking directly to me. And I find it comforting that Jesus recognizes both my desire and my frailty. I used to hear judgement in those words, now I hear pity, compassion, even empathy. Jesus knows what it is to be burdened, to be tired, and he knows what it means to need to pray.
So here I am keeping watch, praying. In the midst of the busyness of life it is hard to stay awake. My eyes feel heavy, my head dozes, and my mind wanders. And sometimes the waiting, the praying is the hardest part. Jesus, though, knows my intentions are true. After all he’s been there too.