Matthew 26 paints the picture of how Peter spent the evening after being told he was going to deny Jesus three times before the rooster would crow. Jesus has invited Peter, along with James and John, to spend time with Him, watching and praying. He has made the reason very clear: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” Jesus was invited Peter to the throne of grace – and what did Peter do? He slept!
In previous posts, we have observed two barriers that kept Peter from spending the needed time in prayer. He dealt with pride and physical exhaustion. Both of these barriers prevented Peter from receiving the grace he needed. And yet, there is a third barrier – a barrier that has not changed in the last 2,000 years. Peter also dealt with:
In Luke 22, Luke provides some more details. Jesus specifically says to Peter, “I have prayed for you…” Jesus prayed for Peter, but Peter was not able to pray for himself. In verse 45, Luke adds the expression, “he found them sleeping for sorrow.” λυπης is the word Jesus used – a word that describes emotional pain, grief, and sorrow.
For Peter, the reality is setting in. His vision of the Messiah has been wrong. Jesus is not setting up the Kingdom. He really is going to die. Perhaps he is even thinking about what Jesus has predicted concerning Peter’s actions. As the emotional weight sets in, Peter is overwhelmed – his mind shuts down, and he tries to escape this reality with sleep.
Transformation through Prayer
The contrast between Jesus (in His humanity) and Peter is striking. Matthew tells us that Jesus went to pray three times. The first time, He wants to know if it is even possible to have this cup be removed – yet, He submits to the Father’s plan. The second and third time, His prayer is different: “It is not possible; Your will be done.” At the beginning, Jesus wants to withdraw into isolation and pray. After His third time praying, He is now ready to meet the enemy.
Jesus has found the grace, the strength He needs to face what is coming by spending time in prayer. Peter will not have the strength to stand, primarily because he did not take the time to appropriate the grace he needed.
Peter does not realize how weak he really is. He has promised to die for Jesus. When the soldiers come, he positions himself between them and Jesus and swings a sword violently. In his mind, he is “protecting” Jesus – proving how strong he really is. Little does he know that within a few short hours, he will be cursing and cowering in fear before a handmaid.
Call to action
Each of us will battle our own pride. We will have times when we are physically exhausted. We will have times when emotionally we are overwhelmed and our bodies simply want to shut down. May I suggest that in those moments, these might be the times when we should pray the hardest! We are not as strong as we think we are – we need His grace!
Don’t let the barriers of pride, physical fatigue, and emotional exhaustion keep you from approaching the throne of grace. You will find that He has abundant grace to help each of us in our time of need.