Yesterday as I was reading my daily devotion, I was stopped in my tracks by four little words in Matthew 26. “keep watch with me” (Mt 26:38) Jesus has gone to Gethsemane to pray with his disciples just prior to his arrest and is asking Peter, James and John to “Stay here and keep watch with me.” He is asking the three to enter into a time of prayer with him as He seeks His Father’s will and strength to carry the cross for us all.
In the past, I’ve seen those words as merely a request from Jesus to have support in prayer, but now I am beginning to realize there is more requested here than simple prayer. Jesus knows what is about to happen, He knows a crowd is coming to arrest him, to condemn him, to crucify him. Extreme challenges of faith lie ahead for those who follow Jesus. So yes, prayer was necessary, but there was also a relentless need to be alert and to actively prepare their hearts to come together in support of one another.
In times of distress, times of anxiousness, times of uncertainty, I tend to lose focus, my eyes can slip from Jesus onto my circumstances and instead of seeing clearly, things begin to lose focus and my steps begin to falter. Confidence is lost and doubt slips in.
I believe Jesus knew, not just for Peter but for us all, the need for watchfulness. Jesus understood and was teaching the need for community in the uncertain days ahead. He knew in community we are reminded of God’s love and intimate involvement in our lives.
Our culture often stresses the importance of self sufficiency. Be strong, just move ahead, pick yourself up and begin again. And yes strength is important, but Jesus teaches strength is found in faith and community. Even in his darkest moment, he brought along friends to stand watch, to pray and to support him. Granted the three fall asleep, but it is a great reminder to be vigilant when we pray, the importance of prayer, and the value of praying together.
Are you in trying circumstances and struggling to find your footing? Whose example are you following? There is strength in numbers, strength in prayer, strength as a community of believers gathers together to support one another in love. In community there is not judgement, but love. Jesus said, “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Powerful words that are true!! Praying together brings clarity, wisdom and peace.
I have personally experienced the power of community over these last few years. When working well, there is love, peace and prayer. Though not always perfect, for we are all flawed, most of the time I am blessed by the love that surrounds me in community.
What is holding you back from seeking community? Is it pride, fear, or self sufficiency? Won’t you take the time today to reach out if you are in need, seek a trusted friend and share your struggles, and pray together, for that is where true transformation will begin.