It had been an event filled day, that first day of Passover week. The disciples and Jesus had gathered in an upper room, furnished and made ready for them to celebrate the Feast. During the meal, Jesus had shocked them with the announcement of a traitor in their midst and then, to their further amazement, He had instituted a New Covenant which was henceforth to serve as a reminder of Him, His sacrifice and His promise to come again.
They had concluded the supper by singing a hymn and retired across the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives on which was an olive grove called, Gethsemane.
It was late, the night far spent, the weather conducive to sleeping in the open and the disciples were weary. But, Jesus would have them sit near the edge of the Garden while He took Peter, James and John a little further into the trees. To these He gave instructions to "watch", meaning "to keep awake, to be watchful".
Continuing still further into the darkness of the olive trees, Jesus engaged in soul wrenching intercession with the Father (vs 36). Returning to the three disciples and finding them sleeping, He questions, "Could you not watch with me one hour?" This scene is repeated twice more and the third time, the Traitor was at hand with the Temple soldiers sent by the chief priests.
To watch and pray were the responsibilities of Peter, James and John...but due to weariness of the flesh, they failed at their duty and fell asleep. Jesus indicated that had they remained diligent, they would have been better able to withstand the temptation that was ahead (referring to the events that surrounded Jesus' arrest).
Watchful prayer gives strength to fight and face spiritual battles that lie ahead. Sadly, due to weariness of the flesh and preoccupation with other matters prevents us from being ready to face such trials. We are unprepared to fight such battles, because we have failed to be both watchful and prayerful.
How often do we find ourselves physically drained to the point that we neglect the spiritual? How often do we busy ourselves with the affairs of the day and fail to spend time in prayer and Bible reading? How often do we find it difficult to spend one hour in God's presence, whether alone or in church with our fellow Believers? How often do we doze off in church? What, can we not watch one hour when we spend much more time in front of the TV or pecking away at our phones and computers? Is it lack of prayer, or lack of priorities?
When Thomas Salmon heard a poem quoted in a sermon by William Walford, a preacher in Coleshill, England, he brought it to America. Sending it to the New York Observer, it was published in September of 1845. In 1859, William Bradbury set it to music and today it is still a much sung hymn. You know it as "Sweet Hour Of Prayer".