Thoughts on Rogate

Perhaps it is good that Peter, James, and John fell asleep in the garden. Perhaps it is good that they did not pray or keep watch. Well, of course it’s not good. It a world of possibilities, it would have been better had they prayed with their Lord and kept watch with Him. But then, this isn’t a world of possibilities. The Son of Man went as it was written of Him and once struck, His sheep scattered. So it is good that they fell asleep and didn’t keep watch. For if they had, they would have prayed wrongly, to spend it on their passions, and they their watch would have only been for their own flesh, as proved true when the Shepherd was struck and the sheep scattered.

The disciples didn’t get that Jesus was to be betrayed and killed. Their hearts were hardened, St. Mark tells us, so that they did not understand. Peter tells Jesus that He would never be killed and murdered. For his sentiments he feels the stinging rebuke of the Lord. It stands to reason that if Peter, James, and John, those who seemed¬†influential, had stayed awake, prayed, and kept watch, then they would have seen the mob coming and prayed for Jesus’ escape. And they would have been found to be opposing the will of God.

Earlier that night the Lord said to His disciples that they would ask the Father and He would hear them. “Amen. Amen. Whatever you ask the Father in my name, He will give it to you … Ask and you will receive that your joy may be full.” Surely they would have thought that if Jesus would escape the betrayer and his mob of murderers then their joy would be full. Jesus was their joy as Peter had exclaimed, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!” And even if he was mistaken, his heart was in the right place when he said to the Lord, “Even if I shall die, I will not deny you.” It is not hard to imagine that Peter, James, and John would have been praying most fervently for Jesus to escape the evil of that night.

Far too often we pray for the wrong thing, to spend it on our passions. We pray for things and for events that will better our lives and make us more secure in the world. We pray to escape hardship and persecution and difficulty. Even our Lord prayed for this when He prayed, “Father, if this cup can be taken from me…” But of course He didn’t end there. He didn’t pray for the legion of angels to protect Him or for His enemies to be burned on the spot, for lightening to fall from the sky and consume them. No, in the end He prayed to His Father, “Thy will be done.”

It is not wrong to pray for things that make life easier or more secure, or to avoid disaster. In fact, it is good to pray for these things because it shows that we find our ease, security, and safety in God alone. But it is better to pray for the will of the Father. Peter, James, and John would not have been praying for the will of the Father, even as they had tried to thwart Jesus’ plans before when He was going up to Jerusalem, “Lord, they were just trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” The disciples would not have Jesus’ crucified. They would not have prayed for strength of faith to endure the death of Jesus, and neither would they have been praying that Jesus be able to bear the unbearable. They would have prayed for escape. And they would have been found to be opposing God.

But our Lord teaches them what they are to pray for. It is recorded for us in the 17th chapter of St. John. There our Lord prayed for His apostles, not that the Father would remove them from the world and from suffering, but that He would keep them in His name; that He would keep them from the evil one. There He prayed that the Father would keep them that they would have the joy of the Lord fulfilled in themselves. And there He also prayed for you. “I do not pray for them only but for those who will believe in me through their word … that they may be one just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (17:20-21).

He did not pray for money or for clothing or for food. He prayed for the kingdom of heaven. The Lord prayed for His people, His flock, that they would be protected from the snares of the evil one and be with Him where He is. This is what the Son asked the Father. This is what we ask the Father in the name of the Son.

It is not wrong to pray for the things of life, for money, jobs, a husband or wife, children, or even for green grass. Your heavenly Father delights in your prayers as a father delights in His children. But these prayers, so often to be spent on our passions, are not the chief prayer of the saints of God. Our chief prayer is that we pray for one another’s faith and strength of faith that when the devil attacks and the demons are barking loudly, we would not loose hope in the face of death and mayhem, but would consider that our Lord Jesus prayed also for us that though sifted like wheat, we would stand fast in Him.

Our joy is not in the things of this world. Our joy is in the kingdom of heaven. Our joy is in one another even as it is in Jesus. We pray to the Father as our Lord prayed, for those who would believe through the words of the apostles.