Stay awake and pray…the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak
We are accustomed to asking God for help in our lives and in the lives of those we love, and God hears and answers those cries for help. But we can begin to think that prayer is little more than a shopping trip through heaven. The more important purpose of prayer is to deepen our relationship with the Holy One. It is meant to change us—to bring us more and more into the heart of heaven, where we can find our true meaning, our true purpose, our true hope, our true passion, our true love. It is meant to shape and reshape, form and reform us, so that we actually become the prayer we pray.
But even this does not happen unless we pray for it. God does not maneuver situations in our lives or manipulate us into developing a relationship with heaven. It is always our choice, our decision to seek out that relationship. When we begin to feel a seed of discontent within ourselves, when what used to make us happy leaves us feeling as dry and empty as an ancient rotted root, when we feel our soul lunging, lurching toward what cannot even be named, it is time to pray. Not the shopping list prayer, but the prayer of watching and waiting.
When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane on the night before he was crucified, he asked the disciples who were with him to watch and pray. “The spirit is willing,” he said, “but the flesh is weak.” He was affirming that it’s hard to watch and pray when emptiness surrounds us, when our souls feel stripped, when we just want things “fixed,” when the road ahead seems bleak. For Jesus, the road indeed was bleak that night, but he gave the disciples and us an example to follow. In those moments when we watch and pray, the Holy One pulls us close, and in the relationship of presence our life can begin anew.
2012 Lenten Meditations, Episcopal Relief and Development