Saturday, May 23, 2009
Today Barrett, Brian, and I hiked up the Mount of Olives. But before we did so, we went to the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations at the bottom of the Mount. Inside the church is the stone upon which Jesus supposedly prayed in the garden right before he was taken to be crucified. Written on the altar before the stone is the narrative: Matthew 26:36-46. While reading it, I was really struck for the first time by this fact: Jesus really wanted his friends with him. And praying for him. This part is especially poignant: "Then he said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.'" And then, Jesus goes back to the disciples with him three times to make sure they are up and praying for him, supporting him.
I think when I've read this passage before, I've either focused on the fact that Peter, James and John were really crappy friends, or on the words Jesus was praying. But today I reflected on the idea that despite the fact that Jesus' friends ultimately failed him, it was really important that in his moment of deepest anguish he had people there supporting him and covering him in prayer. Even Jesus, the Son of God, knew it was better not to do the hard things alone.
This is not to negate the importance of solitude or the power of a single person's prayer. But how much more power is there when we are united together in the will of God? In the orthodox Jewish tradition, communal prayer must consist of a quorum (10 people), and no less than that. However, Jesus comes along and says, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am with them." So it seems that while the number of people gathering together does not need to be a strict number, such as ten, it is still good - even preferable - when believers pray together.
And, I have to say, along with the encouragement from this passage about the power of unified prayer, it is also encouraging just to know that companionship in itself is to be highly regarded. Because it is not even until Jesus goes back to his disciples that he asks them to pray. He first just says, "Stay here and keep watch with me." As someone who is always happiest sharing life with people, I resonate with this sentiment completely.
So maybe Jesus would like the Beatles song: "With a Little Help From My Friends."