FCF: The prayerlessness of the disciples is a reminder of our sinful inclination toward prayerlessness.
Proposition: Prayerlessness has serious consequences in the life of the disciple of Jesus.
Objective: To encourage a fresh commitment to regular times of prayer.
This incident brings before us the prayerful and the prayerless. The Savior met this awful crisis like He met all
of the others—prayerfully. The disciples blundered into this crisis without prayer—and thus totally unprepared
for what they faced.
Prayerlessness is not uncommon in the church today. The busyness of our lives makes prayer difficult. Surely
the planet has never seen a busier generation than ours—and this in spite of all the time saving devices we
have developed. There seems to always be something that demands our attention.
Luke points to the “sorrow” of the disciples as a cause of their prayerlessness. They were in doubt! Jesus had
just spoken to them in ominous terms of his approaching death. He had just rejected their suggestions about
His kingdom and who might have a place of prominence in His kingdom. They were so focused on what they did
not understand that it made prayer difficult. Their spirits were clouded with despair. Who among us does not
struggle with some major distraction? Who among us has not wondered about the effectiveness of prayer?
Would you take just a moment and consider—Could you be guilty of prayerlessness? This incident makes it
clear that prayerlessness is a serious condition. None of us should venture into a New Year without a definite
commitment to be a person of prayer. We must faithfully follow the example of Jesus rather than that of His
I. THE PRAYERLESS DISOBEY THE COMMAND OF JESUS.
Jesus repeated the same command twice as He counseled the three of the inner circle. It is a present tense
imperative verb in both instances. It carries the force of--to keep on praying, to continue to pray. It is a call to
make prayer a habit of life.
If you want to insist that this command applied only to the three, it can be demonstrated that Jesus gave the
same command to all who would be His disciples. Luke reports that Jesus gave a parable to teach, “men ought
always to pray and not faint.” (Luke 18:1) Both Matthew and Luke record Jesus saying, “Pray and keep on
praying.” So prayerlessness is an intentional or unintentional case of disobedience to the Lord.
1. The wisdom of His command.
He was fully aware of the nature of the situation. He was also fully aware of the weakness of the disciples. He
knew specifically that trial that was awaiting this little group. His arrest, trial, and crucifixion were imminent. It
would be the darkest hour of their lives. It would demand more of them than they could produce in their own
strength. O how He knows! Because He knows all things, Jesus says, “pray.” When you attempt to live life
without prayer, you are ignoring the wise word of your Lord!
2. The concern of His command.
He knew the consequences of prayerlessness, and the tragedy of sin. Jesus knew better than any the tragedy
and the cost of sin. He wants to protect the little group from sin so He says, “pray.” Can you imagine how much
the sin of Peter hurt Jesus? Can you imagine the pain of hearing your number one disciple deny that he ever
knew you three times—even though he had been warned that such a denial was a possibility? Can you imagine
how much it hurt Peter? Can you imagine what it must have felt like to wake up in the morning and to remember
that you had denied the best Friend and only Savior you have ever had? Jesus knows how much sin will hurt
Him, how much it will hurt you and how much it will hurt those you love, so He gives the command—Pray! Not to
pray is to disobey His clear command.
II. THE PRAYERLESS IGNORE THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS.
Jesus was the perfect man and perfect God. The life that He lived is the life all men should live. Luke makes
clear in his Gospel that Jesus was a Man of prayer. From the beginning to the end of His life, He consistently
found time to approach His heavenly Father in prayer. If the disciples had just been observant, they would have
noticed that Jesus was praying. The threats of the hour had driven Him to His knees before His Father, but they
allowed them to put them to sleep
1. He prayed persistently.
He began His ministry with prayer, and He closes with prayer. In this case He went to the Father three times with
essentially the same petition in a short of period of time. This is no casual approach to prayer. He encouraged
such persistence on the part of all His disciples. The use of the present tense imperative emphasizes this
aspect of prayer.
Many of us pray from time to time, but there is no consistent pattern of prayer in our lives. Such praying does
not take seriously the prayer example of Jesus.
2. He prayed earnestly.
Prayer is not always pleasant and painless. He prayed with “agony”. The prayer was so intense that He began
to sweat during this cool evening time. The sweat was probably mixed with blood as it fell from His brow to the
ground. There are documented cases of such a phenomena happening when persons are under intense
pressure. Every fiber of His being was involved in this experience of prayer.
Our prayers tend to be rather anemic. There is not a lot of earnestness or urgency in them. Our prayers tend
to become predictable, dry, unemotional, and ineffective. Such praying ignores the example of the Savior’s
3. He prayed submissively.
The heart of His prayer was clear—“Your will be done”. Even though the humanity in Him drew back with a
horrible dread from the ordeal of death as a sinner, He still submitted. The issue was the “cup”. The cup
involved being made a sin offering for the sins of the world. It involved the unthinkable separation from the
Father. It involved His complete identification with us in our sin. Yet He submitted to the will of the Father.
Such submission must be in our prayer life. We must follow His example! We need to be coming to the Father
often, at least daily, with the prayer, “thy kingdom come, and thy will be one on earth as it is in heaven.”
Do you see the seriousness of prayerlessness? It ignores the example Jesus gave us and the lessons that He
taught us. It ignores the tremendous price He paid to provide with such an example. We must pray because He
III. THE PRAYERLESS EXPOSE THEMSELVES TO DANGER.
Jesus attached to the command the warning, “that you may not enter into temptation.” The word used for
“temptation” is translated by an interlinear translation as “pressure”. It is a test, a trial that can result in sinful
failure. Prayer will not necessarily prevent the temptation, but it is important as we face the possibility of
temptation. All sin is preceded by an experience of temptation.
1. Prayer makes us sensitive to temptation.
Half of the victory over temptation is to be aware of it. Many times we are allured into sin before we realize what
is happening to us. The temptation comes when we are spiritually dull and insensitive. The fullness of the Holy
Spirit is maintained in our lives as we pray. When temptation comes, and you are full of the Spirit, you will
recognize the temptation immediately. Then you can make a clear and unhindered choice to reject the
temptation. O the danger of prayerlessness that allows us to become spiritually dull and vulnerable!
Would not earnest prayer have made Peter more aware of the temptation to deny the Lord, and the
consequences it would bring?
2. Prayer prepares us to endure temptation.
It is a matter of record that Peter entered this whole ordeal with a lot of self-confidence. When Jesus tried to
warn Peter of the danger ahead, he assured Jesus that he was prepared to be loyal to Him even if it cost him
his life. “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” (V. 33) Nothing could have been further
from the truth. Actually this self-confidence took the urgency out of his prayer, and allowed him to neglect
prayer. When he neglected prayer, he faced the ordeal of temptation totally unprepared. He did not have the
inner strength that is needed for such an experience.
As I have read the testimony of the fallen across the years, they consistently point to prayerlessness as one of
the things that contributed to their fall. They became a tragedy because they did not have the inner strength
that can be received only through prayer. I know of persons who practice prayer struggling with temptation, but
none being surprised or overcome by it. You cannot afford a prayerless life in a world like this.
IV. THE PRAYERLESS SUFFER SHAME.
There are two contrasting outcomes to this incident. While the Savior struggled in prayer, a heavenly
messenger came and strengthened Him. It is not clear exactly how the strength was imparted, but the result is
clear. Jesus finished His prayer time, left the garden to meet His betrayer at the entrance, and with a
remarkable calm and poise He faced His accusers without a flinch. When He was convicted and condemned, He
went to His death calmly and without anger or rancor. He died in such a remarkable way that it provoked an
exclamation from one of those responsible for His death, “Surely this was the Son of God!”
The outcome of the prayerlessness is entirely different. Peter’s experience is cited with some detail in the
gospel records, however it must not be forgotten that all of the disciples fled in fear. The only one that made
any showing at all at the Cross was the beloved one, John. Prayerlessness will surely lead to tearful regrets.
1. The shame of a missed opportunity.
Did you ever think of what might have been? Did you ever imagine Peter’s part in the whole ordeal being
different? What if Peter had stayed close to Jesus instead of following at a distance? What if he had quickly
identified himself as a glad follower of Jesus? What if he had spoken a warm word of witness about what he
knew about Jesus? It might even have provoked another weak soul to venture forth in witness. What if Peter
had actually been arrested that night for being a follower, and had died with him on one of the crosses? I would
feel so much better about the whole crucifixion story. Surely love, gratitude and loyalty should have compelled
someone to take a public stand for the Savior. Someone should have told the truth about Him that dark night,
or even before the Roman Governor.
That opportunity would come to Peter only once, and he missed it. Because of prayerlessness he was so
preoccupied with saving himself that he did not think about the Savior. As I look back across the years, I am
ashamed. I too have missed some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities because I had been neglecting prayer. The
moment demanded a readiness, but I was weak. The moment demanded someone who loved Jesus supremely,
but I was too much in love with myself. Do you have any such memories?
2. The shame of a terrible sin.
What Peter did was shameful because it was sinful. To deny the Lord before His accusers was sinful. He had
given the command that all of His disciples should be ready to confess Him before men. He had warned of
eternal consequences if we deny Him before men, but Peter disobeyed. Peter denied his Lord three times, and
even went so far in denial that he called heaven as a witness to the fact that he had never known or been
associated with Jesus. Even though the painful realization of what he had done broke his heart, and caused
him to leave the courtyard in tears, the deed was done. It was too late to cry! Sin was committed. It has been
written in history so deeply that everyone knows that Peter denied Jesus.
In traveling across Europe we noticed that the Reformed churches had a rooster on the weathervane atop the
church. Catholic churches have mostly crosses, but the reformed churches have roosters. When we asked
about the roosters, we were told that they put the rooster on their churches in order to chide the Catholics
about their claims for Peter. It was a reminder that they may they have designated Peter as the first Pope, but
he actually had to be reminded by a rooster that he had denied the Lord.
Do you get the message? We cannot afford prayerlessness. It involves disobedience to the Savior. It ignores
the example of Jesus as a man of prayer. It exposes the life to temptation. It will lead to shame and regret. If we
cannot afford it, what must we do to become persons of prayer? The answer is simple—do whatever is
necessary. Re-arrange your life with its priorities as you begin a new year. Mark out a specific time in each day
that will be devoted to prayer. Then begin to cultivate a life of continuous prayer. Then your life will begin to
take on more of the likeness of the Lord Jesus. Hear again the word of our Suffering Savior, “Pray, and
continue to pray!”