Jesus is running out of time. He has less than twenty-four hours before his crucifixion, death, and burial.
He is running out of energy. The Son of God has already put in a full day, and as he approaches his date with the cross, he is already emotionally spent. His desperate condition is seen through the imploring of his dearest friends to pray, in his body breaking down with blood dripping from his pores, and as he must be divinely strengthened by an angel. (Luke 22:42ff)
In addition, Jesus is running out of support. One friend has already left to betray him for thirty pieces of silver. The rest are interested in the kingdom, interested in the chief seats, interested in sleep, and only half-interested in upholding him in prayer. Very soon all his disciples will flee and abandon him. One of his best friends, Simon Peter, will even swear he doesn’t know him. To top it off, Jesus’ Heavenly Father will seemingly forsake him as well. (Luke 22:54ff)
Therefore, what does Jesus do at this incredibly troubling hour:
And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives. And when he came to the place, he said to his disciples, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed. (Luke 22:39-41)
Jesus needed to pray for himself.
In addition, Jesus needed to pray for his disciples. (John 17)
There is no doubt that Jesus needed his disciples to pray for him. He longed for his brothers to uphold his hands in prayer. He needed their support and encouragement.
Finally, Jesus wished to train his disciples. This was one of his final leadership lessons. His dearest friends were able to see him pray in his great hour of need. Then, through his inspired Gospel writers, Jesus had his customary practice recorded for all to read and apply. Jesus wanted his disciples — then and now — together — to run to the Father when they were at an end of their time, strength, and support.
Friends, do we have such a “custom?” Do we have a private prayer closet, porch, sofa, parking spot, or trail? Do we have a daily date with our Heavenly Father, High Priest, and Indwelling Spirit? Is it so consistent and guarded that an inspired author might call it our “custom?” If the sinless Son desired and needed such communion, how much more do sinful disciples like you and me need such a routine. Friends, this is one of Jesus’ last lessons for his three closest disciples. Are we seeing and hearing Jesus well? Are we ready to recommit ourselves to private, customary prayer?
Church family, do we have such a “custom?” Do we value our corporate appointment with God and his friends? Are we diligent in running to the House of Prayer as we appear to be running out of time, energy, and support? Don’t we need encouragement and wisdom? Have we forgotten that prayer is powerful and effective? Ought not we be passionate to encourage each other through mutual prayer? Was not Nehemiah a leader with sword, hammer, and prayer? Was not the early church birthed out of a prayer meeting in the upper room? Ministers, elders, deacons, fathers, and mothers, how are we leading those in our charge? Like Jesus, are we leading our disciples to be greater or lesser practitioners of prayer? Are we seeing and hearing Jesus well? Are we ready to recommit ourselves to corporate, customary prayer?