Tempted to Sleep

And when he rose from prayer, he came to his disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Luke 22:45-46

I was in the Prayer Room at the Desiring God National Conference here in Minnesota when I read this tonight, and it made an impression on me. Jesus is in Gethsemane, and after separating himself and praying so earnestly that sweat falls like great drops of blood to the ground, he returns to his disciples to find them asleep. At first I thought Jesus said to them “Get up and pray this: pray that you won’t be tempted.” I thought the word that introduced the content of what the disciples were to pray. That’s one way to use the word that, right? As in, “Did I tell you that I read Luke 22 earlier?” But this isn’t the kind of that Jesus is using. He is using the word that which introduces not content but purpose. “Rise and pray in order that you may not enter temptation.”

I think about the times in my life when I have been most tempted, and they have been when I have been asleep. Not physically, but spiritually. It seems to be a one-way-or-the-other kind of deal: Either I enter into prayer, into a life characterized by wakefulness, watchfulness, and prayer, or I enter into temptation, into a life characterized by soft decisions and desires which grow stronger and stronger until they blot out the thought of prayer or fellowship or worship or confession or study or repentance or joy.

I have been so convicted lately, and this reading has been one more confirmation, that the call of the day is prayer. Watchful prayer which engages the mind and soul to do business with God, to cry out over the lost, to repent of sin, to understand the Word, to make peace with the body, to send and go and be light in every corner of the globe. It’s a call on my life, and it’s a call on your life:”Rise, pray in order that you may not enter into temptation.”



I have never read The Prayer of Jabez, although it seems to me that most people who have read have one of two responses. When you ask somebody who loves the book what they think, the response is generally something like this:

yzz8CAnd if you ask someone who wasn’t so fond of the book what they think about it, they generally, in my experience, react thusly:


But I was just looking at 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 and I was struck by a few things. To begin, Jabez isn’t mentioned anywhere else, he just appears, prays, and disappears again, right in the middle of a genealogy to which the chronicler makes no effort to connect him. Is he a son of Koz? A son of Harum? We don’t know; we aren’t told. I think that this is intentional, and it makes me think that the chronicler’s point was theological in nature. This fits with the overall theme of 1-2 Chronicles, which was written after the Jew’s return from exile to remind them of God’s covenant faithfulness in the past and their place as God’s people in the present. This is why it is generally more positive than 1-2 Kings; same general time frame; different purpose in writing.

Now, it’s possible (I would say probable, but what do I know?) that the original readers of Chronicles knew the context surrounding this prayer; who Jabez was, how he fit into the chronology, what the rest of his life looked like, and so on. Nevertheless, it’s possible to learn something from Jabez without knowing that context.

Even without the backstory there is a rhetorical force to this prayer; it says that God answers those who pray to him in faith. God can take a name given as a curse (Jabez, yah-vets, sounds like pain, o-tsev) and make sure that the curse does not come to pass. He can turn Jabez’ name around. A Jew reading this after the exile might remember that in Hosea’s prophecy Israel was given a name: No-mercy. The promise there was that someday God would take No-mercy and show her mercy, but after the exile that promise may have been obscured. The chronicler was reminding his readers that the same God who answered prayer then would be faithful to his people and his promise now.

It’s a two-verse word of encouragement from the chronicler.