(Last February, I had the privilege of writing a series of 30 devotionals based on sacrifice for my church's financial campaign. I will share them occasionally when I don't have time to write something fresh.)
Sacrifice may mean giving up sleep or rest to accomplish Kingdom work.
And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him (Mark 14:35-40).
Have you ever tried to pray late into the night? It is not easy for us, with our weak human bodies, to sacrifice sleep. Most of us probably feel a real sense of compassion for the disciples in this story. They did not fully comprehend why Jesus was praying and their bodies were, meanwhile, crying out for rest. Yet, Jesus had asked them to stay awake with Him, and Peter, in particular, was called to “watch and pray” so that he would not “enter into temptation.” Despite Peter's willingness to pray, he continued to give into the weakness of his flesh. How like Peter we are!
On February 26, 1968 during the Vietnam war, a grandmother (in law) of a soldier named Jim was awakened in the night and called by the Holy Spirit to pray. Unable to kneel because of arthritis, she prostrated herself on the floor and spent the entire night reading her Bible and crying out to the Lord for the safety of her granddaughter's husband. Towards dawn, a passage in Matthew came to her mind and she claimed the promise therein and felt a peace that God would answer her prayers to spare Jim's life. On the other side of the world, Jim had come to a point of despair that had led him to ask God to end his life. The cruelties and horrors of war had taken their toll in the years he had been there and he was ready to escape. Resigned to the seeming certainty that his death was imminent, he was not surprised when he heard a missile headed directly toward him. But, God intervened. The fuse malfunctioned and Jim's life was spared. After the close call, he pulled out his Bible and began reading in Matthew. When he came to Matthew 18:19-20, he felt an overwhelming sense of peace and believed that he would live through his ordeal. He later said, “I somehow knew things would be alright.” Years later, when visiting his grandmother, she relayed to him the story of the night she had sacrificed sleep in order to pray for him. There in her Bible, right next to Matthew 18:19-20, were the words “Jim, February 26, 1968.”
What may have happened if this grandmother had listened to her body instead of the Holy Spirit and allowed herself to continue sleeping? What may have happened if Peter had prayed for God's strength that night? What may have happened if Jesus had allowed himself more rest instead of communion with God? If Jesus, in His perfect state, was compelled to stay up all night to pray, how much more seriously should we take the call to prayer? There is some kingdom work that is so imminent it requires our immediate intercession. It is easy to make the excuse that our bodies need sleep in order to function well, but we must be willing to sacrifice even our sleep at times to pray for God's will to be accomplished. Are you willing?