"And it came to pass about eight days after these sayings, that he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up into the mountain to pray.
Now Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep..." (Luke 9:28, 32 ASV)
As Jesus promised, some of the twelve apostles would not die until they saw the Kingdom of God and, in this passage, they are just about to get a glimpse. Jesus invited Peter, James, and John to go up onto a mountain for a prayer retreat. He did not tell them about seeing wonders, so all they were expecting was to pray.
There is something about going on a prayer retreat with Jesus that made these three incredibly sleepy (as in the garden of Gethsemane). Their tendency to sleepiness rather than prayerfulness would eventually cause them serious problems. This time they very nearly missed seeing what Jesus had for them because they were "heavy with sleep". In fact, they were sound asleep, not praying.
Years later, Peter would write, "Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:7 NASB) He learned about staying alert, but I suspect he regretted those times he failed to be alert when Jesus called him to pray.
Lest we cast stones at the three for their sleepiness, we need to examine our own tendency toward staying alert or dozing. Are we praying or sleeping when Our Lord wants to reveal truth to us? When you are tired and sleepy, staying alert is a choice you make and, sometimes, a battle you must fight. Even when you are not tired, staying alert to what God is doing is a choice and sometimes a battle. It's easy to be distracted by the busyness of life, to daydream instead of pay attention, to involve ourselves in mindless distractions (TV, Internet surfing, video games) rather than focus on the word of God. Being easy does not make it prudent.
When we, like the three apostles, fail to be on the alert, we can easily miss the lessons, the help, and even the wonders God has for us. How tragic is that? Let us open our eyes, both physically and spiritually, to God at work around us. Stay alert. God is constantly at work around us, and you don't want to miss a thing!