The story of the transfiguration begins when Yeshua “took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray” (Luke 9:28). It says that he went up on the mountain “to pray,” not to transfigure. He had a lot to pray about.
Yeshua knew that his urgent call to repentance was not being heeded. The generation had failed to heed the warnings of John the Immerser, and they had failed to heed Yeshua’s teaching too. An impending doom hung over the nation—and over him too. He had already discerned that He “must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (Matthew 16:21). He climbed the high mountain to spend a night in prayer, seeking guidance and further revelation about the path ahead. He brought His three closest disciples with Him because He knew that His words about His impending suffering and death had alarmed them. Perhaps He hoped that the LORD might confirm their confession of faith in His messianic identity and offer them some glimpse of revelation as well. A night spent in a prayer vigil with those select three disciples foreshadowed that future night of prayer on the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemene.
The four climbers probably set out in the evening, intending to spend the night in intensive prayer. They followed a path that wound around the slopes of the high mountain, and they found a place to pray. They had probably been praying some time before it happened, perhaps through the night. That may explain why “Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep” (Luke 9:32)—more foreshadowing of the night in Gethsemane.
At some point, perhaps just before dawn, “while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming” (Luke 9:29). The Master was caught up into the presence of God, and the disciples beheld Him as if he was a resplendant angelic being.
If we had eyes to see it, we would perceive ourselves as undergoing a similar type of transformation while in prayer. When we commune with our Father in Heaven, the spirit within us is quickened. The physical body becomes merely a vessel through which the spirit reconnects with God. When we stand in prayer before the Almighty, we too, are transfigured, so to speak, to become like angels. Just as the transfiguration transcended the physical body to reveal the spiritual glory of Yeshua, the sincere prayer of God’s child transcends his or her physical limitations to reach the heavenly places where only angels stand.