32 Jesus and his disciples went to a place called Gethsemane. Jesus said to them, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him. He began to be very upset and troubled. 34 “My soul is very sad. I feel close to death,” he said to them. “Stay here. Keep watch.” 35 He went a little farther. Then he fell to the ground. He prayed that, if possible, the hour might pass by him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup of suffering away from me. But let what you want be done, not what I want.” 37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray. Then you won’t fall into sin when you are tempted. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” 39 Once more Jesus went away and prayed the same thing. 40 Then he came back. Again he found them sleeping. They couldn’t keep their eyes open. They did not know what to say to him. 41 Jesus returned the third time. He said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look! The Son of Man is about to be handed over to sinners. 42 Get up! Let us go! Here comes the one who is handing me over to them!”
‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”’ [Mark 14:38]
I have always read this passage, and particularly verse 38, as a general challenge to the disciples to pray. Peter, James and John were not so much experiencing temptation but just natural tiredness. But I found myself wondering this time – what if Jesus words, particularly in verse 38, are an explanation, by inference, of what He was currently experiencing and practising. In other words, Jesus was praying so that He would not fall into temptation to disobey God at this crucial point. What if Jesus was in prayer to fight the temptations to give up, give in to fear, or take another way to fulfil God’s will. But in prayer, He not only found the strength to persevere, but the strength to resist temptation and surrender to the Father’s will.
How often do I use prayer to resist temptation? More like me, I just apply willpower, and on-the-go prayers, and scriptures memorized. But these are more the everyday tools for dealing with more “everyday” temptations. What if I’m facing the temptation to avoid God’s will, because I feel scared, overwhelmed, or that I just can’t do it? Jesus’ example here is clear – when I know God’s will, but for whatever reason am severely tempted not to do it, the way I overcome is through prayer! Persistent prayer that finds God’s strength to overcome and grace to persevere and obey!
Lord, thank you for your example to me. Let this be a lesson learned, ready to be applied when I need it next!
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh