‘PRAYERFULLY WATCHING’ – the best STRATEGY to overcome TEMPTATION: Then He (Jesus) said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me." He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." Then He came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, "What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matt. 26:38-41)
The disciples of Jesus needed to stay awake and pray because they were about to be tested with the greatest temptation that they had ever faced in their lives. Their beloved Rabbi and Master Jesus Christ was about to be betrayed by one of His own disciples whom He had trusted with money and had faithfully mentored for over three years. Jesus was about to be tried through six different stages in two different courts (three stages in a religious court and three stages in a Roman court) before Annas (the former high priest), Caiaphas (the current high priest), the Sanhedrin, and before Pilate, the Roman Governor. He would be soon charged in these courts with blasphemy for claiming to be the Messiah, condemned, punished and crucified on the cross.
However, the disciples of Jesus were asleep due to emotional fatigue and physical exhaustion, and Jesus had to repeatedly urge them to prayerfully watch for the ordeal that they were about to go through. The translation from the Greek text indicates that they were to ‘continually keep watching through prayer’. Since the disciples were not prayerfully watching, they were not prepared for the tragedy that is about to happen in their lives. We should not be quick to condemn the disciples of Jesus when we think of our personal prayer schedules since we sleep better than we pray and our minds wander when we should be watching and waiting before the Lord. Our regenerated spirit may have good intentions, but our spirit must control our bodies already offered as living sacrifices (see Romans 12:1) in order to gain spiritual victory.
We must be alert and in communication with our heavenly Father always, as we do not know when the next temptation will strike us. Opportunities for getting tempted are almost endless so we should always be on the lookout. God’s Word provides us four distinct alternatives for dealing with temptation:
- We should avoid temptation whenever possible (see Proverbs 4:14–15)
- We should flee from temptations when they arrive (see Genesis 39:11-12; 1 Corinthians 6:18, 2 Timothy 2:22).
- We should confess our weakness to God and ask Him to strengthen us (see 2 Corinthians 12:9)
- We should resist temptation until we overcome it (see Christ as our best example in Matthew 4:1–11; James 4:7).
Finally, we have wonderful promise that the temptations we experience will never go beyond the common experiences of others or, beyond our ability to deal with them. Praise the Lord!