It must have been something important, because Jesus said it not once, but twice.
He told the disciples to pray, so they would not fall into temptation. Jesus knew what was about to come. And he knew his disciples were already exhausted, and their hearts filled with sorrow.
Talk about a set-up for caving when it comes to temptation! But intriguingly, Jesus does not encourage them — in their exhausted state — to take a nap, or get more rest.
That’s the advice I give myself when I’m tired, and hurting, and can see temptation right around the corner: “You just need more rest.” But Jesus doesn’t say that. Instead, he says, “You just need more prayer.” There’s certainly nothing wrong with getting more rest. But it’s prayer that will keep you from falling.
God finds it extremely hard to resist the humble prayers of his hurting children. He is our Father, so it is in his very nature to protect us when we cry out to him.
“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed… When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. ‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation'” (Luke 22:39-41, 45-46, NIV).
Many years later, Paul echoes similar thoughts when he encourages Christians in Ephesus to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10-11, NIV). Paul closes out this section of his letter with the encouragement to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18, NIV).
So, do you mind if I ask you a quick question?
Do you have a time set aside sometime in the morning where you honestly face the temptations of the day ahead, calling them to mind one by one, and then asking God in prayer for his protection, trusting that it is in his very nature to protect you when you cry out to him?
If this is not something you have a habit of doing, let me highly recommend it. Because, just like the disciples, what most of us truly need (alongside some time hearing from God by reading our Bible) is simply more prayer time.
And when it comes to beating back temptation, it’s the very same thing… the word, the sacraments, and prayer. These are powerful, because the God we listen to, and the God who listens to us, is far more powerful than any temptation we might face!
Dear Father, hear my prayers. Listen to my cry for help. Beat back the daily temptations that beset me. Some of them are circumstantial and temporary, Lord — and you know which ones I’m talking about. Others are long-standing temptations that I’ve struggled to conquer for almost my entire life. Above all else, Lord, I ask you: Help me to guard my heart, for everything else flows from it (Proverbs 4:23).
Our Bible reading for Friday, April 24, is Joshua 5:13 – 7:26, Luke 22:39-62 and Psalm 50:16-23.