And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.
And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
~ Luke 22:40-46 ESV
There are so many reasons we need to engage in regular prayer with the Lord. Throughout the gospels, we repeatedly see Jesus taking time to pray alone. What does He pray about? Some prayers are recorded, some are not, but He sets an example for us to go to the Father and lay our hearts before Him.
Here, in the gospel according to Luke, Jesus gives His disciples an immediate command, and He does it twice: “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” After the initial command, Jesus also gets down and prays. He leads by example.
He gets up from His prayer and walks over to His disciples. They are so overcome with sadness that they had fallen asleep. It’s possible they fell asleep while they were praying (has that ever happened to you?). I can’t imagine how embarrassing that would be to have Jesus catch you sleeping when you were supposed to be praying. Peter—of all people—should have been praying (and sweating) because Jesus told Him earlier that Satan had asked to “sift him like wheat.”
“I can’t believe they fell asleep!”
The disciples never seem to fully grasp the perilousness of their position.
We, too, often fail to consider the precariousness of our situation until we are waist-deep in it. We fire off brief “arrow prayers,” but fail to get on our knees each and every day for some solid time with the Lord. Arrow prayers have their place, but they should not replace quiet, dedicated time alone with God.
“Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Just last week, I wrote a post on the importance of committing the Word to our heart so we can fight temptation (click here to read it). Study and prayer go together like bones and marrow—only when the two work together can we have life.
We, like Peter, have too much confidence in our own strength and conviction. Strength and conviction will not be enough when Satan decides to tempt us, and He pursues us every minute of every day. He wants us to fail desperately because we do not belong to Him!
Peter might have had this experience in mind when he wrote:
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
~ 1 Peter 5:8-10 ESV
Peter knew the consequences of sleeping when He should’ve been praying. After this account, Peter denies knowing Jesus three times. He never thought He would deny Jesus, but when the rubber met the road He wasn’t ready.
Being asleep isn’t just a literal problem. We do need sleep and rest. However, we can be slumbering in the sense that we do not possess any situational awareness of pending danger. The devil wants us to think that we are safe from temptation. He wants us to be over-confident and, rather than keep watch, sleep the slumber of the care-free. It’s much easier to attack and kill your prey while they are sleeping. It’s much harder when they are on guard and possibly even fleeing.
Are you sleeping?
The lion is at the door! Pray hard, pray often, pray to the one who can strengthen you for the fight or flight.