Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Could you not watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.’ (Matthew 26:40-41, NIV)
Jesus here gives us a profound key to His own ability to endure. His prayer life enabled Him to receive what was needed to endure the temptations He would undergo in the midst of completing His calling. Through this kind of praying, God’s power was given and He received grace to overcome. In His case the temptation was to crack under horrific violence, or to deny His calling as He was to be brought before governors, kings, jeering and violent soldiers, a whip of cords, a mocking crowd, and a pain-filled death. Luke tells us that God heard His request and gave Him the strength He needed to follow through with His mission, as a direct result of His intercession: “…and He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, ‘Father if you are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but yours be done.’ Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony he was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. (Luke 22:41-42, NASB).”
Jesus had been warned. He knew His time had come. He needed strength not to turn from His awful burden, but to do what was needful. He knew the answer—and that was to seek God in the midst of the trial. He must pray that He not fall into the temptation to turn from His calling. He wanted to teach the disciples the same. God sent an angel in response to His prayer to stay focused on God’s kingdom—for God’s will to be done through His dying. He could not allow even His very human desire to live (ordinarily the right outcome—He had evaded death before) to obstruct His mission.
To pray for the kingdom to come was not (and never will be) “easy believism.” This was not a cheap and painless intercession such as we see in too many of our prayer meetings. This was someone who knew He must die, and who needed strength not to evade His calling.
Holy One of Israel, strengthen my heart for these last days and keep my heart set upon Your kingdom. My deepest desire is to fulfill Your plans for me, and I continually find myself pulled and distracted by the culture in which I live. Give me spiritual blinders so that I may focus on the calling You have placed upon my life, even if the way is difficult. May I continually please Your heart and finish the race well!
–Adapted from Power Praying: Hearing Jesus’ Spirit by Praying Jesus’ Prayer by David Chotka. This book is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount.
Praise the one whose control covers even the details of your life (Mt. 6:25-34).
Thank God for knowing about your daily needs. Confess any worry. Commit to taking hold of areas where you are to be in charge in your life with the clear knowledge of being “second in command” under God. Ask him for the Spirit’s fruit of self-control.
Pray that God will work self-control into your private life. Ask him to help you be self-controlled with family members and with private disciplines such as eating habits, TV watching, reading materials, time usage, and exercise patterns.