Day 238: Matthew 26:41

Keep watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Jesus has gone off into the night after the Last Supper to pray and he has taken three of his disciples with him.  He has less than 24 hours to live.  While he prays, his disciples doze off.  Whether from exhaustion or stress, they wouldn’t keep their eyes open.

But Jesus admonishes them to be mindful about what’s going on.  He knows that it’s going to be a horrible scene.  Shockingly so.  He knows that all of his disciples and friends will abandon him, with the exception of a couple of the women.  He knows that the disciples aren’t that strong.  Peter, for example, has sworn that he will not deny Jesus, but Jesus knows that he will do so three times before the sun rises. (See Day 234).  They ALL want to do the right thing, but Jesus knows that they don’t have the discipline and spiritual maturity to follow through.

So Jesus warns them that they are in danger of falling into temptation.  Temptation is always nipping at our heels.  Jesus faced temptation in the desert at the beginning of his ministry so he knows what it’s all about (See Days 2-4).  In the Lord’s Prayer he tells us to pray for God to “deliver us from temptation.”    Jesus acknowledges that temptation is an ever-present problem relative to the human condition.

We are most vulnerable to temptation when we are stressed.  It’s when we are stressed that we start doing things we shouldn’t in an effort to relieve the tension.  We drink.  We take drugs (legal or illegal).  We yell at someone.  We bully people.  We engage in inappropriate sex.  We start worrying.  We fall into depression.  We become compulsive.  We get greedy.  We become egocentric.  We withdraw.   We hoard. We say things we don’t mean and we mean things we don’t say.  We give up.  We do stupid things.

Jesus knows that the only way that his disciples are going to make it through this is if they are prayed up.  Prayer is the thing that gives you that “peace that passes understanding.”  They need to listen to God’s instructions.  If they do what Jesus suggests and open up the lines of communication through prayer, God will remind them about all that Jesus has taught them.  He will comfort them and encourage them.  He will help them see past the darkness of their immediate situation to the glorious future that God offers to mankind through Jesus.  They need to stay awake and pray or they will not be prepared for what’s going to go down.

Here are some quotes about prayer that I like:

  • “Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart”.― Mahatma Gandhi
  •  “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”  ― Søren Kierkegaard
  • “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” ― Mother Teresa
  • “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” ― Abraham Lincoln
  •  “The more you pray, the less you’ll panic. The more you worship, the less you worry. You’ll feel more patient and less pressured.”  – Rick Warren
  • “We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all.  Most of us would prefer, however, to spend our time doing something that will get immediate results. We don’t want to wait for God to resolve matters in His good time because His idea of ‘good time’ is seldom in sync with ours.”  ― Oswald Chambers
  • “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” ― Martin Luther
  • Prayer is simply a two-way conversation between you and God. – Billy Graham
  • In our home there was always prayer – aloud, proud and unapologetic. – Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Prayer is more than meditation. In meditation, the source of strength is one’s self. When one prays, he goes to a source of strength greater than his own. – Madame de Stael
  • Prayer changes things. – Mahalia Jackson

What tempts you?  For me it’s food.   Also getting irritable.  Worry is always at the door.  Sometimes, anger.  If it’s really bad I withdraw.  It’s important for all of us to recognize when we are going off the rails and turn it around.  Slow down, take a deep breath, and pray.  We need to get it together because in the Kingdom of God good intentions are not good enough.  Yes, God knows our hearts, but he won’t necessarily save us from the consequences our own poor choices.  He cautions us to aim for the narrow gate (See Day 60) because, as the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  And so Jesus tells his disciples to stay awake, pay attention, and pray.

What does this scripture say to you?

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