We have good news. We can overcome temptation by prayer. God will listen and give us strength.
Earlier in the evening at Gethsemane, Jesus told His disciples only to stay awake. Now he tells them also to pray. In that culture people prayed not only aloud but also with their eyes open, not with their eyes shut.
Praying would help the disciples stay awake, then, so as not to enter—that is, succumb to—the temptation to sleep. The command echoes the Lord’s Prayer ( “And you shouldn’t lead us into temptation”).
The spirit of the disciples may be eager to help Jesus, but their flesh is weak in the sense of tired (“You weren’t strong enough”). It’s late at night, and they’ve had an unusually full meal. Only prayer can help their eager spirit win its tug-of-war with their weak flesh. As in Psalm 51:12, to which Jesus alludes, we should think of their human spirit, not of God’s Spirit.
So we see, that in addition to God’s Word, prayer can help us to resist temptation. The night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, and He told Peter to pray “so that you will not fall into temptation” (Mark 14:38). Also, in the “Master’s Prayer,” Jesus taught us to pray that we would not be led into temptation (Matthew 6:13; Luke 11:4).
When we do fall into temptation, we know that “God is faithful; He will not let us be tempted beyond what [we] can bear,” and that He will provide us with a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). This is a promise from God, and like Abraham, the disciples should be “fully persuaded” that God has the power to do what He has promised.
- Matthew 26:41 — 41 “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
- Matthew 18:8–9 — 8 “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. 9 “If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.
- 1 Corinthians 7:5 — 5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.