Scripture Text: Luke 22:39-46 Title: Prayer and Temptation

Question of the Day: How does one’s prayer life help when facing temptation?

David Virts

The scene of today’s text is in the Garden of Gethsemane just before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. He urged His disciples several times in this passage to pray so that they wouldn’t enter into temptation. Why would Jesus say He was facing temptation when He was facing arrest and death? Was he facing the temptation to “cut and run” so that Judas and the mob wouldn’t find Him? Why would He urge the disciples to pray so that they wouldn’t enter into temptation?

Here is today’s text: “And Jesus went out of the city, and, as was His habit, went to the Mount of Olives and His disciples followed Him. And when He came to His usual place He said to them, ‘You need to pray now so that you will be strong in the hour of trial.’ And then He went aside from them about as far as you can throw a rock and knelt down and began to pray with these words: ‘Father, if it be possible and if You would be willing, take away the awfulness of this hour from Me; yet I desire for Your will to be done, not Mine.’ And an angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him. And the anguish of His soul was so great that has He prayed earnestly, He sweat great drops of blood that fell to the ground. And when He got up from prayer and came to His disciples, He found them so overcome with sorrow that they fell asleep exhausted. He said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Be alert and pray so that you too won’t be tempted to quit and run.’”

Was Jesus tempted in the Garden? Being the Son of Man and being a man, it is said of Him “He was tempted in all points like we are, and yet He didn’t sin” in Hebrews 4:15. So, yes, He was tempted; He asked the Father that if it were possible—if there is any other way to accomplish the redemption of mankind—then remove this bitter cup from Me; however, Your will be done, not mine. Here again Jesus showed His humanity, and yet it is here that He showed us what to do: we don’t understand how the devil tempts us to sin, but we know by the results that temptations are devastating. At the same time, as He was praying, an angel strengthened Him and He was able to surrender to the Father’s will and carry it out.

How about the disciples? Judas had already gone, but Simon Peter was going to be tempted to deny Him in the next few hours, and the other disciples all “forsook Him and fled”. Jesus had just urged them to do what He did, pray so that when the hour of temptation did come, they would be strong enough to withstand the fiercest temptation that the devil could throw at them. If the disciples had been able to figure out what was about to happen, they should have gathered around the Savior as He knelt and prayed, and encouraged and strengthened Him by laying their hands on His shoulders and saying words like, “We know You can do it! You must go forth to accomplish redemption, so just be strong and let the strength of God flow through You.” But they didn’t do that; however they did witness an angel coming to strengthen Him.

So, had the disciples prayed so that they wouldn’t be tempted to sin—to cut and run? NO! It says that they were “so overcome with sorrow that they fell asleep exhausted.” They knew from His words and actions that something big was about to happen to the Lord, but they weren’t ready for it, and they weren’t ready for His arrest, trial, scourging, and crucifixion, and they weren’t ready because they hadn’t follow His instructions to them and prayed.

There is so much instruction in this passage as to how to face life’s greatest temptations successfully. So, when we are faced with temptation, why don’t we pray? Is it because our wicked heart doesn’t really want to avoid sin and its pitfalls? Is it because we think we can face temptation successfully on our own? Or are we just ignorant of the power that God has left at our disposal through prayer to accomplish great things for Him—including not being bogged down in life with the baggage and bondage of sin? Here is an important point: in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry He faced the tempter and the demonic suggestions that he brought, but He knew how to stand against those temptations using the Word of God. No wonder His life was filled with the power of God—He knew how to successfully face the temptations of the devil and maintain a clean and pure relationship with the Father.

So the question comes to us: are we going to follow the Lord’s advice and instructions to us and learn how to, when facing temptation, to pray and receive the victory from the Father over that temptation? Or are we going to succumb to temptation like the disciples did and fall asleep during prayer and be weak and deny our Lord and forsake Him and flee? The choice is yours! And the power of God is at your fingertips in prayer to Him. Here’s where the Lord’s prayer would teach us, “…lead us not into temptation…”, and it is in that prayer that we find victory.

Prayer: Lord, in this prayer we pray that You will give us such a hatred for sin and its consequences, and such a passion for holy living that we pray often—at least whenever we are facing temptation—to be delivered from sin and its power. Thanks for blazing the trail for us in the Garden and showing us how to be totally ready for the greatest test of our lives—simply by praying and tapping into Your power for our weakest moment. Amen!