“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41 ESV)
The scene in the garden at Gethsemane is such a powerful one and so much can be learned from studying this single snapshot of Jesus’s life. As Jesus prayed in the garden just before His arrest, He asked Peter, James, and John to stay up with Him for support, but each time He returned to them, He found them sleeping (Luke 22:45 tells us that they were exhausted by grief, ever been there?). As you can imagine, He was disappointed. When He returns to them, Jesus tells them to pray so that they do not fall into temptation. At first glance, it seems like He is telling them to pray so that they do not fall into the temptation to sleep. However, I think He meant something more important. I believe He meant the temptation that would soon be coming to them all to deny Christ and fall away. The apostles may have “abandoned” Him in the garden by sleeping, but an event is coming up which will cause them all to be tempted to abandon Christ completely. Jesus knew they would not be able to endure the coming trials by anything but prayer. (Incidentally, it seems that Christ was praying the same thing He asked His disciples to pray: that He would have the strength to endure the trials coming up for Him and would not fall into the temptation to turn away from the will of His Father. It can be comforting to know that Christ struggled with the same temptations we do, and strengthening to see His example of enduring faith.)
How many times do we all have good intentions, but end up not following through because we try to rely on our own fleshly strength instead of the strength God supplies through prayer and faith? Jesus says that even though our spirit may be strong and willing, we may still fall to temptation by our weak flesh if we do not pray for God’s intervention. This instance in the garden can help us see how important prayer is in any of our spiritual endeavors. No matter how strong we believe ourselves to be, we cannot succeed without God.