Watch and Pray

Matthew 26:40 (ESV) … “And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?


More can be done by prayer than anything else. Prayer is our greatest weapon”…. Billy Graham


Jesus got up from his prayer to return to the three disciples. He had told them to stay and keep watch. But instead of showing support for Jesus by remaining awake with him and praying for strength in the coming hours, they had fallen asleep, “exhausted from sorrow” (Luke 22:45 niv). Also, the hour was very late, perhaps after midnight. Jesus addressed Peter directly. Peter had said he would never leave Jesus; yet when Jesus needed prayer and support, Peter wasn’t there for him. Thus, Jesus rebuked Peter for his failure to keep watch for even one hour.


Jesus told the disciples that this was the time to watch and pray, for very soon they would face difficult temptations. Jesus was not only asking that they pray for him, but also that they pray for themselves. Jesus knew that these men would need extra strength to face the temptations ahead—temptations to run away or to deny their relationship with him. “Enter into” could also be translated “fall into.” Jesus wanted the disciples to pray that their faith would not collapse. The word “temptation” can mean testing or trial. Jesus wanted his disciples to pray for strength to go through the coming ordeal. The disciples were about to see Jesus die. Would they still think he was the Messiah? The disciples would soon face confusion, fear, loneliness, guilt, and the temptation to conclude that they had been deceived.


“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Many have interpreted “spirit” to mean the “human spirit.” Thus, it would mean that while their spirit might be willing, their flesh would be weak. Their inner desires and intentions would be, as they had previously boasted, to never deny Jesus and to die with him. Their relationship with Jesus had made the disciples eager to serve him in any way possible. Yet their human inadequacies, with all their fears and failures, would make it difficult to carry out those good intentions. A willing spirit (see Psalm 51:12) needs the Holy Spirit to empower it and help it do God’s will.


Jesus used Peter’s drowsiness to warn him to be spiritually vigilant against the temptation he would soon face. The way to overcome temptation is to stay alert and to pray. This means being aware of the possibilities of temptation, sensitive to the subtleties, and morally resolved to fight courageously. Because temptation strikes where we are most vulnerable, we can’t resist alone. Prayer is essential because God’s strength can shore up our defenses and defeat Satan. [1]




[1] Barton, B. B. (1996). Matthew (pp. 524–525). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

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