Several years ago I was driving down a county road through some ranch land a few miles from my house when I saw him. Hanging upside down with his bound hind legs draped over a fence post was a very dead fox. And just like a turtle on a fence, it was obvious he didn’t get there by himself. Someone had placed him there, no doubt as a warning. “Don’t enter, or you’ll end up like this….” I’m fairly certain that the message wasn’t intended for humankind, nevertheless, I was not inclined to trespass that property! I had been effectively warned.
A good warning will do just what this one did — it will either stimulate or inhibit activity. So it was with Jesus’ warning in Mt. 26:41 — “Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation;the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Knowing the danger of the moment — as the Savior was headed to the cross — the red flag was raised for the disciples. WARNING!! There was a danger ahead, a temptation that would subtly entice the remaining eleven to abdicate their relationship with the Master. So His words called them to action. “Be watchful. Be prayerful. So then you may be able to resist the temptation.”
It wasn’t that they had defective motives. To the contrary, they were noble (remember Peter’s promise that even if the other disciples would leave Christ, he would not?). The potential for their failure was rooted in their fleshliness — their humanness. That they were human and still bound in bodies that carry the sin nature (as all men do) meant that they were inherently spiritually weak. So their time of great testing and temptation called for a time of great vigilance and prayer.
Though the disciples repeatedly fell asleep on that night, in the aftermath, Peter learned the lesson. Listen to the words he wrote to persecuted churches years later: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him [that’s prayer], because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert [that’s watchfulness]. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pt. 5:6-8, NASB, my emphasis).
We do well to heed the same warning and pray. There is a spiritual protection in prayer that serves as a guard for our souls that will keep us from failure. And there is joy in prayer as we commune with our Lord and Master. We need prayer.
Max Lucado was correct when he wrote,
“Do you want to know how to deepen your prayer life? Pray. Don’t prepare to pray. Just pray. Don’t read about prayer. Just pray. Don’t attend a lecture on prayer or engage in a discussion about prayer. Just pray.…Don’t be so concerned about wrapping the gift that you never give it. Better to pray awkwardly that not at all. And if you feel you should only pray when inspired, that’s ok. Just see to it that you are inspired every day.” [When God Whispers Your Name.]