the-power-of-prayerAs a Christian matures, learning that God is sovereign, omniscient, and unchangeable, he will begin asking important questions such as, “Why do I need to pray?”

Sometimes a quick answer will be flung back to him, “Because God told us to” or, “Prayer isn’t about God, it’s about you.” And, although there is truth in these answers, they may not provide the depth, which leads to peace. So, what does happen when we pray? We will not have time here for an exhaustive study, but let’s look at one primary outcome of prayer.

A fascinating text concerning prayer comes in Mark 14 when Jesus has asked the disciples to watch and pray before Judas comes to betray. Peter falls asleep three times and Jesus wakes him with this rebuke:

“Simon are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” – Mark 14:37-38

We all know of Peter’s impending collapse on the night of Christ’s capture – This hard-charging and loud-mouthed disciple who had promised to, “Die with Christ” would be shamed by a servant girl in the courts of the High Priest. The rooster would crow, Peter would weep, and the rest as they say, “is history.”

But, Jesus had warned Peter to, “Pray that you may not come into temptation…” His reason, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” And, in those words we learn a very valuable lesson about prayer, namely that it strengthens the spirit to not give way to the flesh.

In Scripture there are many examples of prayer strengthening the believer to do what it was he hoped to do but was fearful temptation would keep him from. Jesus prayed before selecting the right disciples (Luke 6:12-13). Peter and John prayed that they might be bold in preaching (Acts 4:24-29). Paul asked everyone pray that he might stay bold in ministry (Ephesians 6:18-19). The author of Hebrews even indicates prayer as a recipe for keeping confident in Christ as Mediator (Hebrews 4:15-16). These and many other examples illustrate how prayer strengthens the saint to keep doing what He knows is right based on God’s Word.

Have you ever wanted to do something right but given into temptation and wrong? Afterward, you felt guilty and repented saying, “I’ll never do that again” but deep inside there remained a regret for missing the opportunity of righteous living? That’s what Peter experienced in Gethsemane and in many ways it drove his spiritual focus for the remainder of life (Review the focus on grace prevalent throughout 1 Peter).

What Peter experienced on the night of Christ’s capture, and what all Christians will face in life, is a weakening of faithful resolve lowering the fence on holiness just long enough for them to, in Paul’s words of Romans 7, “Do the very thing they do not wish to do.” Satan, the prowling lion glowers in the high grass, awaiting just such an opportunity to devour, and suddenly a seemingly strong Christian suffers a potentially fatal blow.

In some ways this weakening of resolve is similar to the spiritual version of the “Second Law of Thermodynamics” in science, which states that everything goes from order to disorder if left to its own devices. This empirical law explains why things dissolve, rust, and disintegrate. Why the fence in our backyard rots. Why the car rusts. Why bodies disintegrate underground. In the same manner, a Christian’s faith naturally fades away if unnourished, unboosted, and unsupported. Prayer is one of the means (along with the Bible and Christian community) that God gives to fix up the fence of faith, to insure that temptation doesn’t break in and steal the valuable treasures of peaceful conscience.

In the garden of Gethsemane, Peter failed to prayerfully rebuild his fence, and it took only a few hours for the weakened portion of his pride to give way to the prosecutorial questions of a servant girl, allowing he deny the One He loved most. Friends, in the morning and in the evening, we must align our will wholeheartedly with God’s Word, confessing all sin, and trusting Him for tomorrow’s providence. And then, every second in between, we must return to those pivotal promises made on the knees or by midnight stroll, remembering who God is and who we now are in Him. One thing we can be sure of is that our Gethsemane will come, thus the question remains, will we be found sleeping or prayerful in the hour of temptation.

Posted by Anthony Wood

Anthony is Pastor of Mission Bible Church in Tustin, CA, and has authored the books Defining Church & Defining Family. He’s married to Bre, and they have three children.

3 Comments

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