And being in agony, [Jesus] prayed more intently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down on the ground. When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, and He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not fall into temptation.”
You do not have to know much about combat sports to know that the battle can be lost before the combatants even enter the ring. The road leading up to a fight can be grueling. Although the competition for which the fighters are gearing up might last only minutes or seconds, the preparation might last weeks or months. They will work on speed and fitness. They want to be strong and powerful without being too heavy and weighed down. It is common for fighters to train for a specific opponent in a specific way; not everyone fights the same. Certain tactics can win one fight but lose another. Even considering this, the fighter must be prepared for any surprises or changes in how the opponent approaches the fight. The point is that a fighter must be prepared for the fight in order to have a chance at winning. Prayer is part of our preparation as we take on our own spiritual combat.
In this passage, Jesus is preparing to take on the ultimate battle. He is charged with accomplishing a task which seems impossible. It is a task which, in fact, would be impossible for mortal man to complete. Part of this battle will be enduring the temptation to follow a plan other than the single perfect plan that lay before him. The prayer of Jesus to prepare him to successfully endure this temptation is so intense that the vessels surrounding his sweat glands rupture, causing him to perspire blood. He knows that a battle of temptation lay ahead for his disciples as well. They need to be prepared in prayer to fight that battle, but they are unaware of the urgency. Instead, they sleep. The scriptures will reveal to us how their battles of temptation are lost because of their lack of preparation in prayer. We cannot ignore the importance of prayer not only during the fight but well before it.
We do not know when the enemy will rear his ugly head and pick a fight with us. If we wait until the showdown to prepare ourselves, it will be too late. We must be prepared ahead of time by remaining in prayer about such things even though no battle appears to be on the horizon. We must expect to encounter opposition daily. If we do so, we will be prepared daily to combat that opposition. Life can get busy and hectic, and it is very easy to forget to take care of this spiritual need. But if we heed the lesson that Jesus tried to teach his disciples here, the battles we encounter will be winnable. We cannot forget that we are called to victory. Father, thank You that You give us prayer as a way to prepare for battle, and remind us to engage in this preparation daily so that we can emerge victorious.