46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
Jesus was with three of His disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, which was situated on the side of mount Olives, when this conversation occurred. He was there to pray because His heart was in great agony concerning His impending death. Jesus also asked Peter, James and John to stay awake and pray, just as He would do. He told them to “pray that ye enter not into temptation” (Luke 22:40).
However, when Jesus returned to the three disciples, “he found them sleeping for sorrow” (v. 45b). He then asked them, “Why are you asleep?” Jesus was certainly aware that they were too tired to be awake because of their heavy hearts and tired bodies. It was late, very late – probably about midnight or perhaps even a little later. Notwithstanding, Jesus addressed the sleepy disciples, “rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.”
Jesus wanted the disciples to have the proper response to the grave situation that all of them were facing. An extremely dangerous situation had come upon them. In less than a few hours, the Jews and the Roman soldiers would arrive to arrest Christ; it would then be a time of great temptation and trial for Christ and the disciples. It was very foolish not to prepare themselves in prayer for the trying hours ahead of them.
If one knows that a lion is on the prowl in the vicinity, will one lie down and sleep? If one knew that the rising waters of an overflowing river would swallow up one’s home in an hour, would one take a nap? When a Christian is aware of the temptations and trials that he would soon encounter, he must keep himself awake and pray. In such times, even physical tiredness or sleepiness is not an excuse for neglecting prayer.
Christians ought to be aware of their vulnerability to temptation. When the times of temptation and trial come, we need to be ready. Unless we depend on God in earnest prayer and prepare our hearts to be faithful to God, we will easily be led into temptation. Faithfulness in the midst of temptation and trial requires vigilance and diligence unto prayer.
Let us recall Jesus’ words when He taught us how to pray – “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:13).