"What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Matthew 26:40-41
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Have you ever used that as a cop-out?
That is the only way I have ever used it or heard it used. "Oh, Jesus wants me to get up and pray rather than falling asleep. I would, because the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, so that's why I can't get up."
As if the weak flesh trumps the power of the spirit.
That's how I always saw it.
But this morning, praying and meditating on what Jesus is saying, I see it totally differently. It doesn't make the least bit of sense that Jesus would mean it that way. Why would He say, "Watch and pray! This is important, guys, and the Spirit is willing to do it! Oh, but the flesh is weak, so never mind."
Surely He didn't tack this phrase on to give us an excuse to be hopeless about ever succeeding in obeying Him.
Rather, He is giving a really helpful instruction about the only way to succeed in prayer, answering the question, "Who are you trusting in to get your prayer done?"
If you are trusting in the spirit, the spirit is willing. The spirit is always willing to pray.
If you are trusting in the flesh, the flesh is weak. The flesh is insufficient, unable to pray, helpless to get to God.
What is the spirit? The spirit is not a thing, it's a Person.
Who is the spirit? The Holy Spirit of God. Consider who the Holy Spirit is. Can He ever be unwilling to pray?
What is the flesh? The flesh is the part of you that can't and won't serve God. The flesh is your old nature, the part that is bound to the dictatorship of sin and the devil. Why would we ever trust in the flesh in order to pray?
But we do.
We are used to trusting in the flesh.
If we need to get up super early to go on a fun trip, the flesh will help us to get up, because it is excited about the gratification and pleasure that the trip promises.
If we need to get up in the morning to go to work, the flesh will help us, because it knows you have to work to eat, and it is unwilling to put itself in the position of losing the food and other nice things that the job brings.
If we need to get up in the morning to face an unpleasant task, the flesh may be reluctant, but it will help us even then, because there are certain perks--the self-gratification of taking it patiently, or the need to get it over with, or the benefit that will come afterward.
So when it comes to getting up to pray, we turn to the flesh.
But the flesh is weak.
The spirit is willing. Walk in the spirit, and you will be able to watch one hour with Jesus. If there's even a tiny little bit of self-indulgence in your system, you will end up giving in to it and you will fall asleep.
Is this not a valuable key? Jesus is giving us knowledge for victory, not a cop-out for failure.