Fighting Temptation

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation – Matthew 26:41a

What a wonderfully concise directive Jesus gives us for fighting temptation! This world affords a thousand enticements to a thousand different sins. And our sinful nature assaults us from the inside with a complex and varied array of lusts, fears, ambitions, and doubts.

Yet Jesus’ simple, balanced admonition is an effective weapon against every one of these temptations to sin: watch and pray.

Lest we expect God to do all our fighting for us, we are told to watch. It is our responsibility to keep our spiritual eyes open (which sometimes means keeping our physical eyes closed or averted) for any avenue by which sin might gain entrance into our soul. We are to guard our heart from disloyalty, and our testimony from indiscretion, by actively engaging ourselves in the relentless pursuit of purity and goodness.

On the other hand, we cannot possibly expect to overcome our ever-present inclination toward sin, or the age-old cunning of Satan, in our own strength. And so we must pray. We must rely on the sustaining grace and purifying power of the Holy Spirit’s work within us.

Because our flesh is so weak, no matter how willing our spirit may be it is imperative that we be in a constant posture of watchfulness and prayer. In fact, there is a direct correlation, Jesus tells us, between our prayerful watchfulness and our ability to withstand or avoid temptation.