Before Jesus went to the cross, he disclosed to his disciples that Satan had an audience with Almighty God and asked to sift them as wheat. So much was getting ready to happen – the disciples had no idea what they were about to face. But Jesus did and he was warning them.
In the middle of the last supper, as their Lord and washed their feet and served them, a dispute actually broke out about who was the greatest disciple. He had just warned them that one of them would betray him, but they immediately began arguing about who was the greatest. All of this must have been amusing to the enemy, who was ready to shake them up and show them how little and powerless they really were.
What was Jesus’ response to this arguing? Did he want to see them put in their place? No. He was getting ready to take their place. He said,
“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Jesus knew that the enemy would attack them in their weakness, but he prayed for them. In particular, he prayed for Simon. Please get a picture of the heart of God in this. Satan, our accuser, is standing before God, asking for the disciples the way he asked for Job. Yet, here is Jesus – getting ready for the cross and praying for Simon’s restoration. He knows that Simon will fall into temptation. Yet, he prays for his redemption ahead of time – because Jesus loves us this much.
“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
When Jesus knew the disciples would be faced with temptation he prayed that they would not fall into it. In fact, he implores them to pray over and over asking why they are asleep. He knew that in this hour they would need one prayer – “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from the evil one.”
If this was Jesus’ main prayer for his disciples when they couldn’t see what was coming, what should be our prayer when we can’t see what is coming?
Lead me not into temptation, Lord. Deliver me from evil. God is our deliverer. He will strengthen us the way he strengthened Peter when he failed and fell. He will protect us and restore us. How often do we pray this way? How often do we just really try hard to do our best, yet do not invite the living God into the middle of it all?
(Scripture taken from Luke 22 NIVUK)