I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “Work like it all depends on you and pray like it all depends on God.” I think that’s pretty good advice. Those words aren’t in the Bible, but the idea is certainly biblical. Probably one of the best places to see this principle illustrated is found in Matthew 26. The scene is the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had left most of his disciples back on the perimeter and had gone in further with Peter, James, and John. He then went a little farther alone and agonized in prayer about his imminent crucifixion.
When he came back he found the trio asleep. So he said to Peter, “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?... Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) There it is. Watch and pray. The watching is our part. The praying is asking God to help us.
If Jesus’ words were good advice for Peter, surely they are good advice for us. If we want to avoid falling into temptation we must watch. What does that mean? First of all it indicates that we have a responsibility to help ourselves. We can’t just go along ignoring our devotional life, neglecting Bible study, and all the other spiritual disciplines, expecting God to get us out of any mess we might get into. We must act. We need to get wise to ourselves and stay alert. We must pursue holiness, not just try to avoid unholiness. We must intentionally move ourselves toward goodness.
Reaching toward a positive goal is much more powerful in your life than having an avoidance goal. It is more powerful to run toward good than to run from evil, although we do need to run from evil. Paul told Timothy , “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…(1 Tim. 6:11-12). Look at those action words: “Flee, pursue, fight, take hold”
The life of the Christian is one of action. We are to live intentionally for Christ. We must remain alert and vigilant or else we risk falling into temptation as Jesus warned Peter.
All that being said, the reality is that our efforts alone aren’t enough. We need the help of God. When we are doing our part of the work it puts us in a more effective position to ask for God’s help. So Jesus told Peter “watch and pray.” Prayer is a necessary part of the victorious Christian life. Jesus often went off alone to pray. He got up before dawn and went out to pray. He even prayed all night at times. Now, if the Son of God needed to pray that much, where does that leave us.
So, work like it all depends on you, but pray like it all depends on God, because as Jesus said, “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Be sure this week to watch and pray.