In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed. The extreme physical, spiritual, and emotional pain he would experience in a few hours weighed him down. His statement to Peter, James, and John, his companions, was:
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” (Mark 14:34)
His purpose in prayer was preparation. He needed to be in communion with his Father. He wanted to be assured that what he was about to face was necessary and that he could endure it.
The four disciples that came with Jesus were asked to stay and keep watch but they could not keep their eyes open. Three times Jesus left them to pray alone and three times he came back and found them sleeping. His question to them was “Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour?" Then he goes on to say: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
In the garden, the disciples experienced the weakness of the flesh. Peter, when he was told that he would betray Jesus three times before the night was over, Peter said: “No Way!” He could not conceive of doing such a thing. But he did, and the other disciples at Jesus' arrest would flee for their lives.
You no doubt can relate to Jesus' words to his disciples:
“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38)
His words to his disciples can apply to our desire to pray. Often what our spirit is willing to do when it comes to praying does not happen. Sleepy eyes, lack of ability to stay focused, or inability to escape warm blankets in the morning hinder us. Weakness of the flesh also thwarts other parts of our lives. What we desire, what we see as right and good, does not happen. We find ourselves in a struggle to make the changes we desire.
How do we overcome the weakness of the flesh?
There is a spiritual component. We invite God, through his Holy Spirit, to empower us to become what he has called us to be. There is also the importance of community. The willingness to be accountable to another person or group can help us overcome the weakness of the flesh and make the change we desire. As well, there are practical steps we can take to help us make the changes we desire. James Clear in his book Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes Remarkable Results, spells out some of these steps.
Yes, the flesh is weak, but with a willing spirit, community support, new habits, and spiritual empowerment, we can make the changes God desires.