Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
–Matthew 26:41

As Christians, we know that we need to pray, but prayer is difficult. In Romans 15:30, Paul said, “I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” That word “strive together” is the Greek word “synagonizomai.” “Syn-” is a prefix that means together. “Agonizomai” means agonize. Paul was saying, “Agonize with me in prayer.” Prayer, when done correctly, is hard work.

The reason prayer is difficult is because it is a battle. When we are praying, we are battling against three components. First of all, prayer is a battle against our own flesh. Do you ever find it hard to get up 10 minutes earlier in the morning to pray? Do you find it difficult to focus while you pray? We all do, because we are flesh, and prayer is a struggle against the flesh. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He told Peter, James, and John to watch and pray while He communed with the Father. After an hour He came back, and His disciples were asleep. He said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Can I get an amen? We all experience that. Prayer is a battle against the flesh.

Second, prayer is a battle against the enemy. Paul said in Ephesians 6:12, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” That word “struggle,” in Greek, referred to a wrestling match. In Paul’s day, the loser of a wrestling match would have his eyes gouged out and then be put to death. Paul said believers are in that kind of death struggle with Satan. Don’t ever forget that Satan hates you and has a terrible plan for your life. When you pray, when you ask God for victory over that temptation, when you ask to submit to God’s will, when you ask God to help you witness to that unsaved friend, you are praying against Satan and his plan to take you out. That is why prayer is a spiritual struggle.

Ultimately, prayer can be a struggle with God Himself. When we pray, we face the ultimate struggle of: “God, is it going to be your will or my will?” Jesus also experienced that struggle. He prayed, “God, if there is any way, deliver Me from this experience.” Jesus did not want to go through the horrific physical suffering of the cross. But beyond that, He did not want the experience that you and I can never understand of bearing the sins of the entire world and facing separation from His Heavenly Father. That is why He prayed, “God, if there is any way out, please make it known to Me.” Then Jesus submitted and said, “Not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

The greatest battle we will ever face in prayer is this: is it going to be our will or God’s will?

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Bow The Knee” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.