In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus instructed his disciples to watch and pray that they might not fall into temptation, because the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). Earlier that evening, Jesus had warned Peter that Peter would deny him. However, Peter refused to heed Jesus’ warning. When Jesus told Peter and the other disciples to pray so that they would not fall into temptation, Peter failed to grasp the connection with what Jesus said earlier, and so he fell back asleep. Later that night, Peter fulfilled exactly what Jesus had said he would do and what Peter denied that he would do. Temptation overcame Peter, who failed to pray so that he would not fall into temptation. Actually, Peter’s failure was not when he denied Jesus; it occurred earlier in the evening when he failed to believe Jesus’ warning. If Peter had taken to heart what Jesus had said, then he would have been so distraught that he could not have slept in the Garden. Jesus was just as tired as the disciples, probably more so, but he could not sleep, because he believed the prophetic declarations in Isaiah 53 about the suffering he would endure. Had Peter prayed and asked Father for the strength not to deny Jesus, Father very well may have intervened so that Peter would have been strong enough to overcome the temptation to deny Jesus whom he loved.
Peter’s failure reminds us of an important truth. We can be tempted and fall, even in areas that are strengths in our life. For Peter, his love of Jesus was an area of strength. Jesus pointed this out when he restored Peter in John 21; three times, he asked Peter if he loved him. In the end, Peter responded that Jesus knew Peter loved him. These questions were not for Jesus’ information, but for Peter to have an opportunity to confess what Jesus knew to be true. Jesus was drawing out and revealing the truth of Peter’s love for Jesus so that Peter could find encouragement in that after his denial. In other words, even though we may be strong in a certain area, we still need our Father’s strength in that area.