“Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”– Mark 14:38
I remember the hymn that asks the christian not to seek repose yet, because he/she is in the midst of foes and as such must watch and pray.
Thinking back now, I can’t remember whether I have ever given thought to the first part of that charge; whether I have ever bothered to “watch”.
Oh sure! I have done my fair share of praying, but I don’t think I have ever actually “watched.”
If anything, I have prayed then tried to do a bit “watching” (of course, watching for me had meant “looking out for the answer to my request”) but I don’t remember ever putting the watching before the praying.
The importance of watching was brought home recently so much so that I had to seek to understand what it really means to “Watch.”
Interestingly, having examined what the scripture had to say about watching, it became clear to me why many of us don’t do a lot of it, and why it is, that we have so many “christians” who simply just don’t pray.
We live in a very visual world. A world full of flashing lights, moving pictures and carefully crafted attention grabbing stuff. With so many of these things to massage our eyes and to distract us; it is no surprise that “watching” is near impossible.
What then does it mean to “watch”, or better still, what does the Scripture mean when it commands us to watch?
Well, the Scripture doesn’t exactly “define” watching; however, what it is can be inferred from the context of the verses that discuss it.
So, according to Scripture, to watch, is to evaluate all things in the light of God’s revealed truth. It is to be heedful of potential consequences in our appraisal of the events in our lives and that of those around us.
Take Daniel 9:2-3 for instance, as a classic example of how prayer is to be conducted.
“in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.
So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.”
Curiously, the obviously more time consuming task of watching was described, rather briefly, in verse 2, while the “shorter” resultant prayer- Daniel’s prayers wouldn’t have lasted more than 10mins- was recorded in verses 4-19. Daniel’s prayer was a result of careful examination of the Scriptures, (in this case, the prophecies of the Prophet Jeremiah.)
In several places in the Scriptures, we are not only commanded to “watch”, we were specifically directed on the things to “watch out for”:
- False Doctrine (Matthew 16:6, Mark 8:15);
The quality of our service to God in view of his return (Matthew 24:42-48);
The consistency of the knowledge we have to God’s revealed truth (Luke 11:35);
The events that militate against our testimony as believers (Luke 21:36, Acts 9:24)
The assumptions on which we base our faith (1Corinthians 10:12, 1Corinthians 16:13)
The quality of the company we keep (1Corinthians 15:33)
And so much more…
Also in 1 Peter 4:7, the Scriptures state without equivocation, the purpose of watching;
“7 The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.”
We are to watch, according to the word of God, otherwise our prayers, as Pastor John Macarthur puts it, will find their way into “shallow and meaningless verbiage.”
“This is the confidence that we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, He hears us. – 1 John 5:14