MEDITATIONS ON BIBLICAL PRAYER #17
Watch and pray
April 18, 2012
Reading: Matthew 26:36-46
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” Matthew 26:41
Scripture often presents us with combinations of words—mercy and truth (Psalm 85:10); righteousness and justice (Psalm 97:2; Hosea 2:19), and Paul frequently opened his letters with grace and peace (1 Cor 1:3). On more than one occasion, Jesus told His disciples to “watch and pray,” an exhortation it behooves every child of God to take to heart.
A practical illustration of this is found when the Jews returned to Jerusalem following their 70 years of captivity in Babylon:
“Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built” Nehemiah 4:17-18.
Prayer is a vital part of a believer’s life. While the Holy Spirit works to conform (build) us into the image of Jesus, so we must watch and pray lest we fall into temptation. As we grow in Christ, we can be sure that our enemy will continually assault us with one goal in mind—to make us “fall into temptation.” Peter speaks of Satan as a “roaring Lion:
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith” 1 Peter 5:8-9.
How do we resist the enemy? Peter says, “Be sober, be vigilant”;James says, “Submit yourselves to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:7-8), Jesus says, “Watch and pray, lest you fall into temptation.”
We must be like the Jews of old when they built the walls of Jerusalem, we must have a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other. Our trowel is prayer, and our sword is the Word of God. With this combination alive and well in our lives, Satan faces a wall he cannot weaken or demolish.
The watchman spoken of in the Old Testament refers to one who stands guard in a tower built specifically on the city wall. His eyes were trained to look for anything unusual that might be the enemy (2 Kings 9:17-20). Watchmen were also employed by orchardists and ranchers to look for intruders that could steal the crop or livestock, whether it be man or animal.
The word used for “watch” is greygoreo, which means to be alert and vigilant, to guard. A soldier on guard is said to be “on watch.”
This is true regarding our prayer life. As we pray, we must be on watch, we must watch against distractions, wandering, self-centered thoughts, and all types of imaginations. How often, while in prayer, do we find ourselves thinking of other non-sensical things? Have you ever fallen asleep while praying? We must be on guard for these devil initiated intrusions into our prayers. Some people find that praying aloud helps them to concentrate, while others find help by preparing a list of personal concerns and those for whom to pray. What ever helps us to watch over our times of prayer is of value. If possible, we should pray when we are alert, not when we are tired.
Prayer is a critical part in a believer’s life. Prayer is where spiritual life flourishes, but also where it decays—backsliding usually begins when we fail to pray or only pray when we can cram it into our busy schedule, for then we are usually tired. Our prayer life can serve as a barometer of our spiritual life.
Wandering thoughts, tiredness, and distracting cares invade our prayers like the vultures that continually came down to feast on Abraham’s sacrifice, but “Abram drove them away” (Genesis 15:11).
There is another sense in which we should watch and pray—as we pray, watch for God’s answer. Be on the look out for circumstances that happen that may be God answering our prayer. Is God speaking to you from His Word? Is he using the advice of a friend? Is the Holy Spirit speaking directly to your heart?
The story is told of a man who climbed onto the roof of his house during a massive flood. He could not swim, so he prayed to God that He would save him from drowning. Before too long a row boat, already carrying several people, pulled alongside the roof. “Climb in,” the boatsman said. “No thanks, the man replied, God will save me.” The floods continued to rise until the man on the roof drowned. When he got to heaven, Peter met him at the pearly gates. The man asked, “I prayed that God would save me from drowning. Why didn’t He?” Peter looked at him and said, “Do you remember the boat?”
A lighthearted story, but one that brings home a lesson. Sometimes God answers our prayers in a very simple and obvious way, and, if we are not watching for it, we may miss it. God does not always answer in a spectacular way. Sometimes He does not move mountains to answer our prayers—it could be as simple as a verse of scripture or a telephone call from a friend.
“The battle of prayer is against two things in the earthlies: wandering thoughts, and lack of intimacy with God's character as revealed in His word. Neither can be cured at once, but they can be cured by discipline"Oswald Chambers,1874 – 1917.