Watch and Pray

This week we will be discussing the command ‘Watch and Pray.’ Jesus took James, John, and Peter to the garden of Gethsemane and He told them to tarry and watch with Him. He came back and found them sleeping and said to Peter, “What could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation, the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:40-41). I find it interesting that He told them to ‘watch,’ and when He came back to them, He questioned why they could not ‘watch’ even one hour. When I read this passage before, I always pictured the disciples falling asleep while praying, not watching. So what is the difference?
The word ‘watch’ means to keep awake (physically, morally, and spiritually). The word ‘pray’ means to pray to God, supplicate, to worship. Were the disciples to be physically keeping guard from those who wanted to kill Jesus? Maybe, but Jesus told them to watch and pray so that they would not enter into temptation, not so that He could be alerted if the guards came. This word watch is also used when Jesus discussed the end times and warns believers to ‘watch’ for that day and to be alert, because it will come as a thief in the night. It gives the picture of being attentive to every detail of what’s going on—or expecting that something significant could happen at any moment. “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning” (Mark 13:35).
Oftentimes I view prayer as a conversation with God. I do the talking, He does the listening. I don’t let Him get in a single word usually. Otto Koning, in his message the Pineapple Story, relates how his prayer involved him talking to God about all his ideas, and then after all his talking, he finally would listen to see if God had an opinion on the matter. He found that that is when he got somewhere in prayer, because he was able to hear what God had to say (IBLP, The Pineapple Story Series by Otto Koning).  We should have ‘ears to hear’ what God wants to communicate to us. If we are babbling on, it is going to be hard to listen. This week I tried to ‘watch’ but my mind kept wandering away, I even fell asleep once…okay twice. But, as I did watch, God brought to mind some people that I do not usually think about and I prayed for them.
I am not sure what the disciples would have ‘heard’ if they would have been watching, but something would have happened to keep them from stumbling. It could be that watching helps us to walk in the spirit as opposed to walking in the flesh. Jesus told them to watch and pray, because even though the spirit is willing to resist temptation, the flesh is weak. Or maybe, they would have received a special Scripture that would have been what they needed to resist future temptations.  Either way, watching can help keep us from yielding to temptation. I don’t think it is saying we will never meet temptation, but that we will be better prepared to not enter into or succumb to it. 
Today, believers have the Holy Spirit in them that guides them. “Howbeit, when He, the spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth; for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come” (John16:13). The Holy Spirit is able to give us discernment and insight in every area of life, whether serious or the small day to day things. “But the Comforter, who is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).  We also know that the Holy Spirit helps our prayers and makes intercession for us. I always thought that the Holy Spirit would translate what I was saying to God, but maybe the Holy Spirit helps us to understand what God is trying to say to us also. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered. He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27).
In the book, God’s Smuggler, Brother Andrew went to an evening service of about 12 men and women. He was surprised that the evening involved mostly listening. “Occasionally in the listening, expectant stillness, one of the group would apparently hear something else: some instruction, some piece of information, that came from outside his own knowledge. This too would be spoken aloud. ‘Joost’s mother in America needs our prayers tonight.’ ‘We thank you Lord that our prayers for Stephje has just now been answered.” (God’s Smugglerby Brother Andrew and John and Elizabeth Sherrill) This went on until 4:30 in the morning! One day the leader of the group came to Andrew and told him that they had heard from the Lord the night before that he needed to learn to drive. This was baffling to him, because cars were expensive and he never expected to own one. Months later, family friends called to tell him they were giving him their almost brand-new Volkswagen and they wouldn’t take no for an answer. So off he went to pick it up.
So in your next quiet time, purpose to ‘watch’ a little, rather than saying your usual prayer and moving on. What convicted me was that Jesus was troubled that Peter, John, and James could not even watch for one hour. This makes my prayer time look pitiful, not to mention the amount of time I spend watching. Could God say the same thing to us? “(Fill in your name), could ye not even watch one hour? 10 miuntes? 5 minutes?” Ouch.  Imagine the temptations and relationship struggles we could avoid if we purposed to watch and hear from the Lord.
-How much time will you set aside each day to specifically ‘watch’?
-Can you think of defeats that could have been avoided, if you would have watched and prayed?
-When faced with temptations and trials, do you go to the Lord in prayer?
“Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord” (Proverbs 8:34-35).
Notes adapted from IBLP Commands of Christ study guide and pocket guide.

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