Have you ever seen a medieval castle? Have you noticed the broken lines at the tops of the walls? A rook or castle on a Chessboard has the same cuts.
I suspect you could guess what those were if you didn't already know. They were essential to the defense of a castle. Those slots were the lookouts for soldiers on watch.
On several occasions Scripture tells us to watch and pray. Have you thought about what God is saying to you in those passages? Let's look at those Scriptures and allow God to speak to our hearts through them. The first of them that comes to my mind is when Jesus was praying with His disciples in the garden before the cross. He prayed earnestly that that cup might pass from Him. And yet He surrendered His heart to the will of God. Then He looked and saw that Peter, James, and John were asleep. He was amazed that they could not watch with Him for one hour. And in Matthew 26:41 Jesus commands us.
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
The word translated, “watch” here is also used for soldiers, or possibly shepherds, keeping the watches of the night. On that very night while they were in the garden soldiers would come to arrest Jesus. This would be the most severe trial that the disciples would ever face. Earlier Jesus had told them they would all abandon Him. Peter and the rest swore they would never leave Him even if they had to die with Him. Their spirits were willing but their flesh was weak.
You might say they should have known this trial was coming. Jesus had told them over and over again. And it didn't take any great genius to see that the High Priests had determined to kill Him.
And it it should not surprise you that you are going to face trials and temptations. Peter himself warns us that we are going to be tried. In 1 Peter 4:12 he wrote,
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”
Like soldiers on guard duty we are told to watch and pray for spiritual strength and protection.
The next place we are told to watch and pray is in Luke 21 where Jesus warns us about the trials that will come in the last days. In Luke 21:36 Jesus gives us this same command.
“Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
It seems to me that many of these things are already coming upon us. I am crying out to God for a great prayer movement. We need to be on guard, and pray as we have never prayed before. These things could be seen to begin when the Roman General, Titus, led his army to destroy the city of Jerusalem. As Jesus predicted, not one stone of the beautiful temple was left upon another. 2 Timothy 3:1 and other Scriptures warn us that there will be terrible times in these last days. Will we be on guard as these things come about? How seriously will we watch and pray?
We are also to watch for our hope in God during difficult times. He has made very great and precious promises to us even for the worst of times.
Another place where we are called to watch and pray is much more positive. Colossians 4:2 says,
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
We not only need to watch for spiritual attack that will come. But I am afraid we are not alert enough to see God at work around us. There is great encouragement and joy in seeing the hand of God and thanking Him for working in our lives.
Finally, we need to watch and pray for others in our families and in the church where God has stationed us. Ephesians 6:18 commands us.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
In 1 Samuel 12:23 Samuel said he would be sinning against the Lord if he failed to pray for the people of Israel. Are you alert to pray for those God has commissioned you to pray for?
We need to see watching as motivation and preparation for prayer. But all four of these passages see watching as integral to prayer. As we spend extended time in prayer God shows us more and more of what we will face and what He is doing and preparing to do all around us.