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Institute in Basic Life Principles

Command 45 : Watch and Pray | Day 309

Watch and Pray!

As the parents slept, they had no idea that something tragic was about to happen in their family. In the middle of the night their two teenage sons got out of bed, quietly dressed, and slipped out of the house. Friends picked them up, and they began a night of drinking and driving. Several hours later, the driver lost control of his car while going 100 miles per hour and crashed! Three of the occupants were critically injured and two were killed—the sons of the sleeping parents. The parents could not be expected to watch their sons all the time. However, they failed to recognize many warning signs that led up to that fateful night. This tragedy illustrates an important aspect of Christ's command:

Command Forty-Five: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

This command was given during the agony of the night in which Christ was betrayed. He went up to the Mount of Olives and told His disciples: “Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder” (Matthew 26:36). Then Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him and "... began to be sorrowful and very heavy” (Matthew 26:37) and said to them, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38).

Jesus then went a little farther and began to pray. When He returned and found the three disciples sleeping, He said to Peter, “... What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40). What a convicting question! How often do we spend an hour watching with the Lord? It was then that Christ gave the command to His disciples to watch and pray that they would not enter into temptation.

What does it mean to watch? The word translated watch is the Greek word gregoreuo. It means to "keep awake" with the idea of being vigilant. In this command, Christ was using it not so much in the physical sense as in the moral sense. Jesus knew that even though the disciples had verbally stated their allegiance and willingness to follow Him, this resolve would soon be severely tested.

Being watchful denotes an awareness of threatening dangers. It is a conscious earnestness and alertness of mind that keeps us from spiritual drowsiness and slackening of energy in our faith and Godly conduct. (See I Thessalonians 5:6 and I Peter 5:8.)

To watch and pray is to be fully and intently focused on the things that God considers important.

Life is filled with distractions and allurements. Jesus warns us to not let the cares of this life choke out the realities of eternal matters. By watching and praying, we are taking an important step toward doing this, but it is not an easy exercise. After explaining spiritual warfare and the need to put on the whole armor of God, Paul gives this instruction: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18). This means that parents are to watch and pray for their children, elders are to watch and pray for the souls of fellow believers, and we are all to watch and pray for one another.

Let's purpose now to learn the disciplines of watching and praying so that we will not enter into temptation and will also be able to help others avoid spiritual defeat.

“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

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Contributing writer: Bill Gothard