"Watch and Pray"

Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man (Luke 21:36). This passage was spoken by our Master at the conclusion of the passage that we know as The Mount Olivet Prophecy. Jesus used this discourse to warn his fellow countrymen and spiritual brethren of the impending destruction that Yahweh would bring upon the Jewish nation because of the unbelief and lack of faith exhibited by that generation. Although these words were spoken over 2000 years ago, they are addressed to all generations of believers having been written for our admonition.

The actual words "watch and pray" appear together in only four verses in the New Testament. We find this combination of words in Matthew 26:41; Mark 13:33; Mark 14:38 and the verse above quoted from Luke. The Mark 13:33 reference is also in the context of the Mount Olivet Prophecy, while the passages in Matthew 26:41 and Mark 14:38 were spoken by Jesus when He and His disciples came into the place called Gethsemane, just prior to His arrest and subsequent crucifixion. Christ had asked His disciples to watch with Him. He went further into the garden and fervently prayed. When He returned to His disciples, He found them asleep and asked them why they could not watch with Him for one hour. He told them to watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).

Brethren, when we consider the context of these situations, we understand that they were spoken in the darkest hours of the history of the Jewish nation. The rejection of their Messiah led to the destruction of the Jewish economy. We all know the history of the judgments of Yahweh poured out upon Israel in A.D. 70. The temple, the law, the priesthood and the land were destroyed and overrun by the Gentile Roman conqueror.

Do we see similarities between the condition of the Jewish nation during the first century and these latter days of the Gentile kingdoms of men that we are living in? Let us consider: Where does the Body of Christ (each ecclesia and each covenanted individual) stand in the eyes of Yahweh? Does the commandment to watch and pray have practical meaning to the believers of this generation? What are we to watch for? What are we to pray for? Are we spiritually asleep or are we watching so we do not enter into temptation? Are we watching the events of the political world so that we may be strengthened by our witness of prophecy being fulfilled? Are we watching our own selves so that we overcome the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life? Are we watching and addressing the works of our spiritual family and the spiritual house of Yahweh? Is our spiritual condition lukewarm like that of the Laodiceans in the first century or is it robust and thriving? Do we walk after the example of our Lord and His apostles? Do we maintain sound doctrine in our teachings from our ecclesial podiums, Bible Schools and periodicals of the Truth? Are we true watchmen in the sense of the teaching in Ezekiel 33:2-9?

We can deny our Lord in many ways, allowing the works of the flesh to overcome and place us in the position of denying His commandments, His precepts and His example. We are blessed with the Word of God to direct us that we may deny the works of the flesh and walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:15-25). Do we find ourselves taking pleasure in the works of the flesh rather than the spiritual works to which we have committed? We should earnestly pray that we may overcome the enticements of the world in which we live. We should be content with the many blessings that we are allowed to enjoy, and should constantly rejoice in the promises on record for His servants - eternal life in the age to come, the promise of ruling and reigning with the Lord of Lords and King of Kings and the promise of complete reconciliation with our Heavenly Father. We should live our lives after the example of Israel's Messiah, enduring the pain and sufferings of this world, remembering and meditating on the joy set before us. Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation; we must crucify the works of the flesh, we must not be conformed to this world! The trials and tribulations that come our way are only temporal and should serve as reminders and opportunities to conduct ourselves as true servants of our Lord and faithful sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven. Let us always remember the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:58, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

These are the last days and we are experiencing the declining health of our spiritual family. We may be reminded of times in which members of our natural family were also in their declining and troubled years. We may have experienced periods of time in which the physical condition of these natural family members continued to grow weaker and weaker. In many of these situations, we may not have been able to do anything for the family member except watch and pray. As we have watched and observed these loved ones, we may have only been able to provide encouragement and comfort and pray that Yahweh might strengthen them. We can help with medications and doctors' visits and provide for their natural needs as much as we can, but at the end of the day, we continue to pray. Every one of us would do these things for their natural family without fail. One of the first things that a caregiver has to do is to understand the magnitude of the condition and the needs of the one being cared for. What is needed? What can be provided? How can I encourage and strengthen them? Still, they also are expected to take precautions and provide for themselves as best they are able.

Brethren, we should manifest this same love and care for our spiritual family! Each member of the Body of Christ, especially mature brothers and sisters, should be able to assess the strengths and the needs of their brethren and their ecclesia. Has the Body become sickened and weakened through false doctrine, immoral works of the flesh, or more importantly, have we weakened the body by our own action or inaction? There are times in our probationary life in which each of us will face personal trials related to walk and doctrine. In 1 Timothy 4, we are told to give attendance to reading, to exhortation and to doctrine. Verse 16 admonishes us to Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee. The two primary things that we are here told to watch and pray for are first, for ourselves and then, for the doctrine. We cannot heed one and not the other. We must do both. We cannot stand by and expect someone else to assume our responsibilities. We realize the pain and suffering that is experienced during times of tribulation within the Brotherhood, yet the inspired writers have left admonitions and exhortations on record to strengthen us in these troubling times. Scriptural words and phrases such as Take Heed; See; Understand; Remember; Be Steadfast; Hold Fast; Be Strong and of a Good Courage are strengthening words to remember when we are under siege from any trial.

We should never be slack in going to the Divine source for strength, and we must not let peer pressure from our brethren or the world prevent us from doing the will of our heavenly Father. If we are having difficulties overcoming some aspect of our flesh, there is scripture given to strengthen us in each particular situation that we may face as individual brothers or sisters of Christ. Is this not what our Lord's example teaches us, to seek out a "thus saith the Lord" or an "it is written?" In our darkest hours, there is always comfort to be found in God's Word. In the hardest trials that any man has ever faced, Christ always turned to His Father and always committed Himself to His Father's will. Let us maintain a determination to sacrifice our thoughts, words and actions when they are in opposition to those precious words of Truth that we are blessed and privileged to understand.

In addition to watching and praying for ourselves, our ecclesia, and the entire Body of Christ, we are commanded to watch the activities of the nations of the world. This aspect of watching gives us hope through assurance of the accuracy and integrity of the prophetic word of the coming Kingdom, a Kingdom that we long for and hope to see established in the very near future. One outcome of watching for those things coming upon this earth is an increase in our confidence and joy. There are many things that distress us in this probationary life. However, we should remember that all these things will ultimately be of little consequence to those who will be granted a place in the Kingdom alongside the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Let us be like Paul and press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). Let us run the race with patience and remember that the reward of eternal life and immortality is set before us as the prize to be granted in that glorious future.

Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation. These are beautiful words that should always encourage and strengthen us to watch these three things - ourselves, the Body of Christ and the events of the nations around us. Let us watch and pray that we may be part of that glorious multitude as is described in 2 Timothy 4:8. There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing. The love of His appearing is manifest through our watching and praying without ceasing.

Bobby Henderson, Maumelle, AR