“Watch and pray”. These were the words of our blessed Lord to his disciples as He went forth to travail and anguish, praying in the garden over the cup that was to be His to drink for His people. However, notice the disciples did not heed this command, but due to the weakness of their flesh and the lateness of the hour, they fell asleep. What was the result of their disobedience here? When the hour of trial came, they were overcome with fear, and ultimately they forsook Christ, and fled away. Consider even Peter, who, before he leaves the Master, draws his sword to fight. But this was not courage nor strength, it was a manifestation of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. He thought he had strength enough in himself to stand and fight, although he did not watch and pray. Was the Lord pleased with this? Did not Peter receive a rebuke for this attack empowered by self-reliance? So let us consider well the command to watch and pray, lest we come to the hour of trial and temptation and find ourselves as they did, overcome with fear to the point of forsaking Christ, or overcome with self-reliance and confidently depending upon our own strength.
Watch – To watch means to give careful attention to; to keep on the lookout for an assault by the enemy; to be giving attention to any sign of advance from the opposition. Watchfulness also includes giving attention to weak and venerable spots in the defenses, and deploying the means necessary to make these places strong and defensible. Consider how small a breech can lead to the destruction of a fortress. Have not many a mighty empire been brought to its knees by a handful of capable soldiers seeking their way through the smallest gaps in the walls? So the command to watch is not only to keep an attentive eye out on the horizon, but also to give attention to weakness and vulnerabilities in the fortress of your soul. An attack may come upon you suddenly and with full force, as it did upon the disciples in the garden that dreadful night, or it may sneak its way in through the smallest breech, like it did to David as he walked upon his rooftop in the coolness and comfortableness of the day. It is also true that most advancements of the enemy come in the cover of night, when there is little light to see and much heaviness in the eyes. I do not say that watchfulness is easy, only that it is necessary. Fall asleep if you will, but you will awaken to find you’ve been overthrown.
Pray – The command to watch, is joined inseparably with the command to pray, and not without reason. Let us not forget, that watchfulness is not a call to self-reliance, for then Peter would have been commended for relying upon his own strength to deliver and defend. The command is joined to prayer because only the mighty power of God can defend and build up. It is in watchfulness the advancement of the enemy and the weakness of the defenses are discovered, but it is in prayer that the power to resist and defend is given. It is in prayer that self-reliance is put to death, and absolute dependence upon God’s strength and graces are confessed. Do we not see this in the Lord’s travail in the garden that night? As the cup of wrath was placed before Him, as the hands of sinners were enraged against Him, as the abandonment of the disciples was just before Him, He went off to pray. Anyone who is truly watching, will quickly turn to praying. For in watching we come to realize our desperate need for God to be our refuge and our strength, and our utter inability on our own to do anything to fight or defend.
So, dear Christian, watch and pray. Do not let the weakness of the flesh and the lateness of the hour lull you to sleep, when the Lord calls you to watch and pray. Be assured, that while you enjoy your time of sleeping, your enemy is prowling seeking someone to devour. Resist Him! Stand firm! And how will you resist and stand? By watchfulness and prayer. Do you see the advancement of the enemy? Do you see those weaknesses and vulnerable breeches in the walls? Run to pray. Put away every things that would distract the watchful eye. Cast off everything that hinders prayer. Flee from self-reliance, cast yourself upon God alone. For He gives strength to the weary, and those who are faint He revives. Watch and Pray.