Watch in Prayer
1. Last week we looked at the first part of this passage which deals with continuing in prayer: Praying with perseverance.
2. This week we want to look at the second part of the verse: being watchful and thankful in prayer: Praying with alertness and thankfulness.
Pray With Alertness
A. The Term
1. Watch Defined: γρηγορέω
a. This word is formed from the Greek word “ἐγείρω” which means to rise up…
• Cf. Matt. 8:25 – the disciple woke Jesus up from His sleep.
• It is also used of raising up the dead.
• This term has all kinds of applications…
b. Strong’s: γρηγορέω – to watch; give strict attention to, be cautious, active; to take heed lest through remission and indolence some destructive calamity suddenly overtake one.
c. Zodhiates: To watch, to refrain from sleep.
d. Dictionary of Bible Languages: Awake, alert, alive, vigilant.
2. Various Usages
a. The term is used in a literal sense of being awake, aware, alert, vigilant…
b. It is used of a house owner watching for a thief.
c. But most often, its normal usage of being awake and alert in the physical realm is used in a spiritual sense… being awake and alert to the spiritual conflict going on around us.
d. It adds a sense of caution… not just “awake.” It is possible to be awake and yet, not paying attention…
e. It is possible to be awake physically and sound asleep spiritually!
f. It implies not just being awake, but cautiously aware of the spiritual conflict raging about us.
g. This is the sense in which Paul uses the term in Col. 4:2.
3. The Grammar
a. The word “watch” in our English Bibles looks like a command… an imperative. But it is actually a participle that carries the weight of a command.
b. It speaks of action that is simultaneous to the action of the main verb: continuing in prayer.
c. In other words, AS we watch in prayer… at the very same time, we are to be WATCHING… vigilant… alert… awake… and aware of what is going on around us.
d. Prayer is to be accompanied by vigilance, alertness, and awareness of what is going on around us spiritually.
e. And continual prayer means continual vigilance.
B. The Battle
1. We are to be WATCHING… awake… alert… and aware of what is going on around us in the spiritual realm.
a. Our prayers should be in light of the spiritual battle all around us.
b. Remember the context we looked at last week?
• Chapter 3 begins reminding us of our heavenly position… dead to this world and raised up into heavenly places… our new lives hidden away with Christ…
• As we dwell above, we are NOT to be oblivious and disconnected to the world around us.
• We are to be dwelling above, but watching here below!
• From that heavenly perspective… with eternity’s values in mind, we are to awake, aware, and alert to the spiritual battle being raged all around us on earth.
c. Our country is at war with a network of religious fanatics around the globe who seek to kill us and destroy our way of life.
• As a nation, we need to be ALERT to that and vigilant as long as the war is being waged.
• We would be quite foolish to adopt a Pollyanna-like attitude… and to assume that because we don’t see any soldiers over the horizon that we can therefore go about life as if we weren’t at war.
• That would be foolish indeed… suicide… in light of the battle.
d. It is even more foolish to behave that way in the spiritual realm…
• That is exactly why Paul warns us to be WATCHING as we pray!
• Pray in light of the battle that is being waged all around us… even if we can’t see it.
• We are at war in the spiritual realm… and our enemies are relentless… cunning… wise like a fox… and out to destroy us spiritually.
e. I Pet. 5:8 – vigilant = same word as watch… Peter warns us that a roaring lion is about to devour us.
• A lion is about to pounce upon us and destroy our individual walks with God… our families… the local church.
• And yet we have access to GOD Himself through prayer.
• We are surrounded by spiritual wickedness… and a roaring lion that seeks to destroy us… and at the same time, we can bring our requests to the throne of the Omnipotent One.
• And yet, living in the shadow of this roaring lion about to devour us, we find ourselves, like Pollyanna, praying for a nice day for our picnic… and for our sniffles to go away.
• What SHOULD we be praying for in light of the spiritual facts? (Spiritual protection; eyes opened; that we not take one step outside of God’s will; etc.)
f. Praying IN LIGHT OF the battle will affect the content of our prayers.
• An unsaved friend is on his deathbed and we are praying only for his physical recovery. What SHOULD we be praying for? (His soul!)
• Our lives are fleeting away as a vapor, and we are praying for a better paying job, or for our stocks and bonds, rather than praying for ways to be laying up treasures in heaven.
• We are concerned about our physical health and pray for it constantly, and ignore our spiritual health… and forget that we are engaged in a spiritual battle.
• If we were WATCHING… awake and alert to the spiritual conflicts all around us… the content of our prayers will change drastically.
• I appreciate the shift in this area I have noticed lately at prayer meetings!
2. I Tim. 6:12 – We are busy serving and doing in the local church, and forget about the NATURE of the battle in which we are engaged…
a. We are engaged in a battle for the minds and hearts of men…
b. It is a battle over doctrine and truth!
c. We should be praying in light of the battle that is being raged all around us TODAY.
d. We are not fighting the same battle that was being fought in the 1920s when German modernism was being brought into the churches… fundamentalism vs. modernism. (black and white)
e. We are not fighting the same battle that was being fought in the 1960-1980s… fundamentalism vs. neo evangelicalism. Black and white… and then gray.)
f. We are fighting a spiritual battle in the 21st century that seems to parallel the war our country is fighting: an amorphous enemy… that has infiltrated into our midst… with all kinds of doctrinal sleeper cells just waiting to explode… while everyone sits around too polite and correct to say anything about it.
g. What we have today is no longer just black and white… (1920) or even black and white with a little gray in between (1960-1980). Now the paint is splattered all over the place!
3. Acts 20:29-31 – I’m concerned about the battle for the truth.
a. It is necessary to warn about wolves… and to challenge believers to WATCH out for what is happening doctrinally.
b. A shift away from classic dispensationalism to progressive dispensationalism… and ultimately toward Reformed Theology.
c. MacArthur’s Lordship Salvation and Limited Atonement catching on in dispensational circles.
d. Rick Warren’s entertainment mentality is taking over the country… the seeds of which have been around for a long time… the attitude that was tolerated in the days of new evangelicalism has infiltrated and have been deeply embedded even in some formerly sound, fundamental churches.
e. Erosion of the doctrine of separation even in fundamental circles.
f. A drifting away from the great hymns of the faith, rich in doctrine, that have, over the years, proven themselves to be edifying… and towards newer pop and rock songs that are at best sentimental and shallow and at worst in error… and do precious little to edify the saints.
g. And all of these changes are taking place right under our noses.
h. And it isn’t just ancillary doctrines that are up for grabs.
• Now the evangelical world isn’t quite sure what the church is; (social club; entertainment center; country club; a family center; look at what they are turning the churches into…)
• What worship is; (dance; art; rock music; plays; skits; multimedia presentations; a show…?)
• What is the gospel? (is it a commitment? Is it getting healthy and wealthy? Are people lost or unchurched? What is the good news? Jesus died for you? Believe or submit to the rigors of discipleship?)
i. Things are changing incredibly rapidly all around us, and I am going to keep on pounding this pulpit to warn us, remind us, and to keep the battle FRESH in our minds, lest we become dull… insensitive… sluggish…sleepy… too involved in carnal things to even care about spiritual things… and unable to pray effectively because we are not watching.
j. Continue in prayer be continually watching!
4. Jer. 9:1-3 – Jeremiah cried out to the Lord… in a form of prayer… a cry… brokenhearted that the people of Israel were no longer valiant for the truth.
a. Jeremiah was watching: observing the spiritual condition of his nation.
b. He was watching… and he grieved over what he saw.
c. He cried out to the Lord… as one who was valiant for the truth… in the midst of a people who couldn’t care less about the truth or honoring God.
d. We should grieve as did Jeremiah because of the spiritual condition of the churches… many of which are no longer valiant for the truth!
e. We live in a day when churches are valiant for unity… valiant for big numbers… valiant for outward success… valiant for prosperity… but not for the truth.
f. This should be our cry and prayer to the Lord. God help us to be valiant for the truth!
g. That is our PURPOSE for being! We are God’s witnesses to the TRUTH. We are a light to the truth. And by God’s grace, some folks will be attracted to the truth and come to the Savior who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
h. What good does it do to win multitudes to an organization if we are not valiant for the truth?
i. While we are sleeping concerning the battle over the truth, our enemy is busy chipping away at the truth… eroding away at the foundation… a little here and a little there… right under our noses!
j. This is our battle. Pray in light of the battle. Watch and pray.
5. Eph. 5:14-17 – Another layer of the spiritual battle: a battle designed to lure us away to other things.
a. Paul warns believers to wake up… and Christ will give us light… light to walk in this world of darkness.
b. The world has a deadening effect on our spiritual lives.
c. The battle we face TODAY in America is a battle for TIME.
d. Vs. 16 – redeem the time—use it for God’s glory.
e. Today’s average Christian THINKS that he has less time for the things of God…
f. Our attention is being lured to other things…
g. More women are working today – making it hard to get things done in the local church. (Less energy going into God’s program…)
h. Men are working longer hours… sometime two jobs to make ends meet… (Less energy going into God’s program…)
i. Families are more prosperous today and thus have money to go on more vacations… taking off every holiday… every 3 day weekend… on our way to becoming what Paul described as “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” (Less energy going into God’s program…)
j. There are so MANY forms of entertainment for the youth… that children’s programs at church do not draw like they used to… kids are so busy with tennis lessons, art lessons, music lessons, karate lessons, soccer and baseball games… that they have no time for church activities and ministries.
k. With all of allegedly time saving gadgets, our generation seems to have less time for the things of God.
l. And the local church… God’s program suffers as a result.
m. Our time and energy is being spent elsewhere.
n. Hence the command: wake up! Redeem the time! Buy up opportunities to grow in grace, minister in the local church, and share the gospel!
o. Other things may not be evil or immoral… but from heaven’s perspective, they are not the best use of God’s time.
p. Instead of an expensive trip to Disneyworld, try going on a missions trip!
q. Pray for wisdom and spiritual understanding in the use of our time, energy, resources, and talents.
r. PRAY and watch… pray in light of this battle… oh, how the devil would love for us to squander and waste our time here on earth on things that have no eternal value!
s. Our adversary is seeking to deaden us to spiritual things… cause us to be lulled to sleep in the fog of this world…
t. Let’s PRAY that we as a Body might wake up… and be aware of evil days in which we live… and redeem the time!
6. Eph. 6:18 – this is the noun form of the verb in Col. 4:2.
a. Pray WITH perseverance… (continue in prayer)
• This implies that the tendency is to slack off in prayer…
• It is our nature to grow weary in well doing… especially in prayer.
• It is natural for zeal to wane… especially in prayer.
• Hence, the need for the command… persevere… continue in prayer.
b. Watching thereunto…
• And note that the call for watching and perseverance in prayer comes in the context of a spiritual battle.
• In other words, be AWARE of the spiritual battle!
• Be aware and alert to the fact that we are not fighting against flesh and blood. (Individual false teachers; men; political leaders; social workers.)
• It is a battle against SPIRITUAL wickedness in high places… demonic activity is behind all of the issues we face on earth… and in the local church…
• Doctrines of demons…
• Eph. 6:11 – put on the whole armor of God. The final piece of which is prayer.
c. If we BELIEVE that we are engaged in a spiritual battle… and that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but spiritual, THEN we will pray.
• If we believe that God answers prayers…
• If we believe that prayer is effectual…
• If we believe that prayer is God’s will for us…
• If we believe that God incorporates our prayers in carrying out His perfect will…
• If we believe that we have the authority and the privilege of bringing our requests to the very throne of grace… to the Omnipotent One who CARES about our requests… then we will continue in prayer.
d. If we don’t believe these things deep down in our hearts, then we will be convinced that prayer is a royal waste of time… and that our time is much better spent DOING something… MAKING this happen… getting things DONE… seeking to produce fruit on our own.
e. That is exactly what our adversary would LOVE to convince us of… to carry on God’s work in our own strength with the Lord. The devil knows (even if we forget) that without Christ we can do NOTHING.
7. Read: Pilgrims Progress.
C. Watchfulness and Prayer
1. We see the command to be watchful associated with prayer often in both the Old and New Testaments.
2. Neh. 4:9 – “Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them [the enemy] day and night.”
a. The Jews were AWARE of the fact that they were engaged in a battle. Theirs was an earthly battle… but rest assured, there were demons working behind the scenes there too!
b. Neh.4:23 – they didn’t even take off their clothes day or night except for washing… they were so vigilant. They were determined to be always ready for battle.
c. We too need to be constantly OPEN to the Lord and constantly alert and ready for spiritual battle.
3. Matt. 26:38-41 – Christ calls upon the disciples to WATCH with Him.
a. This passage brings together many of the issues related to watching and praying.
b. Vs. 37-38 – Christ invites them to wait and watch with Him.
• Christ was about to enter the Garden for an extended period of prayer.
• Christ’s soul was exceedingly sorrowful and very heavy.
• Christ was about to face the cross and He knew it.
• He was not afraid to die. That He faced bravely and courageously.
• Many martyrs have faced death and did so courageously.
• However, what Christ was very different. He was about to drink the cup of agony and suffering the Father had prepared for Him.
• He was about to BECOME sin… the sins of the world were to be placed upon Him. (II Cor. 5:21) (That never happened to any martyr!)
• God the Father was about to FORSAKE Him… (That never happened to any martyr!)
• This was an unbearable burden… and was the cause for Christ to sweat as it were great drops of blood.
• As the Lord Jesus entered the Garden to wrestle with these thoughts in prayer… He asked the disciples to wait for him and watch… be awake… alert… aware of what He was going through.
c. Vs. 39 – He fell and prayed that if it be possible the cup might pass from Him… but not his will but God’s be done.
d. Vs. 40 – After His prayer, He came to His disciples and found them sleeping.
• Jesus rebuked the apostles for not being able to watch for one hour… they were sleeping.
• What an amazing picture we have here of what is often OUR spiritual condition.
• A battle was being waged… Christ’s deepest and darkest hour before the cross… and the disciples were sleeping!
• They were unaware… oblivious to the battle being waged in the Garden that night…
• And when they SHOULD have been awake… praying… seeking God’s face… they were sleeping…
• The Lord was agonizing… and they were sleeping. Christ rebuked them.
• I wonder what the Lord would think of us today.
» There is a spiritual battle being waged all around us… for the hearts and minds of our young people… for the souls of lost men… for sound doctrine in the churches… for discernment between holy and unholy…
» And we are asleep at the wheel!
» Prayer meetings are closing down all over the country… due to a lack of interest… spiritual lethargy… sleeping when we should be watching in prayer.
» Believers are too busy doing this or that… to spend time with Christ in His Word and in prayer…
» Too busy and too entangled in the affairs of this life… that we have nothing left for the things of God.
» It is possible to be wide-awake and alert to things of this life and at the same time to be sound asleep with respect to the things above.
» Christ rebuked the apostles: “Couldn’t you pray with me for one hour?” Christ was about to DIE for them.
e. Vs. 41 – Jesus commands them to watch and pray.
• Jesus now tells Peter to pray, but not for Him, Christ; Peter was told to pray for himself!
• Peter had just claimed that he would be faithful even unto death. (vs. 33, 35)
• Now Peter couldn’t even stay awake and pray when Christ told him to.
• Peter was setting himself up for a big FALL! (vs. 34)
• The purpose: that ye enter not into temptation.
• Christ knew of the spiritual battle being waged… and the temptation… the testing… and the weakness of the disciples’ flesh.
• Though they may have had a desire to be faithful to Him, Christ knew their weakness… and their utter inability to carry out those desires. Hence, their need for prayer.
• Hence the command: watch and pray! We are weak! Our adversary is strong! How we NEED to seek the Father… and to rest in His strength!
• Instead of bowing in humble prayer, and seeking God’s grace in temptation… Peter boasted of his own strength and loyalty… and then fell asleep. Instead of praying (expressing confidence in God), Peter boasted of his loyalty (self confidence).
• He was asleep spiritually even though physically he was awake!
f. Vs. 43-44 – Jesus returned later and found them asleep again.
• Jesus wanted these men to learn a great lesson about prayer.
• They were weak in the flesh and really NEEDED to seek God in prayer.
• Jesus was the sinless, spotless Son of God. He set the example of One who in a time of great need could not have that need met by other men… the apostles forsook Him.
• Those inner needs could only be met through heart to heart communion with the Father!
• The disciples failed the Lord. Men will fail us too. But our heavenly Father never fails us. He is right there to meet our need… but not to the pompous and arrogant boaster… but the humble servant who comes to Him in childlike prayer.
• For the disciples and us, prayer is an acknowledgement of our weakness and of God’s strength… reliance upon His strength and power. That’s faith. And prayer brings us into heart to heart communion with the Living God.
• This we desperately need!
g. Vs. 45 – Then Jesus told them that He was about to be betrayed into the hands of sinners… the enemy was at hand.
• Satan had entered the heart of Judas to betray Christ.
• Satan was working behind the scenes to bring this treachery to pass… spiritual warfare… spiritual wickedness in high places…
• Christ knew that… and agonized over what was about to occur… and the disciples were sleeping.
Pray With Thanksgiving
1. We are to watch in prayer… to be aware of the conflict all about us…
a. And as we watch, there is much to cause us to fear… to tremble… and to be discouraged.
b. From earth’s perspective, it sure seems like the powers of darkness are winning.
• From earth’s perspective, things look SO discouraging that some might tell us NOT to watch… bury your head in the sand and pretend…
• Watching will just cause us to worry and fear about tomorrow.
c. Yet, we are not told to worry, fear, or fret, but to be thankful…
d. Why should we be thankful in wartime? Because the victory is ours—and we know it!
e. We are to be aware of the spiritual battle… aware of the fact that we are wrestling with spiritual wickedness in high places… satanic power leveled against us… but (as Luther put it) we tremble not for him!
f. We realize that in Christ we are already MORE than conquerors… that all of our foes were defeated on the cross… and be THANKFUL!
g. So even as we watch and pray… even as we see what APPEARS to be the powers of darkness winning the day… we can rejoice and be thankful… for by faith we know that the victory is ours already in Christ!
h. A heavenly perspective will cause us to be THANKFUL when others tremble! A heavenly-minded heart is a thankful heart.
i. Continue in prayer and be watching concerning the battle raging about us—but DON’T get discouraged! Be thankful!
j. From heaven’s vantage point, we can watch and be THANKFUL… knowing that Christ is our Captain… and we are more than conquerors in Him… and that He is coming at any moment! The darker things get—the closer is His return!
2. We can watch and pray with thanksgiving because of our LOVE for the Lord.
a. Even though we live in an age when we are told to EXPECT evil men to wax worse and worse… we are not pessimistic. We are the ultimate optimists: Christ is coming at any moment!
b. Watch for His coming! Pray that we might be faithfully conducting our Father’s business until He comes!
c. Be thankful that He is coming and His reward is with Him!
d. The heart that genuinely loves the Lord will be FILLED with thanksgiving… even when there is no fruit on the vine… for this world is not our final home!
e. What do you suppose a heart that is WIDE OPEN to the Lord and fully yielded and in love with the Lord is going to SAY to the Lord?
• THANK YOU… a million times over!
• Not: gimme this and that…
• But THANK YOU for already having blessed me with ALL spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus!
f. The self centered man who is earthly minded prays and is offended if God doesn’t gratify his desires with an instant answer to prayer…
g. The heavenly minded man is not only CONTENT with God’s answer, but beyond content, thankful!
h. If we are watching… paying attention to spiritual things… thus aware of our heavenly position… then we WILL be grateful!
3. Phil. 4:6 – thankful prayers are answered prayers.
4. Ps. 141:2 – thankful prayers are like incense that ascends up to heaven to God.
a. When ignited, they send forth a fragrance that is well pleasing to the Lord… sweet to His nostrils.
b. But simply putting incense in the spoon doesn’t cause a sweet smell to ascend to heaven. Incense must be IGNITED!
c. It must be on fire… and thus, our hearts need to be on fire for the Lord for our prayers to be meaningful. Dead, lifeless, cold, dry, dusty prayers are useless and ineffective.
d. It is the FERVENT prayer of the righteous man that avails much!
e. The prayer that comes from a heart that is on fire for Christ is a prayer that will be FILLED with thanksgiving!
f. This world is designed to put out our fire… and thus make our prayer ineffective.
g. Watch and pray… pray and watch… and keep your heart with all diligence… don’t let your fire go out.
h. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.