Watch and Pray

While we are admonished repeatedly in the Bible to pray, we are counseled to watch. Matthew 24:42; 25:13; Mark 13:35.  The reason given is: “Watch therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”


To watch in the sense here uses, is more than merely being awake. It means to be alert, to scan eagerly, to observe in order to look after, protect, or guard.


With many, the word “watch” has lost its original meaning and has almost become synonymous with prayer. Hence, the hour of prayer is often called “the watch hour,” and the morning watch has become the same as the Morning Prayer. To this there is no objection, unless we fail to give watching an equal importance with prayer. There is danger lest, forgetting that watching and praying go together, we pray, but neglect to watch. Both have equal claims upon us.


In the texts mentioned above, “watch” has special reference to watching for the signs of the Lord’s coming. This is most important, but the warning includes more than this. We are to watch lest we enter into temptation. Matthew 26:41. Satan has many ways of catching his prey, and we are to be fully awake and alert, or we may be caught in his snare. It is not enough to ask God to protect us and shield us from danger. We must take proper precautions ourselves. It should be known that faith in God is not inconsistent with doing all we can to help ourselves.


Young and old need to be on their guard. They should not ask God to do for them what He expects them to do for themselves. Lack of understanding of God’s method of work has brought confusion and defeat to many. There are some things God expects us to do, and when we do our part, He will do His. God may send bread from heaven, -and will do so if needed,  -but ordinarily we must work for it. God gives sunshine and rain, but we must sow the seed and do the harvesting.


Co-operation With God

Many Christians have been drilled in the belief that God does it all and that there is nothing for them to do but be pliant and submissive and God will do the rest. From one viewpoint, this is true, but another it is not.  There are many things God cannot do without our help, and He asks for our full co-operation. “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me.” John 15:4. However, it is just as true that the vine cannot bear fruit without the branches. There is an interdependence between the branches and the vine that makes it necessary for both to work together. We cannot be separated from the source of spiritual power and live.


We say this in all reverence and only for the purpose of pointing out the necessity for our working together with God. For we well know that, our part is only that of a willing medium who of himself can do nothing.


Such sayings as “Fear God and take your own part,” who help themselves,” are at times used to belittle God. However, there is a certain amount of truth in them. God wants us to put our trust in Him, but not with our hands folded. If I am in financial straits, am I to call upon God for help, but do nothing to help myself? I seek God for health. Does this release me from being careful in my habits that I might glorify God in my body? I ask God to protect me from danger. Does that permit me to ignore a red traffic light? I am shipwrecked and about to sink. Shall I refuse the rope that is thrown to me? I pray God to protect me from accidents. I pray God to save me from temptation. Shall I then walk right into it, trusting God to save me? I fully believe that God can save me from my own folly if I transgress unknowingly; but I have no right to expect Him to perform a miracle when I insist on transgressing. God can save me if I ignorantly transgress; but if I deliberately drink poison, I may expect to reap the consequences.


Watch and Pray

Therefore, we are not only to pray, but also to watch. We are to be on alert for danger and take no unnecessary risk. While we are not to be suspicious of everyone and everything, we are to have our eyes open at all times. In the days of Nehemiah when the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt and the enemies of God’s people did all they could to hinder the work and there was constant danger of attack, the record reads: “They which builded the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, everyone with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other held a weapon.” Nehemiah 4:17. These men trusted in God, but they also watched. With all confidence they said, “Our God shall fight for us,” but that did not hinder them from having weapons ready for an emergency.


God commands us to watch and pray, for the two go together. From the beginning, it was God’s plan to place His children in a position where they would be compelled to watch. That is why He placed the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. Had there been no tree there, Adam and Eve could have roamed the garden with never a thought of being careful where they went. The placing of the tree and the command not to eat of it, made it necessary for them to be on the watch. Had they watched and not gone near the tree, there would have been no temptation. Failure to watch caused the first sin.


It is well to shield children from temptation and from the sight of evil up to a certain age. However, it is not well to make all decisions for them to the point where they are not compelled to make a decision and a choice for themselves. The time will come when as they grow up they will meet evil face to face. They should be prepared for such a time and not be left to meet temptation alone with no one to help. Under wise guidance, controlled experiments should be performed that would make them acquainted with certain situations and conditions and prepare them for tests that of necessity will come. If they have not seen evil, if they have never been instructed to watch for its first innocent appearance, they may be taken unawares and caught in a snare that may have serious consequences.


Evil does not always appear repulsive at first sight. What could be more attractive than an artistically lighted room, beautiful music, and young, lithe bodies swaying in rhythmic motions as they dance upon the polished floor? To the innocent eyes, it does not appear wicked, and they reason that it certainly can do no harm. They do not know that there may be the beginnings of a train of events that lead to blasted lives, unhappiness, divorce, insane asylums, homes for the incurables, and a pauper’s grave.


The tree of knowledge of good and evil had every appearance of being a good tree. Eve could see nothing evil in it, and the fruit was inviting. However, in the eating of the fruit was wrapped up murder in the next generation and in seven generations the corruption of the whole earth.


I have seen children permitted to run wild until they feared neither God nor man. I have seen other children who were shielded from every temptation, but who, as soon as they were relieved from parental restraint, plunged into all manner of evil, largely because they were never permitted to face temptation under wise guidance. The parents of today need to be remembered in prayer; they need to pray themselves, for facing a task that is too great for human wisdom. Divine wisdom is needed to discern the line of distinction between unbridled liberty and wise restraint. Somewhere along the line, opportunity should be given young people for self-directed endeavor, for a natural introduction to the complexities of modern society, so that when they leave school or home they will be able to face life with some knowledge of the problems they will meet. They should not be asked to meet these conditions unprepared. Parents and educators should give careful study to their responsibilities, lest they send into the world young people who may have a good technical education, but who are totally unprepared for life.


The admonition to watch has many applications. We are to watch our religious appearance, for there is constant danger that we drift away from the old moorings. We are to watch the signs of the times, or we may find ourselves out of step with the opening providences of God. We are to watch our words, appearance, associations, recreations, habits, readings, Bible study, church attendance, financial dealings, and our account with God. There is no phase of life that we can safely omit.


As we watch, we will discover dangers from within and without. Watching reveals these dangers to us, and prayer reveals the remedy. There are no circumstances under which we may not breathe a prayer; for prayer is an atmosphere rather than an appointed time and place.


Many things are going on in this world of which we are but dimly aware. In the air outside my window-and inside also there are millions and millions of words and pictures flying around looking for a place to land and be transformed into audible words and visible images. They are as yet only electrical impulses, and how they ever become anything else, I do not know. I see nothing as I look out; I hear nothing, but by turning a little knob on my instrument I can prove their existence. Suddenly the room is filled with music, and pictures appear. I see the President addressing a large gathering, and I hear him speak. I see the coronation-taking place in England, and I hear the words of allegiance from those who kneel before the queen. I hear the explosion of a bomb thousands of miles away, and I hear and see the percussion. And I wonder, is there any good ground for not believing that God who made all things may have a machine better than anything man has made that will record not only our words, but our thoughts, our intentions, and visibly reproduce every act of our lives? In view of what men can do, prayer becomes a reasonable possibility, and the advice to watch and pray is a sensible and reasonable request.


I am moving along in my car on an excellent highway, the weather is perfect, and there is no other car in sight. It is perfectly safe to exceed the speed limit, no police are in sight, and so I go sixty, seventy, eighty miles per hour and all is well. However, a mile farther on I am stopped and charged with speeding. Who saw me? Nobody followed me. Then I am confronted with a radar report! Moreover, there is the picture of the car and the speed noted electrically. Radar is no respector of persons. Its report is correct, and I am caught.


I need to be careful. I may think nobody is looking and I can safely transgress; but somebody is looking. God has radar whose testimony I cannot deny. So I must watch, whether I see anybody watching me or not. I must watch for my own sake, watch for the sake of those who trust me. I must watch and pray.


I was discussing this in class once, a student spoke up: “Well, if God has a radar, then I am sunk.” The class period had not been in vain.


As God’s watchmen, the ministry has a special responsibility. Says God: “I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at My mouth, and warn them from Me.” “If the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.” Ezekiel 33: 6,7.


Personal Responsibility

The watchman’s responsibility does not, however, relieve an individual from his personal responsibility. Christ, speaking to the disciples, said: “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” Mark 13:35-37.


While God holds the watchman responsible, the Christian must also watch himself. Paul said, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith, prove your own selves.” 2 Corinthians 13:5. That means that each one must faithfully look into his own heart and attempt to discover whether he be in the faith. This entails more than examining certain doctrines to see if he is in harmony with them. It is more than adherence to a creed. It means at first of all that a man must face himself with the question, Am I a Christian. Am I truly converted? Have I turned my back on the world? Am I a new creature in Christ Jesus? Am I an overcomer, or am I constantly being overcome? These are questions that count. Moreover, high position or great learning does not come into the reckoning. We shall all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.

Such an honest self-examination will reveal weaknesses and faults that must be remedied. However, no one need be discouraged though he finds himself far below the standard set by God, and even below the standard, he has set for himself. Hear Paul’s confession: “Not as though I already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended for Christ Jesus. Brethren, I could not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14.


Paul was a good man, consecrated and honest; but he confesses that he had not already attained, that he was not already perfect, that he had not yet apprehended. However, this did not discourage him. He was determined to “follow after,” to reach “forth unto those things which are before,” and “press toward the mark for the prize.”


Paul’s experience should be an encouragement to all who with him have been pressing toward the mark, but who have found that they have come short and have not already attained or are already perfect. The un-Biblical “holiness” doctrine that is popularly preached may have done some good, but it has done much more harm. Were Paul now living, the believers in “holiness” would roundly rebuke him for recording his experience as in the quoted statements above.


Such an inventory as Paul made of himself, every Christian should make. He will discover his shortcomings and his sins, but he will not become discouraged. With Paul, he will “follow after,” and at last win the prize.


When we stated above that the chief problem of being true Christians cannot be determined by adhering to certain doctrines, some might have gotten the impression that we are not interested in doctrine, and that doctrine, after all, is not important. Let us hasten to remove such an impression.


Paul admonished his hearers not to do or teach anything contrary to the doctrine which they had learned. Romans 16:17. He had a definite “form of doctrine” which he delivered to them and which they obeyed. Romans 6:17. It appears from this wording that Paul had arranged a “form of doctrine” which he delivered to the Church of Rome, and that they had accepted it and “obeyed from the heart.” Some apparently had deviated from the “form” which Paul had given the churches, so he sent Timothy to stay at Ephesus and to “charge some that they teach no other doctrine.” 1 Timothy 1:3. His counsel to Timothy was, “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.” 1 Timothy 4:16. And in the last letter Paul wrote to Timothy before his death, he again referred to doctrine, saying to Timothy, “Thou has fully known my doctrine.” 2 Timothy 3:10. Having fully indoctrinated Timothy, Paul could safely leave him in charge, knowing that he would see to it “that they teach no other doctrine” than that which Paul taught. In this view of doctrine John joins Paul when he says, “Whosoever transgesseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed.” 2 John 9,10.


In view of these statements, how can anyone think lightly of doctrine? When we are invited to examine ourselves whether we are in the faith, this faith may well include “the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:12.


While there must always be liberty to differ on minor points, there must be unanimity on the great doctrines of the Bible held by the church.


Memory Verse:

“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:12



1.   Have you taken an honest self-examination to find out if your standards are God’s standards?



2.      What is a true Christian? Explain.




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