Watch and Pray

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.

“Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Mark 14:37-38)

This particular event takes place in Gethsemane the night before Jesus was to be crucified. Jesus had taken three of His disciples–Peter, James, and John–with Him to pray. Knowing what they would be faced with the following day, Jesus exhorts them to watch and pray so that they will not fall into temptation. He understands them totally. He knows that their hearts are in the right place, but that their resolve may not see them through difficulty.

Jesus knows that our flesh is as frail as the summer flowers. Flesh has not changed in all of time. It is as frail today as it was in the disciples’ day. Therefore, as disciples of Christ today, He delivers to us this same message–watch and pray! When it comes to temptation, Peter tells us:

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  (1 Peter 5:8-9)

Paul adds:

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:10-13)

How can we apply this to our own lives? How do we go about thwarting temptation with the realization of our weak flesh? How do we watch and be on guard awaiting His return? Scripture tells us:

Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.
(Proverbs 25:28)

In the time of Jesus, a city was only as powerful as its walls. When a breach in the wall occurred, the city was vulnerable to the attack of the enemy. In much the same way, we need a wall around us, and that wall is self-control. When there is a weakness in our wall, you can be assured that is where the attack from Satan will come. It is our responsibility to constantly evaluate where our weaknesses lie and strengthen those breaches. How? There are many ways. Here are some I have found helpful in my own life:

  • Prayer–Asking God for strength.
  • Resolve–Setting my mind on the things of God.
  • Hiding God’s Word in my heart.
  • Making my thoughts obedient to Christ.
  • Keeping short accounts–with God and with others.
  • Honestly evaluating my life–asking Jesus to search my heart for things that are not of Him.
  • Remembering my flesh is weak, but His Spirit is powerful–I only need to rely on Him!
  • Avoiding places, people, or things that can cause me to stumble or fall.

I love the following verses from Hebrews regarding Jesus’ help for us:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Take It to Heart

Jesus exhorts us to be on guard for our own good. He told Peter, James, and John: “Watch and pray.” Perhaps they would not have fled had they been obedient to this command. Perhaps Peter would not have disowned Jesus three times and caused himself so much grief if he had been obedient to this command. Perhaps I can avoid my own grief if I am obedient to this command!

“Watch and pray!”