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Commands of Christ

Watch and Pray

Where is this command found?

“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Matthew 26:41

Applying This Command

The Greek word that Jesus used in this command is gregoreuo. It means “to keep awake, i.e. watch.” It can be used in a physical, moral, or spiritual sense. It denotes giving careful attention and mindfulness in the face of danger; keeping from drowsiness, with conscious earnestness and alertness; denouncing all slackening in the energy of faith and conduct.

The Hebrew word shamar adds to the richness of this spiritual exercise. It means “to hedge about as with thorns, to protect, to attend to.” “Shamar expresses the careful attention which was paid to the obligations of a covenant, to laws or to statutes” (Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible).

During times of agonizing watching, the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). Watching and praying, then, is an interaction with the Holy Spirit. He knows the mind of God and He can reveal the dangers that we, or those under our care, will face.

To watch is to be silent before the Lord; when He brings matters to our minds we are to earnestly pray about them.

Bible Verses for Meditation

In addition to meditation on Matthew 26:41, meditating on the verses below will provide you with further insight and understanding of Christ’s command: Watch and Pray.

James 5:16

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

Ephesians 6:11–12

“Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Romans 8:26

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

I Corinthians 16:13–14

“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity.”

Matthew 6:13

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”

I Corinthians 10:13

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

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Study Question

Q: Job is an outstanding example of one who watched and prayed for his ten children, yet they were all destroyed. What went wrong? (See Job 1:1–22.)

A: Job was the most righteous man of his day. He kept a regular watch over his children. Whenever his sons and daughters had a celebration in one of their houses, Job went before the Lord on their behalf. “And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually” (Job 1:5).

The faithful watching that Job carried out was effective in building a protective hedge around his family and possessions. Satan even complained about it. “Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for naught? Hast not thou made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land” (Job 1:9–10).

Not only was Job’s watching so effective that Satan complained about it, but there is every indication that God protected Job’s sons and daughters because of his watching and praying.

When God removed His hedge from around Job, Satan killed Job’s ten children, had all of his flocks and herds stolen, and destroyed his health. Three miserable friends came to “comfort” Job, but instead accused him of sin.

Job spent much time during those days listening and watching. As he remained faithful to the Lord, God restored double the amount of the material goods that Job lost. God also gave him seven more sons and three beautiful daughters. The fact that God did not give Job double the number of children after his testing would indicate that Job’s first ten children were not actually “lost” but instead went before him to heaven. Indeed, Job’s steadfast watching and praying did have a positive effect in the lives of his children.

For Further Study

You can learn more about the command Watch and Pray in the book Commands of Christ: Series 7.

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