Watch and Pray

“Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming — in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning — lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:33-37).
When I am beside or on a river in southern Bangladesh, I find myself watching the surface of the water carefully, almost without conscious effort or decision. This is the habitat of one of the rare, threatened species of the world, the river dolphin, and it is a great treat to see one or more of them. I do not see them every time we are on the water, or even most of the time, but occasionally I am rewarded for my vigilance with a good sighting of a dolphin rolling for air at the surface. On one recent boat trip of more than 2 hours, we were accompanied for at least half an hour by a pod of dolphins, seeing them often. Occasionally one of the smaller “calves” would jump clear of the water, giving a full view. It was a tremendous experience, one I treasure.
There are far more important things for which to watch than rare species of animal, however. Jesus warned his sleepy disciples, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). The purpose of vigilance is not only pleasure, but often safety. There are enemies ready to attack us, and like any soldier on a battle field, we must keep constant look-out to be on guard. Temptation has many forms and appears in deceptive ways. It requires great caution and attention to identify it and be warned.
Jesus also exhorts us to watch for his coming, “for (we) do not know when the time is” (Mark 13:33). In this case “watch” does not carry the meaning of “look for” so much as it does “be prepared.” When Jesus comes, there will be no missing it, and there will be nothing else to do. Whatever condition we are in will be our condition in judgment. The danger lies in assuming that he will not come soon and that we will have plenty of time to prepare for him later. Such assumption is dangerous, and Jesus warns that it will almost inevitably lead one to postpone preparation until it is too late.
A third thing for which we are exhorted to watch is our brothers’ and sisters’ welfare. “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 3:4). We are to “consider” and “exhort” one another (Hebrews 10:24,25), “teach and admonish” one another (Colossians 3:16), “forgive” one another (Ephesians 4:32), and, in summary, “love” one another (Romans 13:8). All of this amounts to keeping ones fellowman always in “view” watching for him or her at all times.
Jesus’ admonition to “watch and pray” remains timely and urgent advice. Our own vigilance is insufficient. We need God’s help. So let us keep a diligent lookout, and let us remain in constant communication with him who sees all things. If we do these things, we will not be surprised or disappointed!

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