“Watch out!” “Keeping watch” “Watchman”
The idea is consistent: pay attention; notice what’s going on. See what there is to see; hear what there is to hear.
The dictionary talks about “observing attentively,” and “following closely, maintaining an interest in,” and even “being careful.”
Pay attention. Notice.
Now here’s an interesting thing: Four times, Jesus tells us that watching and praying go together.*
It was a long time before I learned how those worked together. When I was growing up, “praying” was about “Say these words; that’s prayer.”
Later, prayer was about a shopping list, and praying was a lot like writing to Santa. “I want this; please do that, and bless everybody in the whole world.”
As I got more religious, my vocabulary became more about “Bringing needs before the throne,” but it was still functionally a Santa letter, a shopping list. At least I was adding other people’s needs to the list. “Watching” was seeing what was needed. “Praying” was bringing those needs to God’s attention.
Now I’m not saying this is bad. Some of those prayers got answered, including some whose answers would qualify as miracles. And I (mostly) don’t regret the time spent bringing real issues to God’s attention (though I really do not love prayer meetings that are more about whining and complaining about what’s wrong, than about God).
“Watch and pray.” Pay attention; notice.
I’m growing more and more committed to the idea that prayer is more than me reciting my wish list, more than me bringing issues to God’s attention. Prayer is relational, and it’s conversation. It’s dialogue.
And that, I think, is what the “watch and pray” thing is about. And it happens in relationship, in close relationship, in intimate relationship.
It’s about God and me talking. Maybe we use words, maybe we don’t, but it’s about us talking.
I’ve observed that sometimes when God talks, he uses words, sometimes he uses pictures or visions, sometimes he uses emotions or thoughts. He’s very versatile. (It wouldn’t surprise me if he gave us all these senses so we’d have more ways to engage with him.)
I’m coming to the conclusion that “watch and pray” is about us hearing what he’s saying (whether words or pictures or whatever) and talking to him about it.
That’s why words of knowledge are so often associated with people actually getting healed. God shows us what to pray for, and we pray for the thing God’s saying to pray for, and what do you know? He answers those sorts of prayers pretty often.
That’s the basic design of “watch and pray.” Pay attention to what’s on God’s heart. Talk with him about that thing until you know how to pray for it. Then pray for that thing that’s on God’s heart, in the way that God is showing you how to pray for it. Rinse and repeat. Spend time in that conversation, conversing about things that are on his heart. (You’ll be surprised how many of the things that are on your heart are on his heart, too.)
That will result in more answered prayers, of course. But it will also result in me knowing God’s heart better. It will result in me becoming more like him, knowing him more. And that is the very essence of the prayer he taught us to pray so long ago: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
Watch and pray.
Pay attention. Notice. Talk about that. Pray that. Discuss that.
It’s all about relationship.
* Matthew 26:41, Mark 13:33 & 14:38, and Luke 21:36