I have often thought about that night in the garden when Jesus asked His disciples to “watch and pray,” and they did neither… they fell asleep. Perhaps that’s part of the reason that Paul made that same statement in his letter to the Colossians:
Col 4:2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant (watching) in it with thanksgiving;
As I was reading John Phillips’ comments on this passage I was taken by an Old Testament example he put forth to challenge us to “watch and pray.” What follows is a short paraphrase of his comments:
He used the example to Elijah [he is my God) and two of his servants. The first one comes from 1 Kings where Elijah tells Ahab that the drought is ending and he tells his servant to go up and watch and he will stay down and pray:
1 Kings 18:43 and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” And seven times he said, “Go again.”
Then on his 7th trip up Mount Carmel the servant says:
1 Kings 18:44(a) “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!”
The key point is that for 7 times the servant went up the mountain without the slightest expectation that God would answer Elijah’s prayer… something that Elijah had known all along. What it tells us is that kind of watching is of no value at all, and subsequently Elijah replaced his servant with Elisha [God has judged]. A watcher so true that he received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit when he watched Elijah carried off to heaven (2 Kings 2:9-12). And from that moment on there was a man on the earth (Elisha) and a man in heaven (Elijah).
The man in heaven had once walked the paths of this earth in obedience and now he was living the life of a man in Glory. The man on the earth (Elisha) had observed Elijah’s life of obedience and now he coveted to be a true copy on earth of that man in Glory. To walk the same path of obedience and to exhibit his spirit and his power. And it all depended upon Elisha being obedient and keeping his eye on the man in heaven!
So, as I was reading John Philips’ comments I visualized that Old Testament shadow of what was to come, seeing it lived out for us in the garden when Jesus said the same words Elijah said to his servant with exactly the same intent. As His bride, we are the ones here on earth that are to keep our eyes fixed on Him in heaven, beholding (watching) Him and beseeching (praying to) Him.
What Jesus said to His disciples He is saying to us today… Watch and pray! The word “watch” is Gregorio and it means to “stay awake,” which is exactly what Jesus asked of His disciples.
Matt 26:40-41 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.“
And that’s the bottom line, isn’t it! We know in our heart that our first duty is to watch and pray but our flesh, our old nature, continues to set other priorities for us, which we so easily set as our desire.
We need to think about Elijah’s two servants. One who watched without faith and one who watched with total faith. The results speak volumes to us… We know Elisha but the other has long been forgotten.
So, through the Word of God we have watched Jesus walk through this world, we have seen Him taken up and now see Him in heaven. And now we are to lead a life of obedience as a true copy on earth of Jesus in Glory. To walk the same path of obedience and to exhibit His spirit and his power. And just like it was in the garden, it’s not a request, it’s a command to stay awake and we are expected to obey… To watch and pray!