In a world where faith is often challenged, the church stands as a symbol of hope, resilience, and unwavering faith. But it’s no secret that the church has been under attack for years, facing intimidation, undermining, bullying, and threats from the enemy. However, there comes a point when enough is enough. As believers, we must rise up and say we are the church, and we have authority over illness, Satan, and all evil deeds. We can see this in Luke 10:19, where Jesus says, ‘I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you.”
In the Bible, in the New Testament, Jesus warns us to ‘watch and pray.’
What does it mean to watch? In Hebrew, the word for “watch” is “שְׁמוֹר” (sh’mor). This word is often used in the context of being vigilant, guarding, or keeping a close eye on something. On the other hand, In Hebrew, the word for “pray” is “לְהִתְפַּלֵּל” (lehitpalel), which is derived from the root word (palal). This word is used to describe the act of praying or making requests to God.
In the Bible, in Matthew 26:36-46 (NLT), Jesus takes Peter and two other disciples with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He is deeply distressed and prays to God in anguish before His crucifixion. He asks Peter and the others to watch and pray with Him, but they keep falling asleep. Jesus emphasizes the importance of vigilance in prayer, especially during times of trial and temptation. Jesus understood the spiritual war they were in, and He himself prayed for strength in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46).
Jesus warns us today, just as He warned His disciples, to watch and pray that they may not fall into temptation. If you are familiar with the story, you’ll recall that Peter was the first of the three who fell into temptation and denied Jesus three times (read Mark 14:66-72).
- Think about a time when you were asked to pray for someone; did you ever feel like Peter, tired and sleepy?
- Why did you feel that way?
- Why, all of a sudden, could you not keep your eyes open?
That’s what happened to Peter; he couldn’t keep his eyes open. Although he fell into temptation, his heart was in the right place, and he was saved. If there was hope for Peter after this experience, certainly there is hope for you too. All we need to do is follow Peter’s example, acknowledge our wrongdoing, and turn around.
Many passages in the Bible emphasize the importance of being spiritually watchful and alert. For example, in 1 Peter 5:8, it says, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” Especially at this time, I believe the enemy is looking around and, through emotions, offense, discouragement, and so on, is trying to attack the church. When you find yourself in this position, know that running to Jesus is the safest option. He is the Good Shepherd who loves His sheep unconditionally.
Also, in Proverbs 3:5-6, it says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” This highlights the idea of praying for direction and clarity in our decisions trusting in Jesus rather than our circumstances.
When reading Psalm 5:3, we clearly see the importance of watching and praying as a time of gratitude and expectation: “Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” While, in 1 Timothy 2:1, it speaks about interceding; prayer involves watching out for the needs of others and seeking God’s intervention on their behalf: “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf and give thanks for them.”
The bible also teaches us that as believers, we are to engage in Spiritual Warfare. In Ephesians 6:18, believers are encouraged to “pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”
The Hindrances to Watching and Praying:
Here are some of the strongholds the enemy can use against believers to hinder ‘watching and praying.’
Pride: Pride can make us believe that we do not need help or that we are self-sufficient.
Discouragement: There have been times when I felt discouraged, and interestingly enough, I was not aware because discouragement can attach to us slowly and sneakily. Once I understood that I had received discouragement, I had to repent, confess, ask Jesus for forgiveness, and move forward. Remember that when we lose hope or trust, it can be difficult to pray with faith (Proverbs 13:12)
Offense: Holding onto grudges or taking offense at others can hinder our prayer life. Forgiveness and reconciliation are key to overcoming offense and nurture a healthy prayer life. (1Cor 13:5)
Doubt and Disbelief: Doubting God’s power or doubting the support of people around us can wear down our confidence in prayer. Faith can come by studying God’s word and reminding yourself of His faithfulness.
Difficulty Submitting to Authority: An unwillingness to submit to God’s authority and to people God has put in authority can create a barrier to effective prayer. Surrender to God’s will and trust that His plan is best. When I was in this situation of struggling to believe people in authority, I learned that I could trust other people as unto the Lord, believing that if there was something for me to know, Jesus is faithful and will reveal it, and He will protect me more than I can protect myself. (1Peter 13-25) and (Heb. 13:17)
Distraction: Life’s demands, ambitions, can distract us from prayer.
Fear: Fear can paralyze our faith and make us hesitant to approach God. Confront your fears, name them, and trust in God’s protection and guidance. Remember 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”.
Rejection: Feelings of unworthiness and not belonging can hinder us from approaching God in prayer. Seek healing from past wounds, and remember that God loves and accepts you unconditionally (John 3:16).
Self-Deception: Self-deception is when you fool yourself into believing something false or ignore uncomfortable truths. It can affect how you make decisions and relate to others. Sometimes, we deceive ourselves by not recognizing our struggles. Sometimes, we don’t accept where we are, or we don’t believe we are struggling, but the Holy Spirit can reveal areas where we need healing and freedom. Be open to His conviction and willing to repent and confess
When I struggled with rejection, I was not aware that I was still struggling until one day when I was studying the Bible about rejection and reading about its signs. Among many points, ‘independence‘ was mentioned. As usual, I overlooked it and moved on to the next point. Then, I looked again and thought, ‘Independence! That’s ridiculous; it cannot be.’ Well, it was hard for me to believe it since independence was one of my main strengths. I had learnt to be independent, and I was/am good at it. What I thought was my strength was actually my coping mechanism; it was a way of saying, ‘I don’t need your help; I can do it myself.’ That was a rejection of receiving help from others.
- How about you?
- Do you have any coping mechanisms that you are unaware of?
Ask the Holy Spirit and He will show you
While I was battling with those thoughts, I said, ‘No, that’s not rejection,’ and immediately, I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me and say, ‘Call it as it is.’ I was shocked, and I looked around in panic. Instantly, I asked Jesus to forgive me. All I did was accept, confess, repent, forgive, and move forward freely. The moment I did that, I felt a heavy burden lift off my shoulders.
The point is that unless we are willing to sacrifice our pride and call things as they are, we cannot be free from the strongholds of the enemy. The good news is that Jesus died for our freedom. The Holy Spirit is here not to condemn us but to help us. Ask Him! Remember that we are not orphans but children of the living King, paid for at a high price.
Practical Steps to Watch and Pray:
These are some practical steps I believe would help.
Asking and receiving from God (Matt 7:7).
Seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance in self-examination (Psalm 139:23-24). Invite the Holy Spirit to help you think about your life, consider your actions, thoughts, and motives.
Confession. Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16).
Seek Reconciliation with Others. If you’ve hurt someone or someone has hurt you, it is important, once you recognize it, to take the first steps to make amends. Know that Jesus forgives you too. The Bible is clear about reconciliation: “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person” Matt 5:23-24.
Inviting the Holy Spirit to bring about personal transformation. In John 14:15-31, Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit; he says, “If you love me, obey my commandments. I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” Allow the Holy Spirit to change you, listen to His voice, obey Him, and be guided by God.
Embracing the blessings of God’s grace and moving forward in faith. From personal experience, sometimes the person we struggle to forgive and move forward with is ourselves. Therefore, it is very important to accept God’s grace and have faith to move forward. Be thankful for God’s forgiveness and love. Trust Jesus, not the circumstances, with your life and decisions.
As the church faces ongoing challenges and attacks, we must remember our divine authority and duty to “Watch and Pray.” Again, remember the warning Jesus gave us, ‘watch and pray that we may not fall into temptation. Discouragement, offence, doubt, rejection, distraction, and fear may try to hinder us, but through obedience and genuine prayer, we can overcome. Let us stand united as sons and daughters of the King, declaring, “Not on my watch!” May we watch and pray, allowing the Holy Spirit to empower and guide us through every trial and triumph in Jesus’ name!