WHY DOES GOD STRESS THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING WATCHFUL IN PRAYER?
(By: Norm Rasmussen)
It may be that if you haven't been a Christian for very long, you weren't aware that God has clearly told His people in the Bible to be diligently watchful in prayer. I pray that God will use this writing to help spark a great interest in you to patiently seek God in gaining some vital insights into understanding the wisdom of watching in prayer. Here are just two scriptures where God tells us to be watchful in prayer. (There are several other places in the Bible as well that speaks Christians on this subject).
But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. 1 Peter 4:7 NKJV
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints - Ephesians 6:18 NKJV
Right up front - I believe the two greatest reasons God wants us to learn how to be watchful in prayer are:
1) To help enhance our prayer life, so that prayer doesn't become a spiritual discipline we're supposed to be doing, but a spiritual discipline we can't wait to do...that we love to do...that we feel privileged to get to do. (Confession time: I personally haven't arrived at the place where I always love to pray yet, but I know God wants me to keep striving to get there!)
2) To help us be more effective in matters of spiritual warfare. Truly, our primary battle is in the spirit realm. That is where all major spiritual battles are won and lost. When they are hindered or lost there, we see failure in the physical, material realm. (See Ephesians 6:12 if you aren't familiar with this reality)
Who of us born again Christians doesn't desire a more rewarding relationship with God? A meaningful, enjoyable, intimate relationship with God is central to everything else in a Christian's life, and Satan knows that. He of all of God's created beings does not want Christians having a meaningful relationship with God, and frustrating God's people in their prayer lives is tops on his agenda. If you as a believer in Christ Jesus never believe anything else God would allow me to write, my hope is that you come in full agreement that it will remain high on Satan's agenda to frustrate your prayer life every day you're alive on this planet.
Satan knows God has all power, but He also knows God's power and God's will almost always will only get released into the affairs of mankind when Christians persistently pray and believe and keep believing, and when they don't, God's will and power has some limitations in the affairs of this world. God has ordained that the Church is His army - His chosen vessels - to work through. He could have ordained to work without us, but instead, He chose to use us and work through us. That's why Satan wants so much to frustrate our prayer lives...so God is hindered in finding available vessels to execute His will into situations on Earth.
It bears repeating: If you are frustrated in your prayer life, know this. Satan is greatly pleased. He knows full well that the more frustrated you and I become with prayer, the less of a threat you and I are to his plans and purposes on this planet. If he can get you and I to minimize the importance of watching in prayer, he knows that's it only a matter of time that we will become more and more frustrated with prayer, and will find anything and everything else to do but pray.
Jesus asked a very sobering (and I believe significantly crucial) question in Luke 18:8:
'' Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?'
A wise Bible student always considers the context in which a portion of scripture has been written, so that there is no misunderstanding of its proper intended application. If we back up just a few verses, we see Chapter 18, verse 1, Jesus making this declaration:
Then He (Jesus) spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart'
The verses that follow it address the importance of perseverance in prayer (which would include continuing to believe once a matter has been prayed about more than mere repetitious prayer for the same thing; but that depends on how the Holy Spirit leads). Then in verse 8, Jesus asks the question in paraphrased form: 'Nevertheless, Will I find faith when I return?'
From how I perceive this, Jesus is addressing an issue that should greatly concern Christians as we move closer and closer into end times. Here's is what is at the heart of the question Jesus is asking, I believe:
'Will my people have faith that their prayers have much if any value or effectiveness, or will they lose heart and essentially stop praying because doubt and even unbelief has replaced faith, and praying becomes nothing more than life-sapping religious drudgery?'
Satan's relentless attacks on Christians to try to get us to doubt the importance and effectiveness of our prayers cannot be minimized, dear reader. Satan is more threatened by a praying Church than anything else (other than a praying and fasting Church) and what the Church is capable of doing on God's behalf, were you aware of that? A vibrant, life-giving, life-sustaining prayer life is what feeds the human spirit with zest and zeal for all the other things of God. Once the life-giving vibrancy of prayer diminishes, so does our desire to be used of God to help win lost souls, let alone any other Kingdom work. Learning to be watchful in prayer is crucially vital in acquiring and maintaining a vibrant, faith-backed, life-giving prayer life.
There are occasions when we are being tempted to either sin, or tempted to miss God's direction without our even knowing it to be a soon-coming an attack from Satan, and God wants us to be watchful and pray. Such was the situation in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus said to his sleeping disciples: 'Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.' (Luke 22:46)
What possible temptation was Jesus addressing in that situation? I believe a number of different temptations, actually, but my thought would be that Satan might use them to try to talk Jesus out of going to the cross. After all, this was the very demonic mind battle Jesus was going through when He prayed to the Father just moments before as recorded in Luke 22:42-43:
'Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.'
Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.
Might we assume the disciples who were sleeping were not useful to the Holy Spirit nor the Father to assist in the 'strengthening' of Jesus? Furthermore, and perhaps more sobering, was Jesus discerning that Satan might also be trying to convince the disciples through possibly a dream to try to persuade them to try to talk Jesus into NOT allowing Himself to be taken captive? After all, every indication was, Peter did not want Jesus to be taken captive, and evidence of it was when he whacked off the ear of one of the captors.
Might we also assume from reading Matthew 24:42-44 that many might well be taking an 'extended spiritual Rip Van Winkle nap' when the shout will be given for the 10 virgins spoken of in Matthew chapter 25 to rise and trim their lamps to prepare to meet the soon-coming Master?' I rather suspect that 'trimming their lamps to keep them filled with sufficient Holy Spirit oil' has a great deal to do with their discipline of having the wisdom of why, and how to watch (and listen) wisely in prayer, and possibly may be the ONLY place left at that time for them to receive sufficient Holy Spirit oil? "Building ourselves up in the most holy faith" may take on a much greater importance in the future than what we can comprehend at the present time. (See: Jude 20)
Seasoned prayer warriors have grown to realize that prayer has two vital components to make it meaningful, vibrant and life-giving. First, listening. Secondly, requesting.
Satan does everything he can to get Christians into requesting only, and FORGET the listening part! The listening part greatly involves the 'watchful' part, and in many instances, the most important part.
As my son, Brian, reminded me recently of as we spoke about prayer: 'Prayer is supposed to be a two-way conversation with God.'
Learning how to listen to the Holy Spirit in prayer is an intricate part of being watchful in prayer. When we learn to clearly hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in prayer, faith by the Holy Spirit is often imparted to us that God will answer our prayer -- faith that most likely may not come any other way for a specific thing to happen that we've prayed about.
Faith is absolutely critical to a vibrant prayer life, which is why the Holy Spirit told born again believers that above ALL'
'Above ALL, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.' (Ephesians 6:16)
Jesus spent hours in prayer; sometimes all night. What happened during all that time? Was it necessary for Him to have to persist that long at times to be able to SEE what the Father wanted Him to DO? And/or was it this intimacy with the Father through prayer that provided Jesus with spiritual energy - spiritual vitality ' spiritual food, if you will, that enabled Jesus to walk in such obedience to the Father, and perhaps to walk in the fullness of the Holy Spirit's power for every occasion as well?
Then Jesus answered and said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.' - John 5:19
'I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.' (John 8:38)
I'm not implying that we literally will be able to 'see' to the degree that Jesus was able to see, but I do believe God wants us striving to do everything we can to persevere in learning how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit when we pray. Learning how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in prayer will help us sense the promptings of the Holy Spirit when we're praying, and even when we are not actively engaged in prayer.
Learning to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit is the difference between head Christianity and heart Christianity. Head Christianity has no spiritual life whatsoever for very long. In fact, head Christianity is essentially trying to have a relationship without any help from the Holy Spirit whatsoever. Heart Christianity is human spirit to Holy Spirit, which is where real spiritual life is to be found.
Some Christians tend to get a little off track when it comes to hearing the Holy Spirit speak to them, and sometimes they want to come across as being more spiritual than others -- sometimes not even realizing they are doing it. There are some cautions you may want to be aware of when it comes to hearing the 'voice' of the Holy Spirit.
Nothing that I'm aware of obligates the Holy Spirit to 'speak' to us every time we pray, but that isn't the point. Our eagerness and willingness to hear His voice in prayer (which is sometimes little more than just a sudden knowing; a sudden confidence) is the fertile training ground to be able to hear His voice (or promptings) in moments such as an extreme urgency, when we need to make a life or death decision. The sooner we learn to discern our voice and a demon's voice from the Holy Spirit's voice, the greater our confidence grows in our prayer lives, and the more joy and peace we have in our relationship with God.
Also realize that we may actually seldom hear a literal voice from the Holy Spirit when he speaks to us, but rather a sudden knowing, a sudden confident assurance. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will speak to us using the vehicle of peace verses lack of peace. Personally, if I don't have peace about a matter, I've learned to wait before acting on what I think might be the Holy Spirit's prompting. Jesus promises His disciples He will give them peace. When it seems so difficult to know God's will in a given matter, look for peace, or the lack thereof. Peace may be the voice of the Holy Spirit screaming at us, when we can hear nothing else from Him.
Being dogmatic in HOW the Holy Spirit is supposed to speak to us is not wise in my opinion. Yet being confident that He always wants us to desire to hear Him speak to us is what is most important. It requires great diligence in learning how to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit from our own thoughts, and those thoughts demons often interject into our minds. Seeking to be watchful in prayer helps us discern better in where our thoughts are coming from.
There are other aspects of watching in prayer that I'm not going to address in this writing, simply because it would make this Encourager too long in one setting.
I'll be writing more on the crucial importance of being watchful in prayer in seasons ahead, if the Holy Spirit chooses to impart insight to me. Please pray for me that He WILL. I too am learning, and have not completely arrived. We've only touched the tip of the iceberg here about watching in prayer. This is not meant to be an exhaustive Encourager on the topic in one writing by any means, but just a seed planted or a seed watered to help you stay encouraged and fruitful in your prayer lives, and desire to excel at the spiritual discipline of WATCHING in prayer. None of us know what we may be missing out on by not continuing to seek the Lord diligently about how we can be more watchful in prayer.
This is elementary, but oftentimes 'trance demons' tend to become highly energized while God's people read about prayer: If being watchful in prayer is not important, God would never have mentioned it. Because He has mentioned it several different times in the Bible, we need to learn all we can about it, right?!
Of topic: We're always looking for God to provide fresh testimonies regarding answered prayer on the ministry website, to encourage others in their prayer lives. If you have a testimony that you feel God would have you send to us, especially regarding this topic of being watchful in prayer, please be obedient and send it to us.
If you want to read what a seasoned prayer intercessor has to say about being watchful in prayer, I encourage you to take the time to read the entire writing from the following link:
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Remember: All that we do in this life comes back to our God-given purpose which is to serve and glorify God. The money and assets we accumulate, the fame and power we've attained or seek to attain - all of the things of this nature will one day pass away, but those lives of others we impact for Jesus Christ will last for eternity, and we will be rewarded for the part we helped play by impacting those lives ... for eternity. (Matthew 6:19-20 is our assurance)