(This devotion was first published on this site on 7/23/2016)
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation...”
Matthew 26: 40
There’s much happening in our world today, and a lot of it is frightening and disheartening. It is easy to get distracted. Jesus instructed his disciples to watch and pray so that they would not fall into temptation. It is tempting to spend time chatting idly about what is going on politically and socially; it is tempting to chit-chat about the financial issues affecting our nation; it is tempting to spend all our time pursuing those pleasures and activities that distract our minds from the frightening realities around us, but Jesus says, “watch and pray.”
Jesus often found it necessary to go before the Father daily to pray. Even though he was fully divine, he was also fully human and therefore faced temptations common to humanity. Jesus prayed because he had a mission to fulfill, and he was going to achieve this mission in partnership with God the Father and with the Holy Spirit. Jesus prayed regularly, to demonstrate to us how we ought to be in times like this; not distracted or frightened, but focused and dependent on him. Jesus prayed to demonstrate to us, that we can do no good thing apart from him (John 15:5)
Jesus calls us to “watch” (to be observant, to note) the things that are going on around us. These happenings tell us what season we are in. Just as it is possible to tell that summer is near when one sees a fig tree put out its leaves (Matthew 24:32), it is possible to tell the urgent nature of our current times; it is possible to tell that it is time to look to the hills from whence our only true and lasting help comes (Psalm 121: 1-2). Jesus call us to watch him; to turn our eyes to him in times like this, and as Helen H. Lemmel (1992) discovered in the hymn “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus, the things of this earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.
Jesus also calls us to “pray, “(to talk to him, reflect in his presence, listen to him and worship him). Prayer strengthens us and aligns our will to his will. Prayer reminds us that we are not alone because we have a loving Father who is our rock and our refuge, a very present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).
Today, Jesus invites you again to “watch and pray.” He invites you to turn your gaze upon him, no matter what else is going on in your life or in your world. Jesus invites you not to be frightened or distracted but focused only on him. All others will disappoint; only Jesus is steadfast. So, start your day off right, watch and pray that you may not fall into temptation.