It should have been a "must do." This was an emergency. Facing the most sorrowful and agonizing moments of his life, minutes from being taken away and put to death, a young man turned to his friends and asked for their help. Just one hour of their time would have been enough. It was to be spent watching and praying.
Given the dire circumstances and the fact that in their time of need Jesus had been there for his followers, it's hard to believe their response - or lack of it. His friends fell asleep. Here was an important opportunity to help, yet the people he counted on most slept.
What if a similar request came to you today? Would you stay awake? Would you watch and pray - would you really - if asked to? Would I really? We would like to think so.
But then, we have been asked to. Jesus said, "What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch" (Mark 13:37).
Watching extends beyond those exceptional times when you and I have been warned to be on a heightened state of alert. When there's a terrorist threat, for instance. Watching is about the regular, everyday monitoring of our state of thought. What's holding sway in our thinking right now? Calm? Jitteriness? Patience? Frustration?
Watching is also about being sensitive to the thought of people around us.
What kind of strain are business leaders and employees facing? What's on the minds of the high-school students in your neighborhood? What are the demands on parents? Or retirees? What's on the mind of the shopkeeper in Kabul, the shoppers in Jerusalem?
The answers to these questions are useful. But more important is that we habitually want to know the answers.
And it's clearly in our best interest to be aware of what's vying for our attention and influencing the direction of our lives and the lives of other people. In her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy discussed why watching is important: "In a world of sin and sensuality hastening to a greater development of power, it is wise earnestly to consider whether it is the human mind or the divine Mind which is influencing one" (pgs. 82-83). That prompting explains why we need to guard against the negative thought-forces of the human mind, such as the squeeze of stress, the firestorm of anger, or the dullness of indifference.
Yet in our watching, there is something else we can't afford to overlook. And that is the influence of good thoughts coming from God, who is Mind. These thoughts are like sunshine just outside closed window blinds, waiting to be let in.
That's where prayer comes in. When our attention turns to Mind, we are, in a sense, choosing to open those blinds with prayer. We're opening up to the light of God's ideas. The result can be as simple as having just the right words to defuse an angry situation. That's what happened after a technical glitch caused my friend to miss a news deadline and go into a rage. Rather than get swept up in the heat of circumstances, I wanted to hear God's message - one that's always peaceful and powerful. This helped me think of something to say that ended the outburst.
Mind's ideas have this effect because their source, God, is supreme good. This divine influence, when we let it into our consciousness, is unstoppable. It can't be crushed or weakened, any more than the darkest corners can hold back the influx of light.
Today's unpredictable times demand that we stay alert to the mental climate in which we live and work and travel - in other words, the atmosphere of thought around us. But it's important to link that alertness with prayer, letting into our hearts the power of God to counteract harmful influences and keep our lives on the right track.
Watching and praying, and the spiritual living that's sure to follow, are powerful means for making the world a better place for all of us. That's reason enough to make these a "must do."
God is watching with the watchful,
God is Life that never sleeps.
Christian Science Hymnal