Prayer Watching


“Watch over each other in prayer.” These words are found in many covenants read by members of Baptist churches. Not to be confused with a creed, it is a community promise that reminds me that our prayers have the ability to supervise and to look after others. It is also a necessary prompt to not only pray for ourselves but to consider the needs and celebrate the joys of fellow believers. While prayer is a personal conversation with God, we should not spend it solely talking about ourselves. Instead, this communal confession safeguards us from Selfie prayers, if you will.

Instead of keeping the attention on “me and mine,” we are encouraged to focus our petitions on someone else and to see about them. Prayer then prevents us from becoming self-centered and challenges us to look beyond our needs. And they are not just words.

No, our prayers have eyes and they can be everywhere. While not in the back of our heads, our prayers have the ability to see what our natural eyes cannot. And these eyes do not tire. The eyes of prayer never close so they work even while we are sleeping.

Praying and watching are not an unlikely combination. “Watch and Pray” is the name of a hymn composed by Fanny Crosby. It is a part of the passion narrative and the instruction Jesus gave to his disciples: “Watch and pray.” It’s only three words but even for those personally handpicked by the Savior, they proved impossible (Matthew 26.36-46).

Some of you may be wondering, “If the disciples weren’t able to watch and prayer for Jesus, then what makes you think that I can watch my neighbor?” But, hold up. This is no excuse to close your eyes and fall asleep during prayer time at your church. Jesus says, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

We must then not only pray for a willing spirit but discipline ourselves to pray. Prayer is, in fact, a spiritual discipline. Richard Foster defines it as “an intentionally directed action, which places us in the position to receive from God the power to do what we cannot accomplish on our own.”

It is the very act of praying that enables us to pray more. So, pray without watching the clock. Pray without breaks to look up and see what is next on the worship program. Pray without watching the body language of the pray-er to determine if she or he is nearing the end. Instead, pray and watch what God does.

smcneillReverend Starlette McNeill* is an associate pastor at Village Baptist Church in Bowie, Maryland. A graduate of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, she writes on the social construct of race and the practice of faith at She is also a wife, mother, and columnist with Baptist News Global, Baptist Women in Ministry, and Ethics Daily. She is a contributing author to the book Faith Forward: Children, Youth and a New Kind of Christianity. Her hobbies include reading, writing, and Starbucks.

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